Are We Too Comfortable with Abortion?
An interview with Dr. Monica Miller about Red Rose Rescue
Back in 2012, long-time pro-life champion Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller wrote an eye-opening page-turner, The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars. At the time, I interviewed her for a Celebrate Life magazine article. Dr. Miller said something in that interview that stuck with me and has long plucked at my conscience: “The lives of the ordinary public are not much disturbed by the 3,500 murders that happen each day under the law.”
Dr. Miller, who's the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, also shared with me in that interview that she was sorry that the rescue movement had ended.
As of Friday, Sept. 15, 2017—the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows—it appears Dr. Miller has helped resurrect pro-life rescues with the Red Rose Rescue (RRR), taking a page out of Canadian activist Mary Wagner's book.
Simultaneously, Dr. Miller, in Michigan, and pro-lifers from Virginia (including Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, and Fr. Stephen Imbarrato) and New Mexico walked into the lobbies of abortion clinics. They approached women waiting for abortions offering them red roses with an attached card that included the phone numbers of local pregnancy help centers and a loving message:
“You were made to love and to be loved … Your goodness is greater than the difficulties of your situation. Circumstances in life change. A new life, however tiny, brings the promise of unrepeatable joy.”
When police arrived at the Michigan and Virginia abortion clinics, the Red Rose Rescuers chose to resist arrest peacefully. I talked with Dr. Miller via email about the Red Rose Rescue, what they hope to achieve, and why she and other pro-lifers resisted arrest.
Since the 1990s, I don't recall an organized rescue movement to enter an abortion clinic. What motivated you and the other pro-lifers to do a Red Rose Rescue?
The fact is, many of us in the pro-life movement never lost our vision for the rescue movement; there are many complicated reasons why it essentially died out. I discontinued my leadership in the rescue movement for my children. I needed to focus on them, which meant I could not risk jail time that would take me away from my duties as a mother. Now that our children are adults, many of us in the movement re-started the conversation about the place of rescues in defense of life which led to the Red Rose Rescue.
What was the motivation behind resisting arrest? Was it your goal to get arrested?
The Red Rose Rescue has two facets: first, we want to reach out to the women in the waiting rooms of the abortion centers and offer them that last final opportunity to turn away from the scheduled abortions. The secondly, should women not accept our offers of help, we will stay with the unborn about to be executed. Also, we know that as long as there is a pro-life presence in the clinic, it's virtually guaranteed that the abortions will not take place. We want to be in solidarity with the victims of abortion, abide with them in the last minutes of their lives, and so we will not leave the clinic on our own.
Do you think that you achieved anything with the RRR? Why or why not?
The Red Rose Rescue is an act of love for the mothers scheduled for abortion and an act of tangible, non-violent defense for the unborn about to be put to death, so really the Red Rose Rescue can never be a failure. Even should the mothers refuse our help, in those last moments before being ushered into the abortion chambers, the Red Rose Rescue is a witness to the sanctity of life.
We are in the very beginning stages of the Red Rose Rescues. I believe that the more of them that are conducted, the more we will see fruits—namely mothers walking out with us who decided to choose life. But even should the mothers never respond to our offer to help them, our presence in the abortion center—as long as we can stay there—defends the unborn from abortion.
I noticed on Facebook that someone made this comment: “I appreciate what the passive resistance was trying to do, but I doubt it converts souls.” How do you respond to this?
When someone witnesses another person willingly sacrificing his or her own liberty for the sake of an unborn baby that, indeed, may have a very positive effect. Besides which, this is not about the arrest or the exercise of passive resistance; it’s about going into the dark holes of the poor, as Mother Teresa characterized her work, and reaching out to those needy and desperate mothers.
Another person on Facebook had this to say about the RRR, “It seems that [it] will only polarize abortion staff rather than love them to change.” What’s your take on this?
The problem with this criticism of the Red Rose Rescue is that it misses the inherent injustice of abortion and the real situation that human beings are about to be sliced into pieces with the protection of the law. Our goal is first to save and defend the unborn by loving the mothers. We are not there to alienate the clinic staff, but the fact is they are engaged in raw acts of evil. Who's to say that our example of Christian love and gestures of peace will not convert staff members?
Will you do another RRR?
I believe that there will be future Red Rose rescues, and I hope that others will join this effort and support it.
You served time in prison for your pro-life activities. Aren’t you afraid of going to prison again?
I am not afraid of the possibility of serving jail time. The pro-life witness continues in jail. I have served a few jail sentences already for my past rescues. Praise God; I even had the opportunity to talk women, my fellow inmates, out of abortions! Going to jail is simply an extension of the Red Rose Rescue. But we may not see any jail time at all; we shall see!
How did the abortion clinic staff react to what you were doing? How did the women there for abortions react?
There were three Red Rose Rescues on Sept. 15, 2017, so I can speak only of my experience at the Northland Family Planning clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan. I thought, frankly, that the staff was rather subdued and “laid back” in their reaction to us. Yes, they told us we “need to leave” and so forth but there were no angry outbursts, flaring of tempers.
As for the women, I spoke at length with one woman who told me her name and that she was there for an abortion. I sat down in the seat next to her and offered her a rose, and she took it. I indicated the card on the rose that had words of encouragement on it, and I assured her that I would help with whatever she needed; that people were waiting outside of the clinic who were there to help her and be her friend. I said, “Will you come out of this clinic with me and give life to your baby?” She nodded her head yes. We both stood up, and I thought this woman was going to walk out with me—which is RRR's goal. Then—and it is hard to explain the dynamic exactly—a clinic staff person came over to the woman, touched her arm, and said, “No, No, it's okay. Come with me.” Sadly, the woman went off with the clinic worker to the back rooms of the clinic. But she still had the rose!
In Alexandra, Virginia, three women left the clinic while the RRR was going on inside. Two of them were spoken to by the rescuers—we even know their names—but we cannot say for sure that these babies were saved, but the women did leave.
Did the police understand what you were doing?
Yes, they did. I believe many of them were against abortion. They didn't want to arrest us.
While the arresting officer was driving me to the city lock-up, I asked him about his position on abortion he shared with me, “I am a committed Christian, and I oppose abortion!” I think frankly they knew we were not true criminals, but people of peace seeking to do justice for those who could not defend themselves!
What you and other brave pro-lifers did was a lot more in your face than it has been for years. It seems like you're gearing up for a more aggressive—but nonviolent—approach?
If God wills it, there will be a Red Rose Rescue movement. This is not your conventional pro-life rescue. We are focused on reaching out to the mothers in those last desperate moments.
Yes, I suppose it is a more intense pro-life action—going into the very places of death—and in that sense “more aggressive” but it is because the RRR does not acknowledge the artificial boundaries that are set up by those who kill the unborn. Charity knows no boundaries, and hopefully, God will give pro-lifers the courage to cross those boundaries to bring hope to the mothers and offer gestures of defense to their unwanted babies.