... [I]n 1985, members of Missouri Right to Life showed the movie "Silent Scream," a video that showed an actual abortion at 11 weeks of pregnancy, at Dreste's church, and the implications of what he saw hit him like a 6-foot wall of rushing water. "I said to myself, 'I have to stop this now, the injustice of this,' and I started picketing every Wednesday night at the clinic in University City."As the story reported, however, by 1986, less militant groups that nevertheless opposed abortion, including the Catholic church, were distancing themselves from Ryan. And in 1988, Dreste split from Ryan's Pro-Life Action League.
It was there, on the picket line, that Dreste met a man named John Ryan, the Catholic director of the Pro-Life Action League, who changed both Dreste's life and the anti-abortion movement in ways no one had dreamed of several years before. Because abortion was the murder of a child, Ryan told his followers, there was an obligation on the part of Christians to save that child, that day, in any way within legal boundaries. The peaceful sit-ins of previous years no longer sufficed, and Ryan, who would later have whole chapters in books written about him, was getting arrested on a regular basis for his clinic blockades. As Ryan said later at a National Right to Life convention in Kansas City, "If it's radical for us to enter an abortion clinic and place ourselves between a murderer and his victim, then I want to be a radical."
For Dreste, Ryan was a mentor. And from Ryan, Dreste began to learn that doing God's work, and doing it well, meant strategizing to overcome the rules of a secular society.
Ryan taught that anything they as protesters could do within the law to keep a woman from walking into that clinic was acceptable, including the infamous clinic blockades. "And it was working," Dreste recalls, "because it allowed our counselors a longer time on the sidewalk to talk with the girls. I mean, you get 30 seconds to one minute to talk to these girls, but if you've got a lot of people blocking the door, you have more time. If you can just talk to them for a few minutes, there's good chance you can get through to them."
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.