Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. - Proverbs 24:11 (ESV)
A rescue is a variation on the common sit-in protest used as a form of interposition. Typically, that meant that a group of people would agree to block the doors of an abortion mill before they opened on kill days and refuse to allow anyone to enter the building.
The pro-life rescue movement really kicked off in 1986 when Randall Terry founded Operation Rescue. Other groups, such as the Missionaries to the Preborn and Lambs of Christ, used similar tactics, though there was often disagreement between the groups as to what methods were appropriate. A common refrain was, "No babies will be killed here today." Rescues often led to arrests and various charges at the local level, usually concerning trespassing or something similar.
A few mills even established buffer zones around the building, making it illegal for any form of protest, even sidewalk counseling, to happen within a certain radius of the building. We've seen similar legislation in the UK pass in 2023, establishing a 150-meter radius around every abortion mill. Even silent prayer is criminalized in those zones. There was a lack of unity in the pro-life movement. Everyone agreed that abortion was wrong, but that's about where the agreement ended. Some people wanted to take direct action like rescues. Others condemned that as too extreme and wanted to focus all energy on legislative efforts.
Even among the people who performed rescues, there was disagreement. Some only wanted to sit in front of doors. Others wanted to chain them shut and use large blocks of concrete or other heavy items to make it more difficult for the officials to remove the obstacle and reopen the mill. Others opposed violence against people but advocated for damaging property. And, unfortunately, a few believed that murdering the abortion doctors was the correct course of action. However, the vast majority of the pro-life community was just that‚ pro-life, and that meant that they were opposed to violence against people and property. It was mainly this group of people that saw tens of thousands of arrests over just a few years. And, at least in part, if not primarily, through their efforts, hundreds of abortion mills around the country were shut down. Rescues became a highly effective tool communities could leverage to stop something that they believed to be evil.
Successful enough that Congress felt the need to get involved.