James Gill: Welcoming the fanatics to town

When Mary Landrieu first ran for the U.S. Senate, retired New Orleans Archbishop Philip Hannan said it would be a sin to vote for her because she approved of Roe v. Wade.

A very large number of voters will have some explaining to do when they arrive at the Pearly Gates, because Landrieu is about to run for her fourth term.

At the time, she described herself as “pro-choice, but not pro-abortion,” a position that the local religion writer, Bruce Nolan, judiciously termed “nuanced.” Coarser souls might have figured she wanted to have her cake and eat it too.

Now it’s her brother Mitch’s turn to vacillate on the issue.

In 2005, another New Orleans Archbishop, Alfred Hughes, refused to attend a Loyola commencement because the law school was conferring an honorary degree on Moon Landrieu and his entire family. Hughes’ objection was not to Moon, former New Orleans mayor and judge, but to Mary and Mitch, who, as a state legislator, had defied church teaching when voting on abortion legislation.

Abortion is probably not a favorite topic for either of the allegedly errant Landrieu siblings. It has no obvious relevance to Mitch’s current gig in his father’s old job running City Hall, and he probably would not have waded into an abortion row on purpose. Indeed, he was quick to backtrack when he did.

The Landrieu administration issued a proclamation welcoming the Rev. Skip Benham, head of Operation Save America, and acknowledging its “outstanding service to the city of New Orleans.” What that service consisted of is hard to say, but on the very day the proclamation was issued, an OSA mob burst into a Unitarian church during a minute of silence for a dead member. The invaders screamed bloody murder and informed congregants that they were going to hell. The church, according to the OAS, is the “synagogue of Satan,” because it supports the right to an abortion.

Perhaps the Landrieu administration did not recognize OSA as an offshoot of Operation Rescue, the fundamentalist group that has long pursued abortion providers with fanatical zeal.

Scott Roeder, who assassinated abortion doctor George Tiller in a Kansas church in 2009, had posted on Operation Rescue’s website and admitted he had been in contact with one of its officials. Although Operation Rescue had conducted a long and virulent campaign against Tiller, it did condemn his murder. Randall Terry, who founded Operation Rescue but was no longer affiliated with it, however, observed that Tiller got what was coming to him. Benham responded to the murder by quoting the Bible: “A man who stiffens his neck after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.”

Two years later, Benham was found guilty of stalking an abortion doctor in North Carolina and sentenced to 18 months of probation.

After two days, the Landrieu administration announced the proclamation had been issued “in error,” but did not respond to feminist demands that OSA be asked to give the certificate back.

OSA evidently decided to descend on New Orleans because Planned Parenthood proposes to build a women’s clinic on South Claiborne Avenue. Protesters also picketed abortion clinics in the metro area, and staged a funeral procession in Jackson Square for what they claimed was an aborted fetus. OSA’s website reported a side trip to Baton Rouge, where a “200 foot wide and 8 foot tall display” of “graphic panels” was set up. “Gruesome” would be more like it.

Louisiana must be OSA’s favorite state, however, for getting an abortion here is already harder than anywhere else and about to get harder, provided the latest attempt to circumvent Roe v. Wade survives a court challenge.

Laws signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal last month, requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals no more than 30 miles distant, are expected to force three of our remaining five clinics to close.

Proclamations welcoming organizations to the city are pro forma and pretty much a dime a dozen, and are certainly not intended to involve hizzoner in issues that arouse passionate feelings. No doubt Landrieu was unaware of this one until the unhinged antics of Operation Save America were reported in blogs.

Now he can appreciate the wisdom of his sister’s stance on abortion.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@theadvocate.com.