It’s early on a fall Saturday morning, temperatures just barely above freezing. As I pull into the entrance next to A Woman’s Choice, the abortion facility in Greensboro, I’m met by a wall of thirty rainbow-colored vests—the abortion center escorts. Mixed among them, I see Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center’s team of Sidewalk Advocates in bright pink vests—hoping for the chance to offer support and alternatives to the women with appointments at the abortion center that morning.
Carla Stowers is the Sidewalk Team Leader. She’s been on site in the bitter cold since 7:30 a.m. that morning, but you wouldn’t know it by her cheerful smile. She tells me that just the possibility of impacting one life—having a conversation with one man or one woman, and bringing them “a little bit of hope”—is all the motivation she needs. “Once you realize what is going on here, it’s kind of hard to turn away from it.” She says her team comes to offer tangible help, and hopefully have the opportunity to point people to Jesus.
Carla tells me that many Sidewalk Advocates are there to help women avoid the pain they experienced themselves as a result of abortion in their past. “They want to keep somebody from going through what they did….We’re here to love and not judge them. A lot of us understand what they’re going through.”
When a woman pulls into the driveway, our Sidewalk Advocates will attempt to initiate conversation, offering free information and resources. Unlike what you might see in the media, there’s no yelling, no angry signs. Just compassion.
Carla tells me that, “ultimately the goal is to figure out what the problem is in her life that is making her feel that [abortion] is the choice she has to make, and addressing that need.”
My heart sinks as I watch the abortion escorts yell at the women who are arriving with fear on their faces and hoods up. “Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” the escorts yell. I can’t help but wonder—if these escorts truly care about these women and want them to make an empowered decision, then why are they so threatened by GPCC volunteers and nurses seeking to help women make healthy, fully-informed decisions?
Carla tells me that often women they talk with are still undecided when they arrive. Sidewalk Advocates can offer these women pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and STD testing right then and there on our Mobile Unit—all free of charge. Women would be charged around $200 for the same ultrasound at the abortion facility, and, according to firsthand accounts, may or may not be given the opportunity to view the image.
Sidewalk Advocates have the opportunity to meet a woman at a critical moment in her life, and to connect her with support during her pregnancy that continues after her baby is born. Pregnancy & Parenting classes, budgeting and financial assistance, and the Titus 2 mentoring program are all free resources offered by GPCC. Should a woman choose abortion, GPCC offers Abortion Recovery programs.
Carla encourages anyone who’s thinking about getting off the sidelines and becoming a Sidewalk Advocate, “just do it.” A self-described introvert, she says she never would have pictured herself in this role. “You don’t need to be an extrovert, you don’t need a special talent.”
She says sidewalk advocacy is “one of the most impactful things we can do…the battle is real, and women are hurting.”
“It’s a real issue, and if we all can step up in our own ways with our own talents, and be here on the front lines, then we are going to make such a huge impact in our community and to the men and women that are in need.”
For a deeper look at Sidewalk Advocacy, you can read Mary Holloman’s blog, Beauty and Pain of Sidewalk Advocacy and listen to Episode 007 of the Empowered Advocate, Sidewalk Advocacy: An Insider’s Look.