An explanation and defense of Red Rose Rescues
June 23, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – On May 13, 2020 a Red Rose Rescue (RRR) was conducted at the Heritage Women’s Center abortion facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. LifeSiteNews reporter Stephen Kokx was present and reported on the event. Five Red Rose Rescuers were arrested after they entered the abortion center parking lot to counsel women arriving for their scheduled abortions. I was among them. We were charged with “trespassing” with a first court appearance scheduled July 14.
Red Rose Rescue is a new initiative that began in September 2017. The RRR is not a protest of abortion. The mission statement posted on the Red Rose Rescue website states:
The ministry flows from and is strengthened by prayer and laboring in love to save the most vulnerable among us. We live the Gospel of Life by responding to and putting into practice Proverbs 24:11: “Rescue those being dragged to death, and those tottering to execution withhold not. If you say ‘I know not this man!’ does not He who tests hearts not perceive it?”
During a Red Rose Rescue a team of pro-lifers enter the actual places where the innocent unborn are about to be ”dragged to death.” In the words of Saint Mother Teresa, they enter the ”dark holes of the poor.” Red Rose Rescuers peacefully talk to women scheduled for abortion, with the goal of persuading them to choose life. They offer to them red roses as a sign of life, peace, and love. Should the unborn still “totter to execution” Red Rose Rescuers stay in the place of execution in solidarity with their abandoned brothers and sisters performing a non-violent act of defense through their continued presence inside the killing centers remaining with them for as long as they can.
As a manifestation of love for them the Rescuers stay with the abandoned unborn, recognizing that unborn children, as members of the human family, have a right to be defended. The rescuers will not leave the unwanted, but must be “taken away.”
The RRR is capped at no more than six pro-lifers who seek to quietly “blend” into the waiting room and talk to the mothers about to kill their unborn children. As long as pro-lifers remain in the abortion center the killing process is halted.
During the Grand Rapids RRR, two Sidewalk Advocates for Life (SAFL) counselors showed up who, concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, had been absent for several weeks. SAFL vehemently disagrees with RRR. Apparently distressed that RRR honorably credited one of the SAFL counselors for helping turn a couple away from the Heritage clinic the day of the rescue, SAFL apparently felt a need to distinguish itself from RRR. To this end, one month after the May 13 rescue, SAFL posted on Facebook a four-page treatise critical of Red Rose Rescue that presented arguments against what it derogatorily refers to as “law breaking tactics.”
This article will present a response to accusations and criticisms of Red Rose Rescue and thus serve as a general explanation of what Red Rose Rescue is all about.
RRR has chosen to “abandon the constitutionally-protected activity of sidewalk counseling.” Not true. Indeed, every RRR partners with local sidewalk counselors who are present outside of the abortion facility, before, during, and after the rescue. A RRR is a multi-leveled defense of the unborn that incorporates the rescue, sidewalk counseling, and those who support the RRR in prayer.
RRR has never confirmed that “a woman inside the abortion facility accepted their help at a life-affirming pregnancy center.” This criticism of RRR is lame and perplexing. Several news stories have reported that during various RRRs women indeed left the abortion facility, some actually carrying the roses given to them by the rescuers. And on May 13 a woman arriving for her scheduled abortion during the Grand Rapids RRR also left the clinic accompanied by her boyfriend as noted above. Formal documentation exists that several women did not go through with their scheduled abortions during Red Rose Rescues—up to as many as 12 women during the RRR that that took place December 2, 2017 at the Women’s Center abortion facility in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Court testimony was entered, complete with a chart, by the abortion clinic manager herself under oath that due to the RRR 12 women did not go through with their abortions that day. By any sidewalk counseling standard, 12 babies spared abortion in one day would be considered an enormous pro-life victory! One of those 12 left the clinic during the RRR specifically after rescuer Patrice Woodworth talked to her—and was noted on the chart as having done so.
RRR “often counts anyone who simply leaves that day as a ‘turnaway’ without any knowledge of the woman’s heart or her plans for her pregnancy.” This is exactly what a clinic “turn-away” is all about. This statement is an attempt to belittle the success of Red Rose Rescues. Women have at least “turned away” from abortion due to Red Rose Rescues. If we knew that the woman decided to not abort her baby because she directly indicated she had changed her mind, we would be able to say “the baby was saved” in which case that is a “save” and not a “mere” turn-away. If the woman who left the clinic indicated she still intended to get the abortion, she might be a “hopeful” and not a “turn-away”—as we can hope she will make a decision not to come back. But if a woman who was scheduled for an abortion left the clinic, especially after being talked to, or who accepted a pamphlet from a sidewalk counselor, but never indicated why—that indeed is a turn-away!
Moreover, why must a “save” or a “turn-away” be confirmed by local pregnancy help centers? Many women who opt to leave an abortion clinic never check in with local pro-life PHCs. Sidewalk counselors rarely, if ever, rely on reports from PHCs to verify that women turned-away from the abortion clinic.
RRR admits that: “After everyone inside the abortion facility has apparently refused their help” rescuers “switch from a help-oriented disposition to one of protest by staging a sit-in and/or refusing to leave, leading to their arrest.” This is a mischaracterization of Red Rose Rescues. The RRR is not a protest. It is a peaceful, prayerful presence in the abortion facility in defense of the unborn scheduled for extermination. Indeed, it is confirmed that as long as pro-lifers maintain a presence inside the abortion facility the killing is halted. The unborn deserve this act of defense and act of witness to the sacredness of their lives. Moreover, choosing to remain in the abortion facility is to place ourselves in solidarity with the unwanted and rejected. We are with them and will stand with them in those “dark holes of the poor” for as long as it is possible. When women reject help offered to them by sidewalk counselors outside the abortion center, and continue to reject help offered to them by Red Rose Rescuers inside the abortion center—the rescuers make a decision not to simply walk away from the unborn who will most likely now go to their deaths.
During the May 13 rescue, RRR prevented SAFL counselors “from fully conducting outreach to abortion-minded mothers.” The fact is that full outreach was accomplished by other sidewalk counselors who were in full support of the RRR and by the Red Rose Rescuers who were willing to step beyond the boundaries set up by those who kill the unborn, by entering the actual lot that serves as a serious obstacle to that more personal, meaningful engagement with abortion-minded women. By doing so, women were given more opportunity to choose life, not less. In the Grand Rapids RRR the rescuers did nothing more than what a sidewalk counselor would normally do—except they did it on the “turf” of the abortion facility itself. RRR is the extension of the sidewalk into the abortion clinic.
Right Brain Research studies demonstrate that the “tactics” of RRR are “ineffective as women need a calm, supportive environment to trust our offer of help and choose life.” Right Brain Research studies were conducted through the Vitae Foundation in 1997. These were studies of women facing unwanted pregnancies many of whom were abortion-minded. The summary of the research was published in a 1998 First Things article. The studies are excellent and anyone who wishes to dedicate themselves to helping women choose life over abortion should read the First Things article. The study provides valuable insight into the minds of women seriously considering abortion and rightly concludes most are concerned about “self preservation.” Thus the pro-life counselor must first empathize with the women’s own needs, fears, and self-perception. Testimonials from actual women provide evidence that: “Women who experience regret after an abortion say they wish that they had sought kind, loving guidance when struggling with their decision. Many report that they would never have aborted if they had found such guidance.”
The fact is, nothing in the Right Brain Research studies indicate that the kind of counseling Red Rose Rescuers offer to women inside abortion center waiting rooms is not effective. The abortion-bound woman needs a person of understanding who offers her hope and reassurance—exactly what a Red Rose Rescuer attempts to do. Years ago I wrote a booklet entitled “Effective Sidewalk Counseling” that lays out principles consistent with Right Brain Research available at the Citizens for Pro-life Society website.
During an RRR abortion clinic staff will eventually “round up” its clients and sequester them in a back area and are now “away from life-saving assistance.” This sequestering of abortion clinic clients doesn’t happen before rescuers have had a chance to engage these women and give them pro-life pamphlets and the red roses. Moreover, the women were already “away from life-saving assistance” the moment they entered the abortion facility. Yes, sometimes women will exit the clinic making it possible for sidewalk counselors to speak to them again. But there is no guarantee that once inside, women will come out, and most do not.
RRR is subject to “grave legal risks” especially the possibility that “jurisdictions” will “unjustly pass bubble and buffer zones across cities or states, among other laws.” There is absolutely no evidence that buffer zones will be put in place due to Red Rose Rescue. Indeed, after three years and 19 RRRs there has not been even a whisper of the threat that jurisdictions seek to implement buffer zones against anyone because of RRR activity—absolutely none. To sound this alarm is to foment fear over a problem that simply does not exist.
Those who participate in RRR and others associated with an RRR could be charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. FACE has to do with impeding access to reproductive rights, blocking ingress and egress to an abortion facility. Red Rose Rescuers do not block doors. Indeed, they do not block anything. Such kinds of physical impediments are not necessary to provide an effective defense of the unborn. All that is needed is a simple pro-life presence in the clinic. And again, after three years and 19 RRRs, there has not even been the whisper of a threat that Red Rose Rescue is subject to the FACE law.
Red Rose Rescuers, and those associated with the rescues, could face the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act. Very unlikely! Pro-lifers have achieved significant vindication on this very point, due to the famous 2002 pro-life Supreme Court victory in NOW v. Scheidler. This case was litigated for 20 years, at considerable expense to the pro-abortionists, a case in which they did not prevail. It is hardly likely abortionists will bring RICO charges against pro-life rescuers now. Moreover, even if the FACE act and RICO were brought against Red Rose Rescuers other pro-lifers would not be affected in any way. Only the pro-lifers against whom such charges are brought would be affected. It is up to them to stand up in court and witness to the world that their peaceful acts of defense against the killing of the unborn were morally right and just.
Pro-lifers standing trial in court is “useless litigation.” This attitude dismisses the powerful public witness provided by pro-lifers when they go to court. They witness to the humanity of the unborn to judges, the jury, bailiffs, police officers, court clerks, abortion clinic staff who attend these trials or even take the witness stand, and the media who cover the RRR trials. Other pro-lifers are encouraged by this witness and emboldened in their own pro-life work. None of this constitutes “needless litigation”—no more needless than the acts of defense offered on behalf of the unborn inside the abortion center that leads to the court trials.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that virtually every single pro-life law passed, no matter how moderate, ends up being litigated in court. Does this mean it’s never worth passing anti-infanticide bills or bans on late-term abortion?
RRR believes that “sidewalk counseling and prayer [are] insufficient or even ineffective at abortion facilities.” This is absolutely false. Red Rose Rescue stands behind the necessity of sidewalk counseling. I have been a sidewalk counselor since 1978, with over 40 years experience, and can argue that sidewalk counseling is the backbone of pro-life activism. Red Rose Rescue agrees that “our primary audience at the abortion facility is the mother, not the preborn child.” That’s why rescuers go into the abortion facility to make a final attempt to persuade women in the waiting room who did not accept the help offered by sidewalk counselors outside. And here is where the spiritual and philosophical principles Red Rose Rescue need to be understood. The vast majority of women scheduled for abortion sadly, tragically will kill their unborn children no matter how much love and compassionate help is offered to them. Now, we are dealing with the unwanted unborn—those innocents who will literally be cut to pieces and thrown in the trash.
Yes, the first goal of sidewalk counseling is to “reach the heart of a troubled mother” in order to “rescue those who may be at risk of death.” But, RRR also believes that those about to be dragged off to execution according to Prov. 24:11, need someone to stand by them, and continue to advocate for them—rather than simply permitting them to be exterminated. The unborn are the true victims of abortion. Red Rose Rescuers seek to do for the unborn what we would want someone to do for us should we face execution. The lives of the unborn count, even should their mothers not listen to us. Their lives matter and Red Rose Rescue is a pro-life effort that seeks to witness to that truth. The Red Rose Rescuer says to the abortionists: “You have to remove us, before you can kill them.” The words of Monsignor Philip Reilly of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants applied to sidewalk counselors also apply equally to Red Rose Rescue when he said: “The way of Christ is to use the overwhelming power of love.”
Monica Migliorino Miller, Ph. D., is Director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, a Founding Member of Red Rose Rescue, and the author of Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars (Saint Benedict Press, 2012).