Sidewalk counseling is “reaching out” to mothers and fathers, who are contemplating or planning abortion, to offer them information that they have a need and right to know. It is conducted by way of conversation and literature. It is done with love and out of concern for unborn children who are in danger of being deprived of their God-given right to be born into the world and for their parents, especially mothers, who are in danger of being severely harmed in numerous ways.
Sidewalk counseling is conducted on public sidewalks outside abortion facilities on days that abortions are being committed and/or days when pre-abortion evaluations or pregnancy tests are provided. Parents may be offered information about where to go for free pregnancy tests, counseling and practical assistance, as well as fetal development, adoption, abortion procedures, risks and side effects, and post-abortion counseling and healing. Some groups incorporate other forms of street activities with their sidewalk counseling ministries such as picketing, demonstrating, preaching, displaying signs or images, evangelizing passersby or the abortion facility’s staff, guards or escorts. However, in its purest form, sidewalk counseling is about saving a child from certain death and his/her parents from certain harm, one family at a time. In fact, the term “sidewalk counseling” was devised to counter the media characterization of a group of pro-life advocates in California as demonstrators. This group had set aside their signs and all other external evidence of demonstrating and organized their efforts to be the most effective means of reaching and speaking with people in order to offer alternatives to abortion.
“I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors, which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.” Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life