For a Lifetime of Sacrificial, Gentle Resistance 

Washington, D.C. – Operation Rescue is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2023 Person of the Year Malachi Award is Joan Andrews Bell, a gentle giant known by many as the matriarch of the rescue movement. The Malachi Award is given by Operation Rescue every year to recognize individuals who sacrificially work to advance the cause of protecting the preborn.

Bell was 24 years old and shocked when the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision paved the way for legalized abortion in the U.S. She became even more appalled when she saw how little the church spoke up for the rights of children in the womb. To Bell, it was eerily reminiscent of the lack of action initiated by Christians in response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany during World War II. 

She recently told LifeSiteNews, “I just knew that when I died I could not face God unless I did everything I could to try to save my little brothers and sisters who were now being allowed to be murdered, under sanction of law – false sanction of law.” 

So, as a shy young woman, she joined her sister and others who sat at the entrances to facilities where innocent babies were killed. She soon became heavily involved in the Operation Rescue movement, one of the largest civil disobedience movements in U.S. history. She was among the 75,000 people arrested throughout the late-eighties and mid-nineties for non-violent methods of protecting preborn children.

Though no hint of violence could ever be attributed to this resolute, courageous  protector of innocent human life, Bell was arrested over 200 times. She received a five-year prison sentence for peacefully entering an abortion facility in Florida and attempting to disable a suction machine used to violently dismember babies in the womb. 

Bell spent nearly two years in solitary confinement and, during her imprisonment, she wrote a series of letters appropriately titled, You Reject Them, You Reject Me.

Her lifetime of passive resistance has been built upon her Catholic upbringing and belief in the sacredness of human life. Her means of resistance was always peaceable, compassionate, and respectful toward those whose actions she opposed. For Bell, it was simply not possible to do nothing about “the worst mass murder of all.” 

Now in her mid-70s, Bell is currently in jail awaiting a possible 11-year prison sentence for her involvement in an October 2020 rescue at the Washington Surgi-Clinic, operated by notorious late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo. Santangelo was busted by a LiveAction undercover investigator unashamedly admitting he would not attempt to save a child who survived a late-term abortion.  

Some experts suspect 5 of 115 babies, whose bodies were recovered from the Washington D.C. facility by pro-lifers in 2022, were born alive and left to suffer and die.

Yet, Bell sits in prison.

She and eight others have been formally charged with Federal Civil Rights Conspiracy and Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act).

Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, recalled a time when he was arrested alongside Bell: “I remember that her desire to relate to the plight of the unborn child was so intense that she refused to sleep on a cot in her jail cell. In her mind, the least she could do was serve time in jail and sleep on a hard cement floor. Joan is a true heroine – both in thought and deed.

“This award is but a small gesture in light of the final reward this gentle giant of the faith longs to hear from her Savior, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’”

The following statement, written by Bell from her prison cell in September, was published by LifeSiteNews.

I am so very grateful for everyone who would want to send me commissary money, or write me a letter (letters are most special gifts), or visit me in prison. But I hope you will be able to understand why I am pleading with you not to do any of these. Please!

The short explanation is that I want my prison stay to be a time of undistracted prayer, as well a time of penance – for myself and our nation. I want to make my cell as it were a cloistered monastery cell. In a Carmelite monastery the nuns are only allowed 2 visits a year from family, and depending upon the specific monastery, they are only allowed 2-4 letters a year from family. Therefore, that is what I want to emulate.  My family will visit when they are able and will write. So I will have that.

I love each of you so very much! We in the prolife movement are as much family as could possibly be. At this point I cannot be on the front lines with you, but in my prayers and in my heart I am with you and our precious unborn brothers and sisters who are suffering martyrdom.

I am afraid that the only way I can bear not being with them and you at the killing places is by making of my life behind these walls a time of constant prayer, and whatever little additional sacrifice I can embrace.