Sidewalk counseling

Sidewalk counseling is the act of standing outside an abortion business and attempting to persuade the abortion-minded women entering the facility to change their minds and choose to let their babies live. Thousands of sidewalk counselors - men and women, young and old - advocate outside abortion businesses all across the country and save countless lives every year.

 

Sidewalk counseling is a constitutionally protected activity. You have the legal right to stand anywhere that the public has a right to be, raise your voice, or hold a sign.

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Sidewalk counseling is an effective way to fight abortion and save lives on the local level. With over 150 abortion facilities in California, chances are there is one in your community. 

 

Getting Started Sidewalk Counseling:

Preparation and Equipment

 

  1. Find your local abortion businesses. Search the internet for “abortion [your town name]” and see what comes up. You can also look for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion chain, and for FPA Women’s Health, a large abortion chain in California. Confirm that the businesses do abortions through searching their website or by simply calling them and asking. You may have to start scheduling an appointment to find out which hours they do abortions. Try to find out whether they do surgical abortions or chemical abortions and how far into the pregnancy they do abortions. Knowing this will help you counsel more effectively.

  2. Scope out the locations. Do patients park on the street and walk in or do they drive into a parking lot and walk in a back door? Figure out where the public property ends and the business’s private property begins. You have the right to sidewalk counsel on public property as long as you do not block others’ right of way. If you are uncertain about the property lines and would like to stand in a place that might not be public property, contact Life Legal Defense Foundation. (In addition, if you have any trouble with law enforcement or are told to restrict your movements in any way, for instance to stand across the street, not raise your voice, or not display signs, contact Life Legal.)

  3. Prepare your materials. Ask your local pregnancy help center if they have pamphlets you can distribute to direct women to their services. They may also have information about fetal development, how abortion harms women, adoption, etc. You can order sidewalk counseling pamphlets from many organizations, including in English or Spanish from Human Life Alliance. You can find your local pregnancy center at OptionLine.org. For women entering the abortion business who are not there for an abortion, you can refer them to other low-cost healthcare providers listed at findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov. You want to turn everyone away since each patient is a potential future abortion patient and each patient contributes to the business's bottom line, allowing it to remain open. 

  4. Prepare your signage. If your sidewalk counseling location allows you to walk right up to women on the sidewalk, you will probably be more effective without any signs. If the patients drive past you into the parking lot or walk at a distance, signs are a good way to communicate, in addition to raising your voice so they can hear you. Effective messages include clearly printed: “Pregnant? Need help? Call 1-800-712-HELP,” “We can help you! Come talk to us!” “We care about you and your baby. Let us help you.” Ultrasound or preborn baby images are also an option as well as signs that state a stage of a baby's development, "I have fingers and toes -- 8 weeks preborn." Some sidewalk counselors display photos of aborted babies. 

  5. Find a friend to join you. A second sidewalk counselor is always helpful, since he can counsel the woman’s companion or any additional patients who arrive when you are already talking to a patient. If your friend is not comfortable sidewalk counseling, he can pray for you while you counsel, hold signs, and, most importantly, be a backup and a witness if anyone becomes aggressive.

  6. Bring a camera and know how to work it. Begin filming if anyone - patient, companion, or passerby - is belligerent and approaches you or your equipment. Although you do not want to make an aggressor more angry by holding a camera in his face, it is important to get a shot of his features and to keep the camera rolling in case anything further occurs. You can delete the footage afterward if nothing happens, but if he takes a sign, threatens you, or commits some other crime, you have a record to show law enforcement. Take photos of any equipment that is vandalized. A phone with a camera will work, but there may be times when you would like to be both calling the police and filming. Having a companion on the sidewalk would also resolve this issue. 

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How to Approach and What to Say

  1. Be friendly. Think about whom you would stop and talk to, if you were the one being approached. You would probably stop if someone were smiling, polite, well-dressed, and persistent. 

  2. Avoid yes or no questions. If you ask someone if she wants some information, the chances are that she will say no - just like you would. Instead, if you are able to walk right up to a woman on the sidewalk, you can say something like, “Good morning, my name is Mary. This is for you.” If you extend your hand with the pamphlet and expect her to take it, she probably will. Or you can say something like, “Good afternoon. What brings you here today?” Many women will tell you. This gives you a jumpstart to be able to address her particular needs. If she says she is there for an abortion, ask how far along she is or what has led her to the choice to have an abortion. Tell her about the pregnancy center and how they can help her. Tell her about her son or daughter's development.

  3. Be persistent. If you approach cars entering the driveway with a smile and a wave many will stop and give you a chance to offer literature and the free services at your local pregnancy center. Some women will not respond to you or will refuse to take literature, especially if they walk in at a distance from you, but they will still listen, so keep talking. The more persistent you are, the more they will recognize how much you care and how urgent the situation is. Make sure they know that you can help them and that it is not too late to change their minds. Try to talk to women again when they leave. They may not have had the abortion, thanks to your presence. Or they may have taken the first chemical abortion pills and be regretting it. You can direct them to the pregnancy center or to abortionpillreversal.com

  4. Be creative and be sincere. There are as many ways to sidewalk counsel as there are sidewalk counselors. Every abortion-minded woman is different, too, so no single method will reach every woman. Tell the truth and some women will respond.

  5. Be realistic. Most of the women who have an appointment for an abortion will keep their appointment and you will witness many, many babies going to their deaths. Remember, though, that, because of your presence, some women will drive past without stopping and some will change their minds and leave without telling you. Every once in a while, you will be able to help a woman choose life face to face, too - and even one baby’s life is worth all the hours spent on the sidewalk. Where else do you have the opportunity to save a child from death on a daily basis? Don’t give up!

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Document the Unusual
 

  1. Ambulances. Start filming if you see an ambulance approaching the abortion facility. Film it entering the abortion facility and film the paramedics entering the building. Film them if they bring anyone out. Remain on public property while documenting the incident. Afterward, report it to Life Legal Defense Foundation. Life Legal helps publicize the many medical emergencies at abortion facilities and investigates whether the abortion facility was violating any laws that played a role in the emergency. If you ask them to, they will report back to you the details they learn about the emergency. You may also want to show the video footage to women while you sidewalk counsel, warning women that another woman recently left on a gurney and it may not be safe for them, either. 

  2. Illegal or erratic behavior by abortion clinic staff. If you see anything that might be illegal activity by the staff, film it. With evidence, it might be possible to prosecute them. Without evidence, there is nothing anyone can do. Perhaps you see the abortionist walking into the building unsteadily, as if he is drunk. Perhaps a nurse helps a patient out of the clinic and drives her away in her personal car. These might not be obviously illegal acts, but document them and report them to Life Legal Defense Foundation in case they can get the proper authorities to investigate.

  3. Patients’ complaints. If a patient says that clinic staff has mistreated her in some way, whether it is refusing to remove her IUD or treating her in a filthy exam room, write down her complaints - or film her, if she is willing to be recorded. Get her name and contact information, if possible. Afterward, report her complaints to Life Legal Defense Foundation for their documentation of poor, and possibly illegal, clinic practices.

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