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Abortion Rescue Missions Reach The Moms Sidewalk Counselors Couldn’t

sit-in type abortion rescue Sept. 20, 1990 at the Affiliated Medical Services abortion center in Milwaukee, WI
Image CreditMonica Miller

Abortion rescues are not about ‘risky bravado’ or ‘needless litigation.’ They are the last line of defense between babies and abortionists.


There’s an old adage in the pro-life movement: “If abortion is murder, act like it.” The pithy slogan is meant to provoke people of goodwill to do something to prevent the killing of the unborn.

Lauren Muzyka’s recent article published at The Federalist, “How To Sidewalk Counsel Abortion-Minded Moms Without Going To Prison,” provides a harsh and negative critique of pro-life rescues, comparing them to the counseling method promoted by Sidewalk Advocates for Life, a ministry I laud and support.  

I am uniquely qualified to write a defense of pro-life rescues and rescuers. Since 1978, I have logged thousands of hours sidewalk counseling women out of abortions, and organized and participated in dozens of pro-life rescues, even serving a short jail term just last April for a Red Rose Rescue that took place at a Michigan abortion center in 2022. I understand from experience the value of both methods — sidewalk counseling and abortion rescues — at the places where the deaths of the unborn are scheduled.

What Is an Abortion Rescue?

Beginning in the mid-1970s, the pro-life rescue movement, pioneered by such leaders as John Kavanaugh-O’Keefe and Joan Andrews Bell, active in the anti-war movement, sought to provide a nonviolent defense of the unborn. These rescues involved sitting down or standing in front of the doors to abortion centers. Sometimes pro-lifers would chain themselves to heavy objects to prevent their being taken away.

Operation Rescue, founded in the late 1980s, resulted in the arrest of tens of thousands of pro-lifers and constituted the largest nonviolent civil disobedience movement in American history. All this came to a near halt in 1994 with the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act), which made mere pro-life “sit-in”-type activity a federal crime. Operation Save America, despite the FACE Act, has in recent years conducted these types of rescues. And on Feb. 1, 2024, six pro-lifers were convicted of violating the FACE Act.

In 2017, a new rescue method came into being, namely, Red Rose Rescues. This method blends the best of sidewalk counseling and defense of the unborn. The rescuers are not subject to the FACE Act because Red Rose Rescuers do not physically obstruct anyone or anything. A small group of pro-lifers quietly enter the abortion facility, sit down next to women in the waiting room, and counsel them to choose life. The pro-lifers offer roses to the moms as a sign of life and hope, and even offer them to abortion center staff — and often the women and staff take the roses.

Image CreditMonica Miller

Their goal is to maintain a peaceful presence in a place where there is no peace — to enter the “dark holes of the poor” as Mother Teresa described her ministry. If women still opt to kill their children, at least a few pro-lifers will stay in the “dark holes” with the unwanted unborn, remaining as a witness to the sanctity of their lives, and this is where the risk of arrest comes in. Muzyka opposes not only the older type of rescue, but criticizes Red Rose Rescues as well.

Last Line of Defense Between Babies and Abortionists

Muzyka claims rescues, of whatever kind, are not effective in saving lives. The sad fact remains, the vast majority of women we attempt to reach on the sidewalk enter the abortion center and their babies are killed. The question then becomes, “What more can we do for those innocents led to the slaughter?” These are the innocents sidewalk counseling failed to save.

Rescues are a response to Proverbs: 24:11: “Rescue those being dragged to death, and those tottering to execution withdraw not.” Every woman who enters the abortion center, with the intent to continue with the abortion, is a woman not counseled or who failed to respond to the sidewalk counselor. Red Rose Rescuers seek to give these women a final chance to turn away. The majority of Red Rose Rescues take place at abortion centers where sidewalk counseling is exceptionally difficult or impossible, at abortion centers surrounded by a huge parking lot. The only effective way to speak to mothers and save their babies is by going onto the private property of the abortion center. And, yes, contrary to Muzyka’s claim, rescues have saved babies from abortion.

Women have taken the roses and left the waiting room. Two women in two Red Rose Rescues told us they decided to keep the baby. An abortion facility office manager in Michigan even testified under oath that 12 women did not go through with their scheduled “procedure.” If 12 women turned away from abortion by sidewalk counseling, this would be considered a huge victory. At least, rescues can give the babies scheduled for death a reprieve and buy more time for their mothers to reconsider the abortion.

Motivated by Conviction, Not Bravado

Muzyka provided a biased caricature of pro-life rescuers. She said they are engaged in “risky bravado”— motivated by the “exciting confrontational approach.” This is so very far from the truth. The pro-life rescuer simply wants to be faithful to Christ who taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and is willing to make the needed sacrifices to put Christ’s words into practice.

Rescuers support, believe in, and do sidewalk counseling just like Muzyka. But they are also responding to God in their conscience, to go that extra step — saying to themselves: “If I were an unborn child about to be aborted, I would want someone to place themselves between me and the murderer’s knife.” Certainly, Muzyka would want someone to do at least that much for her. It is a matter of being consistent with the reality of the injustice of abortion — always seeking to act with peace and nonviolence because we must show the mothers that we love them too.

Matthew Connolly arrested during a Red Rose Rescue,Dec 3, 2017 at the Women's Center abortion facility in Bloomfield, MI.
Matthew Connolly was arrested during a Red Rose Rescue on Dec. 3, 2017, at the Women’s Center abortion facility in Bloomfield, Michigan.
Image CreditJacob Gregor

Witnessing, Even on Trial

Rescuers are hardly tied up in “needless litigation.” Instead, rescuers continue to provide a needed powerful public witness to police officers, bailiffs, judges, jurors, reporters, and all those attending the trial, including abortion center staff. In court, rescuers publically stand up for the innocent unborn, insisting on a “defense of others” — insisting before the system that facilitates their killing, that the unborn are indeed “others” who have a God-given right to exist. Many rescue cases are currently on appeal.

And should the rescuers suffer unjust jail terms, this is a further opportunity to witness to the sanctity of life. Pro-lifers are hardly “removed from ministry.” While incarcerated last year for our 2022 Red Rose Rescue, we counseled two fellow inmates out of abortion. Pro-life ministry continues behind prison walls.

Rescuers have been accused of causing buffer zones to be put in place at abortion centers. Buffer zones are local ordinances that make sidewalk counseling that much more difficult. However, most buffer zones, such as the Chicago ordinance, are the result of sidewalk counseling, not rescues. No one argues sidewalk counseling must cease as a result.

Ten pro-life rescuers are currently in jail and convicted under the FACE Act for their sit-in-type rescue. However, they were also convicted of an additional charge brought by the weaponized Department of Justice: “interference with civil rights.” They will be formally sentenced on May 14 and could face an 11-year prison term. Rather than suffering derision, they deserve our support.

Some ask, “What does a pro-life rescue accomplish?” “Isn’t it all just a waste of time?” Those who are only concerned about the net number of babies saved pose the wrong question. The rescuer performs a further act of sacrificial love for the most unwanted. The question is not how many babies have been saved, but how many babies have been loved.

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