The Sidewalk: Where the Pro-Life Movement Belongs

The following is a guest post by Edmund Miller, a veteran sidewalk counselor who heads the Guadalupe Workers sidewalk counseling outreach in Detroit, Michigan. The original article appeared in the Guadalupe Workers November 2016 newsletter.

swc2011I remain convinced that the central weakness of the pro-life movement is its failure to be regularly present at the abortion facilities—because, quite simply, if we believe that each unborn child is eternally unique and significant, then at the very least we should be at the places where the child’s social and eternal value will be brutally, irrevocably denied.

Nevertheless, an insignificant percentage of the pro-life movement makes even occasional appearances at the death facilities. Ironically, the pro-abortion presence, at least in Detroit, lately has been quite healthy: last weekend, for example, we were outnumbered 3 to 1.

One reason the pro-life presence at the abortion facilities is rare is because pro-lifers truly want to serve the cause of life. Whereas the pro-abortion presence outside the clinics is merely for the sake of making a statement (because without God, their lives become frantic attempts to make themselves significant), pro-lifers put their time and energy where they think they will be most effective.

Unfortunately, they are considering effectiveness in the same way that the world considers it. Success, for most of us, must be a measurable thing—measured in how many appointments we have recorded in our notebook and in how many times each day the cell phone rings. Being present at an abortion facility, however, is usually a very frustrating experience, simply because there’s very little one can measurably do.

And while you stand there, sometimes with the wind whipping around and the clients rushing in without even bothering to become angry with you, then the world starts to whisper in your ear, “Is this the best use of your time? Are you really being effective?” This is the moment at which the pro-lifer discovers that, rather than being “effective,” on the contrary he is accomplishing little more than an intense sort of suffering. This is the time at which he must remember—our suffering is our effectiveness.

Willingness to suffer is willingness to love, an act which takes us to the very source of life, to the springs of its growth. Time after time, in the midst of the most bleak circumstances, Guadalupe Workers have seen life flame out; we have seen mothers and fathers smile, thank us and leave. We have seen an abortion clinic at which we counseled for two years close, the business having been so affected by our presence that the abortionist was evicted for unpaid rent.

Even without these obvious signs of life, though, we would go, trying to be the still presence we are called to be.

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