Note: This was a guest post by pro-life activist Robert Newman.
In July 2001 I received a postcard inviting me to join a FACE THE TRUTH TOUR in Maryland. I had no idea why I got this card or what the tour was all about but the card said, “showing our fellow Americans the UGLY TRUTH about abortion.” That was enough for me. I decided to go down and take a look.
Whirlwind Maryland Tour
At the same time Janet Cocchi called me about an August 12 rally at our church on “hate crimes” legislation sponsored by Pennsylvania pro-abortion senator, Arlen Specter. The rally featured the Pittsburgh Gay and Lesbian Choir. Janet asked if I could protest. I said I would come back early from Maryland, make some signs, gather some people and be there. Janet said she could not make it as she was going on vacation to, of all places, Ocean City, Maryland, the final stop on the tour, Saturday afternoon. I asked Janet to check the tour out while she was there.
I met up with the tour on August 7 at Frederick, MD. From that moment on it was a whirlwind. I met Ann and Joe Scheidler, Joe holding signs and Ann in the street dodging cars and handing out literature. Defend Life Director, Jack Ames did a super job organizing the Tour, Tour Director Andrea Hussle kept things moving. Father Peter West from Priests For Life worked the street and said Mass for us at St. Ann’s Church in DC. Denny Green and his Son, Caleb, of Life and Liberty Ministries brought signs from Petersburg, VA, Pro-Life Action League signs came from Chicago. Meals and sleeping arrangements were all set up. The dedicated pro-lifers were there for only one reason to save babies’ lives!
Inspired To Do Pittsburg Tour
Janet and I returned from Maryland ON FIRE! We had to set up a TOUR in Pittsburgh. We went to work immediately. We contacted the Scheidlers to see if we could borrow their signs. Joe said we could have their signs and borrow their van to haul them. Denny Green also said we could use his signs. We set up a preliminary meeting with some pro-lifers we had met at the Pittsburgh abortion mill and some people from the St. Thomas More Respect Life Committee.
Then the first miracle of the tour happened. Jack Ames happened to be in Pittsburgh and came to the house for dinner and the meeting. He was an inspiration to all of us! We marked up an oversize map of tour sites, we discussed dates and I had tentatively selected the week of April 15, but with two accountants in the group we moved the date to April 22.
We decided to buy our own signs so we contacted Chet Kilgore and ordered 20 Malachi, 20 Choice, and 8 Life. We went to Brookside Lumber to try to get a deal on Dow Blue board but I made the mistake of telling the sales lady what I wanted it for. She had seen the graphic pictures somewhere and did not like them. But she gave us a deal anyway and agreed to free delivery of twenty-five 4 by 8 boards.
A Well-Planned Event
We set up a meeting with the People Concerned for the Unborn Child and showed the Chicago Face the Truth Tour video. They were very, very impressed with the video and agreed to be the lead sponsor of the Pittsburgh tour. And they voted to make a substantial contribution toward tour expenses. Materials for the Pittsburgh tour cost about $8000.00. Four donors covered half the expenses. They were P.C.U.C., Defend Life, Mary Smith from Maryland, and the Knights of Columbus of Coal Center, PA. Other donations ranged from $5 to $150. The Pro-Life Action League donated 100 Face the Truth Tour Videos.
We went to meetings, spoke to church groups, most of whom were adamantly opposed to showing the graphic photos and would have nothing to do with the tour. The position of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh was similar. Our ad in the Pittsburgh Catholic was countered by an Op-ed piece from the Director of the Social Awareness Department telling readers not to participate.
We had ten signs made to show the comparison between the Holocaust and the killing of innocent unborn babies. Tim Murphy of the Pro-Life Action League advised us not to show these in Jewish areas and we took Tim Murphy’s advice. We had to decide on the progression of the signs on the street. I told Chet I would like to start with the aborted baby signs and end with the pretty Life signs. He said that that was the exact opposite of how to lay out the signs. We followed Chet’s advice.
Local Police Back Down
On the question of police notification, opinion was split down the middle. Someone commented that as this was our first tour we ought to do the courteous thing and notify them. I had my doubts, having dealt with city police at the abortion mill for years, but we notified them anyway. I contacted the Chiefs of Police in every municipality personally and each Pittsburgh City Zone by phone. It turned out to be the right thing to do. They appreciated the advance notice and they actually gave us some good safety advice. Police reported an average of one hundred “complaint” calls from each site appearance. When I called Zone #3 the officer said, “Can’t you go somewhere else? All we do all day is take complaints when you’re in our zone.” Mt. Lebanon Deputy Chief of Police, Pat Donahue, said that since they had the 911 number on their cars the main office had to bring in an extra communicator because they got so many calls.
The Police Chief of Brentwood Borough told me we would not be allowed in the borough. I gave him some A.C.L.J. and A.C.L.U. correspondence and he called in the Mayor and the Councilman. They wanted to know why we were “picking on” Brentwood. I told them we were coming because Brentwood had heavy traffic. They said that Brentwood had no abortion mill, residents were older people and that elementary school children walked along the road where we would be. They didn’t care what Pittsburgh did, but Brentwood was not going to allow us to show those signs in their town. The mayor called me later and said they would allow us to come, but that if we caused any traffic problems we would be first warned and then be cited for criminal contempt. We did not see a single Brentwood police car for the two hours we were there.
Another thing we scoped out carefully was where to park at each site. We were given permission by many small business owners to use their lots and we used public lots at other sites. In some cases we were asked not to come back again.
First Pittsburg Tour a Success
Before the tour began we sent thank you notes to every contributor of funds or materials. P.C.U.C.’s non-profit educational arm, Pennsylvania Foundation For Life handled all donations and disbursement for expenses. Human Life Alliance donated 3,000 copies of “She’s a Child, Not a Choice” and the Pro-Life Action League donated an additional 1,000. This was the only handout we used and we distributed thousands of copies.
Pittsburgh’s Face the Truth Tour in April was such a success that the Newman is coordinating another one August 19 through 24. For information contact Bob Newman at 412-835-8127 or PCUC at 412-531-9272.