In June 2018, the Pro-Life Action League launched an exciting new initiative—National Pro-Life Bridges Day, held at 50 locations from coast to coast. Over 1,000,000 highway commuters were reached with the message that “Abortion takes a human life.” The third annual National Pro-Life Bridges Day will be held on Friday, June 26, 2020.
The premise of the project is simple. Using specially designed banners, small teams of pro-life activists stationed on carefully selected highway overpasses in 50 American cities will reach over a million motorists with the pro-life message “Abortion takes a human life” during rush hour.
Find detailed instructions below on how to conduct Pro-Life Bridges Day in your community:
- Safety and legal concerns
- Choosing your bridge
- Assembling your team
- Deciding when to display your banners
- Setting up your banners
- Reaching out to the media
- Working with police
- Dealing with counter-protestors
- Documenting your bridge outreach
- Caring for your banners
- Plan to do your bridge outreach again!
Safety and legal concerns
Your pro-life bridge outreach will present no safety or legal concerns. The banner kits engineered for this project are extremely sturdy and secure, and following the simple instruction for their display will ensure they are completely safe. From a driver’s perspective, the banners are essentially no different from any road sign or billboard.
Also, our First Amendment right to display pro-life banners on highway overpasses has been clearly established by the federal courts. In fact, our own legal team won one of those cases! See below for more information on working with the police if they express any concerns.
Choosing your bridge
The ideal highway overpass for this project will have sidewalks on both sides; nearby parking for your team; no obstructing signage or fencing; and multiple lanes on the highway below, with significant traffic during rush hour. But many overpasses that fall short of the idea still make great locations for this project.
Pro-Life Action League staff will collaborate with each local leader to select a suitable location.
Assembling your team
Conducting a bridge outreach in your community requires a team of 5 people: 2 for each banner (one facing each direction of traffic), and a “floater.” The floater’s job is to relieve any of the banner holders if they need a break, take photos, talk to any police or passersby who stop to talk about the display, and communicate between the two pairs holding the banners.
If you have more than 5 people willing to take part in this project, you may want to schedule them in shifts of 60-90 minutes—especially if you plan to be out on your bridge for more than 2 hours at a time (see below).
If you find you have more than 5 people on hand during your display, the “extras” can simply wave to the cars on the highway below.
If you’re finding it difficult to recruit volunteers, it is strongly recommended that you display your banners during either the morning or afternoon rush hour (not both), and limit yourself to 2 hours on your bridge. That will help concentrate your volunteer recruitment.
Deciding when to display your banners
The best time to display your pro-life banners is during rush hour, when traffic is at its slowest and heaviest. For National Pro-Life Bridges Day, each local team will decide whether to set up during morning rush hour (6:00-9:00 a.m.) or afternoon rush hour (3:00-6:00 p.m.).
Some teams may decide to do both the morning and afternoon rush hours. But this should only be attempted if volunteers are certain to be plentiful; otherwise, focus on one or the other.
We recommend that you hold your banners for at least 2 hours during the period you’ve chosen, but you are welcome to go longer. But be sure not to exhaust your volunteers.
Your local team can also decide whether to vary these times to fit local conditions. For example, in some metropolitan areas, Friday traffic is heavy from the early afternoon through the late evening; any 2 hours within that time frame would be suitable.
What about rain? You should plan to take up station on your bridge rain or shine. Your banner and frame are fully weatherproof. If rain is forecast, bring some rain ponchos for your team so you’re prepared. Inexpensive rain ponchos are available at most dollar stores.
Setting up your banners
Each of the 50 local teams taking part in National Pro-Life Bridges Day will be supplied with a complete and fully assembled Banner Kit, including two banners and frames and 4 blue bungee cords. Also included with each kit is a sheet of instructions, detailing how to set up your banners, safely walk them onto the bridge, and position them over the lanes of highway traffic below.
Got your kit before 2020? The manner in which the banners are attached to the frames was modified in 2020. If you received your Banner Kit prior to 2020, please use these instructions.
Some other considerations:
- Wave to the cars on the highway below. This kind of interaction makes drivers more likely to notice your banner and react positively to your pro-life message.
- Be friendly to any passersby, and ignore any negative reactions you might get.
- Use only your pro-life banners. Do not use any smaller pro-life signs you may have, as these will be a distraction for highway drivers and will not be legible.
Reaching out to the media
Typically, a pro-life public education campaign like this wouldn’t be expected to earn much media attention. But since National Pro-Life Bridges Day is taking place in 50 or more locations all over the United States, local media might be interested in covering your outreach—especially friendly media like Christian radio stations or the diocesan newspaper.
The Pro-Life Action League has provided a press release template for National Pro-Life Bridges Day for you to download and fill out with your local info. Be sure to look carefully for all the sections in brackets [like this] noting where to insert your details—and then delete all the brackets and notes.
Your first step is to put together your media list (see link below for more information). Then send your press release out on Monday, June 22 and again on Thursday, June 25, the day before your overpass outreach.
For more information—including how to put together your media list—see Earning Good Media Coverage for Your Pro-Life Efforts
Working with police
There’s every chance that you will not see the police during your time displaying pro-life banners on your bridge, or that the police will simply pass by without stopping.
If the police do stop to talk to you, they will most likely simply be asking for some basic information, like how how long you intend to be holding your banners. But if they tell you that you are not allowed to display your banners, politely inform them that you have a constitutional right to do so, and show them the Legal Memo that was provided with your Banner Kit.
As the memo shows, the federal courts have established that highway overpasses are generally considered public forums in which our First Amendment rights may be exercised. So you should politely resist any initial attempt by the police to shut down your display.
If the police are unreasonable or don’t believe you have a right to hold your display on your particular bridge, ask them if they intend to arrest you if you do not comply with their order to leave the bridge. Police will often back down from a demand like this if they have to make an arrest.
But if they say they will arrest you, then you should comply with the order to leave. Then be sure to inform the Pro-Life Action League about what happened, including the names and badge numbers of the officers involved. We will consult with our attorneys to determine if further legal action is warranted.
For more information, see Working with police at your pro-life event.
Dealing with any counter-protestors
Though it’s unlikely, there is a chance that you may attract counter-protesters during your bridges outreach. But this is nothing to worry about: typically counter-protest groups are small and will not interfere with your activity. In many cases, passersby think the counter-protestors are part of the pro-life group—especially when their signs are smaller and harder to read.
Discourage interaction between your pro-life group and any counter-protestors. They are extremely unlikely to respond well to pro-life talking points, and sometimes try to use heated arguments to distract us from what we’re there to do.
In the very unlikely event that counter-protesters attempt to disrupt your event, they are breaking the law and you need to get the police to defend your rights to free expression and assembly. Call 911 if the police are not already on site.
For more information, see Dealing with counter-protesters at your pro-life event.
Documenting your bridge outreach
It is important to carefully document your bridge outreach to bolster the nationwide impact of this day. You can also use pictures, videos, and your count of the number of drivers you reached to give the event greater reach through social media. Your documentation will also helps the Pro-Life Action League assess the success of National Pro-Life Bridges Day and plan future projects.
Determining how many cars you’ve reached
Our goal for National Pro-Life Bridges Day is to reach hundreds of thousands of highway commuters with our message. To help establish that we have reached that goal, we’re asking you to report back with several key pieces of data:
- Hours: Exactly what hours you were on your bridge (including a.m. and p.m.)
- Lanes: How many lanes of traffic there are on the highway below (add up both directions).
- Traffic: Whether the flow of traffic seemed heavy, medium or light.
- Sample: How many vehicles passed by during a sample period of 10 minutes (count both directions and add them up).
To take your 10-minute sample, assign one person on each of your two banners to count vehicles for exactly 10 minutes. The people assigned this job should set a 10-minute timer on their phone or watch and do their best to count every single vehicle that goes by. For additional accuracy, a second 10-minute sample could be taken, and the two figures averaged. You don’t need to worry about trying to count occupants in each car; we will use national highway data for this.
Write down the samples of your two directions, add them up, and provide that information along with the other data requested above.
Taking photos and videos of your bridges day
It’s important that you take some pictures of your bridges outreach to show the impact of National Pro-Life Bridges Day and help recruit leaders for future projects like this. The Pro-Life Action League will also be sharing photos with the media.
If possible, try to recruit an additional volunteer, beyond the minimum requirement of 5, to take pictures and video of your bridge outreach. Ideally this person will have a camera of their own and know how to use it well. If possible, have them drive beneath your bridge and take some pictures of your display as they pass.
You are also encouraged to take pictures of your set-up process, each of the pairs holding banners (taken from the bridge itself), interactions with passersby or police, or any other interesting sights of interest. And after your time on the bridge, snap a picture of your whole team gathered around one of your banners.
After Bridges Day, email 4-6 of your best photos to [email protected].
Caring for your banners
Your banners and frames were designed to be sturdy, resistant to ultraviolet radiation, and capable of being used for many years to come. To ensure a long life for your banners, follow the following care instructions:
- Leave your banners affixed to the PVC frames, just like they were shipped to you.
- Collapse the legs of each frame, and then roll each banner up around the frame pieces, being sure that the blank side is facing out (this will protect the message side of the banner).
- Don’t ever fold your banners. Instead roll them up when not in use, as described above.
- Avoid putting anything on top of the banners to avoid creasing, which can cause the color to wear away.
- Store you banners and frames in the long cardboard box in which they were shipped.
Plan to do your bridge outreach again!
With the experience of National Pro-Life Bridges Day under your belt, we strongly encourage you to repeat your bridge outreach again in the future—perhaps every quarter, or even every month.
If you do, be sure to let us know all about it—including photos and data about how many drivers you reached. By the end of the year, we hope to reach one million commuters with the message that Abortion takes a human life.