Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

153—The Lost Radical History of the Pro-Life Movement—Randall Terry

By Catholic Culture Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 09, 2023 | In The Catholic Culture Podcast

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One might assume abortion has always been a hot-button topic in American politics since the Supreme Court ruling legalizing it in 1973. But that is not the case. The US pro-life movement was so non-robust for many years that by 1987, abortion was not even one of the top 10 issues for American voters. Then suddenly, in ABC’s 1988 election exit poll, abortion had shot to the number one issue for voters. What made abortion into a political litmus test so suddenly?

Operation Rescue was what happened. Little remembered now, OR was, believe it or not, the largest civil disobedience movement in American history. Between 1987 and 1994, about 75,000 pro-life activists were arrested for peacefully interfering with abortion clinic operations—that’s ten times more people arrested than in the entire civil rights movement.

And though Operation Rescue quickly fizzled out in 1994 because of the Clinton administration’s FACE Act (recently used to prosecute Mark Houck), it gave the pro-life movement the jump-start it needed to get us to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Arguably, were it not for Operation Rescue, the U.S. would be much like Europe, with even anti-abortion conservatives more or less accepting it as the “law of the land”, and little political will to fight it.

It is a great honor, then, to have the founder of Operation Rescue on the Catholic Culture Podcast. Randall Terry, who ran OR for its first few years and was arrested 50 times for his pro-life activism, is producing a documentary series, Dragonslayers, which will tell the history of OR using many hours of amazing footage that exists from the time. He is currently raising funds so that the series can be made.

Randall joins the show to talk about OR and its decisive role in the history of the pro-life movement, the need for direct action in the pro-life cause today, and the political tools that will be indispensable for ending abortion in all 50 states—which he calls Randall’s Rules for Righteous Revolution.


Donate to support the documentary production and find pro-life training resources at

Ep. 2 of the Catholic Culture Podcast—“The Largest Civil Disobedience Movement in U.S. History”, with Bill Cotter and Phil Lawler

Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus. Download the Catholic Culture Podcast soundtrack.

Thomas V. Mirus is Director of Podcasts for, hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast, and co-hosts Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. See full bio.

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