WASHINGTON – Six followers of anti-abortion activist Randall Terry were arrested Wednesday outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner. The protesters were demanding that Boehner, himself a staunch opponent of abortion, not give in to the Senate on the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood.
Capitol Police took the six into custody on unlawful assembly charges after they blocked a hallway outside Boehner's private office. Congress is not in session this week and Boehner was not in his office.
The Republican-led House last week, as part of a massive spending bill for the remainder of the current budget year, voted to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services. That provision likely faces strong resistance in the Senate, where majority Democrats are more supportive of abortion rights and back Planned Parenthood because of its family planning services.
"Our pro-life constituencies are weary of campaign promises and empty rhetoric," said Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue. "We don't want another symbolic victory."
Terry, who was not among those arrested, said that if House Republicans give in to the Senate on the Planned Parenthood funding issue his followers would run primaries against Boehner and other Republican leaders and would urge anti-abortion members of the House to hold the spending bill hostage.
The House-passed bill would trim $61 billion from federal programs for the budget year ending in September, including more than $300 million for Planned Parenthood. Failure to reach common ground with the Senate by March 4 could result in the shutdown of some federal government agencies.
Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said the Ohio Republican "welcomes the enthusiasm for debate and oversight that has followed from the recent alarming Live Action videos," a reference to an anti-abortion group that made public a video it said shows a Planned Parenthood employee in New York City advising a man posing as a pimp and seeking health services for underage sex workers.
"Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have demonstrated they are not defenders of women's rights and health," Smith said.