A radical wing of the anti-abortion crusade has returned, emboldened by the prospect of the end of Roe v. Wade.
Before marching into the women’s health clinic in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on a freezing day last December, Monica Migliorino Miller and her compatriots paused to ask God to soften the hearts of the women inside to be open to their message. When Miller came through the entrance, the abortion clinic’s staff asked her to leave. Miller pushed past the receptionist, entered the waiting room, and began handing the clinic’s clients red roses with tags promising to help each woman “rediscover her own and her baby’s unique dignity.”
Some of the clients were shuffled into a back room; one left. When the police arrived, Miller and the small group of Christian pro-life activists she was leading went limp on the floor. Miller was carried outside, where, along with four others, she was arrested. She was charged with trespass and obstructing a police officer.
This was a tried-and-true routine for Miller, a lifelong anti-abortion radical who sees her rap sheet as a badge of honor. Miller, now 65, came of age at the height of the anti-abortion movement’s backlash against Roe v. Wade. She joined a radical group that used tactics like chaining protesters to clinic doors and pouring glue into the locks. Miller became a leader of the “rescue” movement of the ’80s and ’90s, which staged elaborate protests in which pro-life activists “saved” countless babies by means of more than 500 clinic blockades and 31,000 arrests.
Their offensive culminated in 1991, during the so-called Summer of Mercy, organized by Operation Rescue and its leader Randall Terry. For six weeks, thousands of activists descended on Wichita, Kansas, where one of only a few doctors who performed abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, George Tiller, worked. The protesters flung themselves under vehicles to prevent them from entering clinic parking lots; federal marshals were deployed to keep the clinics open. Two years later, an abortion doctor was murdered during a clinic protest in Pensacola, Florida. (An anti-abortion activist shot and killed Tiller in 2009.) In 1994, Congress responded to the mayhem with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which made interfering with clinics a crime. With its militant wing indelibly tied to murder, the rescue movement was all but dead by 1995.
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