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Australia deports leader of radical anti-choice group that made controversial videos

The head of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue is boasting that his organization and the Center for Medical Progress are “taking down” Planned Parenthood on a $120,000 budget, the amount raised over three years for the undercover video operation that has set off a national debate over use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research.

Operation Rescue president Troy Newman — who also serves as secretary of the California-based center that released hidden-camera videos — cited the small cost of the videos during an interview with The Associated Press.

“We are one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the country on the smallest budget,” Newman said of Wichita-based Operation Rescue. “I mean, look what we did with the Center for Medical Progress. I mean, we are taking down Planned Parenthood on a $120,000 budget. There are organizations that spend that in one day.”

But his work is not so highly regarded in Australia, which detained and deported him when he showed up there to make a series of inflammatory anti-choice speeches.

Now he’s back in Wichita after being declared a threat to public order.

Newman says he potentially faces fines as high as $10,000 to $20,000 stemming from the proceedings in Australia, but had not yet been fined. Still, Operation Rescue seized on the opportunity to send out a fundraising email under the subject line “Operation Rescue crippled?” that sought to raise funds to pay such a fine. That email was the latest effort by the group to raise money in the wake of the release of the undercover videos. An earlier appeal sought to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation against Newman and others involved in the undercover operation.

Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the small amount of money abortion foes raised to produce the secret videos and Newman’s comment shows how out of touch they are with the American public.

“They raised $120,000 over three years because they don’t have the support of the American public to be doing what they are doing,” McQuade said.

Planned Parenthood has been fending off attacks since the release of the misleadingly edited and secretly recorded videos showing its officials talking about using tissue from abortions for medical researchers.

Planned Parenthood offers patients contraception, sexual disease testing, cancer screenings, prenatal health care and numerous other reproductive health services to women who could not otherwise afford them. Only about 3 percent of their clinics provide abortions, and even fewer provide tissue to researchers investigating new ways to fight diabetes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and other diseases.

Such tissue led to development of a vaccine that prevents polio, virtually ending the scourge of the disease in the United States.

Still, the Republican-led U.S. House voted to create a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood and some GOP Senators have tried unsuccessfully to block federal funding for the group. That battle could resurface in mid-December, when the measure to keep the government functioning runs out. President Barack Obama has promised to veto legislation that cuts the group’s funding.

“Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere either in the region or across the United States,” McQuade said. “And just like we have emerged from other unfounded attacks ... we will emerge stronger than ever.”

Threat to the community

Also going nowhere — or at least not going to Australia — is Newman. The battle to prevent Newman from coming to Australia for a speaking tour began, after a lawmaker sent a letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton saying Newman could pose a threat to community safety.

“I am most concerned that Mr. Newman’s call for abortionists to be executed could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals,” wrote Terri Butler, a member of the opposition Labor Party.

Immigration officials then revoked Newman’s visa.

Newman, who co-authored a book that suggested doctors who perform abortions are committing a crime egregious enough to warrant the death penalty, denied that he posed a threat to anyone.

After he was detained, Newman appealed the government’s decision to Australia’s High Court in Melbourne. His lawyers argued their client had never incited violence and the revocation of his visa was therefore flawed.

High Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle disagreed, ruling that Newman posed a threat “to the good order of the Australian community.” The judge said Newman willfully disobeyed Australia’s immigration laws by boarding the flight to Melbourne.

“He does not come to this court with clean hands,” Nettle said.

Butler, the Labor lawmaker, said Australians are a welcoming people, but don’t take kindly to those who flout the law.

“To think he is above the law gives us an insight into the sort of person we are dealing with,” she told reporters after the court’s decision. “We don’t welcome extremists into our country and we don’t welcome extremism.”

Operation Rescue is the group that campaigned against Dr George Tiller, one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers. Newman reportedly urged his followers to stalk Tiller, circulating photos of him and his patients and of their license plate numbers.

That campaign resulted in Tiller's murder. Six years ago, he was shot to death in church by Scott Roeder, an Operation Rescue member who claimed to have spoken with Newman about carrying out possible violent action.

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