Wichita, Kansas — Recently, there have been numerous news articles accusing Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, of advocating violence against abortion providers, but the record shows that this is a gross mischaracterization of the true position of Newman and Operation Rescue.
Operation Rescue’s website, OperationRescue.org, has carried a statement denouncing violence as a means to fight abortion for years. It states:
Operation Rescue was among the first to denounce the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller in 2009. All accusations, implications, or inferences that there was any involvement by Operation Rescue in the death of George Tiller is completely false. Operation Rescue and its staff were not involved in any way. Operation Rescue explicitly denounces violence in any form as a means of ending abortion.
Operation Rescue also operates the website AbortionDocs.org, which is contains the largest collection on documentation on abortion abuses that is available online. From its inception, that website has contained the following statement on violence:
This site is meant for informational purposes to aid in the end of abortion through peaceful, legal means. It is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff. We denounce acts of violence against abortion clinics and providers in the strongest terms.
Australian MP’s Falsehoods
The most recent accusations stem from a letter sent from a radical pro-abortion member of Australian Parliament, Terri Butler, to Peter Dutton, the Minister of Immigration, seeking the cancellation of Troy Newman’s visa he had obtained for a 10-day speaking tour of the Land Down Under.
Butler used out-of-context passages from a 2000 book titled Their Blood Cries Out, penned by Newman and his colleague, Cheryl Sullenger, to make her fallacious case that Newman advocates violence.
In that book, which was a theological study of the Biblical doctrine of bloodguilt, Newman and Sullenger discuss the Old Testament principle that required those who commit murder should be sentenced to death by a court of justice. They surmised that if indeed abortion is murder, then it would be acceptable, based on the Old Testament teachings, for governments to treat it as it does any other murder with those convicted through a court of law subject to the same punishments other murderers would face, including capital punishment.
Yet, not surprisingly, Butler neglected to mention that later chapters in that now out of print book referenced the New Testament concept that mercy is preferable to judgement, and that repentance and restoration is available through Jesus Christ to all men who seek it.
What Butler failed to understand is the difference between theological discussions of Biblical principles and advocating violence, which is something Newman and Sullenger never did in Their Blood Cries Out.
“There is a distinct difference between saying that the Bible gives the authority to governments to execute justice, as we explained in the book, and advocating that individuals commit murder of abortion providers, as Ms. Butler erroneously has accused Mr. Newman of doing,” Sullenger wrote in a letter to Minister Dutton that sought to clear up the misunderstanding.
Non-Violent Track Record
In fact, Newman has a long history of advocating peaceful activism and has denounced the use of violence against abortion providers, as Fr. Frank Pavone, who heads up Priests for Life, has attested. Fr. Pavone, who has known and worked with Newman for years, recently wrote:
Troy is completely committed to the principles at the foundation of our movement, including that of non-violence. Those who see him as an enemy do so not because he is some kind of violent fanatic, but precisely because he is effective at what he does, namely, researching the weaknesses of the abortion industry and then using the legal system to make them accountable for their unscrupulous and dangerous practices.
Hill Press Statement
Some of Newman’s detractors bring up a quote that Newman gave in 2003 in reference to the impending execution of Paul Jennings Hill, who was convicted of murdering an abortion provider and his volunteer escort outside an abortion facility in Pensacola, Florida in 1994.
At that time, Newman stated in a press release:
Today’s scheduled execution of Paul Hill is not justice, but is another example of the judicial tyranny that is gripping our nation. A Florida judge denied Rev. Hill his right to present a defense that claimed that the killing of the abortionist was necessary to save the lives of the pre-born babies that were scheduled to be killed by abortion that day. Our system of justice is based upon ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ but in Rev. Hill’s case, there was no justice because the court prevented him from presenting the legal defense that his conduct was justifiable defensive action.
There are many examples where taking the life in defense of innocent human beings is legally justified and permissible under the law. Paul Hill should have been given the opportunity to defend himself with the defense of his choosing in a court of law.
This statement has been frequently misinterpreted as “evidence” of Newman’s support for the position that murdering abortion providers is justifiable homicide. That is a gross mischaracterization of his statement.
Newman deplored the fact that Hill had murdered two people, but felt the need to express disappointment that the court refused to allow Hill to use the defense of his choosing, especially since conviction meant facing the possible death penalty. It seemed unfair that with a human life on the line that a judge would deny someone a vigorous defense. This is completely consistent with the pro-life ethic that would seek to save every life possible.
First to Denounce Violence
In fact, when late-term abortionist George Tiller was murdered in May 2009, Operation Rescue was among the first to denounce his killing. Newman said at that time:
We deplore the criminal actions with which Mr. Roeder is accused. The pro-life ethic is to value all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Operation Rescue has diligently and successfully worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see to it that abortionists around the nation are brought to justice. Without due process, there can be no justice. In spite of these horrific events, we remain dedicated to working through all peaceful and legal means available to bring an end to the killing of innocent children through abortion.
When pro-life activist Jim Poullion was gunned down in cold blood while holding a pro-life sign on a public street three months after Tiller’s death, Newman released the following statement:
We have received literally hundreds of death threats in the past three months. Our office has been vandalized three times. Just yesterday, the FBI was in our office and picked up a stack of threatening letters that we received. We denounce violence in the strongest terms. The bloodshed must stop both inside and outside of the abortion clinics.
Sullenger’s Change of Heart
Also at issue has been Cheryl Sullenger’s conviction in 1988 of conspiring to bomb an abortion facility in San Diego, California the previous year. However, even at the time of her sentencing, Sullenger expressed remorse for her part in the failed plot that resulted in no property damage whatsoever.
Since then, Sullenger has worked diligently within peaceful and legal means to successfully save lives and affect changes in the law.
Instead running from her past, she openly admits her mistake in her biography posted to OperationRescue.org.
In a 1987 act she now regrets, Sullenger was charged and pled guilty to conspiracy to damage an abortion clinic. Even though the clinic was not damaged, Sullenger took responsibility for her actions, and served two years in Federal Prison. Since then, Sullenger has openly denounced violence as a means to stop abortion and has worked for over two decades as an advocate of peaceful activism as a means to save babies and stop abortion.
Of Sullenger’s conviction, Newman had this to say in their 2014 book, Abortion Free:
I have always believed that if we in the pro-life movement can forgive and embrace women who have had abortions, as well as those, like former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson and Dr. Anthony Levatino, who actually participated in the killing of innocent children by abortion, then we should also be able to forgive those in our own ranks who have made mistakes but have repented and amended their ways.
This does not condone her actions taken nearly 30 years ago, but expresses the Christian trait of extending forgiveness and mercy to those who have shown the fruits of repentance.
Detractors also attempt to link Sullenger to Scott Roeder, who murdered late-term abortionist George Tiller in 2009. They mistakenly say she helped Roeder “track” Tiller, then note her phone number was found on a scrap of paper in Roeder’s junky vehicle during his arrest.
Roeder did in fact call Sullenger. He had taken a particular interest in the Tiller criminal case and phoned her from time to time to inquire about the date and time of court proceedings, as did many other people during the trial. Sullenger’s cell phone number was listed as one to contact for information about our prayer vigils and other activities, so such calls were routine from a variety of individuals.
In fact, Sullenger was uncomfortable with Roeder and avoided him when he attending the court hearings.
With that being their only contact, to say she helped Roeder “track” Tiller is completely untrue.
Even a police investigation into Tiller’s murder showed that neither Newman nor Sullenger were involved in any way.
Yet, the false accusations continue to circulate in the media fueled by falsehoods promoted by disreputable leftist pro-abortions websites and blogs. These lies are told for the purpose of discrediting Newman and his organization due to their success at exposing the wrongdoing committed by the Abortion Cartel.
Cease and Desist
Newman has taken legal steps to hold accountable those who continue to spread these falsehoods. For example, when Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, appeared on the July 26, 2015, edition of “This Week with George Stephanopoulus,” she attacked Newman and wrongly accused him of being “behind” acts of violence, including “the bombing of clinics, the murder of doctors in their homes, and in their churches.”
Newman’s attorneys promptly sent “cease and desist” letters to Richards and ABC News seeking an apology and retraction of false, defaming statements.
The historical record is clear. Any accusations that Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, or Cheryl Sullenger advocate violence against abortion providers in any way is completely false and should be disregarded.