This month in more than 60 cities throughout the United States, faithful carolers answered the Pro-Life Action League’s call to bring the light of Christmas to the darkest places in our land: our nation’s abortion facilities. From Boston to St. Louis to San Bernardino, pro-lifers sang carols like “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger” to remind abortion clients that the birth of every child should be welcomed with joy, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
Caroling First Launched in 2003
The first caroling day was held by the League in 2003 in Chicago. The idea came out of a conversation with my friend Katrina Zeno, who writes and speaks about St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Katrina suggested that hearing Christmas carols as she’s entering an abortion facility might have a powerful impact on a woman. The Christmas message might inspire some to decide against abortion, while others would have their abortions permanently connected to these carols, so that hearing them year after year would help them to face what they’d done and seek God’s forgiveness and healing.
I brought the idea up at a League staff meeting, and all agreed that we should do it. Office manager Urszula Mihai suggested we build a large manger—like you might see at a large church nativity scene—and gather around it when singing our carols. The manger would represent both the hopeful anticipation of birth and the emptiness left behind by abortion.
Thus was launched the first annual “Empty Manger” Christmas Caroling Day. We visited four abortion facilities on Chicago’s north side, and concluded with joyous carols at a facility that had recently closed, at which a Baby Jesus model was solemnly placed in the manger.
Caroling Day Expands
In 2007, after the opening of the massive Planned Parenthood abortion center in Aurora, Illinois, we expanded to two caroling tours: one in Chicago and another in the western suburbs of DuPage County. Soon we began to suggest that other pro-lifers take up this annual activity, and in 2013 we began to actively recruit and equip groups to hold their own caroling days, providing detailed instructions, carpentry plans for building an empty manger, and a caroling booklet to print out.
Last year, the number of sites jumped from a few dozen to nearly 40, thanks to the surge of pro-life activism in the wake of the undercover videos that exposed Planned Parenthood’s trade in the body parts of aborted babies. We were able to build on that momentum to add more than 50% more sites this year, topping 60 locations—all the more impressive considering that a half a dozen sites had to cancel due to extreme weather conditions.
New Theme: Peace in the Womb
One factor helping to expand our reach this year was a change in theme. We decided to shift from the more complicated “Empty Manger” concept to an emphasis on “Peace in the Womb,” a much simpler idea to explain to reporters and potential leaders. However, many caroling events continue to feature mangers built with the League’s plans—including one in Milwaukee, which Pro-Life Wisconsin’s Dan Miller reported was continually being moved by the clinic escorts.
Many of this year’s caroling groups came up with creative additions to the League’s basic guidelines for this pro-life outreach. Local leader John Leslie reported that his group handed out candy canes to women entering Planned Parenthood in Tacoma, Washington, frustrating the pro-abortion escorts as they desperately tried to keep clients from talking to the pro-lifers.
Mary Maschmeier’s group in St. Louis went a step further, with a caroler dressed as Santa Claus offering care package gifts to the women. Santa also put in an appearance at the Planned Parenthood facility in Orange, California, where some of the undercover videos were shot, and a caroler in Schenectady dressed as St. Nicholas.
A multi-lingual caroling day was organized by Susan Platt in Dallas, Texas, with a fantastic turnout of 100, and the concluding carol, “Silent Night,” sung in both English and Spanish. And in Tempe, Arizona, Lisa Blevins brought out 120 pro-lifers, including the colorful Dancers for Jesus from St. Margaret Parish in Tempe.
Kathy Forck’s caroling group in Columbia, Missouri, combined their singing with a press conference demanding that lawmakers in the state not allow Planned Parenthood to begin performing abortions at their Columbia facility. A group of abortion supporters calling themselves the “Guild of Silly Heathens” tried to disrupt the caroling with kazoos, but they were easily drowned out by the pro-lifers’ sound system. Less disruptive were the clinic escorts in Sarasota, who actually complimented the pro-lifers’ singing.
Among the cities hosting a caroling day for the first time was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Jeannie French brought a group of 30 pro-lifers to Planned Parenthood, accompanied by an accordion that could be heard several blocks away. They sang the final verse of “Away in a Manger” several times, touched by its final line: “Bless all the dear children in thy tender care and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.” Afterward, Jeannie kindly wrote to me, “We are inspired by the leadership coming from your organization,” and said she plans to make this an annual event.
Caroling Saves Nine Babies
But the most significant impact of the caroling day by far were the unborn children saved because pro-lifers were there singing about the Christ Child. In San Bernardino, California, a couple left the Family Planning Associates office to tell leader Roseann Gracza, “We want you to know we saved our baby because we heard you caroling.” Two other babies were also saved there that day, and Brian Gibson of Pro-Life Action Ministries reported that six babies were saved at their caroling day in Orlando, Florida, including two sets of twins!
As usual, the League conducted two caroling tours, both on December 17. The Chicago tour included a stop at the new Family Planning Associate’s medical abortion facility on Milwaukee Avenue on the city’s Northwest Side, which the League protested for the first time last month. The tour also visited FPA’s downtown office, where no fewer than 10 clinic escorts were on hand to confront our carolers. And at Planned Parenthood’s Near North center, a man out shopping saw the tour group and joined in for a couple of carols before carrying on with his day.
Among the highlights of the League’s concurrent tour in DuPage County was the singing of “In the Bleak Midwinter” in four-part harmony by my daughters Lucy, Clare and Liza and their friend Ceci. The girls were on staff during the League’s summer Face the Truth tour, and it was great to be out on the front lines with them for this special day.
The tremendous success of this year’s “Peace in the Womb” Christmas Caroling Day sets the bar higher for next year. I look forward to continuing to expand this annual event, so that more and more pro-lifers across the country can’t think about preparing for the holidays without making a special visit to confront the darkness at their local abortion facilities with the light of Christmas hope.