As Americans made preparations for Christmas in the midst of a pandemic, hundreds of pro-life advocates offered a message of hope outside the nation’s abortion clinics. “More than any other factor, it’s fear that drives a woman to seek abortion. Fear for her future, fear of giving birth, even fear over her partner’s reaction to her pregnancy,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, in a statement to the media. “These fears have only been compounded by the Covid pandemic and resulting economic downturn. That’s why we’re bringing a message of hope to abortion clinics with a project we call Peace in the Womb Christmas Caroling.”
Christmas Caroling First Launched in 2003
Seventeen years ago, the Pro-Life Action League held our first Christmas Caroling Tour in Chicago in 2003. The idea had come from a conversation that Eric had had with Katrina Zeno, a writer and speaker on the Theology of the Body. Katrina believed that hearing Christmas carols while on the way into an abortion clinic could have a powerful impact on a woman. After bringing up the idea at a League staff meeting, everyone loved the idea, along with building our own manger to gather around while we sing. The manger would serve as a dual reminder: (1) of the hopeful anticipation of the birth of a child, and (2) the emptiness that results from abortion.
At this first annual “Empty Manger” Christmas Caroling Day, we visited four abortion facilities on Chicago’s north side, and concluded with joyous carols at the recently closed Concord abortion clinic downtown, at which a Baby Jesus figure was solemnly placed in the manger.
Caroling Goes National
After the opening of the Planned Parenthood mega-center in Aurora, Illinois in 2007—which at the time was the largest abortion clinic in the Midwest—we expanded to two caroling tours: one in Chicago and another in the western suburbs of DuPage County. Thereafter we encouraged pro-lifers to take up this annual activity in their own communities and in 2014 we began to actively recruit and equip groups to hold their own caroling days, providing promotional resources, a caroling booklet to print out, and even carpentry plans for building a manger.
Since then, the number of participating cities grew from a few dozen to 82 in 2020. One factor that helped to expand our reach the past few years was a change in theme. In 2016 we shifted 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. (Still, however, many caroling events give a nod to tradition and continue to use the “Empty Manger” theme—including a group of pro-lifers in Worcester, Massachusetts.) And rather than require local groups to host their caroling event on one particular day, we encouraged them to select any date in December that was most conducive to them.
Baby saved on Feast of the Immaculate Conception
One of the first “Peace in the Womb” caroling events of 2020 was held on December 8th, the date on which Catholics celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. On this day, Family for Life sang carols outside A Woman’s Choice abortion facility in Jacksonville, Florida. A young woman arrived with her mother for an abortion, heard the singing, and became upset. She asked her mother to find out what was going on, and when she learned about the caroling, she and her mother left. Dave later confirmed with them that the young woman had decided to keep her baby. He also reported that the young woman’s mother had been praying for a sign—and pro-life carolers were indeed that sign!
Great Turnouts at Cities Nationwide
Larry Smith reported the December 12th caroling event outside the Schenectady, New York Planned Parenthood was the largest his group had ever had—they even ran out of caroling booklets! Other locations across the country also reported great turnouts, including Waukegan, Illinois, where 35 pro-lifers gathered in the rain to sing carols. Pro-lifers in Pittsburgh—who were joined by Catholic auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid—numbered close to 50, and nearly 100 came out in Alexandria, Virginia.
Not to be outdone, a group of 40 carolers gathered outside the Planned Parenthood in El Cajon, California and concluded their event as they have for the past several years, sung to the tune of We Wish you a Merry Christmas: “We won’t go until you close down, so close down right now!”
New Banner Debuts at Closed Abortion Clinic
At the beginning of the League’s own caroling tour in Chicago, no fewer than 10 clinic escorts were on hand to confront us at Family Planning Associates’ downtown location. And at American Women’s Medical Center on the city’s north side, a woman waiting for a bus joined us for a couple of carols before her bus arrived.
The concurrent tour in DuPage County saw the biggest crowd in years, with numbers topping 100 outside the Planned Parenthood in Aurora. The tour concluded outside the Aanchor abortion facility in Glen Ellyn, which closed for good earlier this year. To mark the occasion, we displayed a brand new banner we designed bearing the message: “All I want for Christmas is Peace in the Womb.”
League Encouragement Prompts Action
After sending us a report on the caroling day she coordinated in Helena, Montana, Jessica Royal concluded by saying: “Thank you for the encouragement to do this! I would not have done it otherwise.”
Jessica’s words beautifully illustrate the mission of the Pro-Life Action League, especially so in the midst of a pandemic. The tremendous success of this year’s “Peace in the Womb” Caroling Day sets the bar higher for Christmas 2021 when, God willing, Covid will be behind us.