What a year it’s been in the national debate surrounding abortion!
My June 2022 column—in which I anticipated the hopeful overturning of Roe vs. Wade—concluded with:
“When that day comes, we will celebrate, but we will not toss our signs and brochures. Instead, we will simply follow the facility to its likely new home across the river in Minnesota…doing whatever we can to breach the glaring gap between life and death.”
Soon thereafter, it happened. Roe fell, and the abortion facility slinked away to Moorhead. And as promised, we sidewalk advocates followed them. Abortion is abortion, no matter the side of a state line.
That timeframe proved volatile, however, for the nation and me personally. Just before Roe’s descent, I was assaulted on the sidewalk of the old Red River Women’s Clinic with a punch to the side of the head, suffering a mild concussion and jaw pain. The perpetrator was whisked away by escorts, evading the police, despite the incident having been recorded by the facility’s camera.
I flashed back to that shocking moment recently while reading about two elderly sidewalk advocates in Baltimore who were brutally beaten by a passerby, who also got away.
Reading about these attacks may be a deterrent to those who have felt moved to pray with us, onsite, for an end to abortion. But stay with me here, because later in this column, I’m hoping to make the case for why joining us would be worth your time. It’s important to note that the current local sidewalk situation is vastly less combative than the former.
Abortion is a violent act, though, so it’s not surprising that those promoting or involved in this industry will be more prone to responding to us with violence. Our very presence agitates the conscience.
But that is a good thing. We need more brave souls to take up Christ’s cross and be a sign of beauty, truth and goodness in our broken world, and I still see the sidewalk as one of the most accessible ways to be courageous for Christ.
This past year, I had to take a long leave from my spot on the sidewalk, but my return has allowed me to observe the pro-abortion mentality anew. The mindset was conveyed recently in a social media post showing a very pregnant woman and her exposed belly with the words, “Not Yet a Human,” written across her stomach. Herein lies the delusion.
The sidewalk itself, however, belies this sentiment. If the in-utero baby were not yet human, why do most clients avert their eyes as they pass us with our signs and smiles of love? Why do so many speed up as soon as they’re able to get out of the parking lot, as if embarrassed? Why would the escorts have such defensive stances toward us if the women they greet are only carrying a benign, inhuman growth?
Brad Youngquist, a fellow advocate, recently shared about a man in a pickup who dropped off a young woman and stayed for over two hours in the parking lot, revving his engine and playing loud music to drown out the advocates’ voices as additional women entered the operation. If human lives weren’t what’s at stake there, why make such a ruckus? Why try to silence us if it’s “not yet a human?”
As Brad also said, our presence matters, and we can see it on clients’ faces, even if those expressions are filled with shame or even anger. Having us there as a mirror that forces them to face themselves and their actions—to be reminded that we only bother showing up because human beings’ lives are at stake—can only be good in the end. Truth is always freeing.
“Even if we don’t get to speak directly to them, they see us, and some read our signs offering help,” Brad commented. “Many of these people driving past are ‘good’ people,’” but held captive “by their demons. Just seeing the group presence on the sidewalk is a ‘picture that says 1,000 words.’”
A year ago, the conversation changed. Roe ducked, and the void was filled with a lot of ugliness. But good things are coming. I believe this, because I believe in a good God who keeps his promises, and he promised that if we are faithful to him, he will reward us.
I return, then, to the invitation mentioned earlier. Consider joining us on the sidewalk this summer. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like guidance. The facility usually performs abortions from around 8 a.m. to around 4 p.m., so come any time during that span, even if just for an hour. You only have to pray a while in silence, but our good Lord, who sees and hears all, will bless you for your sacrifice.
[Note: I write about my experiences praying for the end to abortion at the sidewalk abutting the Red River Valley’s lone abortion facility for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically in our corner of the world. The preceding ran in New Earth’s July-August 2023 issue.]