Written by Marshall Martinez, Board President of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
It has been just over a year since the murder of Dr. George Tiller robbed us of an exceptional physician who stood with unflinching resolve against all who tried to stop his life-saving work. I will always remember the shock and sadness of that Sunday, May 31, when Dr. Tiller was gunned down as he stood in the foyer of his Lutheran church in Wichita, welcoming anyone entering to worship. That he was killed in his church, and that he found strength and purpose through his religious faith made his death especially grievous for us as people of faith.
Since then, women who needed late term abortion care have had nowhere to turn, until January of this year when Curtis Boyd, MD PC made the decision to provide late term abortions into the third trimester on a case by case basis. In response, Troy Newman has posted on Operation Rescue’s website their plans to collaborate with Project Defending Life, Catholic Pro-Life Ministries in New Mexico to, "strategize about future efforts to close the abortion business here after the largest late-term abortion clinic in the nation closed last year in Wichita, Kansas."
As most readers of this blog already know, when convicted murderer Scott Roeder was arrested for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, in Wichita, KS the police found the name and phone number of Cheryl Sullenger in his car. Cheryl Sullenger is Operation Rescue's senior policy advisor and she served two years in prison for conspiring to bomb abortion clinics in 1988. In spite of this, Operation Rescue has denied having any responsibility for the assassination of Dr. Tiller. Now they have announced plans to "..open a satellite office in Albuquerque that will be directed from our headquarters in Wichita."
Prior to the partnership between Operation Rescue and Project Defending Life, the Catholic Pro-life community of New Mexico had always been peaceful and prayerful during any demonstrations at abortion clinics. I am disappointed that Archbishop Sheehan would turn over his leadership in the Pro-life community of New Mexico to Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger and their use of intimidation, harassment and violence which is in complete opposition to everything I believe in as a Catholic. As a child growing up in a Catholic family in southern New Mexico, I was taught to live the Catholic values of compassion and mercy and to treat everyone with love and respect, regardless of whether I agreed with them or not. Service to the church and community was done through love and humility in order to grow the Catholic values of compassion, mercy and respect in the community. I believe that Operation Rescue’s presence here will attract unstable, extremist individuals to New Mexico and could result in the same kind of violence that has happened in Wichita, Kansas and other communities
The director and founder of Project Defending Life is Fr. Stephen Imbarrato, a priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and therefore under the authority of Archbishop Michael Sheehan. The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has asked the Archbishop to issue a written statement directing all of his religious leaders and laity to avoid all association, cooperation and collaboration with Operation Rescue, Operation Save America and all other "pro-life" hate groups, but has not received any response. You can help by signing our petition.