In July 2015 I had the opportunity to participate in some sidewalk counseling in front of an abortion clinic in Dallas called the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center (SWSC). If you’re not familiar with it, sidewalk counseling is the practice where one or multiple individuals stand near an abortion clinic and talk with those entering and exiting the clinic in an effort to convince them not to get an abortion.
The girl in the picture whose face is partially concealed is named Alma (that’s not her real name) and we took that picture together after she decided not to abort her baby.
If you’ve ever seen a movie that depicts something similar, it usually involves a group of angry people that are practically frothing at the mouth, yelling all kinds of hate at a poor, scared, young woman.
While that “scene” may be useful for certain plot devices, get it out of your head because it is nothing like what actually happens when a group of people work together in love to prevent the killing of innocent children.
Let me tell you a little bit about my experience.
SWSC is located in a shopping center on a very busy road called Greenville Avenue. There is a sidewalk between the SWSC and Greenville Ave., and that is the area the sidewalk counselors (SC) are allowed to stand.
In the above map you can see where the center is, the black lines are sidewalks, and you can see the parking is on the other side of the SWSC. I’m going to the trouble of showing you all this so you can have a better understanding of what it looks like, but also so you can understand the complexities and challenges therein. As you can also see, the parking area is on the other side of the building from where the SCs are allowed to stand, but the entrance is between both of those areas. The entrance is about 20 or 30 yards from where the SCs stand, and because of the noise from the traffic the SCs have a very small window of time in which anything they say can be heard by those entering or exiting the building from the parking lot. If people have their windows down while entering from the street, there may be a little time there as well.
Given how loud traffic can be, there are many times where the SCs cannot be heard at all.
There are a number of things we say, but we try to condense everything into a tight, concise message for those that may not stop or walk over to us. For those we only speak to in passing we say things like, “God loves you!” “Your baby loves you!” “We love you!” “Your baby has a heart beat!” “You do not have to do this!” I add the exclamation marks because we are literally yelling these things so that they can hear us over the roar of the traffic.
Responses vary drastically. While some choose to ignore us entirely, they are the minority. Most slow down a little bit and at least look our way or say something like, “I have to, I don’t have the money!” Or “I have no choice!” Some make obscene gestures or swear at us. All of them, it is plain to see, are hurting inside.
Some of them stop and talk to us. They might talk to us from afar, or they might approach us. When they do that we have the opportunity to have a real conversation. One of the things I learned from those conversations is that the vast majority of the time these women feel like they have no choice. There’s no money, or they’re too young, or they don’t have the time, or their boyfriend doesn’t want it, or any number of reasons. But that’s the thing, they’re doing it not because they want to but because they feel that they have no choice. They want their child and some part of them already loves their child, but they feel like they’re backed into a corner.
And so we tell them that they do have a choice. There are options. We put them in touch with organizations that can help them. We pray with them. We let them know that they’re not alone.
On the day the photo with Alma was taken we talked to three young women who decided not to get abortions. Just as with all things in life, I cannot say with any certainty what would have happened if we had not been there. Maybe their minds would have changed on their own, but I have to say that I doubt it.
I’m sharing this story for a couple reasons.
First, there is a battle going on right now, every day, all over the country, and I get the feeling that most people just don’t realize it. Maybe they’ve encountered it from time to time and they’ve forgotten. Maybe they’ve never known. But this is a battle of life and death and every single day thousands die in that battle.
Second, I want you to know that this battle is accessible. I realized a few years ago that I wanted to get more involved so I Googled pro life groups in my area, and the one that seemed to show the most activity was the Catholic Pro Life Committee in Dallas. I am not Catholic, but they were doing what I wanted to be doing, they are the group that does the sidewalk counseling. So I called them, got the information I needed, and showed up. There is free training they offer periodically, but if people just show up, are willing to be helpful, loving, and humble, that’s all they need. Sometimes people show up just to pray.
Third, I’m writing this because right now I want to be sidewalk counseling but I can’t because I have a full-time job, and the abortion clinic operates in the hours in which I work. Here’s something that you may know about me already – I have a very loud voice. When I was there, there were women that could hear me that would not have been able to hear anyone else who was with me. And my loud voice is nothing that I created, it was God-given. And it breaks my heart. Every day I wonder if I should just walk out of work and do sidewalk counseling instead. But for now I can’t, because I have a wife and son to support, and I love them, but I’m telling you: There is more that must be done.
Proverbs 24:11-12 says,
Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
The innocent are being slaughtered in America. We can try to sugar-coat it however we want, but the truth is, abortion is murder. When famous Dallas abortionist Curtis Boyd was asked a few years ago if he thought abortion was killing his answer was, “Am I killing? Yes, I am. I know that.”
This is our sin. Let us not stand by in apathy as it continues to flourish, but instead let us remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40,
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
Most Americans consider themselves Christians. And as Christians, it seems pretty clear that child sacrifice is something that ought to be resisted. Ignorance is not an excuse. Apathy is not an excuse. Lack of a clear understanding of the complexities of the issues is not an excuse. And I stand condemned with everyone in that I know I have not done enough. But I’m here to tell you that I want to do more, I hope you do more. Here are some ways you can do more:
Prayer – Pray for the end of abortion in America, legally, and in practice. Pray for the women who feel like they need abortions that they see the truth. Pray for those who work in the abortion industry that they would see the truth, that they would quit, and that they would work against abortion. Pray for those already working against abortion that God would give them strength, and endurance, and they would know what to say and do, and that their efforts would be effective. Pray for me, that I can be more involved and effective in this fight.
Politics – Let your political decisions be informed by abortion. Vote accordingly. Call, email, and letter-write to your representatives accordingly. Consider running for office.
Do – Google pro life organizations in your area and get involved. You can usually just start with an email or a phone call to someone in the organization and they’ll tell you what you need to do next. If you need help finding the right people or right organization contact me, and I will be happy to help.
Give – Maybe you don’t have time, but you have money. Same thing as above – find a good organization that is bearing fruit in your area and give to them. Women don’t just need to be told not to have abortions, they often need help with things like healthcare, lodging, childcare, and so on. We want to help them with these things as much as we can.
Other – Maybe God has put something specific on your heart. Maybe you know someone thinking of having an abortion, and you can encourage them in the right way. Maybe you’re thinking of adopting someone, or taking in a woman who needs shelter. There are a million ways to help, and some of them may not fit into any specific “box.”
I hope that reading this has changed your perspective some. The fight against abortion is a heart breaking, gut wrenching, real, raw labor of love, but it is a fight worth fighting.