How To Get Away With Murder Incitement Case file #2
Posted on September 2, 2016
Case file #2: Troy Newman (1966 –) and Operation Rescue
The antiabortion movement uses the terms “mainstream” and “fringe” to distinguish its nonviolent wing from its overtly violent wing. Operation Rescue (OR), which is headquartered in Wichita, might be characterized as operating at the near-fringe or hard edge of the “mainstream.” Nevertheless, inclusion in the antiabortion movement’s collective lists1 of disavowals of Tiller’s murder shows it is viewed as part of the “mainstream” by the movement, as does the list of endorsements on its webpage (Operation Rescue, undated a), which includes leaders associated with Priests for Life (Case File #13), the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (Case File #10), Kansans for Life, and many other “mainstream” groups.
OR’s main tactic is the coercive closing of abortion clinics. It also attempts the coercive diversion of potential abortion clients when they try to learn about or access abortion services. OR President Troy Newman made this statement on Dr. Leroy Carhart’s Nebraska clinic: “His abortion clinic is one of the ones we desperately want to close.” (Funk, 2009.) In 2011, OR picketed the 6th grade daughter of a clinic’s landlord at her middle school in Rockville MD after other tactics had failed to dislodge Carhart from the location (Bader, 2012). An Operation Rescue (2010) post titled: “Amazing New Strategy Will Put Abortionists OUT OF BUSINESS Peacefully, Legally, and Swiftly!”, claiming some 30 abortion clinics closed down through making civil or criminal complaints, and soliciting funds to offer $10,000 rewards (“doctor bounties”) for inside information of rules broken by clinics. Later the reward was increased to $25,000. Meanwhile OR supports movement lobbying for ever-more encumbering TRAPs (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers), which are then utilized in efforts to drive clinics out of business.
a. The campaign to stop Tiller
OR was closely associated with most of the efforts to close Tiller’s abortion practice, and also with both individuals who have been convicted of violence against Tiller (see Case File #1 on Tiller). OR’s relentless campaign of two decades included intense and systematic harassment of every employee, every client, and every supplier of Tiller that OR was able to identify. Over the years OR has undergone splits, relocations, and name changes, but the current OR is a continuous successor of the original and appears to take credit for all its Kansas activities, which date back to 1991. (See Case File #8 on the 1991 Summer of Mercy demonstrations; movement action against Tiller began in 1975 under the aegis of other organizations.) OR’s personnel, associations, and rhetoric generally come from the Protestant wing of the radical Christian right.
OR’s statement in response to Tiller’s murder included this misleading and hypocritical sentence: “Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see [Tiller] brought to justice.” For some history of OR’s legal and illegal harassment of Tiller’s clinic, see Pilkington (2009), Bauer and Thomas (2009), Thomas (2009a), Bowman (2005), and Barstow (2009). Note also the false implication that Tiller was a law-breaker who repeatedly escaped legal justice—a standard rationale for vigilante violence.
Newman had previously (2003) defended convicted antiabortion assassin Paul Jennings Hill as follows: “There are many examples where taking the life in defense of innocent human beings is legally justified and permissible under the law.”
After Newman denied having any connection with Roeder, Roeder replied: “Well, my gosh. I’ve got probably a thousand dollars worth of receipts, at least, from the money I’ve donated to him.” (Thomas, 2009b). In a later interview, Roeder said he had asked Newman about the justifiability of violence, to which Newman allegedly responded: “If [An abortionists were shot], it wouldn’t upset me” (Robb, 2010). A phone number found on Roeder’s dash board led to OR senior policy advisor Cheryl Sullenger (Bauer and Thomas, 2009). Sullenger originally denied any connection with Roeder, but later admitted she had routinely called Roeder to notify him of court hearings that Tiller would be appearing at. Sullenger had spent 2 years in prison after a 1988 conviction for attempting to bomb abortion clinics in the San Diego area (an action she later disavowed.) At his trial, Roeder said that through the antiabortion group Operation Rescue he learned that Tiller took measures to protect himself — traveling in an armored car, using a security escort, wearing a bulletproof vest and living in a gated community. (CNN, 2010.)
For evidence on OR’s many connections with the pro-terrorist antiabortionist organization Army of God, see Case File #9. Roeder viewed himself as a member of AOG. According to her daughter’s web site, jailed activist and AOG associate Shelley Shannon engaged in 35 different actions as part of OR, beginning in 1988 (Army of God, undated). In 1993 Shannon was convicted of arson and the attempted murder of George Tiller.
OR routinely carried a column on its website titled “Tiller Watch,” which included the addresses of Tiller’s home and the church he was later killed at and the names of his family members (Shelly, 2009).
b. OR’s moral character
OR has something of a reputation for intellectual dishonesty. Fugit (2009) describes OR’s false claims that it purchased the building it now occupies so as to drive an abortion clinic out of business.2 Barstow (2009) writes:
“If I can’t document it, I don’t say it,” Mr. Newman of Operation Rescue said, moments before suggesting without any proof that Dr. Tiller had bought off the local district attorney, Nola T. Foulston, by giving her a baby for adoption. He referred a reporter to a web site that vaguely asserted that Dr. Tiller “may have delivered the ultimate bribe to Nola Foulston.” A spokeswoman for Ms. Foulston declined to discuss the accusation.
See also the discussion of OR’s tendentious propaganda against Tiller (Case File #1). OR’s web site (Operation Rescue, undated b) includes this statement:
lnformation about Operation Rescue and Troy Newman found on Wikipedia is inaccurate and should be ignored. It should also be noted that numerous independent blog sites found on the Internet have no accountability and should not be trusted as a source of accurate information about Operation Rescue. If anyone has any questions about us, please contact us directly.
OR routinely alleges instances of wrongdoing by abortion doctors, who can’t respond because of confidentiality rules. It also routinely brings legal complaints against clinics, most of which have eventually been dismissed.
c. OR’s broader allegiances
OR identifies with a broader movement, namely movement conservatism, as evidenced by many references on its web site opposing Obama and socialism, and supporting the Tea Party. (OR is not a 501(c)(3) organization and is legally free to endorse candidates.) OR opposes most forms of contraception, which it defines as abortion. OR joined in a national campaign encouraging the Supreme Court to hold the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in its entirety (not merely with respect to reproductive services). In 2012 OR issued a strategy statement for the antiabortion movement, which is discussed in Case File #13.
Consider this question: to what extent and in what sense is OR responsible for the assassination of George Tiller?
As a thought experiment, suppose OR had never taken up residence in Wichita and consequently never undertook an extended and highly publicized campaign against George Tiller. In that case, there would have been only a remote chance that Glenn Beck would have entered into his own campaign to “stop “Tiller” (see Case file #16), or that Scott Roeder would have taken up arms against George Tiller. OR was obviously not the sole cause of Tiller’s death, but out of many contributing causes it was an important causal influence.
Moral responsibility is different from causal responsibility. If you believe that abortion is a crime so terrible that it ought be punished by death, then you likely would not condemn anyone who merely said as much. OR did less than that: they have not called for either a legal or an extra-legal death penalty for committing abortion.
However OR did repeatedly say Tiller should be stopped. OR did pursue an aggressive and sometimes illegal harassment of Tiller, his clinic, and his clients. OR did encourage direct action against Tiller by publishing his home address. OR did engage in direct conversation with AOG members and included them in their demonstrations. As leading edge antiabortion group, it is inconceivable that OR was not fully aware of AOG, its positions, and the identity of those AOG members who had publicly acknowledged membership. OR either took no steps, or was ineffective, in excluding AOG members from its demonstrations and private conversations.
And, significantly, OR did include on its website statements that abortion is “genocide against Blacks” (Operation Rescue, 2009). Genocide is a unique crime that arguably justifies direct vigilante action under international law (Kopel, Gallant, and Eisen, 2006). OR language and actions and associations have been sufficiently reckless that it seems fair to describe that organization as morally complicit in Tiller’s death.
Army of God. Undated-a. “Who Is Shelley Shannon?” (accessed November 6, 2009 at http://www.armyofgod.com/ShelleyWhois.html)
Bader, Eleanor J. 2012. “Antiabortion Harassment and Violence Still Stifle Access,” On the Issue Magazine, Winter (accessed March 14, 2012 at
Barstow, David. 2009. “An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death,” The New York Times, July 25 (accessed August 29, 2016 at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/us/26tiller.html)
Bauer, Laura; and Judy L. Thomas. 2009. “Operation Rescue adviser helped Tiller suspect track doctor’s court dates,” McClatchy Washington Bureau, Wednesday, June 03 (accessed August 29, 2016 at
Bowman, Peggy. 2005. Fetus Fanatics—Memoir: When Government Collaborates with Anti-choice Zealots, self-published by the author at Booksurge LLC.
CNN. 2010. “Roeder: No regrets after shooting doctor,” January 28 (accessed January 16, 2012 at http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/01/28/abortion.roeder.testifies/index.html)
Ertelt, Steven. 2009. “Pro-Life Groups Soundly Condemn Murder of Abortion Practitioner George Tiller,” LifeNews.com, Wichita, KS, May 31 (accessed August 25, 2009 at http://www.lifenews.com/state4186.html)
Fugit, Carolyn Marie. 2009. “Operation Rescue admits Dr. Tiller’s death lost them money,” Forward Kansas, September 15 (accessed August 4, 2010 at http://forwardkansas.com/2009/09/operation-rescue-admits-dr-tillers-death-lost-them-money-updated; no longer available)
Funk, Josh. 2009. “Late-term abortion provider plan to expand operations in Nebraska,” The Lawrence Journal World, December 5 (accessed December 5, 2009 at http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/dec/05/late-term-abortion-provider-plans-expand-operation/)
Kansas Liberty. 2009. “Tiller murdered in Wichita-area church,” May 31 (accessed November 11, 2009 at http://kansasliberty.com/liberty-update-archive/2009/01jun/tiller-murdered; no longer available)Kansas Liberty. 2009. “Tiller murdered in Wichita-area church,” May 31 (accessed November 11, 2009 at http://kansasliberty.com/liberty-update-archive/2009/01jun/tiller-murdered; no longer available)
Kopel, David B.; Paul Gallant; and Joanne D. Eisen. 2006. “Is Resisting Genocide a Human Right?,” Notre Dame Law Review 81(4), pages 1275-1346 (accessed September 2, 2016 at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1022114)
Newman, Troy. 2003. “Operation Rescue West/California Life Coalition Joint Press Release: Execution of Paul Hill Nothing Less than Murder”(accessed August 29, 2016 at https://archive.is/efBG9 )
Operation Rescue. 2009. “Free Viewing in KS of New “Must See” Film Exposing Black Genocide Through Abortion,” June 24 (accessed September 2, 2016 at http://www.operationrescue.org/archives/free-viewing-of-new-%E2%80%9Cmust-see%E2%80%9D-film-exposing-black-genocide-through-abortion/)
Operation Rescue. 2010. “Amazing New Strategy Will Put Abortionists OUT OF BUSINESS Peacefully, Legally, and Swiftly!,” April 20, (accessed June 19, 2010 at http://www.operationrescue.org/archives/amazing-new-strategy-will-put-abortionists-out-of-business-peacefully-legally-and-swiftly/)
Operation Rescue. Undated a. “Friends,” (accessed September 5, 2010 at
Operation Rescue. Undated b. “Who we are,” (accessed August 29, 2016 at
Pilkington, Ed. 2001. “For years antiabortionists tried to stop Doctor Tiller. Finally a bullet did,” The Guardian, June 1 (accessed November 12, 2009 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/01/us-doctor-tiller-killing-abortions)
Robb, Amanda. 2010. “Not A Lone Wolf—Scott Roeder is now serving a life term for murdering abortion doctor George Tiller. But did he really act alone?,” Ms. Magazine, Spring
(accessed May 29, 2010 at http://www.msmagazine.com/spring2010/lonewolf.asp)
Shelly, Barb. 2009. “More on George Tiller murder,” Kansas City Star, May 31 (accessed June 6, 2010 at http://voices.kansascity.com/node/4730/; no longer available)
Thomas, Judy L. 2009a. “Suspect in Tiller’s death supported killing abortion providers, friends say,” McClatchy Washington Bureau, June 1 (accessed August 29, 2016 at http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article24540346.html)
Thomas, Judy L. 2009b. “Roeder Upset at Operation Rescue,” Wichita Eagle, July 26, p. A1 (accessed August 29, 2016 at http://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/article1009125.html)