Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type



Political Science

Director of Thesis

Mathieu Deflem

First Reader

Jonathan Edwards

Second Reader

Jonathan Edwards


This paper traces the history of the extremist wing of the anti-abortion movement, both the violent and non-violent branches, from its origins in the 1970s. The movement began with local, leftwing Catholic groups conducting “sit-ins,” then turned into a massive crusade of fundamentalist conservatives under Randall Terry’s group Operation Rescue. I also examine the movement’s descent into violence in the 1980s and 1990s and the federal government’s response to this threat, namely the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994, and how it has shaped both the pacifist and violent branches of the movement in the years since. The history of this movement carries important lessons about civil disobedience and violence, the societal and governmental response to these actions, and the intersection of religion and politics in America.

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