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Posts Tagged ‘sidewalk counseling’

Today I was thinking about heroes.  So often our favorite super heroes can save everyone.  Doc Ock tosses six different people six different directions, and destroys the brakes on a speeding train.  Spider-Man shoots his webs to save the stragglers, uses his super strength to stop the train, and saves the day.

In that same movie, Spider-Man decides to come out of retirement to save a little kid from a fire, and is disheartened to hear afterwards that some “poor soul” on a higher floor didn’t make it out.  But this isn’t shown as an inevitable edge to the protagonist’s reach; I get the impression that we’re supposed to believe that if only Spidey hadn’t been taking some time for himself, both victims would have made it out alive.

Sometimes the crisis of the plot is the hero deciding whether to save one dear friend or to save a larger group of people (and somehow, predictably now, the dear friend  heroically sacrificed is saved in the nick of time anyway).  Other times, the super hero makes a glance at the crushing weight of collateral damage: fighting evil is a destructive war.

How often do the heroes in our tales face the fact that their powers are, however impressive, limited, and they cannot save everyone?  What if we saw heroes not only facing this, grieving this, but standing slowly – like a weight-lifter, only the weight is borne in the heart, bending shoulders –  standing, straightening, squaring those shoulders, and going out with all the zeal they had yesterday, to save the ones they can, to face defeat again and again, to still care about every one they can’t save the same as they care about the ones they can, and still to try?

Today I was driving to an abortion clinic, to stand outside among such heroes, who spend day after day watching most of the moms they encounter go right on ahead and end most of the lives the sidewalk counselors are trying to save.  This is a heavy burden.

It is not all discouraging failure.  Yesterday, a couple changed their mind, and rejected the violence they had intended.  Would Spider-Man bear up against those odds: one rescued for dozens lost?  These people do.  By the grace of God, they are real heroes.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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As a sidewalk counselor, I encounter various arguments for abortion.  One of the arguments is that a woman has a right to self-determination.  She has the right, they say, not to be pregnant.  A person has the right to eliminate consequences of their own choices and actions.

 

Of course the real world doesn’t allow us to erase causes – or effects.  When we deal with effects, we are making more choices leading to more causes of more effects.  The initial choice is never un-made.  Likewise abortion does not un-make a child; it kills him.

 

When faced with an unwanted pregnancy, it is useful to counsel a woman about where to go from here rather than what would have been ideal.  She has a baby.  Now what?  Murder that child, give that child away, or keep that child and receive its love.  Each of those will have consequences, for the mom and the baby.  So we try to focus on those facts about the real world, when we’re out sidewalk counseling.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I don’t know how to start this subject.  Let me try to tell a story.  We’ll see how that goes.

There is sunshine, but the air is thin and cold.  A wide open street on the edge of the old Stapleton Airport campus in east Denver invites the wind.  I stand a few feet into the street, for several reasons.  From there I can see past the cars parked on the curb, to quickly profile cars coming down the block from either direction.  I’m away from unwelcome shade provided by the black tarps draping the encircling fence.  And I can see my friends’ faces from their perch at the top of a couple ladders.
Cars parked on the curb function as easels to signs bigger than I am.  The wind sneaks under the vehicles, between tires, and swirls to drag down larger-than-life graphic images of aborted children.  The pictures show blood and entrails.  Decapitation.  Tongs holding body parts.  Tiny feet and hands held in the gloved hand of a medical professional.  Still babies curled up, skin blackened by unnatural death.  I don’t like to look at those signs.
But I pick them up when they blow down.  I help set them out each morning I sidewalk counsel.  Without them those who drive by wonder what we’re doing.  We don’t look serious.
In my few years’ experience sidewalk counseling, I have noticed that men and women planning to abort their sons and daughters are not very rational.  We can take any verbal approach to explaining why abortion will not solve their problems, and they walk in anyway.  Sometimes they even respond, revealing the level of their irrationality.
They’ll tell us to go save starving children in Africa, for example.  As if the fact that children are dying somewhere else makes it ok to intentionally kill them here, and I should say nothing about it.  Pro-choice people will argue that if a baby was conceived through rape, the baby should die.  But if a 20-year-old was conceived in rape, they should not be aborted.
We talk about heartbeats and fingers and toes, DNA, and blood type.  Abortion has been linked to increased risk for breast cancer, depression, and infertility.  Planned Parenthood wants their money, and we’re out there as volunteers, offering free help.  If they can’t keep the baby, they could choose adoption.  Women are made to nurture, not murder their kids.  Men are made to protect, not destroy life.  Why get your healthcare from people who think it is healthy to pull the arms and legs off of babies?  God hates the hands that shed innocent blood, and without turning to Jesus, the parents and staff must give an account to God for the lives they took.
But before they hear any of that, they see the pictures.  For a moment their irrational thoughts cannot even pretend to refute a picture.  It wakens an instant emotion: disgust, fear, compassion – that no words can wipe away.  Faced with images of death, no desperate thoughts of boyfriends or fathers or college degrees or finances can compare.  They drive on by.  They get out of their cars.  They hear sidewalk counselors through tarps and from ladders.
Honestly, the words we say are only the follow up.  We make eye contact and speak up to plead for the lives of the babies.  Sidewalk counselors cry out the warnings women will not hear inside.  Those women who think they have no other choice hear our voices letting them know that we offer help.
This week a woman rode by our signs, instantly crying.  She and her partner pulled into the parking lot but stayed in their car.  We stood on the ladders, trying to make eye contact in their rear-view mirrors.  And then the couple drove out, stopping for a moment to let us know they had changed their mind.  We gave them information on where to get free help, and sent them on their way.
Some pro-life groups and even sidewalk counselors protest the use of graphic signs.  But those that use them report that more people have testified that they changed their minds because of those pictures than for any other reason.  They see the pictures and cannot go through with an abortion.
Four kinds of people see those graphic signs, our strongest argument against the choice of ending a brand new human life.
  1. Pro-lifers see them.  We are reminded of the reality sterilized by large brick buildings prettily landscaped.  It is hard sometimes, watching staff drive in nonchalant and unconcerned by the carnage a few rooms away, to be convinced that cruel murder takes place behind those doors.
  2. The staff sees them.  Some of the staff witness actual abortions.  I wouldn’t imagine the signs have much effect on them (except in that they expose to the world what they do every day).  But other staff does paperwork and counseling and escorting.  Perhaps their hearts will be softened when they see what they are supporting.
  3. Customers who are not pregnant see them.  A few women stop by for birth control or STD testing or other gynecological procedures.  Before they are in a desperate situation, pregnant and emotional, they have been exposed to the gruesome facts of “choice.”
  4. Mothers and fathers with appointments see them.  There are a lot of efforts to prevent them from even reaching this point.  Government programs attempt to teach people what they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Christian ministries offer help to pregnant moms with counsel and physical aid.  Friends are out there offering support for keeping the baby, praying for the women they know or don’t know.  But if this mom slipped through the cracks or chose to come anyway, there are two last efforts: unmistakable graphic signs and people who care enough to try to stop her up until the last minute.
A lot of people in these groups think illogically.  They don’t understand consequences.  They act on emotional impulses, and practice very little self-control.  That’s why graphic signs are more effective: they bypass reason and appeal to emotion.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Once upon a time there was a country that belonged to the people.  Maybe you have an idea which one I mean.  The thing about ownership is that property can be stolen.  Two of the ten Mosaic commandments address property rights.  But not only is theft no longer illegal; it has been codified.  Government itself functions on and benefits from theft.  We’re talking about private property, private rights, private liberty. 

 

 

 

It just so happens that the supreme law of this land guarantees a few rights to its people.  For example, we have the right to peaceably assemble, the right to bear arms, the right to free speech, and freedom from federal laws instituting or prohibiting religion’s exercise.  There are a few other little rights that we usually ignore, but that are in this simple list of laws all the same.  We citizens cannot be unreasonably searched, plundered, or seized by our government.  There is a right to trial by jury, prompt and in due process.  (Due process and promptness tend to be mutually exclusive in today’s courts.  But they keep everything legal by allowing you to waive your right to a free trial so that there will be no miscarriage of justice.) 

 

I’ve never been too bothered by conspiracy theories that warn, “Big brother is watching you.”  I mean, our country has ceased to belong to the people, and the rulers in charge have the power, should they choose to declare themselves free of the laws that have kept us complacent, to do whatever they want.  By the time Big Brother has put surveillance in place, you weren’t free anyway.  We were already doomed. 

 

So I’m not sounding any dark warnings here.  (Well… I guess I did begin on a depressing note…)  What I want to do is to tell you a story.  If you wish it were impossible, you are welcome to protest to your elected officials (and the unelected ones).  If instead you see opportunity and power to take to yourself, by all means, step up to the plate. 

 

You probably know if you’re a regular reader of my blog that I do regular sidewalk counseling, a ministry by which, with much prayer, I stand on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic and try for a chance to talk with a mother about her choice, to share options with her, truth with her, and chances for help.  This is the last ditch effort to save lives – a place for me to meet hurting people and offer them love.  That love tends to look like standing on a ladder increasing my volume as the women move away from me and towards the door through which they will murder their sons and daughters, warning them about side effects, consequences, and the precious life they have this one last chance to save – that is unfortunate.  I wish that more often it looked like a girl sitting in the passenger seat of a car looking at pictures of life forming in a womb, shedding quiet tears and finding out about forgiveness, hope, and crisis pregnancy clinics that can help.  Sometimes it does, and I rejoice to see fruit in my attempts. 

 

So this abortion clinic is on the edge of an ethnic neighborhood caught between mall redevelopment and inner city tradition and railroad industry.  It sits on a wide, empty street.  Directly across is an abandoned parking lot.  On either side is a telephone company building that has no signs and gets about one visit a week, and a fire house no longer in use.  This three-story red brick building is surrounded by no trespassing signs, and displays a few large signs warning that no help can be found at the location any longer.  On top is a disaster siren that is tested on Wednesdays at 11 when the weather and season are right.  Beside that are two white cameras, rounded in a style too modern and artistic to be original to the building.  From their vantage point on the tower, these two cameras can take in the whole street – not to mention the cameras posted high on the lights above the entrance to the abortion clinic. 

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So this building still appears to be public property, with the siren on top – but it isn’t.  Yet the police came last week to ticket another sidewalk counselor.  They parked (side by side, blocking half the road) and sat to watch us for a while.  Mostly ignoring them, we went on as usual.  They have warned us before about “stopping cars by stepping into the street.”  Now, we stand in this empty street near the curb because of sunshine.  Until about 10 AM the black tarp the abortion clinic has erected to keep the truth contained and invisible to the women it entices in with “choice” manages to shade the entire sidewalk.  So I don’t have to step into the street for anything; I’m already there.  But if I do happen to be on the sidewalk instead, I don’t step into the street.  I stand on the edge of the curb and hold out my hand in a stop signal or extend a flyer towards cars driving to the abortion clinic.  This is an effective tactic because it is non-threatening (and a little confusing), so people tend to stop.  When they stop, we go to their cars to give them the promised flyer and try to talk them out of killing children.  No one has ever been unable to access the street or the clinic due to this tactic, nor have we forcibly stopped cars or impeded traffic.  If the conversation is going well, we will have the car pull to one side so we can talk more. 

 

Last week while the police watched, I did that very thing.  I extended the flyer with a large list of facilities and people offering help to moms in need to a couple in a car.  They stopped and I headed to meet them with my paper, but was intercepted by the other sidewalk counselor, who has been doing this for decades and knows what to say much better than I do.  After a few sentences, she had them pull to the curb so she could answer their curiosity about what was going on (they were not clients of the abortionist).  Five to ten minutes after her conversation had begun, the police got out of their cars and came up to her, interrupting and requesting that she come with them.  She complied. 

 

They told her they would have to give her a ticket.  In a few minutes I joined her, confessing that I had stopped the car (which they could see).  The officer, who was considerably taller and larger than me, ignored me.  He said not a word to me, and seemed by looking over my head and addressing my friend to have brushed me aside like a bit of lint blowing across his vision.  After a short plea for the officers to save lives instead of writing tickets that would prevent her from doing so, she decided that her temper could not handle further discussion, and submitted to the citation. 

 

As the police drove away, we the pro-life team gathered around the yellow slip to discuss, question, and criticize all that had taken place.  “They showed me pictures,” my friend said.  And she pointed.  The pictures the police had used for evidence were taken from the old firehouse across the street.  “You were in one of them, standing by the car with me,” she looked at me.  But I hadn’t been by the car today, and how could they get pictures so quickly? 

 The Cameras

“What’s the date?” said another friend, an older man with a golden dog on a leash.  “This citation is written for yesterday.  At 11:38 AM.  Were you here at 11:38 yesterday?”  My friend nodded. 

 

“But I wasn’t.  I was at work…  That picture must have been from a long time ago.  I haven’t been in the street for a while.”  I added. 

 

“The officer signed as the complainant.  He wasn’t here yesterday.” 

 

“[the security guard] complained.  He called them,”  reported the owner of the ticket. 

 

“A police officer can’t be the complainant unless he was a witness.” 

 

That’s how it went.  She’s going to challenge the ticket in court (something she is rather good at by way of experience).  The incident for which she was cited was actually a mom with two little kids in her car driving by asking for directions.  My friend didn’t even do anything to get that woman to stop except to be outside. 

 

So here’s my question.  It only took a little bit of investigation to know that Planned Parenthood owns the cameras that survey the entire public street.  There is no sign on the building on which they were mounted informing the public that they are being video-taped.  Court precedent says that such surveillance is legal if it is in a place where someone can reasonably expect to be seen (parks, streets).  But since when can a private company or citizen take a picture of someone doing something that they think may be illegal, send the picture to the police with a complaint, and the police respond with a ticket?  Can you really be ticketed for something that no one witnessed? 

 

This has come up with the photo-radar machines that measure your speed and then snap a picture of you and your license plate as you drive by.  Some courts, I believe, have ruled that such evidence is shaky. 

 

And I understand that video from security cameras can be used to track down, identify, and convict criminals who rob convenience stores or graffiti buildings.  That’s ok with me.  But seriously – a jaywalking ticket after the fact?  And absolutely no one was inconvenienced?  Can I set up a camera on my street and call the police on random kids – or on cars failing to use turn signals, etc.?  It’s bad enough for the police to do it themselves, let alone a private citizen! 

 

Planned Parenthood loses money every time we educate women and help them to avoid the stain of murder on their conscience.  That wicked company is therefore applying pressure to the public government, asking them to enforce laws that they never enforce (tying up 3 to 4 officers and squad cars to deliver the citations, for some reason) on the rest of the population, so that the calloused businessmen inside can keep brutally murdering the most innocent human children alive. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In the pro-life movement, there are some tactics less popular than others.  For example, most everyone will support a pregnancy center.  Adoption agencies are good pro-life outlets, too.  Political involvement (like voting or signing a petition if it comes up) is an easy way to do a bit.  You can blog about pro-life, or give money to pro-life agencies.  Even sidewalk counseling, prayer vigils, and clinic protests aren’t that intimidating.  When you discuss loud, convicting protests or stark, bloody posters, then you rub some people the wrong way.  Finally something that really intimidates people is protesting in neighborhoods of abortionists and their accomplices.  (Ok, the idea of doing anything that could get you sent to jail isn’t popular either, but I’m not really advocating those things.) 

 

In fact a blogger who frequently supports Planned Parenthood was just complaining about the pro-life groups in Colorado who protested outside of a contractor’s house.  Her definitely not endorsed article can be read at this link.  I wrote the following as a comment, but I’m not sure whether she’ll post my refutation, so I’m tripling the effort by blogging it. 

 

Obviously contractors (and their neighbors) want to avoid the public opinion that doesn’t appreciate those who cooperate in the destruction of human life.  A good way of avoiding that would be to not participate in the murder of the most innocent of human life.  This is the point of the protests. 

 

Political campaigning is like this.  Members of the community have a right to communicate their position to their neighbors.  And they have the right to try to persuade their neighbors.  The fact that we have to persuade people to spare innocent children is a point in itself. 

 

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was peacefully and pointedly protesting the discrimination according to race, he was applauded (though resisted).  If the people do not gather to speak, their voice will not be heard.  Looking back we don’t feel bad about the teachers, clerks, drivers, and city officials who were made to feel uncomfortable about the policies of racial discrimination.  What they were doing was wrong.  The people knew it.  And the wrong was changed. 

 

Our constitution precludes lines being drawn about free speech, but I wonder where Planned Parenthood’s supporters would draw it.  The protesters are not on private property, but on public sidewalks and streets.  They do not prevent normal neighborhood activity like driving down the road, receiving mail, eating dinner as a family.  We are surrounded everyday by images and messages on benches, roadway signs, signs in yards, slogans on t-shirts.  Some are even directed at certain companies, policies, groups, or people.  Yet there is little outcry against these manifestations of First Amendment rights. 

 

The pro-abortion blogger used the word bully.  A schoolyard bully threatens the extortion of property or the physical health of his victim.  Debate and truth-telling, with no promise of repercussion, is not bullying.  There is no violence being done.  No theft is involved.  People are speaking their minds.  This is the patriotism on which our country was founded, by which it literally came into being. 

 

Pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-choice-to-take-another’s-life protesters are not objecting to the shame Planned Parenthood and their contractors feel over their projects.  We have serious concerns about the legality of deceiving the city officials and the public, of subverting zoning ordinances, and of potentially slandering the name of other companies (in the case of the Rocky Mountain facility, Planned Parenthood filed their permits under the name United Airlines, which unfairly correlates the murder of babies to them).  No one is questioning why Planned Parenthood wanted to hide their plans.  We simply object that they did.  Cities have ordinances to prevent such things. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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