Facing unseasonably chilly weather for August, a group of committed pro-life activists from northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin joined us August 12 for the 11th annual “Face the Truth” Day in Rockford, Illinois.
As is the case with most days when we show pictures of abortion victims, the reactions from passersby varied considerably, ranging from sincere gratitude and praise to unhinged opposition and even violence.
Why Do We Show These Signs? Because They Save Lives
Nearing the conclusion of the 90-minute stint at our first site at the intersection of Riverside Boulevard and Alpine Road, a woman pulled over her car, flagged me down, and said she wanted to thank us for being there.
She said that on one of the occasions when we had visited Rockford years ago, her best friend’s daughter—then a teenager—had seen our abortion victim signs. When she got pregnant a few years later, she said there was no way she could have an abortion, because having seen our signs years before, she knew how awful abortion was, and she made up her mind that she was not going to let that happen to her baby.
I thanked this woman for blessing our day, and I told that hearing stories like these remind us of why we need to show these signs: because they save lives.
Hostility at Midday Site
Not surprisingly, of course, not everyone we encountered in Rockford had the same reaction.
As often as we can, we try to include signs depicting fetal development as part of our “Face the Truth” displays. While we fully expect that some people will be angry with us for showing pictures of actual abortion victims, we occasionally forget that some people don’t even like to see our “nice” pictures of live babies in the womb.
Such was the case in Rockford when a woman drove by our display of signs at the very busy intersection of State Street and Alpine Road and pointed to this sign (pictured at right) held by Pro-Life Action League vice president Ann Scheidler, and—believe it or not—called it “disgusting.”
She wasn’t the only irate passerby we encountered at this site. A few minutes later, a driver parked his car in a nearby lot and decided he was going to literally stand in the way of our display. That is to say, he positioned himself just inches in front of one of our Malachi signs held by
one of our many adult volunteers a young boy.
Pro-Life Action League staffers Eric Scheidler, Matt Yonke, and I raced across the street to intervene. We told him to move, saying he had no right to stand where he was, and we called the police. He responded—with profanity—that he would only move if the police ordered him to move. To get the boy out of harm’s way, Matt took over holding his sign and directed the boy to help another volunteer hold her sign nearby.
Matt then walked a few feet away and repositioned the sign, and the man, in turn, followed and continued to block the view of the sign.
The man insisted that he was standing up for his “rights,” to which Matt responded by pointing to Baby Malachi (the abortion victim) and said, “What about his rights?” To which the man replied, “I don’t care about his rights. He’s dead.”
A few minutes later, a policeman arrived on the scene and told the man that he did not, in fact, have a right to stand inches away from someone demonstrating on a public sidewalk in order to obstruct the view of their sign. With that, the man left.
Another difficulty we encountered at this location: wind. With gusts up to 20 m.p.h., it was a windy day to begin with, and being at the top of a hill made it even windier. A couple of our volunteers were literally knocked over by wind gusts while holding their signs, but thankfully, they were none the worse for wear.
Following the challenges of the second site, we were very grateful to be treated to lunch at Old Country Buffet by the Rockford Pro-Life Initiative (RPLI). Following the meal, RPLI leader Kevin Rilott graciously presented the Pro-Life Action League with a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Grace.
Civility Met with Violence
After lunch was the last site of the day at State Street and Perryville Road, perhaps the busiest intersection in Rockford.
Just a few minutes after we started deploying signholders, a woman stopped her car on the side of the road and demanded to know how we could show these signs knowing that children might see them. (It’s worth noting that she was alone in the car; there were no children with her.) The League’s Eric Scheidler calmly tried to explain to her what a parent might say to a child after seeing our pictures, and before he knew it, she threw a pop can at him and hit him full in the face.
Before speeding off, Tour staffers took down the car’s license plate and immediately called 911. A policeman came a few minutes later. He seemed to take the matter quite seriously and told Eric he would pursue it. We’ve already been in touch with our attorneys at the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center about following up with the Rockford Police Department regarding this assault, so watch this space for developments.
To be sure, this Face the Truth Day presented its share of challenges. But that’s as it should be.
We don’t go out in the public square and show pictures of abortion victims because it’s easy, or because we think it will make people like us. On the contrary!
Rather, we do it because we have to. We do it because, as we were reminded—yet again—at our first site of the day, the pictures of abortion victims actually save lives.
And we do it because if we don’t, who will?
- See pictures from the Rockford “Face the Truth” Day here.