How Can Pro-Lifers Encourage People to Sidewalk Counsel at Abortion Clinics?

Opinion   |   Josh Brahm   |   Jul 7, 2013   |   1:59PM   |   Washington, DC

This is a clip from an episode of Life Report called “Shawn Carney on the State of the Pro-Life Movement.” In this clip I asked 40 Days for Life co-founder Shawn Carney how pro-life organizations could better persuade people to participate in sidewalk counseling.


Click the embedded video and it will start at the right place in the interview. This particular topic ends at 16:54.

If you don’t want to watch the 4-minute video, you can read the full transcript below.


Josh: We’ve had a relatively easy time in Fresno getting people to come to do 40 Days for Life. We’ve had a hard time getting people to attend sidewalk counseling training as opposed to praying and maybe holding a sign.

Besides offering free training which we do occasionally, what could we do to help persuade people to kind of take this to the next, admittedly scarier, level where you’re actually interacting with the people going in?

Shawn: I’m a big fan of sidewalk counseling. That was one of my focuses when I was the director of The Coalition for Life. I know I’m biased but my wife was one of the best sidewalk counselors I have ever heard.

When sidewalk counseling you will have the most important conversation in the world. This is especially true in our country. So, what else can you do with your time, besides going to medical school and learning to become a trauma surgeon, where you could literally save a life or participate in saving a life on any given Wednesday or Saturday or whenever the abortions are taking place that week? Sidewalk counseling lends you that opportunity.

Now, there’s nothing scarier either in life, which is why people say, “You can forget that! I’ll go out there and I’ll pray. If people see me, then that’s bad enough. But I’m not talking to these people. I’m not going to reach out to them. What am I going to say?”

What really helps break down the wall of the sidewalk counselor fear is that these are moms, these are young women going in for the abortion. They’re not aliens. You say, “Good morning. I know you’re having a hard time today. I know you don’t want to be here today.” And the training starts with those initial things and sidewalk counseling is something – once you do it you want to do it again.

It can be frustrating because you may converse with a woman and you feel like she went in regardless and had an abortion anyway. Some counselors blame themselves; but you may have been the only witness to our Lord to that woman, not only on that day, but in many years. You have no idea where these people come from. Just like they have no idea where you come from.

We have a lot of post-abortive women who are excellent sidewalk counselors. We have teenagers who are excellent sidewalk counselors.

That love that you can show them at that moment is crucial. Once they enter the abortion facility, the hope for the baby drops drastically. Planned Parenthood, according to their own numbers, does 120 abortions for every one adoption referral. Once the door closes and they’re in that lobby, our ability to reach them is so reduced. In fact, many Planned Parenthoods have started installing blinds in their lobbies so that they can close them. It happened in Madison, Wisconsin; it’s happened in other places. In Sacramento they built a fence because of sidewalk counselors.

It’s so crucial that we work up the courage to have that basic conversation. You don’t have to come up with anything profound. That’s why the trainings are so simple; they’re so straightforward.

Many of these women considering abortion want you to say something. Sometimes they engage you in conversation and some people become sidewalk counselors because they’re forced into it. A woman approaches them and says, “Do I have any other options?”



I really encourage people, if you are afraid to do sidewalk counseling, you’re normal. You should be terrified, because most of us won’t even talk about abortion in our families, during our political debates, in our churches sometimes. To actually talk about it to the woman who in ten minutes is going to have one, gives such a gravity that we kind of get overwhelmed and we think, “Well, I can’t do it.” But we need people to do it and women are far more responsive than most people would think.

Download Full Interview (MP3) | 00:28:00

Life Report trains pro-life people to communicate their views more effectively. Through round-table discussions and interviews with the top experts on the subject, Life Report provides real-world answers to the toughest questions regarding abortion in the 21st century. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Special thanks to Nate Amundson for the transcription. Thanks to Andrea Gleiter for helping to edit this post.