This morning a woman wearing jogging pants, sneakers, and a loose top was sitting on the curb between two cars on 2nd Street in Harrisburg, PA. It was 8:40 in the morning, and I was just arriving at Planned Parenthood to sidewalk counsel there. This woman was waiting for them to open the doors. Like so many others who came for abortions that day, she was all alone.
My fellow sidewalk advocate this morning was Cynthia*. She told the woman sitting on the curb about the pain that came after her own abortion. "There is so much pain after abortion. I'm worried about you," Cynthia said, trying to convince the woman to take the literature we were offering. "I'll be fine." The woman mumbled. It was the only thing she said before they opened the door and she went in. So many women are alone today. So many women are getting abortions completely alone. Sometimes men or friends bring them to the abortion facilities, but those men and friends often leave as soon as they can. Today a man walked a woman to the front door, and then ignored me as I told him how much she needed someone right now. "She's alone in there right now," I said, "You can help her. Your voice matters." "I'm going to ask you to stop following me." He said dispassionately, walking away without ever looking back.
This is what so many women face as they get abortions. They are left all alone. You can make a difference for them. Sidewalk advocates are there for the women. The Undefeated Courage team, which I'm a part of, stands outside of abortion facilities here in Pennsylvania telling women that they are not alone. Most don't listen to us, but some hear that truth and find help and support. We support women whenever they choose life, and we also help if they need support after abortion.
Women in your hometown are going alone to have abortions. Will you go and be there for them?
Another type of woman is also, far too often, left alone.
Cynthia was alone this morning until I arrived. She was standing alone, trying to reach the women who were going in to Planned Parenthood. If I hadn't come, she would have stood alone all morning.
Far too often, pro-life sidewalk advocates face this situation. Pro-Life sidewalk advocates want to tell women that they are not alone, but how can they share that message when they are alone themselves?
Last Saturday I was in Washington D.C., and I was able to sidewalk counsel with a friend, Lauren Handy, at the D.C. Planned Parenthood facility. She was the only pro-life person at the abortion facility that day besides me. If I hadn't been there, she would have been alone. In both the Pennsylvania state capital, Harrisburg, and the federal capital, Washington, D.C., pro-life people are too often standing alone. They are trying to speak the truth to the most needy, but it's hard to do it alone.
Trying to speak the truth to women in desperate need is hard in any circumstances.
It's so much harder when you are trying to speak over the noise of traffic with a "buffer zone" law keeping you 20 feet from the entrance. That's what Cynthia faces in Harrisburg. She faces it alone.
It's so much harder when you are trying to speak while the women are surrounded by half a dozen Planned Parenthood clinic escorts** telling them to ignore you. That's what Lauren faces in Washington D.C. She faces it alone.
Seven clinic escorts were at Planned Parenthood in D.C. on Saturday. These are unpaid volunteers. They give up their Saturday mornings to usher women in to the abortion facility as quickly as possible. Seven clinic escorts outnumbered Lauren and me by a huge margin. It was nearly impossible to reach the women going inside of Planned Parenthood. The escorts would swarm around and put their bodies between us and the women going in. They were able to overcome our efforts because they had so many people there.
On top of that obstacle, we also got a fair amount of derogatory gestures and comments from people walking by. I don't usually mention these difficulties in my blog, but today I want to highlight them for a reason. These comments don't bother me. What does happen, though, is that these comments bolster the Planned Parenthood escorts and discourage women from talking to the sidewalk advocates.
It's easy to put down a person who is standing alone, or who is so clearly outnumbered. What if there were seven pro-life sidewalk advocates at Planned Parenthood instead of two? Would the people passing by be so confident in putting us down? Do you think they might take the cause of life a little more seriously if they saw that more people take it seriously?
The point is this: When pro-life people show up in large numbers, more lives are saved. When pro-life people are standing alone, the work is so much more difficult.
If you are pro-life, please go to the nearest abortion facility and sidewalk counsel there. You don't have to be an expert in counseling. You don't need to be an expert in apologetics. You just need to be present. Your presence makes all the difference.
Women, and the sidewalk advocates who are already there, need your presence.
If you're a Christian, please keep reading. I want to persuade every Christian to go sidewalk counseling at least once.
A Call to Be Like Christ
My fellow Christians, followers of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I call on you to be like Jesus.
Where would Jesus spend his Saturday morning if he was physically present in Washington D.C.? Where would you find Jesus in Harrisburg on a Thursday as women are going in to Planned Parenthood for abortions? I am confident in saying that Jesus would be on those sidewalks. His life and ministry demonstrate that he goes to where the broken people are. He goes to the lost. He came to seek those who are lost, after all. [Luke 19:10] Where else, in this world, will so many lost and hurting people gather every week? Dozens of lost and hurting people, in desperate need of the Savior, are going to abortion facilities in your area every week.
We know that Jesus loves little children. [Luke 18:15-17] He warns that anyone who causes a "little one" to sin will be worse off than if they were drowned in the sea with a giant stone tied around their necks. [Matthew 18:6] He welcomes children, and gets indignant when anyone keeps them away from reaching him. [Mark 10:14]
The preborn victims of abortion are being killed in unbelievable numbers every day. Have you ever thought about how much that hurts the heart of God?
By calling you to follow Jesus' example, I am calling you to sidewalk counsel. Like I said above, I don't expect you to be an expert in counseling. I don't expect you to be an expert in apologetics. I don't expect you to be there every hour of every day. I do expect you to be there at least once.
If you are a Christian in Washington D.C., stand up with Lauren Handy at the Planned Parenthood there.
If you are a Christian in Harrisburg, stand with Undefeated Courage at the Planned Parenthood there.
If you are a Christian anywhere in the world, stand up for life on the sidewalks in front of the abortion facilities there.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
*Not her real name. **Planned Parenthood clinic escorts wear safety-orange colored vests with the words "Pro-Choice Clinic Escort" emblazoned across them. They exist for one purpose - to prevent sidewalk advocates from reaching women with the pro-life message.