A controversial antiabortion activist who had a role in the recent wave of anti-Planned Parenthood videos has been detained in Australia and is set to be deported, his organization said Friday.
Australian authorities have concluded that the presence of the activist, Troy Newman, would be a “threat to good order” and could serve as an incitement for violence against health-care providers, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
But in statements on Facebook and in a letter posted on the Web site of his organization, Operation Rescue, Newman said his detention was based on a “pile of lies” about his alleged support of violence against abortion doctors and called himself a “political prisoner.”
“In order to reach this decision, the court had to [ignore] Troy’s 25-year record of peaceful, law-abiding advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable all of human beings, the pre-born,” Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, said in a statement on the group’s Web site. “It is a sad day when downright lies and twisted words triumph over truth, but that is exactly what happened today.”
Newman is president of Operation Rescue, a group devoted to shuttering abortion clinics. He also serves as one of three board members of the Center for Medical Progress, the little-known California group behind a video project targeting Planned Parenthood over its fetal tissue donation program.
Newman has long been one of the nation’s most controversial antiabortion activists, in part because of remarks he has made apparently praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions “murderers.” Sullenger spent two years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic in 1987, though she now says she regrets the incident and denounces violence.
Newman also says he is nonviolent and has taken credit for steering his organization away from civil disobedience toward lawful activity.
Still, Planned Parenthood officials cited his detention as proof that the people behind the video campaign targeting them are extremists. “For anyone who wonders just how extreme the people behind this fraudulent smear campaign are, Australia has your answer,” spokesman Eric Ferrero said in a statement.
Newman, who is based in Wichita, had been headed to Australia for a 10-day tour with Right to Life Australia, an antiabortion group. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, he sounded the alarm to his supporters that his visa had been revoked while he was on a flight to Los Angeles.
Despite the revocation of his visa, he was permitted to board a flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. “Through a chain of events the Lord has allowed me to get on a plane in spite of many objections by the airlines and Australia,” he wrote on Facebook. “We have been in the air 11 hours and will land in about four. Please pray that we can get past immigration so the truth can be told throughout Australia.”
But he was detained upon landing in Australia. Newman filed an emergency appeal in hopes of remaining in the country, but his request was denied by the Australian High Court, according to the Operation Rescue Web site. He is scheduled to be on the first flight back to the United States on Saturday morning.
Newman wrote a two-page, hand-written note from inside detention in which he said he was held in solitary confinement. “Please pray for me,” he wrote.