My husband Joe Scheidler, our son Eric and I were among the presenters at the second annual National Sidewalk Counseling Symposium held in the Twin Cities July 19-21.
On the opening night of the symposium, Father Frank Pavone and Joe spoke on the paramount importance of the mission of reaching out to women and men who perceive that abortion will solve their immediate predicament.
Joe read to the audience an excerpt from former NOW president Patricia Ireland’s autobiography, What Women Want, that revealed the paranoia that abortion providers have concerning the pro-lifers who stand out in front of abortion clinics.
As Joe pointed out, the abortionists invent a fearsome scenario, partly fueled by media distortions, and then they believe their own rhetoric—no matter what actually happens out on the sidewalk.
He also reported that he had just finished reading Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and, he said, “We could have written that book,” referring to Alinsky’s concept of organization and raising public awareness of the social ills that need to be addressed.
Alinsky is often derided by conservatives because of his socialist ideas. But the Pro-Life Action League has long employed some of his techniques in the fight against abortion, such as exposing the facts on abortion in our Face the Truth tours and in sidewalk counseling, and in digging up dirt on the abortion industry.
I presented two workshops on Friday. The first was a presentation on how to recruit and train new sidewalk counselors, including specific details on putting on a sidewalk counseling seminar.
The second workshop focused on dealing with some of the more worrisome situations that may come up in the course of sidewalk counseling, such as the presence of abortion clinic escorts or of pro-lifers whose activities interfere with sidewalk counselors.
New Abortion Clinics Pose New Challenges
Many abortion facilities are now designed with pro-lifers in mind. We should take that as a confirmation that sidewalk counseling is highly effective.
Now that abortion clinics are often set way back on a piece of property, surrounded by fences, walls and canvas screening, it is a challenge to reach pregnant women with the life-saving information they need.
I recommended the use of signage to get abortion clients’ attention and to direct them to a nearby pregnancy resource center.
I also addressed the issue of graphic images at an abortion clinic. Although many pro-lifers are uncomfortable with the graphic images (as everyone should be) I expressed my belief that, used udiciously, they can be a tool to save a baby’s life.
But neither graphic images nor text signs, nor religious symbols should be placed close to the sidewalk counselor who is trying to engage a client in a conversation that may lead the pregnant mother to change her mind about her scheduled abortion.
On Saturday morning, all the attendees at the symposium boarded two school buses for a trip to the massive new Planned Parenthood abortion facility in St. Paul. It is situated in an industrial complex and is quite forbidding.
This 46,000 square foot building provides valet parking for its patrons, requiring them to drive about 40 feet into the driveway to deposit their vehicles, then be escorted by a “deathscort” to the clinic entrance.
Due to the particular configuration of the driveways and sidewalks, Pro-Life Action Ministries, which sponsored the symposium, has designated one small sidewalk island as the sidewalk counseling zone.
Generally just one counselor occupies that zone and attempts to speak to the abortion-bound mothers and their companions as they pull into the driveway. Anyone else who comes to the clinic is asked to pray on the public sidewalk.
The National Sidewalk Counseling Symposium was an excellent opportunity to both teach and learn how to be more effective in our efforts to save babies. It was clear that everyone in attendance was strengthened in their commitment to this most important mission.