Culture of LifeWed Jun 6, 2012 - 2:39 pm EST
‘My name is Julia’: young sidewalk counselor reaching out to mothers, saving lives
June 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - “My name is Julia.” That is what the sticky notes say that are carefully placed in each piece of literature a girl walking into an abortion clinic receives from young twenty-one year old seasoned sidewalk counselor Julia Pritchett, who is also the co-founder of Students for Life of America on the University of Arkansas campus. “I ask the girls to please take my literature even if they already have some from other sidewalk counselors because there is something special inside for them.”
Inside the girls each find their own handwritten sticky note with a short message. Julia includes her name, number and a personal message stating that she is out on the sidewalk because she cares for them and is there to help. She tells the girls they can call or text her anytime they are inside the clinic.
“You never know where your number is going to end up,” said Julia. “One time I got a random call from a girl somewhere whose sister was going to have an abortion.” The girl told Julia she had saved her number from the sticky note inside the brochure and wanted her help in talking her sister, who was several states away, out of going through with the abortion. She also gets calls after she leaves the sidewalk from girls that have changed their minds about having their abortion, and from girls who need a ride somewhere else to get a pregnancy test.
Julia said some people see her as being brave, befriending girls and picking them up in their neighborhoods to give them rides and by giving out her personal information, but she does not worry about it. “Often times that is what means the most to the girl that you would put yourself in their neighborhood.” Her genuine approach to the girls on the sidewalk has given her a new best friend.
“I asked one girl what she did for a living, and when she said she was a hairdresser I mentioned I needed a haircut. The next thing I knew she was playing with my ponytail and saying how much she could do with my hair. I made a deal with her. I told her I would come and get a haircut from her if she would let me talk to her the entire appointment. She had to wait until after my appointment to make any decisions.” Julia said the girl took her up on her offer, and the next day she headed to an all black barber shop in a rough part of town. Everyone got really quiet and turned around to stare at her because in walked a white girl with blonde hair. “I sat down and she put this grease in my hair, and I thought ‘oh no’ what is my hair going to look like,” Julia laughed. “Turns out I got the best haircut I have ever received.”
Not only does this new friend cut Julia’s hair to this day, but she had a change of heart about abortion. Her pregnancy test was negative, but she will not consider abortion in the future: one of the many perks of asking a girl to reconsider getting other services performed at an abortion clinic performed somewhere else. Julia is not your typical sidewalk counselor, as she likes to stand outside on days when abortions are not offered and offer to talk the girls who are going in for other services such as pregnancy tests to a local crisis pregnancy center.
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When Julia is home on break in Marion, Arkansas, she drives a short distance across the Mississippi river bridge to Memphis, Tennessee to counsel whenever she can at the three local abortion clinics known to Memphians and surrounding states as the abortion triangle because of their locations close together. When she is back in Fayetteville, she is busy running the Students for Life chapter on her college campus. She helped co-found the group her freshman year and will be entering her senior year this fall. “We have around 75 members and at least 30 attend each event,” said Julia. “We have a really diverse group including blacks, Asians, sorority girls, student government officers, atheists and student parents. We have phenomenal members, not just people who are prolife, but people who are doing big things and using those platforms for pro-life.”
Julia said that most campus events are friendly, but occasionally there will be hostility when they least expect it. One time while just passing out drinks at a table and asking people to look them up on Facebook they had a girl throw a knitted uterus at a male Student for Life member. “The girl told him to stay out of her uterus because he did not have one.” Julia said, “but I do.” The girl told Julia that she did not understand why a girl would be on that side of the issue, and that when a baby is aborted ‘why does it matter because they won’t know it will happen to them?’. They also had five or six pro-choice people show up with cameras to tape the conversations. “We always remain calm and loving,” said Julia.
Julia is a psychology major and holds seminars and training sessions for beginners and well as seasoned sidewalk counselors as she likes to weave some professional counseling techniques into her sidewalk experiences. “I like to talk to people about understanding. It is hard to put yourself in the place of a woman in a crisis pregnancy. We must understand how she feels before we talk to her.”
One exercise she uses during her training is to have participants write down their deepest darkest secret on a piece of paper and pass it folded up to the person next to them. She then asks, “What could this person do to make you feel safe enough to share with them?” Everyone is usually very relieved when their secrets are passed back to them, and they find out no one will read their secret.
“I had a friend give me some really good advice. She said there is so much good information out there that we can’t invent the wheel, but we can add to it.” That is precisely what Julia is doing as she adds a lot of her master level class counseling skills to her approach on the sidewalk. She wants to teach others what she is learning.
Sharing with others comes naturally to Julia. She remembers first learning about abortion issues in a ninth grade government class where the rape exception was being discussed. “I thought about it for a few minutes and I thought ‘no, if it is not right in one circumstance then it is not right in any circumstance’. One day I didn’t know about this, and the next day I did. I knew I could tell people about something I had just learned. I figured everyone would be just as shocked as me, that they just did not know. That was the moment it clicked for me.”
Julia is obviously making a difference. Recently as she stood on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic, the clinic workers called the police and ten squad cars showed up. Julia and her fellow team members of Precious in His Sight ministry in Memphis were doing nothing wrong, so the police could do nothing and eventually left. “I was shocked and a little stunned to see that many squad cars,” said Julia.
Sidewalk counseling is where her heart lies, and she hopes to work in the pro-life field after graduation with an emphasis on helping post-abortive women. “People are scared to take this chance,” commented Julia on helping women outside the abortion clinics. “But you can have hard conversations with people if they know you care about them.”
If you would like to know more about starting a Student for Life of America please visit the National Website at www.studentsforlife.org. Stefanie Lewallen is a Pro-Life Writer and Speaker, local 40 DAYS FOR LIFE Campaign Director and a member of Precious in His Sight Sidewalk Counseling team in Memphis, Tn.
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