Karen Black Method
The following comments are excerpts taken from a handbook produced and edited by Colette Wilson, Attorney at Law. [Colette Wilson 13355 Midland Rd., Suite 130, Poway, CA 92064. Tel: (858) 391-3002)]
The content was transcribed from a seminar given by veteran sidewalk counselor Karen Black.
Children Deserve Birth (CDB) has been very selective in choosing which excerpts to post, but a link to the entire transcript is included at the bottom of this page. Some of Karen Black’s insights are relevant to some of our own and we felt it important to make them available on our site.
Do Not Bring Signs
One of the things I want you to understand as you read this, is I’m talking specifically about sidewalk counseling. And in my personal opinion, sidewalk counseling is not picketing. I believe, with all of my heart, they are totally counter-productive.
I am not against picketing. We have picketing in Atlanta. But we reserve the picketing for the mills where we don’t have access to the women or we can’t reach them at all. And we bring out our signs then, and we do our picketing.
Again, I’ve held babies that have been saved because someone had a picture of an aborted baby, and she saw that, and she said she couldn’t have this abortion. But I personally only know two. Now, you may know more. But don’t settle for two. I believe that that same woman, with that tender heart who reacted to a picture, would have reacted also to the words you had to say. And she also would have responded to the literature.
Picket when you can picket, but when you sidewalk counsel, leave your signs at home. Because the average woman has been spending weeks pushing this child to the recesses of her mind so that she can do what she’s going to do. She doesn’t want to think baby, she doesn’t want to look at baby.
Again, what’s our first objective? To win her to you, so she’ll stop and talk to you and take your literature. Now, if I were coming for an abortion, and you wanted to talk to me, and you were standing there with a big sign of an aborted baby, I would not walk up to you and talk to you. I am not going to stand there, look at the sign and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s an abortion, that’s what I’m gonna do.” No way! I would run from that picture.
And I have seen it over and over again. I’ve seen a woman look at the signs, take her purse, wrap it around her chest, put her head down, and run in. Very few run away. They run in to what they mistakenly think is their help and people that care about them. They have a hard time with those signs.
I believe that signs close an opportunity of communication, and that is what you are trying to do — communicate love and help and alternatives to her. Those signs will chase her in, not away.
Again, this advice does not pertain to all circumstances. When you can picket, picket. But when there is an opportunity to reach the woman one-on-one, then sidewalk counsel.
Do Not Talk Among Yourselves
You spend hours out there sometimes, and you get tired, and maybe there’s a lull in the girls coming, and you start to talk. What happens then is you lose that spirit of prayer, that spirit of urgency. One day at Surgi-Center we were talking, and we had started to laugh. And a woman came out, and she said, “I’m dying inside here! Don’t you understand what I’m going through today, and you’re out here laughing?” We need to be sensitive to that.
I’ve had people come up and say, “If this is so all-fired important to you, why don’t you act like it?”
So we need to watch at all times that we’re not jibber-jabbering and being light-hearted out there because they think that you’re not caring about them and you’re not really serious about what you’re doing.
And also it distracts you. I mean, I don’t know where they come from, but they come from everywhere; they come out of the cracks, but they come from somewhere. They get by you if you are talking, and you will miss an opportunity. So keep on each other about that. Use peer pressure, in love, and don’t talk among yourselves.
Do Not Keep Talking After She Tells You She’s Not Interested
If someone has gone by you on the sidewalk, and she has taken the literature, and that’s all she’s done, and she has let you know, either by her body language or that she quickens her pace to get away from you or she actually says, “Get out of my face,” get out of her face. Do NOT continue talking. Do NOT continue saying something. It’s gone. She has closed you out. It doesn’t matter what wonderful words you were going to say, she’s not going to receive a bit of it, and you are going to make her angry. Those few little words you were going to say aren’t going to change her mind. It’s just going to make her mad.
I don’t know about the particular mills in your town, but in Atlanta, the women go in, and they come back out. They go in. They come back out. They come back out for paperwork, and they go back in. They come out to check on a toddler in the car. They go in and out. And if I have made her mad the very first time she’s gone in, I’ve closed the door of communication for the other times that she comes out.
If you get literature into her hands, praise God! You have accomplished a great deal. Just shut up and leave it there. Let the literature do what you would have done. Let it say to her what you would have said. I’ve had woman after woman that has come out — has still got the literature in her hand. Recently, one woman came out — had her refund check right in the middle of her literature, and she said, “If I hadn’t read it, I would have made the biggest mistake of my life.” Women have said that to me over and over again, that same phrase, even. So let that happen.
But I’ve also seen that when you continue talking after a woman has taken the literature, she says, “I told you, that’s enough!” And they take the literature and rip it and throw it on the ground. And you’ve lost that opportunity. So just back off. If she says, I don’t want to talk to you any more, say “Okay, God bless you, honey.”
If she has not taken the literature, and she wants you out of her face, back off and get out of the way. If she comes back out again, it’s already registered with her, “They’re not going to harass me.” She’s already in, she has already started her paperwork, she’s calming down a little bit, and she comes back to you again, thinking, “Well I’ve gotten through the pro-lifers. That wasn’t so bad. They didn’t harass me.” And her guard’s down. And a lot of times, she will come up and ask you for literature. She’ll say, “I’m sorry. You know, I didn’t treat you very nice.” She’ll ask you for the literature.
And if she doesn’t — If a woman goes in, does not take the literature, and she comes back out, I still don’t approach her, because I know she’s got to get by me to get back in. So when she comes out the first time, I just back out and smile, don’t say anything. And she’ll smile back. And she’ll go to her car and do whatever, and as she’s on her way back in, I might approach her again. Her anger level is way down, and she’ll be far more receptive.
Do Not Interrupt Another Counselor
This can be a real serious problem sometimes, and I’ve been guilty of this. But don’t interrupt another counselor. She has a very small time frame to get this woman’s attention. And you may be standing close enough to hear what’s being said, and you may think, “Oh, gosh, I know exactly what I’m going to say about that.” But you need to be quiet anyway.
Now, if I have said everything that I know to say and the woman is not leaving, but she’s not going in either, many times I have called Joanna over. And I’ve said, “Joanna, this is so and so. This is her situation. Do you have anything to add?” But make sure that you’re invited. And it’s true. Joanna may be standing by; if she’s not counseling, she not under the pressure right then, and her mind’s free to think. And she may have the very thing that woman needs to hear. And even if you don’t call someone else over, the other counselor can always walk up to her again herself. But don’t interrupt.
Do Not Yell Out, “Don’t Kill Your Baby!”
This is a very very common mistake, because it’s something inside us that we feel compelled to say. But think about it. What are we trying to do? We are trying to win her over to us so that we can talk to her, and you’ve just called her a murderer. She is participating in murder, and that, indeed, is the truth. But that is not how we influence friends, and she’s not going to respond to that.