They hold bloody signs, chase down women as they are walking into the abortion clinic, and yell in their faces that they are murderers… Well, that’s at least what everybody thinks we do. And to be honest, it’s what I thought too before I got involved with this very difficult and very misunderstood ministry.
A few weeks ago, this stereotype had a short surge of support with the news that a federal lawsuit had been filed against “Louisville Abortion Protestor” David Hamilton. According to the Courier Journal, the suit claimed David “used force against an escort as she was taking a woman inside the center. Hamilton also attempted to injure, intimidate and interfere with others trying to get inside the clinic.” Reports like this seem to confirm that sidewalk counselors are nothing more than pro-life bullies out to harm anyone with an opposing view and an unwanted pregnancy.
Let me assure you, there is nothing farther from the truth.
I was actually inspired to join the sidewalk counseling ministry in Louisville, Kentucky, through none other than the accused radical, David Hamilton who I knew through my church. I heard that David was going out to the nearby abortion clinic every week and since he didn’t strike me as the angry yelling sort, I asked him what he was trying to accomplish out there.
David told me he was partnering with another local church, Immanuel Baptist Church, and their “Speak for the Unborn” (S4U) ministry. According to the S4U website, this ministry was created with the goal to “make abortion impossible in Louisville, KY, through the means of sidewalk counseling and prayer.” David explained that every week “sidewalk counselors” walk with those entering the abortion clinic and share evidence from both Scripture and the fetal development process that the unborn are actually human beings created by God and deserving of life.
They also encourage women to visit the nearby pregnancy center, A Woman’s Choice Resource Center (AWC), as an alternative to aborting their babies. At AWC, women can walk-in and receive counseling regarding their specific situations. AWC is a non-profit special health clinic equipped to provide pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, maternity/infant supplies and referrals for medical assistance, financial aid, adoption resources, etc. – all donated in order to help mothers going through crisis pregnancies. David assured me that sidewalk counselors were not out there as protestors, but as Christians concerned for the well-being of all involved – mothers and babies.
This concern for those affected by abortion is what drew me to the S4U ministry, and the very first week I joined I saw how true David’s explanation had been. The S4U volunteers are people who attend with one goal: to offer hope and help to women intending to have abortions. The wild card in this ministry is of course, that most of the people we encounter disagree with our stance that every life is precious and are offended by our efforts to change their minds about abortion. Add to that the fact that there are volunteers for the abortion clinic who come specifically to shield mothers from our conversations, and you can imagine how tense the environment can get.
Clinic escorts and sidewalk counselors conversely vie for the attention of clients while walking a short distance down a narrow sidewalk leading to the clinic. Understandably, it is not the ideal environment to hold a sensitive conversation, especially in front of an audience of opposition. Nonetheless, we seek to conscientiously engage in this atmosphere because we truly believe we have the opportunity to help save the life of a baby. And beyond that, we know that this ministry is effective, because we have seen it work. Already this year, we have confirmed 3 instances of women coming out of the abortion clinic having decided to keep their babies. We know the sidewalks are a last resort, but surely we should show up if it’s worth the chance to help save a life and spare a mother a lifetime of regret.
The accusations that David tried to “injure or intimidate” anyone is completely unfounded and goes against all he was seeking to accomplish on the sidewalks. His original case was dismissed and the new federal suit is grossly lacking in evidence and substance. We are confident that if he is investigated, his outstanding character and compassionate reputation will be a credit to his innocence. Further, it is stated on S4U’s website that sidewalk counselors, “in no way support illegal activities, unkind words or tone, threats, unwanted physical contact, or anything of the sort.” David and all sidewalk counselors are careful to abide by these principles. It would be completely counter-productive to our ministry to be intimidating those we most long to help, and would discredit the grace and compassion we show up to represent.
I can’t vouch for every sidewalk counselor in our nation, but I can say that in Louisville, the Speak for the Unborn ministry is committed to engaging with women in a non-violent manner that is loving, kind, and respectful. I have consistently observed a motive of love in the sidewalk counselors I serve with and have wholeheartedly joined in with this lot. We may be misunderstood and misrepresented, but our confident convictions will keep us coming back day after day. We are motivated by the hope that women will hear our message and cherish the miracle of life over the devastation of abortion. We share these thoughts through our freedoms of speech and through godly and legal means. That is what sidewalk counselors do.
If you’d like to learn more about what sidewalk counselors do, please feel free to look through our website for more information.