By Kathleen Gilbert

HINSDALE, Illinois, November 4, 2009 ( – Sr. Donna Quinn has reportedly ceased serving as an abortion escort at an Illinois abortion facility after receiving a reprimand from her Dominican community.  But according to statements published in the Chicago Tribune Wednesday, the nun remains defiant, claiming her abortion volunteerism protected women from “being physically assaulted” by pro-lifers.  At the same time, local pro-life advocates have responded by calling Quinn's portrayal of their peaceful protest activities “unbelievable” and “without basis.”

Sr. Quinn has been active since the 1970s as a leading advocate of abortion, homosexuality, and ordination of women in the Catholic Church, and has been escorting outside the ACU Health Clinic in Hinsdale for at least six years.  When (LSN) learned of Quinn's activities as an abortion escort last month and contacted Quinn's prioress, Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Patricia Mulcahey, Mulcahey defended Quinn's actions as “accompanying women who are verbally abused by protestors.”   

After LSN's report received wide attention, however, the Sinsinawa Dominicans released a statement apologizing for Quinn's actions and indicating that Quinn had been told her actions were “in violation of her profession as a Dominican religious.”

In a Wednesday Chicago Tribune article, Quinn said she is ending what she calls her “peacekeeping,” insisting that “this is my decision.”  “Respect for women's moral agency is of critical importance to me, and I look forward to continuing to dialogue with our congregation on these matters as a way of informing my actions as well as educating the community,” she said.

She continued: “As a peacekeeper, my goal is to enable women to enter a reproductive health clinic in dignity and without fear of being physically assaulted. … I am very worried that the publicity around my presence will lead to violations of every woman's right to privacy and expose them to further violence.”

Quinn went on to urge pro-lifers who regularly witness at the Hinsdale Clinic, who she claimed to have “seen emotionally as well as physically threaten women,” to cease what she called their “war against women.”

Lynn Benz, who has been a sidewalk counselor at the Hinsdale clinic for nine years, had a very different account of the scene at the Hinsdale clinic, however.

Benz explained to LSN that, because the pro-life counselors are not allowed onto the clinic property, they cannot contact customers unless the customers themselves choose to approach them.  Benz says she usually stands in the middle of the driveway, which allows cars to drive by on either side or stop if they wish to speak to her.

“They can choose to talk to me, or they can pull in,” said Benz.  “We don't enter the property.  How would we physically threaten them?  And why?  It would probably make them run faster for the door.”

The other 25-45 people who regularly pray at the clinic, said Benz, peacefully pray the rosary off clinic property, and do not engage in shouting or protesting.  She called Sr. Quinn's statements accusing the group of intimidation tactics “unbelievable.” 

“There are protests, there are different forms [of pro-life activism],” she said.  “We are not out there protesting.  We are out their praying and counseling – that's it.  It's not a protest forum.  That's not what we're about there. “ 

John Bray, another regular pro-lifer at the clinic, agreed that “there's no way anybody has physically assaulted anybody going into the clinic,” and called Quinn's claims “quite frankly without basis.” 

“We are there to pray in a peaceful manner, which we do,” he said. 

In terms of violence, Bray said that police have been involved, but not because of the pro-lifers' activities.  “About a year ago, we did call the police on one guy who got in my face and told me how many times he could kill me,” he noted.

Bray says he considers his and other pro-lifers' presence as the true source of help for women, who often feel forced into abortions by their circumstances, or even by other people.  “We have witnessed some pretty sad situations over the years of the women crying and literally being dragged into the clinic by those who brought her,” he said. 

See related coverage:

Updated: Nun Abortion Clinic Escort Reprimanded – Dominican Congregation Apologizes for Scandal 

Nun Volunteering as Abortion Clinic Escort in Illinois