Peaceful Witness: Prayer and Beyond

Sidewalk counseling is a life-saving ministry of the pro-life movement, but not all pro-life advocates feel ready or called to sidewalk counsel. Many instead serve as peaceful witnesses through prayer outside of abortion facilities. This non-talking role is massively important but often underestimated because pro-life advocates do not fully understand how much they are able to participate through their presence. In this article, I will share with you some ways that pro-life volunteers have assisted my sidewalk counseling ministry.

Prayer vigil

Sidewalk counselors have two goals when they go to an abortion facility. First, they want to save babies and help families. Second, they want to shut down the abortion facility. Advocates who choose to be “Non-talkers,” also sometimes referred to as “Prayer Warriors,” can help advance both goals through their peaceful witness. Non-talkers help with the primary goal by supporting talkers through prayer, by holding signs, or as a witness to what is going on, especially if the police need to be called. Non-talkers help with the secondary goal by being a witness to the community. We go into detail about how this works and how much optics matter in the Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass but I will be focusing on the primary goal in this article.

Holding Signs

Non-talkers can hold welcoming signs that offer help to the families coming to the facility. I recommend signs like, “Free Ultrasound and Pregnancy Verification,” “Here to Help, Not to Judge,” or “Today is a Hard Day, We are Here to Help.” Signs like these are conducive to helping the sidewalk counselors start conversations with the abortion-minded woman. They offer sympathy and resources. We talk more about signs in the course as well, including how some can seem helpful from the pro-life perspective but may be off-putting to the families coming to the abortion facility, making it more difficult to start conversations.

Signs add to your presence because they can communicate to those driving by or driving in that you are there for a purpose. This can raise awareness in the community, especially if you are there on a consistent basis.

Recording Incidents

I have been sidewalk counseling since 2012 and unfortunately, there have been times when it was necessary for me to call the police. We shouldn’t do this frivolously, but we also shouldn’t hesitate when there is a serious risk. There have been multiple times when cars have purposefully and recklessly driven right up to and past us, coming very close to hitting me and my fellow sidewalk counselors. I have also had a clinic escort become threatening and physically shove me while I was at the clinic. (For that full story, see my blog post, Why I Called the Police at the Abortion Facility Last Month)

In times like these, for the safety of everyone, it can sometimes be necessary to call the police and make a report. Unfortunately, when you are making a report it can turn into a he said/she said situation unless there is some sort of video evidence. This can be one of the key roles for peaceful witnesses that can go overlooked. Non-talkers should be ready to record with their phones if something happens because third party videos from a small distance can usually show more of the story than a video being recorded by the people involved.

Quote from the Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass.

Reversing Roe: Exposing the Bias

Reversing Roe: Exposing the Bias

Josh Brahm analyzes the documentary “Reversing Roe” and exposes the biased editing tricks and responds to the pro-choice arguments made.

Click on the embedded playlist below to watch the video series, or click on the button on the top left of the player to pick and choose which sections to watch.

Videos in the Playlist Above:

  1. Editing Tricks
  2. More Editing Tricks
  3. Gender Bias
  4. Pro-Choice Christians and False Stats
  5. Personhood, Bodily Rights Arguments, and Roe vs. Wade
  6. Did Pro-Lifers Make Up Partial-Birth Abortion?
  7. Do Tax Dollars For Planned Parenthood Help Fund Abortion?
  8. The Worst Pro-Choice Arguments in the Film

Question for pro-choice people: Do you see this documentary as being fair to both sides, or is it just something that in the end might be useful in motivating inactive pro-choice people?

Question for anybody: Should documentaries attempt to be neutral? Tell us in the comments below!

Share this video series with your friends using this link:

Five Lessons for Pro-Lifers from the Women’s March

Whether you are participating in legislative efforts, sidewalk advocacy, volunteering at a Pregnancy Resource Center, or leading a Students for Life group, you should be talking about your pro-life work. Pro-lifers need to talk more about what we are doing for the movement because building awareness is half the battle of grassroots mobilization efforts. Successful social change comes from recruiting those who agree and reaching out to those who disagree.

Let’s take a look at how pro-choice people discuss their activism. I am going to use the Women’s March of January 2017 as a case study for how we as pro-life advocates can improve our own messaging by examining the March’s approach and identifying what we can learn from it. The second Women’s March took place this year on January 20th, but, for the sake of simplicity, I am only going to reference the first march in this post. The march this year was less clear and consistent in its messaging, so it isn’t as useful a case study.

Women’s March in Washington in January, 2017.
Photo credit: Roya Ann Miller

When the Women’s March took place last year, it was discussed all over social media, news sites, and in our communities: the kind of buzz that every social protest hopes to create. People talked about why they were going, how they planned on getting there, and what their experience was like after they came back from either the national or local march. If activism sparks discussion, it is a sign that the activism achieved some level of success. These marches were not just public demonstrations which took place on one day and were over the next. The people participating talked about it openly before, during, and after with anyone that they could reach.

Here are my takeaways after closely studying the success and shortcomings of the pro-choice movement’s participation in the Women’s March:

Why I Called the Police at the Abortion Facility Last Month

Unfortunately, there may be a time when threats or acts of violence against you become a reality while sidewalk counseling. It is important to know how to handle such a situation, and, in particular, when and how to involve the police.

When I arrived at the facility there were already some sidewalk counseling volunteers there. I spoke with one volunteer who said that one of the abortion facility escorts, Roy, was acting particularly aggressive that day. He was physically pushing his way in between sidewalk counselors and abortion-minded people at the facility. A couple of hours later, I saw two sidewalk counselors persuade an abortion-minded couple outside the facility to come down to talk with them.

Roy saw the sidewalk counselors in conversation with the facility’s potential customers and started marching aggressively in their direction. I could see that Roy was going to try to break up their conversation, so I walked over to them to intercept Roy. I stood with my back to the couple and faced Roy. When he was about ten feet away from me, he stuck his arm out horizontally at about shoulder height and continued to walk until he ran into me with his forearm.

Why We Need Male Sidewalk Counselors

Jacob Nels is the Operations Coordinator at Equal Rights Institute. One of the most important things Jacob brings to the table at ERI is his expertise in gracious dialogue, particularly with people who are post-abortive and abortion-minded. In addition to putting those skills to good use at college campus outreaches, Jacob has a regular presence outside an abortion clinic as a sidewalk counselor and has had the joy of helping many women, men, and children leave the clinic alive and whole.

Jacob Nels sidewalk counselor men

Jacob Nels sidewalk counseling in Georgia

A few years ago I watched a black sedan pull into the parking lot of an abortion clinic. A man and a woman got out and walked up to the clinic, ignoring my attempts to engage them. After the man walked her into the clinic, he came back to his car for something. Raising my voice to carry across the parking lot separating us, I tried again to start a conversation with him. I said,

Jacob: Hey, man! I know this is a hard day. No one really wants to be here. I’m here if you want to talk.

Ross: I’m not for this. I don’t like it.

Jacob: What do you mean? Would you tell me your story?

To show my respect and friendship, I did something that almost always works with other men. There is a white line painted on the sidewalk that I cannot legally cross. Pressing my toes to the line, I extended my hand to the man and said,

Jacob: My name’s Jacob.