With President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney neck and neck, speculation has raged that people close to the president’s campaign will trot out some sort of “October surprise” to try to drag Romney down in the polls. Now, with President Obama’s debuting a new phrase on the campaign trail – “Romnesia” – some conservatives think they’ve worked out what that surprise might be.

The problem? It’s not a surprise. It’s a year old story. Gateway Pundit explains:

[Gloria] Allred has a reputation of dragging perceived female victims in front of the camera as props to bash Republican candidates. In October 2010 Allred dragged out illegal alien Nicki Diaz to attack heartless Meg Whitman. [Diaz] was upset Whitman didn’t buy her child a present and claimed Meg took advantage of her despite the fact she made a good wage. In November 2011 she dragged out Sharon Bialek who accused Herman Cain of sexual abuse.

Considering her past record it is likely this year’s October surprise involves Carrel Hilton Sheldon, a former Mormon.

The book Horror Stories: Mitt Romney’s Shameful Record with Mormon Women details Mitt Romney’s “psychological intimidation and bullying” during his role as a Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The report describes how Romney “tried to bully” Carrel Hilton Sheldon when she was suffering through a difficult pregnancy into not having an abortion.

Now, in the most literal sense, Sheldon’s story is an “October surprise.” Unfortunately, that surprise came last October. The New York Times reported on October 15, 2011:

Mormons oppose abortion, except in extreme cases like rape, incest or where the life of the woman is in danger — and require that church elders be consulted. In 1990, Exponent II, a Mormon feminist magazine that Ms. Dushku, the Suffolk University professor, helped found, published an article by a married mother of four who recounted her own experience after doctors advised her to terminate her pregnancy when she was being treated for a potentially dangerous blood clot.

Her bishop got wind of the situation, she wrote, and showed up unannounced at the hospital, warning her sternly not to go forward. The article did not identify Mr. Romney as the bishop, but Ms. Dushku later did.

Now the woman has come forward, identifying herself in Mr. Scott’s book as Carrel Hilton Sheldon. (Through Ms. Dushku, she declined to be interviewed.) “Mitt has many, many winning qualities,” she is quoted as saying, “but at the time he was blind to me as a human being.”

Ms. Dushku sees hypocrisy and callousness; Mr. Scott sees inexperience.

“I don’t think he’s an evil, unfeeling, uncaring kind of guy,” Mr. Scott said. “He was a brand new bishop, he was pretty young to begin with, my sense is he was pretty full of himself, and he thought that he would not fulfill his obligation as bishop if he didn’t press the matter.”

So there it is – something Romney did at 34 is apparently national news. The “Mr. Scott” cited in the story is Ronald B. Scott, author of the book, “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics.” And unlike Ms. Dushku – a Mormon feminist writer named Judy Dushku, and a frequent nemesis of Romney’s during his time at the church – Scott has no agenda.

As to Ms. Dushku’s reasons for her perspective? Charles C. Johnson explains:

 As a young stake president (equivalent to a bishop in the Catholic church) Romney counseled against abortion for women under his care. He often clashed with Judy Dushku, a Mormon feminist figure and the mother of actress Eliza Dushku. Dushku has repeatedly argued that Romney was more conservative on abortion in private than he was publicly. Local Mormon leaders redrew the map of the local wards to guarantee that Romney and Dushku would never meet in what was known as the “Duskhu gerrymander, an unrequested courtesy extended to their former stake president Mitt Romney and his wife, who would never again have to be face to face with Judy Dushku while they worshipped,” Scott wrote.

In 2007, Judy Dushku recalled a published anonymous article in her feminist Mormon magazine, Exponents II, by a Mormon woman who wanted to have an abortion in 1990 when Mitt Romney was a stake president. (The article did not mention Mitt Romney by name, but Dushku later identified him.) The woman, Carrel Hilton Sheldon, has since come forward. Sheldon claims that Romney worked very hard to prevent her from having an abortion, even though her doctor (also a Mormon and past stake president) said her pregnancy might take her life. The woman ultimately had the abortion. [...]

In fact, during Romney’s entire time as a Mormon leader, no one was excommunicated.

The story goes further. Not only was no one excommunicated under Romney, he apparently went out of his way to help one woman who had her baby out of wedlock keep her child – even though having a baby out of wedlock is also grounds for excommunication in the Mormon faith. This woman later described Romney in glowing terms. Unsurprisingly, however, Romney’s detractors have focused on his initial urging of the unwed woman to consider giving the child up for adoption as the relevant part of the story.

Nevertheless, given the Obama campaign’s theory that female voters are motivated by abortion-related issues more than the economy (a theory which is backed up by some polls), this particular “October surprise” – if, indeed, that is what it is – might serve to blunt the GOP’s momentum among women. However, given the fact that this story took place 30 years ago – long before Romney even thought of running for anything – and has been vaguely in the news since October of last year, it could also turn out to be just another “Big Bird.”