In Washington, D.C., a woman crossed the street to fling her coffee in the face of a sidewalk counselor outside an abortion facility. Meanwhile, her partner began a shouting match with another sidewalk counselor, which soon devolved into a physical altercation.
In Baltimore, a man lunged at an elderly man praying outside an abortion facility, knocking him into a concrete planter and down to the ground. When a second elderly sidewalk counselor hurried over to help the first victim, the passerby shoved him to the ground and kicked his face with extreme force. Both men were knocked unconscious and required medical care.
In Saginaw, Michigan, an abortionist ran over a man who regularly prays outside the abortion facility — not once, but twice.
In a tumultuous culture where the emotional temperature seems to be ever-rising after the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision on abortion, it’s perhaps not surprising that violence is being reported more frequently outside facilities that perform abortions — which, ironically, is a violence of its own.
These are situations in which people engaged in sidewalk counseling, or people who are simply praying quietly, are being attacked. In two of these instances, the attackers had nothing to do with the abortion facility — they were mere passersby whose rage was somehow sparked by the sight of people ready to help women in crisis.
Sidewalk Advocates for Life was established to provide training and support to peaceful people who feel called to go to the sidewalk outside their local abortion facility (or, post-Dobbs, outside their local facility that refers for out-of-state abortion) to offer help to mothers in need.
Certified advocates with this goal do not harass the women or others they encounter. They do not go out to the sidewalk to try to change abortion supporters’ minds or to simply win an argument.
Their goal is to connect with the mother — to listen and find out what specifically brought her to the abortion facility that day (financial trouble? relationship problems? concerns about finishing school or keeping a job?) before providing her with resources right in her community that address her specific needs and challenges.
There have been a handful of situations that have required a Sidewalk Advocate to file a police report against an angry abortion supporter. But there has not been one instance of a certified advocate becoming embroiled in physical altercations on the sidewalk. They are committed to abiding by the law, which is a protection in itself against violence
Not every person on the sidewalk follows a peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding approach or receives formal training from organizations like Sidewalk Advocates for Life. But does that mean any of them deserve to be assaulted by people who think differently than they do on the issue of abortion?
Does that mean it’s OK to pummel a 70-year-old man until his face is virtually unrecognizable?
Does that mean it’s acceptable to run down someone who is quietly praying?
Certainly, if a pro-life advocate had assaulted an abortion worker or volunteer so egregiously, the uproar would have been nearly instantaneous and the criminal charges would have been prompt. But this is the kind of double standard the pro-life movement has come to expect from a society that decries violence — unless it’s violence within the womb or violence against those who work to stop it.
The most prominent example of this is the FACE Act itself. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act prohibits threats of force, obstruction, and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services. According to the U.S. Department of Justice itself, “The statute protects all patients, providers, and facilities that provide reproductive health services, including pro-life pregnancy counseling services and any other pregnancy support facility providing reproductive health care.” Yet when vandalism and threats against pregnancy resource centers skyrocketed in the wake of the leak of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Department of Justice continued to focus on prosecuting pro-life individuals, rather than seeking out these violators of the FACE Act.
We all know we are supposed to be equal under the law no matter our stance on abortion. We all know that assaulting people is wrong — even if their thoughts about abortion, or any other issue, are not the same as ours.
It’s time to act on that knowledge. Violence against pro-life individuals peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights outside abortion facilities is unacceptable. It’s against the law. And it has to stop.