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.
Nadal wrote of his relief over the "reprieve from death threats" to himself and his family in the wake of Shulman's arrest, and Sullenger and others were equally grateful.
"He was always brazen in his threats and openly identified himself, telling us not to bother calling the FBI because they would never do anything for us," Sullenger said. "Thankfully, he was wrong about that."
In fact, most stories of violence or threatened violence over the volatile issue of abortion tend to be connected to anti-abortion extremists rather than radicals in the abortion rights camp.
But Shulman is an unusual case in many respects.
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."
His mission statement says: "Right-to-lifism is murder, and ALL right-to-lifers are bloody-handed accessories. Swear it, believe it, proclaim it, and act on it."
In assisting the FBI over the past few years, Jill Stanek compiled more than 4,000 comments that Shulman posted or tried to post on her site over the last four years or so. One example: "I'm looking forward to watching a documentary entitled 'The Assassination of Jill Stanek'," Shulman wrote on Oct. 27 in a comment using one of his many online aliases.
Stanek told Politics Daily in an e-mail that Shulman's threats to her were not part of the criminal complaint against him.
It's not clear what Shulman may have done to push his actions and rhetoric across the line to alleged criminality. In its website report about Shulman's arrest Operation Rescue includes an audio recording of a threat to Cheryl Sullenger that the group says Shulman left on the group's voicemail:
"Hi Cheryl, I'm calling you to say you need to convert to pro-choice because your Maker is going to send an angel to gather you in very soon, and if you haven't converted to pro-choice by the time you get OFFED you will go to hell and burn!" the message says. "So quick, quick, quick -- convert to pro-choice during the few months you have left on this earth. Do it now!"
In its statement on Shulman, Operation Rescue says that threats to the group and its leader have increased in recent weeks, an increase it links to criticism of Operation Rescue from the liberal MSNBC cable host Rachel Maddow.
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 late-term abortions. While ushering at his church in Wichita, Kansas, Tiller was fatally shot by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion extremist.
Maddow's show linked Operation Rescue, which led daily vigils outside Tiller's clinic for years, to extreme anti-abortion views.
According to pro-life activists, Shulman is also the subject of a federal investigation in Wichita, which could result in additional charges against him.