Let me tell you a story. This last summer, I made a habit of going to pray in front of my local abortion facility. Holding my rosary and a sign, I peacefully bear witness for life. On one of these days, a friend of mine and I moved to a different section of the public sidewalk, which was not exactly in front of the abortion facility. The move was the only part of our presence we had changed, we were not talking to people, we were not blocking the sidewalk, just standing there. After a chain of events in which some people rudely told us to move (note how I said told) and we politely declining, the police were called. In the end we were not charged, nor cited for anything, why? Because we knew the rules for effective, and in this case, most importantly, legal protesting. These are important reminders, guidelines, and rules for an effective and legal protests, explained with an easily remembered quote, and in the context of my own situation.
"Start by doing what's necessary;"
~ I want to remind everyone that contrary to the actions of many pro-life activists, the necessity of our movement is to establish a solid ground for women and in some cases their families to stand when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Without this, any and all other protests will not be very effective. Help support pro-life pregnancy centers and other supportive organizations, whose goals are to make life easier for women with unplanned pregnancies. By building this solid ground for women, you are also building a solid group in your argument for life.
"Then do what's possible;"
~ When we have fulfilled our necessity, we have a solid ground on which to stand, and the possibility of publicly displaying the truth about life. Notice how I said the possibility of displaying the truth about life? As much of an annoyance some of these laws and restrictions can be, there are rules to follow if you want to be allowed to protest. Here are three, essentially universal rules for legal, and effective protests.
*Rule number one, know your available space for protesting.*
The general rule of thumb is to stay on public property, and away from private. However, an increasing amount of abortion facilities have what are called "buffer zones". These are areas, often including parts of the public sidewalk where protesters may not enter in order to ensure an easy entrance to the facility. Know if these zones exist in your area and keep them in mind, the more violations concerning the restricted area, the bigger it gets. Also keep local rules in mind. In my area, we are allowed to remain on the public sidewalk as long as we are not blocking it (which is a fairly universal rule). We cannot touch the building or stand in the parking lot. It fits in with the general rule of thumb.
*Rule number two, keep respect in mind.*
The idea here is, to not be forceful. The women going in for an abortion have dignity too, they are just in a hard part of life. Speak to them in a respectful tone, and understand that they do not have to listen to what you have to say. Often times kindness is a better way to grab their attention. Also keep in mind, that depending on the location of the facility, it is possible that not every woman who walks by, is going in. Be careful with what you say to everyone. There is no need to make anyone, whether they go in or not, feel uncomfortable. People tend to remember things more through the lense of how they felt at the time, negative emotions can lead to a negative view. Remember, forceful words can be labeled as harassment. The surest way to know if a woman is going in, is if she is being escorted. Use the escort's presence to your advantage. In my case, if the people who told us to move, had asked us nicely, we would have respected their request. If someone respects you, do respect them back. That is something you can keep in mind if faced with a similar situation.
*Rule number three, keep the peace.*
The biggest setbacks to the pro-life movement have been individual acts of violence, and the the use of force. Such acts are not only hypocritical, but are often illegal. Granted, the overwhelming majority of pro-life advocates wouldn't even consider bombing an abortion facility, murdering abortionist, or kidnapping women who are seeking abortions, however these things have happened in the past, and continue to haunt us. More common actions that inhibit peace, are heated, emotional discussions. Discussions can be great tools (take a look at an earlier post of mine Apologetics: Not Debating but Listening), but when emotions become the driving factor for the discussion on either side, the discussion will not be effective. Emotional discussions are the a red flag for a close minded person, and the passageway to arguments. If you are involved in such discussions, feel free to back off in the name of peace. At any point in your protest, whether or not you a in a discussion, or being confronted, if you are feeling uncomfortable, or angry, there is a chance that bystanders could be feeling the same, and the police can be called for disturbances. Take a stand, but don't make a scene unless absolutely necessary. Connecting with my situation, yes the police coming could've been a scene, however there was no forceful language, shouting or anything of that sort with the police or the people who called them. From a bystander's view, they were simply talking to us. We were told that the police might be coming, and we could've moved at the threat. However, to us it was necessary for us to stay, because we knew of our opponent's connection to the abortion facility, and as long as you are following the rules, no one can take or limit your right to protest.
"And suddenly you are doing the impossible."
~ If you follow this guide, great things will happen. Some say it is impossible to end abortion, but if we just do what is necessary, and possible it WILL happen. Never EVER give up. Our witness to the truth will spread until the whole world hears of this great injustice.