One of the oldest and most effective forms of public protest utilized by social movements across the political spectrum. The simple act of marching in a circle holding signs accompanied by chants, songs or slogans is a simple way to express opposition in a highly visible way.
The pro-life movement has used pickets as a central tactic to let our communities know about the presence of abortion facilities, and to disrupt the business of abortion providers.
Follow the instructions below to hold a picket at your own local abortion facility.
- Selecting a location
- Inviting participants
- Preparing signs
- Holding your picket
- Documenting your picket
Selecting a Location
The ideal location for a picket is on the piece of public property closest to your abortion facility, and also a spot that’s visible to the public, if possible. To learn how to distinguish private property from public, see the How to distinguish public property from private action page.
Be sure the location you’ve chosen has enough space to march back and forth for the number of people you expect to attend.
We recommend beginning promotional efforts to invite people to your picket at least two weeks in advance. Use every method at your disposal including email, phone calls, Facebook and other social media, local Christian or conservative radio, and physical flyers in locations pro-life people are likely to gather.
Get detailed information on how to effectively promote your picket on the Increase turnout by using good promotional tools action page.
A picket is nothing without signs, so put some effort into designing or purchasing signs. You can purchase signs on the Pro-Life Action League’s online store or you can design your own signs.
If you design your own, be sure to make your messaging very clear and short, as passersby can’t read signs with too many words on them. Also, be sure to make your signs with very high contrast, meaning that the colors of the background of the sign and the text are different enough so that the text can be read. White text on a solid colored background, or contrasting colors like yellow and black. If you’re using a white background, avoid light colors like yellow, orange or greens. A strong red, black or dark blue work well.
If you’re handy with photoshop or other design software, you can design signs and have them printed by a local print shop. For many years, the League has been using signs designed at a size of 14″ x 22″ printed on a heavy card stock. These work great and are generally fairly cheap to print. Try to find the people who print political yard signs in your area to do the printing. They’re usually familiar with this kind of work.
Avoid messaging that talks about “baby killers”, “murder” or other needlessly derogative language. The horror of abortion itself is enough without dramatic embellishment, and messages like that turn off the people who are undecided on abortion, the very people we need to reach most desperately.
Holding your picket
On the day of your picket, arrive well in advance of the start time. Set up a station with your signs so you can give them to people as they arrive.
As people arrive and begin to grab signs, instruct them to march in a circle on your desired location. If you have extra people to help you, it can be helpful to have yourself at one end of the picket line and someone else at the end so people know where to turn around. Have the person at the end move down as more people arrive to make the circuit you’re walking long enough that people aren’t forced to stop.
Some people will walk slower or faster than others, but generally try to keep the flow of the picket line moving for the duration of the event, which should typically be between 60-90 minutes. Experience has taught us that that’s about as long as people are comfortable doing an event like this.
You may conduct your picket in silence, but it’s recommended that you lead the crowd in chants or songs as they march. Keep your chants very simple, like the classic “Life YES Abortion NO!” chant, or “Hey hey, ho ho, Planned Parenthood has got to go!” You may also wish to have the group sings commonly known hymns or other appropriate songs that people will know well enough to sing on the fly.
At the conclusion of your picket, gather the crowd together to lead them in a closing prayer. Thank participants for their participation, encourage them by letting them know they’re a part of a much larger movement opposing abortion in America, and be sure to let them know about any other upcoming events you have planned, even if they’re months away. The more times you can get your event dates into people’s mind’s, the better.
Bear in mind that your picket may be the very first pro-life event some of your attendees have ever been to, and not be aware of what the pro-life movement is doing in your area. Use this opportunity to let folks know about other pro-life opportunities, like volunteering at the local pregnancy center, or joining in ongoing sidewalk counseling and prayer efforts.
Documenting your picket
Be sure to take some pictures and video of the event that you can share on social media or with your email contacts to make the impact of your picket stretch far beyond the day of the event. An event like this is a great opportunity to do a “Facebook Live” video if you’re on that platform.