Sidewalk counseling tip from Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson is doing a video of a tip for pro-lifers every Tuesday. Here is a sidewalk counseling tip from 9/14/2016:

sidwalk counseling  tip

“This week I’m going to talk about difficult people on the sidewalk. A lot of times people go out to the sidewalk and they’re with 40 Days for Life or they’re with Sidewalk Advocates for Life, or another really great group, and they have other groups that come out and do weird things on the sidewalk. [For example] they have baby doll parts that are painted with red blood, and they dangle them over the fence. Or they have 55,000 graphic images lined up all down the road, or they wear white lab coats with red paint over them, or they yell at the workers and women going in, and they call them murderers or baby killers, or whatever. And this goes against what you’re trying to do to have [a] peaceful vigil and compassionate and merciful outreach on the sidewalk. Okay?

So here’s a tip: don’t ever engage with those people, and this is why. Because sometimes we want to engage with them, because we want to convince them that what they’re doing is not helpful. And it is indeed not helpful. But what happens from the inside of the clinic looking out at you on the sidewalk, the workers think that you’re friends – that you’re in cahoots together. Right? They don’t know that you’re talking to them about how terrible their antics are? Right? They just think, Oh, well they’re talking to them, so they must be the same team.

So, for example: when I worked at Planned Parenthood, there was a man named Don who came out to our sidewalk, and he was awful. He would write down our license plate numbers. He would send things out, he sent a postcard out to my parents and their neighborhood comparing me to a child molester. He called me all types of terrible names. He was a terrible, terrible man. But the Coalition for Life that was out there, I would see in them engage with him, right, and I would see them talking. Now I don’t know. There were probably times when they were going, “Hey Don, yelling at these people are sending letters to their home is probably not a good idea”, but I didn’t know that. So I never really felt comfortable – I never know that I can trust the Coalition in those early years, because even though they were doing a good thing, they were talking and having conversations with this guy, who was doing terrible things to me. Does that make sense?

So if there are people out there on the sidewalk who are doing really weird things, you know what, here’s the bottom line – you are not going to change their mind. So don’t even bother engaging with them.… Because they’re really not out there because they have a heart for these women or babies. They’re really out there because they just want to feel right. And going out to the sidewalk is not about being right. It’s about being loving and being compassionate and being merciful. And we know that.

And so I always encourage people – if you are dealing with a group like that, maybe you want to have a T-shirt that everybody wears, the same color T-shirt. Or in the back of your T-shirt it says “help for women”, “we care about you”, something like that. So you might want to physically distance yourself from them, not engage in conversation with them number one, and number two, you might want to visually distance yourself from them – make a claim on the sidewalk, hold down that part of the sidewalk. And you know what? Apologize. I apologize for poor behavior on the sidewalk all the time. If a woman is coming in and she’s being yelled at I am quick to say “I am really sorry for how you’re being treated right now and I just want to let you know that I’m out here because I care about you and I’m so sorry you’re being talked to in this way.” An apology goes a long way in a lot of cases, but especially to women who are walking into the clinic because they don’t know that you’re not with these crazy people.…

I’m pretty confident that dangling a baby doll head, a bloody baby doll head over a fence is not going to reach the audience that you are trying to reach… So people, don’t be weird on the sidewalk.… Be somebody that you would want to talk to.”

Hope you find this sidewalk counseling tip to be helpful!

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Author: Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.

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