Sidewalk counseling is one of the most effective ways to save unborn babies from
abortion. While it can be the most demanding of all pro-life work--- when a baby
is saved it is the most rewarding.
Nothing compares to the inexpressible joy a pro-lifer experiences when a baby is
saved from abortion because he or she was there in front of the abortion center
intervening on behalf of the innocent unborn.
The First Thing Is Prayer
Effective sidewalk counseling begins with prayer! Sidewalk
counselors should be people of prayer and maintain a truly prayerful attitude when
out at the local killing centers. Prayer is the sidewalk counselors’ most important
source of power in talking women out of abortion. And here is the key: recruit others
who will specifically hold you up in prayer all during the time you are out in front
of the abortion center. These people are praying for you and for the moms. Surround
your work with a dedicated team of prayer warriors. People who, for whatever reason,
cannot do sidewalk counseling themselves (perhaps because of age or infirmity) can
serve as your prayer supporters. Knowing that you have someone praying for you and
for the success of your work is a tremendous consolation In addition, there should
be a team of praying people at the killing site who stand in the background and
do nothing but quietly and fervently pray. These people do not picket or sidewalk
counsel themselves---they pray! When a woman approaches the center they pray her
heart will be softened. As the pro-life sidewalk counselor talks to her they pray
she will listen. If she goes into the mill they pray for her to come out. Prayer
to Almightly God, who alone changes hearts and minds, is a must in order for women
(and boyfriends, etc.) to turn away from their decision to kill their own babies.
The Atmosphere Is Important
Effective sidewalk counseling depends a great deal on the general atmosphere outside
of the abortion center. Many abortion centers have pro-abortion escorts. However,
despite the presence of escorts, pro-lifers can still, in many ways, control what
the atmosphere or environment will be like that benefits their sidewalk counseling
efforts. Ideally sidewalk counseling should be conducted in a quiet atmosphere.
The pro-lifer must decide whether he or she wants to protest and publically condemn
abortion or approach women, one on one and try to engage them in conversation in
a sidewalk counseling effort. Going to an abortion center to protest against abortion
(which is totally legitimate) is not the same thing as sidewalk counseling. Indeed,
generally speaking, loud protests and picketting with signs, INCLUDING GRAPHIC SIGNS,
should be scheduled for a different time from sidewalk counseling. Here’s why. When
the street is quiet and absent of telltale pro-life protest activity the woman walking
toward the abortion center will feel less threatened by the approach of a common
citizen whom she rightly perceives as wanting to enage her in simple friendly conversation.
The woman is less likely to put off the sidewalk counselor as a protestor--someone
she may perceive as in opposition to her. Also the protest activity alerts the woman
as to “what’s up” and she will already have had a chance to formulate her response
to the counselor even before the counselor speaks to her. The key here is for the
sidewalk counselor to be welcoming and unthreatening to the woman so she will trust
the counselor and be more willing to listen and open up about her own concerns.
Protest activity is distracting to this process.
Literature Is Essential!
Always make an effort to get literature into the woman’s hand. If she won’t take
it give it to the boyfriend or whomever is with her. Make sure the literature includes
phone numbers of local crisis pregnancy centers or even your own number. Also give
her a religious article, a little cross or rosary or small prayer book, etc. If
she takes something like that into the mill with her this will aid her in deciding
against abortion because such articles can arouse spiritual sentiments and remind
her how offensive abortion is to God. Religious items may arouse her conscience.
Don’t tell her what the item is---just give it to her. “Say, ‘hi,’ this is for you”
and put the literature and the religious article right into her hand.
Angry Shouting Must Be Avoided
The pro-life sidewalk counselors’ goal is to get the woman to stop and talk, to
get the woman to listen. The pro-lifer wants to actually have the opportunity to
counsel her and get her to open up to you. If the woman is surrounded by pro-abortion
escorts who are making noise to drown out your voice then an elevated voice level
is necessary but the message should still be positive and not angry or condeming.
The woman must believe that you are on her side and really care about her as a person.
Most people do not like confrontations and flee from them. Only one pro-lifer should
speak to the woman at a time. Two or more pro-lifers speaking or shouting at the
woman (even positive messages) creates that unpeaceful climate where real communication
to the woman is compromised. If the woman insists on continuing her approach to
the door and actually enters the abortion center, remain calm and peaceful. This
is a crucial moment. Often the counselors’ message to the woman becomes more shrill
in tone and more angry as the woman gets closer to door. When the woman enters the
center the shrill tone and angry words reaches a peak. At this moment the pro-lifer
thinks all is lost and that he or she must make that last ditch effort to warn her
or condemn her for what she is about to do. A cetain desperation enters in. However,
it is very possible that the woman will come back out and she will be more likely
to come back out if she believes that the pro-lifer out there will embrace her in
gentleness rather than confrontation. Make yourself a magnet of love. The abortion
mill is a sad, despressing place but the woman might prefer to stay in this “comfort
zone” than come outside and face anger from pro-lifers. When speaking to the woman,
even if she is cold and nasty, avoid anger and sarcasim. If she goes in assure her
that you’ll still be on the street for her and that you’ll help her all you can.
How to Handle the Pro-Abortion Escorts
Escorts are there to thwart the efforts of sidewalk counselors. Their usual tactic
is to approach the woman before the pro-life sidewalk counselor does, surround her
(and whomever may be with her) and prevent you from giving her literature and having
any meaningful one on one conversation with her. If escorts are present the pro-life
sidewalk counselor must be more aggressive than they are. You will need to approach
the woman first but frantic rushing toward her or her car must be avoided. Be on
the ball, watch for the women approaching and walk briskly toward them if this is
necessary. The pro-lifer must remain between the woman and the escorts. To help
facilitate this, perhaps a group of three pro-lifers could approach the woman, but
only one do the talking, to form a more effective barrier between her and the escorts.
After the woman has parked her car ask her to role down the window and engage her
in conversation before the escorts get to the car themselves. If the woman wants
to get out, give her room to get out but continue to enage her in conversation.
If she permits the escorts to surround her stroll along with them but avoid shouting
your message, if possible. At abortion centers with escorts it is important to try
and approach women as far away from the center doors as possible. Not all pro-life
counselors should stand near the door. One or two may be needed near the door for
those women who park right in front of the center’s entrance. Counselors should
stand far down the block to maximize their time with the woman---with or without
the presence of escorts. Some women approach from one or two blocks away. Keep a
lookout for them. If there is a parking structure nearby that women park in, a counselor
can be in that structure and talk to women even before they get to the street. Be
clever. Be wise. Do what works. A quiet atmosphere on the street, an atmosphere
devoid of loud protests, will help defuse the aggressiveness of the escorts. Not
only do they think they are needed to physically block your efforts but loud protest
noise makes them believe they are needed to be of psychological comfort to the woman.
The quieter it is, the less they will feel they have a job to do-a quiet atmosphere
means that they have less to thwart.
Sometimes pro-lifers are treated unjustly by escorts, people passing on the street,
the police and abortion center customers. In some localities this injustice is very
frequent. Pro-lifers who go to the killing centers in this culture of death are
often derided, mocked, called names, pushed, hit, given the finger and arrested
(sometimes on trumped up charges) for their efforts to save the unborn. This is
your opportunity to put the Beatitudes of Christ into practice. Do not return hate
for hate, violence for violence. Put on the mind of Christ. If you are struck do
not strike back. If you are verbally assaulted do not retaliate with words of hate.
Christ meant for the Beatitudes to be taken seriously and this is a great opportunity
to take Christ’s words seriously. People are impressed when they see forgiveness
and love and on the street we can do this and win others to the truth. Besides,
practicing the Beatitudes brings us closer to Christ. But this doesn’t mean that
the sidewalk counselor should not stand up for his rights---but we do so because
we are advocating for helpless others who need us. It may be wise to have a pro-lifer
at the clinic unobtrusively videotape your actions and those of the escorts.
Signs Can Be Helpful
Signs of aborted babies strategically placed near the abortion center can be very
helpful in dissuading a woman from getting the abortion. This is especially true
when the clinic has a large parking lot in front of it and contact with women going
in a very limited. Signs, in fact have saved babies. However, the sidewalk counselor
should not carry one. Ideally signs should be propped up standing alone apart from
a protestor. This is so that the sign may speak to the woman. When a sign is held
by a protestor the women may be more afraid to look at the sign for fear of having
contact with the protestor. In some cities the police will not permit signs to be
propped up even though the sidewalk is not blocked by them. Signs can be attached
to cars however. Ideally, an entire freestanding display should be arranged on the
sidewalk with various kinds of pictures---aborted babies, living unborn babies,
mothers and fathers holding children, cute baby clothes, pink and blue ballons,
etc.---whatever will help the woman positively identify with her baby. A set of
fetal models should be part of the display. If local ordinances forbid such displays
on the sidewalk then set them up on the trunks of cars or on flat bed trucks parked
where women will pass them and see them. One or two pro-lifers should stand near
the display to guard it against vandalism by pro-abortion escorts. These pro-life
“guards” could be part of the prayer team.
Counselors and the Cops
Here’s a tip: Don’t look at the police as your intrinsic enemy. Be friendly to them,
enage them in conversation, share the facts about abortion with them. Get them to
see you as a flesh and blood person. This will go a long way to weaken their “them
versus us” mentality which makes it easier for the police to arrest pro-lifers because
they cannot identify with you and they think you are against them and a potential
threat to public peace. Often the police and escorts are in an alliance, but your
own friendliness with the police can soften that, maybe even alter that altogether.
There is psychological and spiritual wisdom in this. If the police see you as a
decent fellow human being it will be harder for them to harrass you and arrest you.
It is easier for them to stand in your way when they are in confrontation with you
or detached from you. Pro-lifers outside of the mills can do things to soften the
police and win them over. If the police make a request from you comply in a friendly
way---but you may choose not to comply if the request is contrary to your legal
rights and a detriment to sidewalk counseling. Don’t yell at the cop. Reason with
him---tell him why he’s wrong.
Some Final Words of Wisdom
If you succeed in turning a woman away from abortion get her address and phone number
and follow up with her. Bring pen and paper with you for this reason. If she won’t
give you her address and phone number be sure you give her yours. Sometimes when
a woman goes into the mill, the boyfriend, or person (s) who came with her will
come out. Seize this opportunity and talk with them. Convince them to go back into
the mill and get the woman to come out. Babies have been saved this way! Try not
to socialize. Maintain a spirit of prayer and be focused on the women who are coming.
Sidewalk counseling is hard work so be kind to yourself. God is there. Rely on His
abiding strength. Even if you do not talk women out of abortions you stand in solidarity
with the least of Christ’s brethren --- the rejected unborn.
This is everything.
Be at peace.