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Red Rose Rescuers Lauren Handy and Dr. Monica Migliorino MillerRed Rose Rescue / Facebook

(LifeSiteNews) – Let me say a few words in defense of pro-life rescues. Some pro-life leaders have weighed in, expressing criticism of this pro-life effort – both the “traditional” rescue that involves blocking doors and hallways to prevent the killing of the unborn, and Red Rose Rescues that do not engage in any blockading activity (those who have participated in Red Rose Rescues have never been charged under FACE). 

The criticism has been prompted by the trials of nine pro-life rescuers in Washington, D.C. – five of whom were convicted on August 29, immediately taken into custody as they await their sentencing. They are currently at the Alexandria Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Another three, Joan Andrews Bell, Jonathan Darnel, and Jean Marshall are now on trial for the same rescue.  

I have participated in rescues since 1978, stood trial several times, and have served four prison terms, most recently this year – a 45-day sentence at the Oakland County “Hilton”! I do speak from a certain position of authority on the need for, purpose, and effectiveness of rescues.  

Many believe that pro-lifers in jail are basically wasting their time. These five pro-lifers, as one posting stated, “now face prison instead of availing themselves of countless future opportunities to interface with mothers in crisis.” Wrong. Indeed, in my most recent incarceration my fellow imprisoned pro-lifer Laura Gies talked her cellmate out of an abortion! Matthew Connolly, a Red Rose Rescuer also in the same jail, talked a fellow male inmate out of coercing his girlfriend to get an abortion. The inmate phoned her and told her he was sorry and really wanted her to keep their baby.  

Moreover, pro-lifers in jail give an incredible witness to the sanctity of life to their fellow inmates, the guards, chaplains, and other jail staff…and all pro-lifers on the outside who are inspired to do more! My point is, of course, that when pro-lifers are in jail, this is hardly “downtime”— and hardly a waste.   

Also, it is untrue that women are not turned away from abortion during a rescue – as has occurred in Red Rose Rescues. Indeed, during one of our trials in Michigan, an abortion center manager, Pam DiMaggio, actually testified under oath that 12 women did not go through with their “procedures” – and she illustrated her testimony complete with a chart! She also testified that not a single woman rescheduled. Let me put this into perspective: if sidewalk counselors had 12 “turn-aways” in one day as a result of their efforts, this would be an incredible victory!  

During this same Red Rose Rescue, one woman got up and left the clinic after rescuer Patrice Woodward spoke to her – and this woman was also listed on the above-mentioned chart. 

Another example: During a Red Rose Rescue at an abortion center in Alexandria, Virginia, Lauren Handy – one of the five D.C. rescuers in prison now – spoke with a woman in the waiting room. This woman said, “I’m going to keep the baby,” and she exited the abortion center.  

Also, during Red Rose Rescuers sidewalk counselors are present to aid any woman who may leave the abortion center. I have also written on sidewalk counseling – and called it “the backbone of pro-life activism.” I have been a sidewalk counselor since 1978.   

One critic of rescues even recently exploited a statement from the Father of Pro-Life Activism, my mentor and good friend, the late Joseph Scheidler. In his book Racketeer for Life, he lamented the 1994 passage of the FACE Act: Few of us can risk months or years of incarceration while we would be better out at the clinics and in the public square educating the public on the horror of abortion. …[T]he most effective ways to save lives are still those based on one-on-one interactions.  …[T]he era of mass blockades is over.”   

What this critic failed to mention is Joe Scheidler supported Red Rose Rescues. Indeed, he spoke at the December 2020 Red Rose Rescue conference just six weeks before he died! One month before he died, he left me a voicemail message, “Hey, Mon Mig, can an old guy like me join you in the next Red Rose Rescue?” – a message I will always cherish! If this critic of rescues wished to be honest, she would let it be known Joe Scheidler’s real position on the issue of pro-life rescues! 

Rescues are based on a spirituality that believes we are called to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And the other words of Jesus: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers – that you do unto me.” And, yes, all pro-life efforts fulfill these teachings of Jesus. The pro-life rescue is based on that spiritual premise that if your life was in danger – if indeed, a law existed that permitted others to kill you – certainly you would want someone to defend you, to at least stand in the way – to have that person put himself between you and the assailant.  

The unborn deserve this defense and this witness consistent with the injustice others seek to inflict upon them.  

Finally, we need to cultivate an appreciation for the spiritual value of enduring injustice. Imprisoned rescuers unite their suffering with the rejected, crucified Jesus. In union with Him, they become victim souls offering the much-needed reparation for the evil, the sin and injustice of abortion.  

Right NOW we need to pray for these D.C. Rescuers, write to them, show them our support! As mentioned above, another three, Joan Andrews Bell, Jonathan Darnel, and Jean Marshall are on trial now. 

Monica Migliorino Miller, Ph. D. is Director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and author of Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars (St. Benedict Press, 2012).