Ann Scheidler outside Atlanta’s Feminist Women’s Health Center abortion facility [Photo by Kateri Howard]
This past weekend I was invited by Kateri Howard, organizer of Atlanta, Georgia’s 40 Days for Life Campaign, to conduct a sidewalk counseling seminar in Atlanta. 30 people attended the Friday evening seminar at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish hall.
On Saturday morning I joined a few of the 40 Days prayer warriors at the Feminist Women’s Health Center on Cliff Valley Road. The abortion clinic presents many of the obstacles that sidewalk counselors confront across the country. The building is set far back from the road. There is an aggressive security guard on duty. There are three driveways into the clinic parking lot.
Security Guard Seizes Pro-Life Literature
Feminist Women’s was busy on Saturday morning. We stood next to the most frequently used driveway and approached the vehicles as they turned in. About a quarter of the drivers rolled down their windows, took literature and listened briefly to our warnings about the danger of abortion.
But as they then proceeded to the clinic, the security guard demanded that they turn over the literature we had given them, saying “I can’t let you onto the premises with that paraphernalia.”
People heading into an abortion clinic are so oppressed by the entire situation that they are easily intimidated by a security guard. He, of course, has no legal right to take from them the literature they received from a sidewalk counselor. But with the weight of the life and death decision they are making they simply have no energy or interest in battling with the security guard.
Abortion Client Transferred to Hospital by Ambulance
Ambulance approaching Feminist Women’s Health Center abortion facility [Photo by Ann Scheidler]
About an hour after I arrived at the abortion clinic, I heard sirens nearby. Sure enough a Fire and Rescue ambulance and rescue pumper arrived at the clinic. Paramedics went into the clinic. About twenty minutes later a private ambulance arrived, then a DeKalb County police car.
The police officer tried to tell us that we had to be on the opposite side of the street from the clinic. But we pointed out to him that the clinic had painted a white line across the walkway, the grass and the curbs to indicate where the public easement was and that we could be on the public section.
With a little cajoling and sympathizing with the fact that the police are put in the middle of the conflict between the abortion clinic and the pro-lifers, we were able to stand our ground. I told the officer that we were simply trying to offer women an alternative to abortion, that the abortion choice is devastating, and pointing to the rescue vehicles, that things can go wrong and women have a right to know what can happen.
The officer finally wished us a good day and left.
A short time later the private ambulance left, followed by the patient’s companion in a van. Two of the pro-lifers followed the ambulance to Grady Hospital, located the patient’s van and left a note, offering prayers and help if needed.
Pro-Lifers Offer Help and Hope Despite Obstacles
The situation at Feminist Women’s Health is a real challenge for a sidewalk counselor and for those who gather to pray at the site. But it demonstrates just how effective a pro-life presence is. The clinic does not want women to be informed, even though Georgia has an informed consent law. They keep a vigilant security guard on site to make sure that even if people accept pro-life literature they won’t have a chance to read it.
In spite of the obstacles, the patients and their companions cannot avoid seeing the pro-lifers and their signs. They know someone cares about them and that there is something very wrong about the choice for abortion. Even on days when it seems that no one is willing to choose life it is still tremendously valuable for a pro-lifer to spend and hour or two in front of an abortion clinic witnessing to the value of life.