Abortion Protest Movement Feuds Over Lawbreaking Tactics

Lauren Muzyka of Sidewalk Advocates for Life
Lauren Muzyka of Sidewalk Advocates for Life argues against "rescue" tactics in a video response to the "Red Rose Rescue" movement.

Sidewalk Advocates for Life, an anti-abortion group that stations activists outside of clinics to attempt to convince women to not go through with abortion procedures, is criticizing the methods of “rescue” activists who have been testing the limits of laws protecting abortion clinics by blocking clinic doors and trespassing in clinic waiting rooms.

Last summer, 11 activists affiliated with Operation Save America were arrested after blockading the entrance to a Louisville abortion clinic in a protest that harkened back to the early days of the anti-abortion “rescue” movement. Ten of those activists were later charged with violating the federal law that protects access to clinics. Another group of activists has been staging what they call “Red Rose Rescues,” attempting to test the limits of the clinic-access law by trespassing in abortion clinic waiting rooms to hand out literature and attempt to talk patients out of abortion. Five activists who took part in a “Red Rose Rescue” in Michigan were recently charged with trespassing.

Late last month, Sidewalk Advocates released a 20-minute “docu-infomercial” arguing that these “rescue” tactics are self-defeating because they give pro-choice advocates an easy villain, turn off abortion patients who they think they could otherwise reach, and help build the case for buffer zones that prohibit protesters and “sidewalk advocates” from standing close to clinics.

Sidewalk Advocates’ video featured the group’s executive director, Lauren Muzyka, along with a few former clinic workers turned anti-abortion activists. One of those, Abby Johnson, says that she is “scared” that these rescue tactics mean that groups like Sidewalk Advocates “are not going to be able to continue to do that mission work because people were only working at short-term goals.”

This has not gone over well with Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger at Operation Rescue, who although they are not involved in the “Red Rose Rescues” and are in a long-running feud with Operation Save America, wrote on their website yesterday that as “custodians of the legacy” of the “rescue” movement of the 1980s and ‘90s, they were obligated to respond to Sidewalk Advocates’ attack.

Newman and Sullenger say that Sidewalk Advocates and their allies don’t understand the issue because they “never experienced those heady years of rescue,” and accuse the group of expressing an unbiblical fear of the consequences of civil disobedience:

It is unfortunate that those involved in producing the SAFL never experienced those heady years of rescue. They express a great deal of fear of something they simply cannot understand. They fear losing access to sidewalks near abortion facilities should the nominal acts of civil disobedience continue – something that never happened during the Rescue years. They express an unfounded fear of having their sidewalk counseling ministry destroyed, fear of violence, fear of a negative public reaction to the rescues, and more. The video’s message is characterized by fear.

However, 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear is never an appropriate Christian response to uncertainty. Instead, the Bible teaches us to “fear not.”

They go on to accuse Sidewalk Advocates of being duped by the former abortion clinic workers in its ranks and allowing to let the “ideology of the Abortion Cartel” take root in the anti-choice movement:

It seems that SAFL has stood in opposition to really anything that might make abortion facility workers feel uncomfortable. Sometimes discomfort is necessary to bring about repentance and/or bring offenders to justice. Why this group feels the need to exert control over pro-life activism in an attempt to eliminate proven life-saving tactics is really is puzzling – unless they have been unduly influenced to acquiesce to the comforts of abortion facility workers, a number of which appeared in their video. If that is the goal, it has the (perhaps) unintended consequence of minimizing the overall effectiveness of the pro-life voice.

We have no doubt that if Planned Parenthood submitted the Sidewalk Advocates for Life video as evidence in court against peaceful civil disobedience and protests or in support of a buffer zone law, the judge would rule in Planned Parenthood’s favor. This places the SAFL directly on the side of Planned Parenthood and the rest of the Abortion Cartel!

We can no longer be silent while ideology of the Abortion Cartel takes root and grows within the pro-life movement. We must stand strong and resist the leaven before it leavens the whole movement, and diminishes our voice and our ability to end abortion once and for all.

Just last week, Newman co-wrote an article that compared allowing former clinic workers to have leadership positions in the anti-choice movement to allowing ISIS defectors to lead the Department of Homeland Security.