Are you a safe person?
That is the question that women who are entering the abortion facility want to ask you.
Quite often, a woman in a crisis or unplanned pregnancy is scared, confused, hormonal, and dealing with a lot of pressure from those around her. She's been told that for just $500, abortion will solve her biggest problem … and by the way, “it's just a blob of tissue anyway.”
When she sees you on the sidewalk, her guard is up. She doesn't know who this stranger is — and based on previous misunderstandings about our movement — she expects you to possibly yell at her, condemn her or tell her why she is a terrible person for considering abortion.
If you want to reach her heart and change her mind — in the 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute or 3 minutes you might possibly have with her — you have to show her you're a safe person.
How do you do that? By doing everything possible to show her you're a person and not a protester.
Sometimes, when pro-life advocates head out to the abortion center, people skills fly out the window. We are angry about abortion … and rightly so. Abortion stops a beating heart. And we see lives taken under the banner of so-called “safe and legal choice” at a rate of 1.2 million each year in this country, alone … not to mention about 42 million each year, worldwide.
This is a tragedy of epidemic proportions.
But as we head out to the abortion center, sometimes, we fail to use our righteous anger productively and ask … who is our audience? Are we really trying to reach the heart of a woman-in-crisis?
Those are important questions to answer because if we don't effectively reach her heart, abortion doesn't end for her in that moment.
Let me share with you a life-changing experience that I had as a sidewalk counselor back in college at Texas A&M University … in my early days sidewalk counseling, the approach towards the women going into the local Planned Parenthood abortion facility was more aggressive. There were signs all over the place, people yelling out at the women, and some dressed up in interesting costumes, trying to make a statement about the tragedy of abortion. While intentions were good — as Former Planned Parenthood Director, Abby Johnson noticed (since this was her old facility) — women were literally running into the abortion center away from the pro-life community!
Then, the 40 Days for Life started (if you're not familiar with the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign, see www.40daysforlife.com).
All of a sudden, the atmosphere went from tense, apprehensive and chaotic to prayerful, peaceful and purposeful. One person was designated to kindly reach out to abortion-bound women while others quietly prayed in the background. It was a much calmer atmosphere. And we noticed that — all of a sudden — more women were coming over to talk to us at the fence.
In fact, we resolved to be so loving that a woman who still chose to enter the abortion center might actually change her mind, make a u-turn, and want to be back out on the sidewalk with the pro-life community.
The atmosphere, our demeanor and our focus on prayer. We created a safe, calm place for her to come share our story with us. In turn, that gave us a chance to hear what brought her to the abortion center and untwist whatever lies she had been told about the preciousness of her life and the life growing within her.
I keep this in mind: we've all been deceived by sin. We've all fallen short of the Glory of God. Not one of us has clean hands. And we don't know that our sin has grieved the heart of God even more than the woman seeking abortion. If we condemn her and take her moral inventory on the sidewalk, she will shut down and hear nothing we have to say.
Does this mean compromising our message? No way. We can share the same message of the truth of abortion — we just change our delivery in order to win her heart. It's the same idea that Paul recognized when he said, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Does that mean that we never say tough things to abortion-minded clients at the right moment? No. But it sure isn't the first thing we run to. Again, if we don't have a chance to start the conversation, they will hear nothing we have to say.
That is why we have to be people of love — and a love, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 — that is patient, kind, and not rude or self-seeking. We want to be the type of people that we would want to talk to if we were in crisis, caught in sin or in a desperate situation.
It's really something to think about.
So our advice to all sidewalk counselors is to be that “safe person” for her: smile, greet people in love, put down signs of protest (think more about signs with a pregnancy help hotline or message), look professional and approachable, and project your voice (but do not yell). Focus on how you can help solve whatever problem(s) brought her and her companions to the abortion facility. And most of all, pray for them! Then, watch mountains move by the grace of God!
So, this week, join me in prayer — that all sidewalk counselors everywhere would have the kind of love that transforms the sidewalk in to a place of love and safety for that woman-in-crisis. And ironically, as we reach the heart of a woman, we save the baby in the process.
Friends, thank you for joining us in this incredibly important mission to save lives and transform hearts!
Lauren Muzyka serves as Executive Director of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, a new, national sidewalk advocacy organization; see www.sidewalkadvocates.org.