By Fredi D’Alessio
San Francisco, CA (Catholic Online)
Do you ever pass by a building wherein abortions are committed? If so, what comes to mind on such occasions? Do you ever see clients of these places of death and destruction making their way to the building’s entrance? If so, what comes to mind then?
Does the scripture narrative of the ‘Good Samaritan’ or the ‘Visitation’ or the ‘Samaritan Woman at the Well’ or the ‘Annunciation’ come to mind on those occasions? If not, hopefully they will one day.
In December 2008, I wrote the following story for my website, Children Deserve Birth:
“We decided to keep our baby” are the sweet words I heard today while prayerfully awaiting the next opportunity to reach out to a woman or couple outside an abortion center in San Francisco. While standing next to the entrance of the abortion center, I noticed a young man in the passenger side of a car attempting to get my attention. A woman was at the wheel and there were several cars ahead of and behind them waiting for the traffic light to turn green.
Assuming the young man was seeking directions, I walked toward the curb to assist him. Then I heard him say those six glorious words and what God, the author of all life, wanted me to know. Only He knows how often parents who were planning to abort their child had a change of heart and mind. We are blessed whenever He enables us to be instrumental.
Seven months had passed since I had reached out to this couple at this same abortion center. In less than two more months they will be cuddling their precious son because they made the right decision.
This Christmas they will have a son wrapped in his mother’s womb to present to the Christ Child and what could have otherwise been a time of terrible mourning for them will instead be their most joyous Christmas ever.
The purpose of this article is to encourage you to think seriously about how you can strive to spare lives and souls by becoming engaged in outreach to victims of abortion centers.
Unfortunately, there are many of them throughout our nation where God’s precious infants are put to death in horrific numbers and in horrific ways. These killing centers present us with daily opportunities to represent Christ with the intent to save lives and souls.
Your first thought might be, “I’ve seen those anti-abortion extremists harassing women in front of abortion centers and I will take no part in it.” If you have witnessed people behaving in any way other than Christ-like outside abortion centers, I share your disdain. However, if you believe that any kind of outreach conducted outside abortion centers is harassment, you are very much mistaken.
If your first thought is that you don’t have time, I ask you to consider the Visitation. When Mary set out to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was in her sixth month with child, she had just learned that she herself would soon give birth to the Son of God. Out of charity, without concern for the difficulties she might face, Mary put her self-interests aside and hastened to the aid of her cousin who was elderly and fragile. Mary remained at Elizabeth’s side for three months. How often do we put our personal interests aside and reprioritize our obligations and responsibilities so that we can go to the aid of others?
Who are those others? They are our brethren, no matter how much their outward appearance may differ from our own.
Just as the Good Samaritan assisted a beaten and abandoned stranger lying beside the road, Blessed Mother Teresa (a foreigner in Calcutta) did not pass by her abandoned brethren lying in the streets while asking God to have mercy on them. She took action and became instrumental in directly bringing God’s mercy to them.
Perhaps you believe that you should not interfere, that it is their choice. I am not writing this article to convert pro-abortion people (among them are those who say they are pro-choice). I am presuming that you are pro-life (and if you are a Christian, there is no other option). I am also assuming that you have had no personal involvement with doing outreach outside abortion centers.
So how can you be sure that an outreach is Christ-like? The answer is found both in the intentions as well as methods of those who are reaching out to others.
The scope of this article is focused on only one form of outreach – sidewalk counseling. Therefore my comments apply to one-on-one encounters with sidewalk counselors and the persons to whom they reach out. They may not be relevant to other forms of outreach or pro-life activism, such as picketing, demonstrating, displaying signs or images, prayer vigils, preaching, evangelizing.
The term “sidewalk counseling” was devised to counter the media characterization of a group of pro-life advocates in California as demonstrators. This group had set aside their signs and all other external evidence of demonstrating and re-focused their efforts to become the most effective means of reaching and speaking with people in order to offer alternatives to abortion.
If you are well-informed about the abortion industry, you know why sidewalk counselors are needed. The very first mom who changed her mind after I had reached out to her had been told by Planned Parenthood that her child was just a “blob of tissue.”
Sidewalk counseling involves reaching out to mothers and fathers who are contemplating or planning abortion and offering them information that they have a need and right to know. These parents are provided with information on where to go for free pregnancy tests, counseling and practical assistance. They are also given materials on fetal development, adoption, abortion procedures, risks and side effects, as well as post-abortion counseling and healing resources.
This ministry is conducted on public sidewalks outside abortion centers on days when abortions are being committed and/or days when pre-abortion evaluations or pregnancy tests are provided.
It is conducted by way of conversation and literature. It is done with love and out of concern for unborn children who are in danger of being deprived of their God-given right to be born into the world and for their parents, especially mothers, who are in danger of being severely harmed in numerous ways.
This form of outreach is concerned with saving a child from certain death and his or her parents from certain harm, one family at a time.
For the past seven years I have been engaged in this ministry on the sidewalks, reaching out to thousands of abortion minded parents. It is my hope that one day there will be someone engaged in this ministry at every abortion center in the world, where the freedom to do so exists, during every hour of every day when these places of death and destruction are open. Toward that goal, I try to promote sidewalk counseling worldwide through my websites and as well as my personal witness.
On my website “CHILDREN DESERVE BIRTH” I intentionally chose to use the term “Children” rather than “Babies” since, for many, that word may more effectively connote the “personhood” of the young life in the womb as well as the vitality of that person. I also chose “Birth” rather than “Life” because the unborn child is already alive and awaiting her/his birthday. So these three little words make three profound statements:
1) The occupant of a pregnant woman’s womb is not a “product of conception” or “blob of tissue” or “wad of cells” – she/he is a “person”
2) That person has “the right to life”
3) That “life” already exists and no one has a right to exterminate it.
This mindset also means being concerned about life issues from conception to natural death. I also have a website titled “Serious Health Care and End of Life Decisions.” But one can’t have a natural death or end of life decisions to make if one is deprived the right to be born.
Sidewalk counseling, as I said earlier, is conducted on days when abortions are being committed and/or days when pre-abortion evaluations or pregnancy tests are provided. Some groups only minister during the hours when abortions are being committed, but it’s very important to encounter those who are getting pregnancy tests or abortion consultations as well.
Even if they make an appointment for an abortion, they will have the time to read the literature given to them, give more serious thought about their decision and perhaps seek counseling from one of the referrals included in the literature. No one should be neglected and wouldn’t be if all hours of the abortion centers’ operation are covered.
Those of us who also do outreach on the non-abortion days don’t always get to witness, and be consoled by, the reversals that would otherwise be obvious, which bring us joy and help us to persevere in our ministry. But those six glorious words that I shared with you at the beginning of this article prove that they do indeed occur. Only God knows how often. All we need do is persevere.
For sure, not everyone can make time for this ministry, but I personally don’t believe anyone is above engaging in it. We are all servants and not one of us is greater than our Master, Christ Jesus.
Every time we reach out with love to parents contemplating or planning abortion, we perform an act of mercy. We act as instruments of God’s love, mercy and peace. Even if we are rejected, we can be consoled in the fact that we did what we came to do, serve God and our neighbor.
There isn’t enough space in this article to give you all the reasons why sidewalk counselors are needed or tell you what it’s like to be on the sidewalk doing outreach or share heartwarming stories about parents who changed their minds and chose birth for their children.
I cannot fully guide you on what techniques should and should not be used when doing outreach. If you do some research on the internet, including my website, you will come across all of the resources you need. Regarding techniques, you will have to make some crucial decisions and guidance concerning those areas is also available.
The following will guide you in striving to maintain a Christ-like demeanor while engaged in this ministry:
- Follow the way of Christ Jesus, using the overwhelming power of love and prayer, not anger, confrontation, scorn or abuse.
- Go to the site with love for everyone you encounter and with hope to save lives and souls.
- Be centered on prayer for the conversion of mothers, fathers, abortionists and their staff and everyone who supports or enables abortion in any way.
- Resist temptations to talk unnecessarily with one another, respond to ridicule from passersby or the abortion center’s staff or engage in debate with anyone.
- Adhere to the local laws, avoid standing on any portion of the abortion center’s property or blocking its entrance or the path of anyone, including passersby, on the sidewalk, and stay clear of driveways.
People of faith can be most effective if their manner is that of a prayerful contemplative while awaiting the next outreach opportunity. The mothers and fathers to whom you wish to reach out should be able to feel confident that you are sincerely there for them and their child, not to make a public statement about your position on abortion. This is a very important point.
I hope at this point you are at least interested in finding out more about sidewalk counseling. Do your homework before making a decision to become involved or determining how you will go about it. I invite you to visit my website, CHILDREN DESERVE BIRTH, and email me with any questions – you’ll find my email address on the site. I would also like to refer you to two other important ministries, The Gabriel Project and Creatd4Life.
Find out where the abortion centers are located in your area. If you encounter already existing ministries at these locations, you can expand the hours of coverage at them. It’s not likely that there would be a need to have more than two counselors at the same location at the same time and it’s more important to cover more hours (thus reaching out to more parents in need) than to have more counselors present than needed. So whether you team up with an existing ministry or establish a new one, be sure to keep this important point in mind.
My prayer is that you will focus on pure prayerful sidewalk counseling. But whatever you decide, I hope you will not be one of the indifferent passersby.