My experience as a sidewalk advocate for life

By Sade Patterson, University of New Mexico Students for Life

As the National Pro-Life Generation Sidewalk Day approaches I am reminded of an experience on the sidewalk that set the foundation of my decision to be an advocate for life.

In January 2015 a mother in distress contacted a group of pro-life activists in Albuquerque. She was calling from Spain to tell us that her college-aged daughter was traveling from the UK with her father to have a late-term abortion in Albuquerque. We were told that she was 28 weeks pregnant, given her contact information, and the time and date of her appointment.

Knowing that I am a parenting student and could possibly relate to this young girl’s situation, my friend contacted me and asked me to reach out to her by messaging her on Facebook.

I remember feeling a great amount of pressure as I messaged her; I decided to just be authentic and personal, and I told her we loved her. I explained to her how I had faced an unplanned pregnancy when I was 20, and that with support I was able to continue my education, and how we could offer her the same support.

I praised the choice of adoption and told her of the people and organizations that were already prepared to assist her. I stayed up all night praying that she would see this sade2.jpegmessage and could find hope in choosing life before her appointment the next morning.

I was saddened to wake up the next morning to find that I was blocked from her account; either she or her father had read my message and did not want to consider an alternative. Many people in the pro-life community flooded the sidewalk at Southwestern Women’s Options that morning, hoping to be able to see this young woman before her appointment. A few of us were only able to speak with her father. He would not allow us to speak or even see his daughter, and he became violent and slightly physical with us.

Some Things We Can’t Control

At that moment I realized three things: the first was that this girl was most likely being pressured by her father to have an abortion. He had paid over $20,000 for the procedure, in addition to travel expenses. He was violent and he would not let her speak for herself.

The second thing I realized was that they were feeling ambushed by the community. Rather than making this a private exchange between a few sidewalk counselors and this family, the entire pro-life movement in ABQ was notified and came to tell her not to abort her baby.

Lastly, I realized that there was nothing more anyone of us could do, and it was hard to let go and see someone make that decision.

I’d like to say that this experience set a fire in me and I was motivated to do more work on the sidewalk. But if I am being honest, I struggled for a long time after this incident, and avoided the sidewalk for months. I was angry that our state continues to reject restrictions on abortion and allows abortion through all stages of pregnancy, and I felt personally responsible for her decision to abort her baby.

Looking back now, I realize my high level of selfishness and naivety, but in that dark moment I truly questioned my ability as an advocate for both mom and baby.

Unexpected Joy

Just a few weeks later we got a letter in the mail from the girl’s uncle who lived in Spain with her mother. He was overwhelmed with gratitude that we had all tried to help his niece and her unborn baby. Out of the generosity of his heart, he gave $1,000 to each person who had personally tried to help her. I was so amazed by his gratitude and his gift, despite the dark outcome.

With the money we received, we were able to help at least seven pregnant and parenting individuals. This money blessed several women who were facing abortion: a single father, a single mother, and young parenting students. I saw at that moment how God could bring life out of ashes and glory out of pain.

Tomorrow we will all unite on the sidewalks across the country. I could have shared many encouraging stories with you about how we have intervened on the sidewalk, and the mother chose life, but the reality is many times we will not be able to. Or sometimes we won’t ever know of the lives we saved.

What will you hold onto after a woman walks into that building and comes out empty despite your efforts? What will keep you driven after countless people drive by and shout obscenities at you? What will get you to the sidewalk again after a day that feels like defeat?

Lessons Learned

What I learned through the experience I shared with you is that we often grow the most as advocates through hardship, and we need to do what is right and accept that we may not always have victories. If we are instrumental in a save, we rejoice and continue on with the mission. If we encounter a loss, we mourn, but we continue on with the mission because there are more lives that need to be saved.

Rather than taking a loss personal like I did, understand that your time on the sidewalk can result in something beautiful.  You may not see the outcome of your presence on the sidewalk that day, but you may see it some time later when a woman you spoke to comes to you after healing from her abortion or chooses life for her next pregnancy because she knows the pain of abortion.

Lastly, do not be defeated by how the world may react to our presence on the sidewalk. They may overlook our young faces and label us as oppressive white males. They may disregard our compassion and see us as a threat. But we know who we are and what we are called to do; let us continue our mission with all the confidence and strength we have. We are the pro-life generation!

Find the location for National Pro-Life Generation Sidewalk Day closest to you here!