Dear Friend of Life:
A few weeks ago, there was a law-breaking incident at one of our sites in Michigan where Sidewalk Advocates for Life (SAFL), working alongside another peaceful sidewalk counseling group, has had an outreach presence for years. Because the group behind this tactic mentioned SAFL in their statement about the events that day — which could confuse where our volunteers were in the midst of this incident and whether there was approval or even coordination between our groups that day — we feel compelled to make a statement about what exactly our Sidewalk Advocates witnessed, what they did in response, and why SAFL stands against modern-day law-breaking tactics.
On May 13, 2020, members of the SAFL-Grand Rapids team arrived for regularly-scheduled outreach to find that an out-of-town group called the Red Rose Rescue (RRR) had entered the privately-owned parking lot of the Heritage Clinic for Women, the main abortion center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The following is what our Sidewalk Advocates witnessed: Members of the RRR approached clients in a manner described as “aggressive,” “intimidating,” and “haranguing.” A member of our team heard someone with their group tell a client, “There’s a special cage in hell for you.” Video footage showed an RRR member pacing in the middle of the driveway, continuously yelling towards the premises. Meanwhile, due to the crowd that the group attracted, Sidewalk Advocates had a difficult time accessing abortion-minded clients to conduct outreach. Multiple witnesses said the collective scene was “chaotic.” Members of the RRR were eventually cited or arrested on site. In response, Sidewalk Advocates were tasked with having to distinguish themselves to police rather than focus on reaching abortion-bound clients. Since community members were unable to verify whether any mother accepted help at a life-affirming pregnancy center or otherwise chose life, our Sidewalk Advocates said there were no confirmed turnaways/babies saved that day.
It appears that the RRR had alerted some media to join them to witness the incident, but our leaders and Sidewalk Advocates had no idea that this was going to take place. As one local pro-life community member said, “It’s unfortunate that they come down here one day and put on this massive show, their theatrics, and they stir the pot of emotion, and then they leave. The people who are normally here every day — we are the ones who have to deal with that.” This also puts their site, as well as sites across the state, at greater risk for a buffer zone — among other legal risks — potentially leaving the local pro-life community to fight an unjust law in court.
We want to make clear that SAFL, along with the SAFL-Grand Rapids team, does not condone the methods exhibited during this incident and was in no way involved with it; even more so, we’re saddened that the team was prevented from fully ministering to abortion-minded mothers and abortion workers that day, especially because the Sidewalk Advocates in Grand Rapids, working alongside other pro-life community members, have been very effective in building positive relationships within the community. In fact, this positive witness has led to at least 100 confirmed turnaways/babies saved since they began their coordinated outreach in 2014.
All of the volunteers at our nearly 200 sites around the globe sign our Pledge of Integrity, agreeing to be peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding, and loving. Not only do these values provide legal protection to our ministry, but they are the foundation of our national reputation which has led to partnerships with life-affirming organizations across the United States and the world, allowing us to assist nearly 10,000 abortion-minded mothers and preborn children in just six years.
Please read our full statement regarding our position on modern-day law-breaking tactics here: sidewalkadvocates.org/statement
We also leave with you this short video on “Our Values,” and why SAFL finds these values to be essential to winning life-saving conversations at the abortion center. Thank you!
In Christ, for Life,
Sidewalk Advocates for Life