The Truth About Pro-Life Sidewalk Advocates

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on May 24, 2019

Do pro-life sidewalk advocates “shame women” who seek abortions? Should they be “ashamed of [themselves]”?

Pro-abortion bullies like Pennsylvania representative Brian Sims say so. But the evidence shows just the opposite. It’s Sims and other pro-abortion advocates who bully, steal from or assault pro-life advocates.

“Shameful,” “Disgusting” and “Racist”?

Sims’ videos show him bullying pro-life women outside of an abortion facility for allegedly “shaming women” who are seeking abortions. “These are the kinds of attacks that we can expect on Planned Parenthoods in the current administration,” Sims said in one video. He filmed a woman praying peacefully in front of the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood. He followed her, trying to film her face for almost 9 minutes and called her actions “shameful,” “disgusting,” “racist” and “grotesque.” In another video, Sims filmed himself heckling a mother with her two teenage daughters and their friend. He asked his audience if anyone could identify the three teenage girls.

His Democratic leaders haven’t found it necessary to publicly distance themselves from his actions. All they’ve done is privately talk to him about it.

Bill Patton, a spokesman for the Democrats in the Pennsylvania House, said Sims had discussed his behavior “at length” with House leaders from both parties. “Democratic leaders addressed the matter with Sims privately and are satisfied it will not be repeated,” Patton said in a statement. “Republican leaders are aware of this.”

Still Angry at Pro-Life Advocates

Sims has apologized for his behavior, but not to the women he bullied. He created a video in which he promised to “do better.” But his feelings are better revealed in an email he sent out. There he explained his motivation for his behavior and ended by fundraising for Planned Parenthood. He apologized to Planned Parenthood for “creating this distraction” and vowed to be “a better advocate and ally.”

“My emotions took over because I was, and am, angry,” he wrote. “I’m angry that pro-life protestors use white privilege and racism to attack people of color in my district and across the nation, for seeking critical healthcare.”

So he regrets the “distraction” he caused when over one thousand pro-lifers held a “Rally Against Bullying” outside the Planned Parenthood where he volunteers in response to his actions. But he’s still convinced the Christians who offer pro-life options are “attacking people of color.” Seriously?

Escalating Tensions

Sims is not the only one to unleash his anger on pro-life sidewalk advocates. Tensions on the sidewalk are escalating, pro-life leaders say. Shawn Carney and Steve Karlen, leaders of 40 Days for Life, say they saw harassment increase two years ago. Karlen said the increased resentment towards pro-life advocates correlated with resentment towards Trump’s presidency.

During this spring campaign, however, they had the first incident of physical assault against a 40 Days for Life volunteer. A young man stole a large banner from a 40 Days for Life campaign in San Francisco. The 85-year old campaign leader tried to get it back. Video shows the thief pushing him to the ground and kicking him repeatedly while he was down.

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Why are we seeing more acts of violence against pro-life champions (see here and here)? Pro-life legislators are showing initiative, and some women fear their choices will be limited when facing a pregnancy. To many pro-abortion activists, it’s a call to war. Dr. Brown recently wrote about “The Coming Civil War Over Abortion.” He says the war-like pro-abortion rhetoric and instances of violence are likely to increase. “All the more reason, then, that we keep working to change hearts and minds, that we pray for divine intervention, and that we reply with calmness and measured speech rather than angry rhetoric of our own.”

He’s right. Peacefully praying and lovingly offering hope to women and children are two of the best things a pro-life person can do.

“We’re There to Encourage.”

What Sims and other angry hecklers don’t realize is that sidewalk advocacy isn’t shame-based. Pro-life sidewalk advocates are really there to offer women options and support. To offer love and a way out of an abortion they don’t want to have. No little girl dreams that one day she’ll feel like she has no option but to kill her growing son or daughter. As pro-abortion advocates so often say, “No woman wants an abortion.” That’s why pro-life advocates are there. They’re not motivated by money to convince a woman that she can’t be a parent. They’re there to help.

Pro-life advocates are not motivated by money to convince a woman that she can’t parent. They’re there to help.

“This is the hiding, shameful face of those that judge at Planned Parenthood, and it’s disgusting,” Sims said of the praying woman.

I have another face to show you. This is the face of a woman who received the encouragement she needed to choose life from a woman on the sidewalk. She tells her story while sitting next to that woman.

“I was just scared,” the young mother said. “And then I walked out of planned Parenthood and I saw J.C. and I was just crying hysterically. I didn’t know what to do. … I just knew that she could tell me something that just would make me feel that I could do it. … And she did.”

“We’re there to encourage,” J.C., the 40 Days for Life volunteer, said.

A Community to Fill the Voids

Brian Sims didn’t show up at the Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying. If he had, he could have seen the pure hearts of the pro-life advocates whom he harbors so much anger and resentment towards.

Dr. Monique Ruberu is the 40 Days for Life campaign leader at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood where Brian Sims volunteers as a patient escort. Through her organization, Sidewalk Servants Philly, Ruberu also leads volunteers to pray and engage with people going in and out the two Philadelphia abortion centers nearly every day, year-round. She and her volunteers are well-acquainted with harassment from Brian Sims and other pro-abortion activists, she told The Stream. She said her volunteers seek to pray and connect women with resources like financial assistance, a crisis pregnancy home, and an OB-GYN who won’t push abortion on them.

“We want these people to know that they have another alternative,” Dr. Ruberu said. “That there are people who are willing to step in and fill those voids. That as a community we can support them and help them.” (You can read more of our interview here.)

Perhaps Sims has seen women change their minds about procuring an abortion. Perhaps he thought they had been manipulated from their most “freeing” option. But the actions Brian Sims stands against are not shameful. They’re life-giving, loving, and beautiful. The volunteers he resents offer community, support and a way out of choosing death. They empower women and give them hope when they need it most. Why be against that?


Aliya Kuykendall is a Staff Writer for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on Twitter @AliyaKuykendall and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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