Convicted abortion clinic bomber gets caught up in social media purge

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The most violent anti-abortion extremists also signed on with QAnon and the push to overturn the election that erupted in a riot at the Capitol.

When Twitter finally took action and kicked Donald Trump off the platform after he incited an insurrection, the site also took action to ban more than 70,000 accounts, many of them affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. At least one high-profile anti-abortion extremist, Cheryl Sullenger, was suspended for violating Twitter's rules at that time as well. 

It isn't clear if Sullenger was caught up in the mass QAnon suspensions, banned for violent statements, or a different reason entirely. She is both the senior vice president of Operation Rescue, an extremist group that praises violence against abortion providers, and a public supporter of QAnon. Her archived Twitter bio bragged that she was "Q'd #3848" — mentioned in one of Q's "drops," the mysterious, conspiracy-laden, pro-Trump messages written by the unknown "Q." 

Sullenger is no stranger to radical anti-abortion violence, having served prison time in the late 1980s for conspiring to blow up an abortion clinic in San Diego. 

And she's not the only member of Operation Rescue with a violent background. Indeed, the group prides itself on its violent affiliations. 

The group's founder, Randall Terry, has praised the murder of abortion providers. Troy Newman, the group's current president, has called for the execution of doctors who perform abortions. And just over a decade ago, Sullenger admitted that she had provided Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion zealot who murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, with information on Tiller. Roeder has been described as an "active member" of the Operation Rescue community. 

Two years ago, Operation Rescue explicitly allied itself with QAnon, sending out a press release praising Q's anti-Planned Parenthood stance. The press release also contained some of Operation Rescue's most persistent and damaging lies targeting Planned Parenthood. Immediately after that press release, Sullenger and the official Operation Rescue Twitter account began tweeting Q-related hashtags, such as #TheGreatAwakening. 

The web cache of her now-suspended Twitter account shows that a few days before the Capitol riots, Sullenger retweeted Trump lawyer Sidney Powell's discredited theory the election was stolen. In advance of January 6, she encouraged her followers to "armor up" and used the hashtag #FightForTrump. Notably, after it was clear that insurrectionists had overrun the Capitol, Sullenger began tweeting that Antifa was responsible. 

Neither Sullenger's cached Twitter feed nor any subsequent public statements indicate whether she attended the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" event. However, at least two other notable anti-abortion activists did. 

Abby Johnson, a Trump-loving extremist who has condemned the COVID-19 vaccine as being made of "dead children," attended the January 6 event and appeared to have made her way to the Capitol steps. She, too, insisted it was "antifa" dressed as Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol. 

She also somehow linked the entire enterprise back to abortion, declaring the armed insurrectionists fringe individuals, rather than mainstream Trump supporters, and comparing them to "women who use abortion as birth control and have 15 abortions."

John Brockhoeft was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 too. Brockhoeft served time in prison after he set fire to two abortion clinics in Cincinnatti in the 1980s and tried to bomb one as well. When arrested, he was planning to bomb another clinic in Florida. 

Anti-abortion extremists have welcomed explicit violence against providers for decades, and some, like Sullenger and Brockhoeft, participated in that violence. They've done so by telling themselves they're the real heroes and that any violence they do is permissible because it is defending unborn children. Even Trump's last Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, engaged in a milder form of this when she signed a 2006 open letter calling for doctors who perform abortions to be put in jail

Many of these extremists were also well-suited to the conspiracy mindset, having engaged in years of conspiratorial thinking about the Clintons, Planned Parenthood, and more. For Sullenger and Operation Rescue, it seems to have primed them to accept the outlandish theories of QAnon.

A worldview tilted toward violence and conspiracies fits in with the larger violence of the Trump era, with a president who actively encouraged violence against anyone he opposed and who was utterly unwilling to accept the reality of his loss.

Now, just like Trump, Sullenger has lost her platform to spew lies. Anti-abortion activist and convicted clinic bomber gets caught in social media purge.