For three days, hundreds and hundreds of influential, dangerous, insidious racists and anti-abortion zealots from the extremist organization Operation Save America (OSA) held their 2021 national convention in Phoenix,AZ. They took over the streets in 115 degree heat, preaching messages of hate and intolerance on busy street corners, at abortion clinics, and the state Capitol. When they weren't in the streets, they were in planning sessions focus on themes of armed Christian uprisings, how to get politicians elected who will fight for capital punishment for abortion providers, and youth seminars providing harmful disinformation about sex, gender and abortion. At its best it was a convention that celebrates misogyny and patriarchy. At it's worse, it is expanding on the playbook the Capitol insurrectionists are working from to create their horrifying version of America. We were there.
The 2021 event was even more dangerous than in past years, because Jason Storms, OSA’s newly installed leader, and many others who attended this event in Arizona’s capital also played a starring role at January’s insurrection at the US Capitol. Through research and undercover investigative work, AAF identified many of the usual suspects of the anti-abortion movement at the Capitol, reported them to the FBI, and now we’re tracking them, which led us to the Grand Canyon State.
In fact, one of OSA’s proudest boys, “Pastor” Jeff Durbin, a Capitol riot attendee and Phoenix pastor at the Apologia Church, invited them to Phoenix and hosted their convention. Durbin is one of OSA’s pied vipers, who in sermons, on his podcast, and in front of reproductive health clinics in Phoenix and across America, proudly spreads the misogynistic, homophobic, and islamophobic messages of OSA.
OSA's Annual convention of violent radicals happens every summer. They choose a city they have found allyship in, and gather to target abortion providers, protest in the streets, and take over at that states Capitol to conspire on crafting legislation with like-minded politicians. They chose Arizona this year because have a lot of friends in the legislature, and in 2021 alone, AZ politicians have crafted and proposed over 150 anti-abortion laws and restrictions (Yes, even while the legislature is busy trying to destroy democracy, They’re multi-taskers!) OSA host “Pastor”Durbin even worked with a state representative on a bill to criminalize abortion and classify it as homicide, which the two promoted with a rally on the state capitol lawn just this year.
Abortion Access Front works tirelessly to raise awareness about the organizations fomenting violence against reproductive, LGBTQ and immigrant rights, and to connect folks with the activists on the ground fighting to expose these creeps and stop these terrible bills from becoming law.
Through our Hypocrites Unmasked project, we help folks learn about who the major players are in this unprecedented assault on our rights, while connecting folks with those activists on the ground.
You can help us fight back against these outlaws targeting abortion access and influencing your legislature. Find out more here at OSA Unmasked and Hypocrites Unmasked!
That’s right, they’re outside the Capitol, outside the clinic, and outside the law.
ABOUT “OPERATION SAVE AMERICA”
Operation Save America might not be the first anti-abortion group that comes to most people’s minds, but they like it that way. They are influential, and they are terrifying.
OSA is a hate group of anti-abortion zealots, with active chapters all over the country, and a three-pronged approach to what it sees as excising the sin out of America:
OSA’s believes America must follow (OSA’s interpretation of), or our nation and its people will perish in the fires of hell.
However OSA doesn’t actually weight its three prongs equally. Make no mistake, the main focus of this insurrection of intolerance is to eliminate abortion care in the US, one state abortion ban at a time.
Other charming OSA beliefs are that men were anointed by God to rule all things, and that Christian men should disregard US laws or SCOTUS rulings they believe go against biblical teachings.
SO WHERE DID OSA COME FROM?
Operation Save America is not new. It mutated out of a fringe, extremist, anti-abortion, homophobic, Islamophobic group called Operation Rescue (OR) and changed its name in the late 1990s. To this day, they refer to themselves as OR/OSA.
The OG Operation Rescue was founded in the 1980s by an anti-abortion absolutist named Randall Terry. The aggressive tactics of Operation Rescue sprang from his philosophy, “If you think abortion is murder, act like it’s murder.” Terry’s belief that man’s laws cannot trump God’s law led him to actions like chaining himself to clinics, dropping threatening leaflets about abortion providers in their neigborhoods, and bringing actual fetal remains to clinics to show to patients going in for procedures. His trespassing on clinic property eventually landed him in jail. Terry finally left the organization but his philosophies have remained the cornerstone of the organization's tactics. In fact, every leader of OSA has been arrested or jailed for their illegal anti-abortion activities.
The 1990s saw anti-abortion gadfly Flip Benham take the helm of Operation Rescue. He changed the name to Operation Save America and aggressively expanded the “Save the fetus, punish the pregnant person” mania into a nationwide movement, and the 1990s and 2000s saw state chapters of OSA begin to crop up everywhere.
Benham is a skilled multitasker when it comes to promoting oppression. When Flip is not terrorizing patients at clinics around the country, he spends his time burning Qur’ans, taunting Muslims in front of their mosques, and harassing trans folks trying to pee in public restrooms. Benham’s crowning “achievement” came in 1995, when he converted and baptized Norma McCorvey, AKA “Jane Roe” from the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, and brought her into to a new life as an OR/OSA anti-abortion spokesperson.
Just a classic Pay-to-Pray situation!
In 2014, Flip passed the burning torch of OR/OSA to mentee Rusty Thomas, who is the current national director of OSA.
OSA still uses Operation Rescue’s original playbook today: OSA brings thousands of hobby-less members to one unconsenting town after another, descending on abortion clinics with violent imagery, aggressive protests, and clinic blockades, all in the name of its vengeful and seemingly sadistic God.
Fun fact: Flip is also the dad of the notorious Benham Brothers, the Aryan Bible twins who lost their HGTV show because someone discovered their silo of vile, anti-gay statements.
HOW DO THEY INFLUENCE POLICY?
This may be the scariest thing about them. They train their supporters to lobby state legislators and bring their crew of White Walkers to promote something called the “Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates” when state legislatures are in session. That’s the thing that teaches that it’s OK for Fine Christian Men such as themselves and like-minded state legislators to just ignore laws they don’t think God likes. One of their leaders, Matt Trewhella, literally wrote the book on it!
They have the ear of elected officials and are successfully getting men from their ranks elected to public office. In addition to OSA’s own lobbying work, they work with Free the States, the lobbying arm of another extremist group called Abolish Human Abortion, which claims its mission is “To free the states from participating in the American abortion holocaust.” Casual appropriation of the Holocaust is not a bug of OSA, it’s a feature.
They focus on passing laws that ABOLISH abortion and exact harsh punisment for both providers and patients. There is no middle ground, no exception for rape, incest or health of the pregnant person for these guys.
Perhaps you’ve seen a law like that go through the legislature in your state? Those laws come from somewhere!
Despite its members’ overwhelming caucasity, OSA thrives in the heat. Each summer the organization hosts a jam-packed propaganda-palooza, choosing one unlucky American city to focus on. They descend upon it and host a week’s worth of anti-abortion workshops, protests and public marches, at not only the abortion clinics, but in public parks, government buildings, LGBTQ centers and events and houses of worship that don’t ascribe to their worldview, including mosques and churches. It’s a bigot block party that moves from block to block.
This annual event started in 1991 with OSA’s infamous “Summer of Mercy” protest, a six-week-long siege on three abortion clinics in Wichita, Kansas. Thousands of overzealous and overheated anti-abortion advocates descended upon these clinics to harass and scream at patients, and staged sit-ins to completely block off access to the clinics. One of the targets was Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Tiller, who was subjected to a years-long smear campaign from anti-abortion forces, was assassinated in his own church by an anti-abortion extremist in 2009.
By the end of the event, 1,718 protesters had been arrested. It ended with a rally attended by 25,000.
Despite how OSA is full of COVID-deniers (they blame it on abortion and homosexuality), OSA went ahead with its event online. Abortion Access Front, along with many partner organizations, fought back with Operation Save America: Unmasked.
Using truth and humor, Operation Save America: Unmasked provided daily action items and a toolkit, so people could join us in raising awareness about OSA’s plan to turn America into a Christian supremacist Utopia. You can learn about our actions and access the toolkit here.
And we joined their online conference, too. We tried to be sneaky about it, but that wasn’t necessary, because as dangerous as OSA is, they still have not mastered Zoom and ended up livestreaming the event on YouTube.
And we watched it.
Every single minute of it.
You know, these people say a lot of shit when they think they’re only talking to their own flock.
Scroll this rogues gallery and learn about the major OSA players, the partner orgs and the hateliners that make up their speakers list for this year's cavalcade of creeptians.
You can be certain AAF will continue monitoring OSA’s every move, online and especially when they start invading cities again.
Oh, they’re descending on Arizona in June, you say? How interesting!
Whether it’s March For Life, Operation Save America, or any of the other groups we will be UNMASKING, go to the Get Involved tab up top to learn all the ways YOU can be part of our Truth Squad.
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AAF is always working to help the clinics who face the creeps we unmask on the daily, get whatever they need. Whether it’s planting hedges to keep anti-abortion A-holes at bay or sending clinic items they need for their patients through their Amazon wishlists, our staff and clinic adopters fill clinics’ needs as they arise. Gather some friends and adopt-a-clinic and help us help sustain them!
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ABOUT ABORTION ACCESS FRONT
AAF is a team of comedians, writers, and producers that uses humor to destigmatize abortion and expose the extremist anti-choice forces working to destroy access to reproductive rights in all 50 states.
We do the job that the media doesn’t, creating provocative and hilarious videos and social media content that educates people about the pervasive, discriminatory abortion laws that profoundly and disproportionately impact the poor and people of color. Another crucial part of AAF’s mission is to support and raise awareness about independent abortion providers. These clinics bear the brunt of anti-abortion legislation and harassment.
We need to protect our rights and the folks who provide this care. We at AAF work hard to do both. Join Us.
Operation Save America: Unmasked is part of a larger AAF project called Hypocrites: Unmasked, which educates the public about the tactics and influences of different organizations within the anti-abortion movement.