The latest meme in the campaign to paint the broader pro-life movement as complicit in George Tiller’s murder is the fact that the killer, Scott Roeder, made calls to Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor, Cheryl Sullenger, asking to know Tiller’s court dates. This, we are told, is supposed to be outrageous because Roeder had previously made ominous comments (which, taken on their own, aren’t all that ominous) on Operation Rescue’s website—as if every individual in an organization is supposed to memorize the names of everyone who comments on their website who could be considered excessively hostile. Please.
I don’t think much of this line of attack, but there is something else in these reports that should be deeply troubling to pro-lifers. In 1988, Sullenger was convicted of conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic, for which she served two years in prison. Operation Rescue’s bio says she’s been active in the movement since 1984, and relocated to Wichita in 2003, but isn’t clear on when she became officially aligned with the group (a question further complicated by OR’s muddy organizational history).
Why did Operation Rescue hire a convicted would-be terrorist? How could they have not known about her record? As a matter of moral principle, it’s inexcusable to give credence to someone who’s done what she’s done, and as a matter of political strategy, it’s suicidal idiocy—do they even know who their opponents are?
The current wave of character assassination is deeply dishonest, and the pro-life movement is not a bloodthirsty one (as Mark Crutcher also explains, hat tip to Jill Stanek). But because we are an honorable, responsible movement, we have to be especially vigilant about true fanatics in our midst. Operation Rescue is not responsible for George Tiller’s death, but they do have to answer for the employment of Cheryl Sullenger.