Abortion and the news

As I was reading abortion news in Mother Jones and LifeNews.com recently, it occurred to me that most of the news — and I’m not even counting opinion — that I consume regarding sanctity of life issues comes from outside the mainstream media. It’s obviously a bigger problem on the pro-life side of things. I was shocked to learn last week, for instance, that NBC has still not reported on the Planned Parenthood sting videos. The media more or less ignored the amazing updates coming out of the Philadelphia abortion doctor murder case.

So when I read that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested abortion rights supporter Theodore Shulman and charged him with making threats against pro-life advocates, I expected that this news wouldn’t be reported.

But religion reporter David Gibson over at Politics Daily did report it. And he actually filled his report with information I hadn’t seen before:

The FBI in New York has reportedly arrested Theodore Shulman, a radical abortion rights campaigner with a long history of threatening pro-life activists, and charged him with making interstate threats against two abortion opponents who were not identified.

The 49-year-old Shulman was arrested on Thursday and was being held without bond at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, according to pro-life activists who were alerted to Shulman’s incarceration by federal investigators. An officer at the correctional center referred a calls about inmates to the public relations office, which is closed over the weekend.

“This is a huge relief to us that Ted Shulman is behind bars where he belongs,” Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, a prominent anti-abortion organization, said in a story on the group’s website. “He often posted threatening comments to our website and called me on my cell phone too many times to count.”

Sullenger was not one of the two targets listed in the federal complaint, which has apparently been sealed (the FBI did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday). But she and a number of prominent abortion opponents and conservative activists — including blogger Jill Stanek, Princeton political philosopher Robert P. George, Father Frank Pavone from Priests for Life, Bryan Kemper of Stand True Ministries, and scientist and pro-life activist Gerard Nadal — have been frequent targets of Shulman’s rants.

Gibson notes that most stories about violence or threats regarding abortion (I think he means abortion politics) come from “anti-abortion extremists” rather than “radicals in the abortion rights camp.” But, he notes, this case is unusual for more reasons, too:

His mother is Alix Kates Shulman, a feminist author and political activist who first achieved notoriety in 1972 for her novel “Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen,” which drew wide coverage for its frank depiction of the sexual experiences of a young Midwestern woman who — like Alix Shulman — went off to college in the East. Shulman has spoken of having four abortions, “and not one was the result of carelessness.” According to Jill Stanek, Ted Shulman has said two of his mother’s abortions were before his birth and two were after.

For whatever reasons, Theodore Shulman — who goes by Ted — seemed to fixate on the issue of abortion rights and defined his activism by fierce and often extreme verbal attacks on pro-lifers that often threatened them with a violent end. He liked to allude to himself as the “first pro-choice terrorist” and started a blog called “Operation Counterstrike.”

We learn that he posted comments on pro-life nurse Jill Stanek’s web site where he said he was looking forward to watching a documentary about her assassination. We learn he called an employee at Operation Rescue to tell her she was going to be killed soon. And we learn that Operation Rescue says the threats against the group have increased after Rachel Maddow began criticizing them a few weeks ago.

Anyway, while the story is awful, it’s nice to learn so much about something abortion related from a religion reporter outside of the pro-life or pro-choice press.

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  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Though Gibson has this unfortunate paragraph near the end of his article:

    Last October, Maddow hosted a documentary, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” that examined the assassination on May 31, 2009, of George Tiller, one of just three doctors in the country who performed so-called “late-term” abortions. While ushering at his church in Wichita, Kansas, Tiller was fatally shot by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion extremist.

    I’ve never seen late-term abortions referred to as “so-called ‘late-term’ abortions” before. I know that “partial-birth” is a controversial phrase, but what else are they supposed to be called if “late-term” is now out-of-bounds? Also, Gibson must not be aware of his own site’s coverage that there was at least one more than “just three” doctors performing late-term abortions – never mind that there are likely far more.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    Excellent points that I should have raised. There’s no dispute over whether late-term abortions are late-term abortions and there are, according to one Guttmacher study, at least 350 doctors doing abortions after 20 weeks and almost 150 doing them after 24 weeks.

    That is far more than 3.

  • Jerry

    Mollie, I missed where you outlined why the story was awful? I assume you meant Gibson’s story?

  • Dave G.

    so-called “late-term” abortions.

    Great point. I heard this in a debate a few weeks ago, and something about it struck me – but I wasn’t sure why. That’s why. I’ve heard ‘so called’ partial birth. But I didn’t know it was ‘so called’ late term. I wonder when that happened.

  • Harold

    I was shocked to learn last week, for instance, that NBC has still not reported on the Planned Parenthood sting videos.

    This would seem to reflect positively on NBC for not falling for these “stings” are representing actual news. Like the family values Congressman caught with a hooker, these “stings” by activists–whether it is someone chatting with Governor Walker pretending to be a Koch brother or dressing up like a hooker to chat with an intake worker or receptionist–are of dubious news interest beyond pushing a specific ideological agenda.

    To quote Mollie, “I am so bored with it” because they are really moral relativism run amok. Lying and deceit are fine as long as it’s for the cause and some low-level employee is caught off message.

  • Kyle

    Lying and deceit are fine as long as it’s for the cause and some low-level employee is caught off message. (emphasis added)

    Well, that’s one way to describe the clinic manager giving careful and exacting details not only on how to evade abortion laws but even to work around the one staff member who could potentially break up the putative sex trafficking ring. Not an accurate way, but one way.

    And for the record, many in the pro-life community have objected to the lying. It’s been a huge debate, in fact. But then there’s been no coverage, so how would a person know ….

  • Kyle

    Also, Harold: How many “low-level” employees have been “caught off message” so far? In how many states?

  • http://ontheotherfoot.blogspot.com Joel

    They found this guy! I’ve been reading Operation Counterstrike every so often for a year or more to see if he would eventually give himself away.

    (Sorry, I know it’s not journalism-related, but still, I’m relieved. Especially since he could probably have traced me through comments I left there.)

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    Once again I’ve been unclear. I didn’t mean Gibson’s story was awful but, rather, the death threat story was awful. Must improve my writing!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    If a news organization had a policy to never run undercover investigations or use leaked information or what not, I’d think they could defend their refusal to cover the story. NBC is clearly not that organization.