Editor’s note: The last names of the pro-life activists were withheld at their request.
A young woman sat on a stoop near the abortion facility in Manhattan named for Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, as sidewalk counselor and Biker for Life Lou, himself a post-abortive father, looked on. She was on a phone call, speaking French. He asked if he could help her. Surprised, Elise said on the phone, “Mom, there’s a man here who wants to help me!”
Lou walked Elise through a double line of prayer warriors away from the abortion business, continuing on to Old St. Patrick’s Basilica, where Mass had just ended and Eucharistic adoration had begun. She knelt to pray.
Afterward, he connected her with the Sisters of Life for medical care, counseling, maternity clothes, housing and especially love, so that Elise could continue her pregnancy and ultimately give birth.
Each such first Saturday, an astounding witness takes place in front of the Margaret Sanger Center, where six days a week — for 35 years — abortions have been done through the sixth month. Following Mass at the basilica, participants that include Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, Bikers for Life, Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and the Sisters of Life process, praying the Rosary, to Planned Parenthood. There, the group break into two groups: one to pray and the other to counsel. Sidewalk counselors, supported by intercessory prayer, approach women headed for the abortion business. Sharing information with the women about prenatal development and the physical harm abortion causes, the pro-lifers offer these women in need medical, financial and, most importantly, spiritual help.
Nancy, one of the counselors, said their presence is vitally needed in the battle for life.
“We find many of the young girls are pushed — aggressively — by a boyfriend, or even a husband or mother,” she said. “They’re scared to go into the abortion center. Most of them are willing to talk to us. Often, it’s the person bringing them for the abortion pulling them away. Sometimes the Planned Parenthood ‘escorts’ try anything to interfere. They’ll drown us out or say, ‘Don’t talk to them; come on over here.’ There’s a lot of bullying.”
Once, Nancy was talking to a woman who was outside waiting for her sister, encouraging her to bring her sister out of the center — but then her sister came out on her own.
“She said she was on the table about to have the abortion when she felt overwhelmed and got a strong feeling she couldn’t go through with it. She got up and left,” Nancy said. “I believe it’s the impact of the people praying there all the time.”
Tom, co-founder of Bikers for Life, once had a Planned Parenthood staffer say she had noticed he had been absent from the prayer vigil for a while. Tom said he had been caring for his wife, who was sick with cancer. The worker said she would pray for her and mentioned that her own father died of cancer. Tom said her father would be in his prayers. “It was a connection that God made,” he recalled. Another time, a man asked what they were doing. Tom told him, “We’re here to help women so they can keep their babies.” The man took a brochure, smiled and said, “You just made my day.”
Once, an Australian family walked by, taking pictures of the kneeling group. The gentleman in the group told them years ago his daughter was pregnant and that he had pressured her to abort, even saying she wouldn’t be his child anymore if she didn’t abort.
Tears streaming down his face, he told the group he didn’t speak with her for years.
“Then something came over me, suddenly — finally,” he said. “I contacted my daughter and met my grandson. ... I just want to tell you: It’s a noble thing you’re doing here.”
Another time, a counselor stood by the subway as a woman walked quickly toward the center, earphones in. “Hi, I’m Cindy,” the counselor said. “Are you here for abortion? There’s so much we can do to help.”
The woman looked surprised but took out her earphones. Cindy asked her to talk for five minutes and offered a pamphlet titled, “What Abortion Providers Won’t Tell You.”
The woman started crying. She said the abortion was the last thing she wanted but an abusive relationship had her feeling trapped. So Cindy took Amanda to the Sisters of Life, who welcomed her, bringing out a tray with coffee, candy and flowers.
“This woman was just so touched by this simple, lovely gesture. The sisters sat and talked with her. They assured her of housing, help with a restraining order, and with an adoption if she chose it. They just surrounded her with love and care,” Cindy said.
“Then Amanda said, ‘I was praying all night, even on the way to the abortion, that God would help me to not go through with the abortion.” Amanda decided against abortion.
Joe spends his Saturdays in front of Planned Parenthood, armed with pamphlets and Maafa21 DVDs. He reaches men by commenting about whatever team’s logo he sees on their baseball hats. “It’s important to let the black community know about Planned Parenthood’s eugenics motivation,” he said. “I find most of the white people know what’s going on in there, but many of the black people don’t. When I tell them verified quotes by Margaret Sanger about wanting to get rid of the black population, they’re shocked.”
One time, a couple came along, and Joe gave the woman a pamphlet as she headed inside. The man came out to wait. “I tell him, ‘This is not a safe place for your wife.’ I showed him pictures of ambulances [sent] there for injuries to the mother and pictures of what’s done to these babies. He said it wasn’t his baby; his wife had had an affair.” Joe said his next sentence came from the Holy Spirit: “If you saw a baby lying on the sidewalk, even though it wasn’t your child, wouldn’t you do something to save that baby?” Joe continued, “Plus, your wife will never be the same after this. You have to go in and get her.” The man did.
“I said to this guy, ‘You are a great man!’ and put them in a cab to go see the Sisters of Life. There, they were surrounded by all the love and support they needed and decided to keep this child.”
Newly ordained Father Liam McDonald, of Holy Family parish in Hicksville, New York, brings seminarians to the site.
“People don’t know what to expect the first time they go to stand in witness at Planned Parenthood,” he told the Register. “Some have the media’s portrayal of pro-lifers in mind — some think the pro-life cause is just for ‘radical’ Catholics. I ask each seminarian to come just once. A lot of them are really moved to see how truly crucial it is to be there, to be a witness to truth, beauty and goodness, to bring the mercy of Jesus Christ to the streets. Most of them keep coming back.”
Father McDonald said he believes “if we’re not out there, if we don’t keep this issue going, it’s harder to preach authentically about it.”
For his part, Mike prays here at least twice a week and estimates “about two ‘turnarounds’ a month. We’re able to reach out to post-abortive people here, too, and there’s a lot of them. One woman I know, Laura, I met a while back. She’s a recovering alcoholic and passed the group of us praying, just staring. After going by, she turned and called out, ‘I had an abortion, like, 30 years ago. I know the exact date, the exact time, and I never forget it.”
One time, Mike approached a couple and introduced himself. The young guy said his fiancée was past six months, and a doctor said the baby would have problems, so they’d come to this Planned Parenthood seeking a late-term abortion.
“As I’m talking to them, this woman Laura’s walking past, and she just goes, ‘Tell them not to abort their baby. There’s a better way!’ So this woman, struggling with alcoholism and a past abortion, had a part in the saving of this baby! The Holy Spirit inspired her to walk by just then. The Sisters of Life got her a second medical opinion, and that doctor did in-utero surgery. Now, this couple is married with a healthy baby, and the best part is: They’re back to church!”
Mike, like Joe, often reaches the mothers through the fathers.
As Mike said, “We tell them: Men are called to protect the women and children. We don’t always get through, but, often, we do. One guy pulled up, and she went in. I asked him to open his window. I told him, ‘It’s not too late; there’s help.’ I showed him a video of an abortion and said, ‘Text her. Get her to come out. You don’t have to go through with this.’ He texted her, and she came out. He came over to me and hugged me, saying, ‘I needed to hear that.’”
Frequently, Mike counsels with his wife and daughter. A few months ago, Mike and his wife, Jean, talked to a pregnant 23-year-old. Marie had a fiancé and a 14-month-old and had to find a new apartment within a month. She was feeling overwhelmed but really didn’t want to abort.
Thankful for the outreach of the pro-lifers and the aid of the Sisters of Life, she told the Register, “I’m doing fine now, and I’m so glad I chose life! It wasn’t just words. ... They followed through with everything they promised. I believe God showed up in the form of Mike and Jean. If they hadn’t been there, I would’ve gone through with it.”
Once, Mike was at his post with his 16-year-old daughter, Colette, one frigid day and was harassed by Planned Parenthood staff.
“I say to myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ Just then, my daughter calls out, ‘Dad, she wants to keep her baby!’ We get this girl to the Sisters of Life, and my daughter and I head to adoration,” he recalled, adding that they saw a man “kneeling in front of the tabernacle, deep in prayer.
“Then he gets up and walks over to Colette, without saying a word, and hands her a prayer card — get this — of Jesus surrounded by children, with Psalm 103 on it. It’s a spiritual battle down there, but the Holy Spirit is working.”
Patty Knap writes from
Long Island, New York.