Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, grew up outside of Rochester, New York. According to Marian Faux’s profile of Terry in Crusaders: Voices from the Abortion Front, three of Terry’s aunts became pregnant as teenagers and had abortions; all three later worked in the women’s rights movement. Terry, however, left home before graduating high school and became a born-again Christian in his late teens. After getting his GED, Terry enrolled in Bible college in the late 1970s, and learned about fundamentalist teachings and beliefs. Terry was particularly influence by Francis Schaeffer, an evangelical writer who advocated civil disobedience and view Ronald Regan’s election as a chance for fundamentalists to enjoy a greater influence and visibility in American life.
According to Faux, Terry was inspired to start Operation Rescue after attending an anti-Roe rally in Washington, D.C. in early 1984. After the march, Terry claimed that he had a vision to start a new anti-choice organization that would “rescue” women at clinics around the country, with the goal of closing clinics down. The rescuers’ tactics included trying to talk women out of having abortions; invading clinic waiting rooms; and blocking clinic doors and driveways with cars. While the rescues were ostensibly non-violent, Terry’s instructions to the rescuers included the directive to be “run to” conflict and be “prepared to die.” Terry also ignored the official sanctions against his group; when explaining why he continued to blockade clinics in the face of injunctions against such activities, Terry said, “The bottom line is that these injunctions are meaningless, and I give them no more attention than a stray piece of paper laying in the street. … [No federal judge] can tell us not to save babies.”
The exact chronology of when Terry left Operation Rescue is a bit murky. He served as the group’s director from 1986-1989 and, according to The Washington Times, shut down OR in 1991. However, the group was active in the early 1990s, with particularly large protests in Wichita and Buffalo. Though its activities were greatly affected by prosecution under the FACE Act, Operation Rescue is still active. So is Randall Terry. Though he filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and has had a rather messy personal life over the past decade, he continues to work in the anti-choice field, protesting President Obama, making predictably horrible remarks following Dr. Tiller’s assassination, and running Insurrecta Nex, an anti-choice group mission is to “raise up a new generation … to recruit them, train them and unleash them.”
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.