by Debra Braun
Education Director, Pro-Life Action Ministries
In some ways, sidewalk counseling can be as simple as handing someone a brochure. On the other hand, the breadth and depth of it can be extensive, enough for a National Sidewalk Counseling Symposium! After more than 30 years of sidewalk counseling, I’m still learning new ways to be more effective. However, the basics of sidewalk counseling have remained the same over all these years. I hope this article, which focuses on those basics, will be helpful to those of you who are new to sidewalk counseling and may not have had any formal training (or just need a refresher). On the other hand, I realize that many of you have been sidewalk counseling for decades. This article may be helpful as you train others to sidewalk counsel in your city; please feel free to send it to your fellow sidewalk counselors. (For a printable version, please contact us.)
DISTINCTION BETWEEN PROTESTING AND SIDEWALK COUNSELING; AND THE TWO PILLARS OF SIDEWALK COUNSELING
Protesting abortion is important and necessary (at the appropriate times and places) and although sidewalk counselors surely oppose abortion, sidewalk counseling is not a protest. Rather, it is a final attempt to save lives in imminent danger of being killed by abortion. It is an attempt to save as many individual babies as we can while the pro-life movement as a whole works to end abortion completely. This is done by reaching out to pregnant women and their companions with truth and love. These two pillars of sidewalk counseling correspond to two basic facts that you already know as a pro-lifer:
1. abortion is always wrong (truth), and
2. there is help for a woman who chooses life (love)
Although we strongly encourage you to become a better sidewalk counselor by learning more about abortion, the moral and philosophical arguments against it, and the alternatives in your local area, being grounded in the above two simple facts are a sure foundation that will help you save lives, even if you are not (yet) an expert on the issue of abortion.
THE THREE BASIC MESSAGES
There are three basic messages you need to convey to the abortion clients in your conversations, in the literature you give them, and in any signs you might use. These are not meant to be presented in a linear fashion. These three messages are intertwined in good sidewalk conversations, in the literature, even in the design and placement of signs. Remember, too, that you must listen, really listen, to the messages the women and her companions are giving you without losing the ability to bring the conversation back to the real issues at hand in the limited time you have before the baby is scheduled to be killed.
1. WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU.
2. ABORTION IS HARMFUL TO YOU – EMOTIONALLY, SPIRITUALLY, AND MAYBE PHYSICALLY.
ABORTION IS WRONG BECAUSE IT KILLS A HUMAN BEING WHO HAS INHERENT VALUE AND DIGNITY, HAVING BEEN CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD.
* A note about signs – It is best not to carry signs while you are actually sidewalk counseling as it immediately identifies you as one of those “protestors” the woman was forewarned by the abortion mill to avoid. It also sets up a physical barrier between you and the woman, and it actually can make it more difficult to quickly hand out literature, especially to people driving or quickly walking in. However, you may prop up signs nearby or encourage your prayer supporters to carry them. These signs should be directed to the abortion clients, not to the general public (save those for your abortion protests). Therefore, your sidewalk counseling signs should convey the same three basic messages through images wisely displayed (fetal development and abortion victims), and short, easily-read sentences. A few examples — “Free Help 651-771-1500 You DON’T Have to Abort” “Heart is Beating at 3 Weeks” “Women DO Regret Abortion” “God Loves You and Your Baby. Let us Help You!” For more sign ideas, contact us.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
Finally, and perhaps most important, be aware that when you are sidewalk counseling, you are in the midst of an intense spiritual battle between life and death, good and evil, truth and falsehood. Pray before you go out that you will be a worthy instrument of God’s grace in the lives of all you meet and keep praying while you are on the sidewalk.