Ann give a presentation at the National Sidewalk Counseling Symposium in St. Paul, Minnesota [Photo by Debra Braun]
Joe, Ann and Eric Scheidler were among the presenters at the second annual National Sidewalk Counseling Symposium hosted by Pro-Life Action Ministries in the Twin Cities July 19-21.
On the opening night of the symposium, Joe and Fr. Frank Pavone spoke on the paramount importance of this special mission reaching out to women and men who perceive that abortion will solve their immediate predicament.
Joe read 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.
Ann Shares Her Wealth of Experience
Ann presented two workshops at the symposium. The first was a presentation on how to recruit and train new sidewalk counselors, including specific details on putting on a sidewalk counseling seminar, such as the size and type of room for a seminar and the materials to provide to attendees, as well as practical tips on promoting the event.
Ann’s 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 misguided activities interfere with sidewalk counselors.
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.
Ann recommended the use of signage to get abortion clients’ attention and to direct them to a nearby pregnancy resource center. She 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—she expressed her belief that, used judiciously, 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.
Saving Babies at the Mega-Centers
Eric’s presentation focused on the particular challenges posed by Planned Parenthood’s new line of “mega-centers,” like the new Planned Parenthood in St. Paul and the “Abortion Fortress” in Aurora, Illinois. There are now 18 such centers, designed to capitalize on Obamacare’s abortion expansion and scuttle sidewalk counseling.
Eric explained that, working with the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center, the pro-lifers in Aurora were able to establish their right to stand on a semi-public drive at the clinic’s parking lot entrance, giving counselors a better opportunity to reach clients. He encouraged others to vigorously defend their right to sidewalk counsel at the mega-centers.
Eric also recommended using the controversy generated by the construction of these mega-centers to recruit activists. With a larger body of activists to draw on and the creative use of signage to reach clients, babies can still be saved at the new Planned Parenthood mega-centers.
A Visit to Planned Parenthood
On Saturday morning, symposium attendees boarded two school buses for a trip to the massive new Planned Parenthood abortion facility in St. Paul, situated in a forbidding industrial complex. This 46,000 square foot building provides valet parking, requiring clients to drive 40 feet into the driveway to deposit their vehicles, then be escorted by a “deathscort” to the clinic entrance, making it nearly impossible for any interaction between sidewalk counselors and the clinic’s clients.
Due to the particular configuration of the driveways and sidewalks, Pro-Life Action Ministries has designated one small sidewalk island as the counseling zone. Generally just one counselor occupies that zone and attempts to speak to 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 mission.