Operation Rescue

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Operation Rescue is an extremist right-wing anti-abortion group with a history of advocating, encouraging, and in particular cases even employing aggressive and outright terrorism to combat abortion. The group was once known as Operation Rescue West, it originated in California as part of the original Operation Rescue (formally Operation Rescue National, now named Operation Save America[1] since 1999), but moved to Kansas in 2002 to focus attention on one of two prominent doctors who performed late-term abortions, Dr. George Tiller.[note 1]

Formally, the organization believes in legal tactics that are designed to embarrass women who go into clinics, frighten them, and provide an overall harassment to the business of the clinic. These are all legal actions, if done within certain parameters. Informally, however, the group and its members have been associated with terrorism; for example, their senior policy director, Cheryl Sullenger, was at one point convicted of conspiracy to bomb a California clinic.[2][3]

Operation Save America, the original parent group, has branched out into other areas of far-right politics, although anti-abortion activities are still a high priority.

In 1998, the Supreme Court granted an injunction against Randall Terry and Operation Rescue under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Randall Terry, personally, and Operation Rescue were held liable for monetary damages done to clinics.[4]

In April 2009, Operation Rescue moved into the headlines again when they protested the President's speech at Notre Dame.

Randall Terry[edit]

Operation Rescue's founder, Randall Terry, is not one to mince words about his views on abortion, abortion doctors, God, and the nation at large:

Our goal is a Christian nation. … We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism. … Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules.

According to a February 12, 2000, Washington Post report, Terry was censured by his church, the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York, for a "pattern of repeated and sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women." (Come on, try to at least look surprised.) Terry denied the accusation.[5]

Murder of Dr. George Tiller[edit]

George Tiller in 2009

Several connections have been made between Operation Rescue leadership and violent anti-abortion activities such as bombings and assassinations. In June of 2009, Operation Rescue was linked to the May 31 assassination of Dr. George Tiller, when the killer, Scott Roeder, was found to have contact information for Cheryl Sullenger, an Operation Rescue senior policy adviser, in his possession. Sullenger, who was convicted of planning to bomb an abortion clinic in California in 1988, admitted that she had spoken with Roeder on several occasions, helping him track Tiller's court hearings with dates, times, and locations.[3][6] Operation Rescue had long been a vocal critic of Tiller, running several large-scale public relations campaigns to attempt the termination of his medical career, and even to have charges brought against him.[7]

Terry held a press conference after the shooting in which he stated that Tiller "got what was coming to him" and is in denial that his movement is responsible for Tiller's death:

The point that must be emphasized over, and over, and over again: pro-life leaders and the pro-life movement are not responsible for George Tiller's death. George Tiller was a mass-murderer and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed.[8]

His movement most certainly is responsible for Tiller's death — you don't get to shoot someone in cold blood and claim God did it. A person posting on Operation Rescue's website using the name "Scott Roeder" had expressed interest in becoming involved with Operation Rescue and had posted comments about bringing Tiller to justice. The person also posted information about gaining access to Tiller's church, which was the eventual location of the assassination:

Bleass [sic] everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp. Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.[3][9]

External links[edit]


  1. The other doctor is Dr. Warren Hern, from Boulder, Colorado. Due to his location in a fairly liberal area, Dr. Hern rarely sees protests, though he does have bulletproof windows in his offices.