The Pro-Life Action League’s 2012 annual “Face the Truth” Tour was a great success, showing the ugly truth about abortion to tens of thousands across Chicagoland.
Having run Truth Tours every year since 2000, we’ve come to discover that every one is slightly different, with a unique “theme” emerging as the Tour unfolds. The theme of this years Tour: a series of firsts.
On July 6, the Tour’s opening day in Joliet, the temperature reached 102°—the first time the mercury ever climbed that high on a Truth Tour. Yet no one complained about the heat. On the contrary, our stalwart sign-holding volunteers were happy to offer it up on behalf of unborn babies.
Monday, July 9 marked the first time we visited the Chicago suburb of Westchester, where we experienced another first. A high-ranking member of the Westchester police department ordered officers to remove the “Warning: Graphic Abortion Photos Ahead” signs we set up in advance of our display.
City workers had to cut the heavy-duty padlocks we use to chain our signs to existing street signs.
Our signs were ordered to be removed because, supposedly, we had not contacted the police chief and informed her we were coming—although we actually had. In the end, League staffers Eric Scheidler and Matt Yonke got our Warning signs back, but not without the inconvenience of having to leave in the middle of the Tour site and retrieve them from police headquarters.
Trouble in the 34th Ward
On July 11, we visited downtown Chicago, where we were joined in Daley Plaza by two dozen teens and young adults from the pro-life group Created Equal. Members of other pro-life groups have participated in Face the Truth Tours in the past, but never before had they brought their own set of graphic abortion signs, complementing the League’s arsenal of signs.
On July 13, the Tour visited the intersection of 99th and Halsted Streets in the 34th Ward on Chicago’s South Side. This site marked the first time we had ever encountered so-called “Special Services Area” (SSA) officers, who demanded that we shut down the Tour. SSA officers carry holstered guns, wear uniforms that look like police uniforms, and drive cars that look like police cars—but they are not police officers. We had never seen them before and did not know what authority they might actually have.
Incredibly, the four SSA officers who arrived on the scene told us that since we did not have a permit from the 34th Ward alderman, we were not allowed to hold a demonstration within the Ward’s boundaries. With only 15 minutes remaining at that location, rather then involve lawyers and the real police, Tour coordinator Eric Scheidler asked the SSA “sergeant” if an exception could be made this time, and he agreed.
It’s Not about Us—It’s about Abortion
But even with all these firsts, there are some things about a Face the Truth Tour that never change—like the predictable complaints and objections we hear from passersby. During this summer’s Truth Tour, we had numerous opportunities to witness firsthand how the myths that underlie these objections can be debunked.
Countless times during the 2012 Truth Tour were were told that displaying graphic abortion pictures out on the streets was in some way misguided. “Crazy,” “extreme,” and “selfish” were some of the words passersby threw at us, along with others not fit to print.
But as one first-time Truth Tour participant remarked to me as he explained to me why he has come to believe showing graphic abortion pictures is so important: “It’s not about me.” When we go out on the streets and show pictures of aborted babies, some people are going to hate us, swear at us, tell us we’re doing more harm than good and insist we spend our time doing something—anything—else instead.
And yet, at the end of the day, we don’t care. We realize some people aren’t going to like us, and we’ve come to accept that. Because in the end it’s not about us. It’s about abortion.
The very reason we are out there on the streets showing pictures of aborted babies is that so many Americans need this reminder. They’re not thinking about abortion. Much less are they thinking about the pro-life movement—when they’re not thinking of us as extremists, they’re not thinking about us at all.
A Face the Truth Tour raises the issue of abortion—an issue people try to avoid confronting at all costs—in a way that nothing else can. In the communities we visited during our Truth Tour, local media weren’t talking much about abortion before we came. But our presence brought the issue of abortion out in the open, and they couldn’t ignore it.
What about the Children?
Following the last site of the summer Truth Tour in Aurora on July 14, Eric told Tour participants about an experience he had just had that illustrated why the sight of graphic abortion pictures is not harmful to children. He recounted how an irate father had approached him and another Tour staffer, screaming about the effects our graphic abortion pictures were having on his son in the backseat.
After speaking with him for a few minutes, Eric pointed out that the child didn’t appear to be the least bit upset, to which the man replied, “Not anymore, he isn’t, but he was a few minutes ago!”
Eric told the faithful crowd of Tour volunteers that while seeing abortion pictures may be disturbing—as it should be—his recent encounter shows how quickly children overcome those feelings. It’s adults who can’t get those pictures—and the injustice they represent—out of their minds.
The previous week, Eric had elaborated on this point in an interview with the Christian Post:
I grew up looking at abortion signs; my children have all seen abortion signs. I have found that children are much more upset when their parents freak out over the signs than by the signs themselves. The signs should be disturbing, they should be distressing, and children should react in a normal human way when the signs bother them. But when they are told that people are showing those ugly signs because they want to stop babies from being hurt, that helps a great deal to reconcile any trouble that they may have with it.
Children are naturally pro-life. And I think that is what angers parents more than the signs themselves — the fact that the parent cannot justify their support for abortion to a child who has seen what it is.
A First Step Towards Healing
Yes, it hurts to see pictures of aborted babies. This is especially true of women who have had an abortion. But the hurt caused by the pictures of aborted babies is not an end in itself. Our purpose in showing graphic abortion pictures is not to condemn, but to awaken.
For women who have had an abortion, it’s going to hurt to realize the truth about the “procedure” that everyone up until now has lied to them about. But this hurt is a first step toward healing. Another encounter at this year’s last Tour site showed how that can happen.
A woman approached veteran pro-life activist Luann Bloom, and told her that she had had an abortion 12 years ago, and that at the time, she felt she had no choice. She walked away, but remained standing nearby for several minutes. Twenty minutes later, she approached Luann again and said, “I keep looking at your picture, and I can’t believe I did that to my baby.”
She told Luann that when she had had her abortion 12 years ago, “Nobody told me it was a baby.” Luann hugged the woman, talked with her for a while and then promised to send her information on post-abortion healing—which she did.
That is that a Face the Truth Tour is all about—boldly and honestly showing the awful truth of what abortion does to an unborn baby, not in a spirit of vindictiveness or pride, but of charity and compassion for all of abortion’s victims.