Before Cheryl Sullenger became Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor, she was perhaps best known for trying to bomb an abortion clinic in the 1980s. Sullenger and her husband pled guilty to conspiring to blow up the Southern California clinic; Sullenger served two years in prison. Five co-conspirators were convicted as well, and given sentences ranging from 149 days to five years.
Sullenger has been relatively under the radar in the years since her stint in prison, but last summer her phone number was found in Scott Roeder’s car after he was arrested for murdering Dr. George Tiller. The Wichita-based Sullenger denied any knowledge of Roeder’s plans, but later admitted that she gave Roeder information concerning Dr. Tiller’s court dates and hearings. Roeder claimed that he spoke with Sullenger and Troy Newman in 2002 about “justifiable homicide,” and that he visited OR’s headquarters shortly before killing Tiller.
In a wonderful article, Amanda Robb details the close-knit world of abortion opponents, making a strong case that Roeder acted alone only in the most literal sense. Roeder was friends with Shelley Shannon, who is currently serving time for shooting Dr. Tiller in 1993; Regina Dinwiddie, who attempted to raise money for Roeder’s defense through an eBay auction of items associated with the anti movement; and prominent abortion opponent Eugene Frye. Through Dinwiddie, Roeder also met Michael Bray, an extremist who helped draft the first version of the “defensive action” statement, which endorses murdering abortion providers.
Robb’s article includes an incredibly informative graph (image appears above) that shows how all of the various antis overlap and know each other. It sheds new light on the connections between Roeder, Sullenger, and Newman, and is also a persuasive argument for why conspiracy charges should have at least been considered, if not brought, against Roeder’s supporters and acquaintances. Roeder may be behind bars for the rest of his life, but as Operation Rescue’s recent activity in Albuquerque shows, there are still plenty of choice opponents busy doing everything they can to encroach on women’s legal right to safe abortion care.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.