John Mark Porter is a Senior at the University of South Carolina and former president of that University’s Pro-Life student organization, Advocates for Life. Many of the students from that organization serve as volunteer counselors and intern at the local sidewalk counseling ministry.
On Tuesday morning in Columbia, South Carolina, I and four other sidewalk counselors were forced to leave the sidewalk and threatened with arrest if we were to return to the Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Abortions are booming amidst the Coronavirus uncertainty. By our own count, over the last six abortion days that facility had performed 136 abortions, 52 more than the historical average.
That morning, it was a tale of two organizations:
One acting within CDC guidelines with counselors standing 25 feet apart from one another and only approached cars if allowed to by the drivers, motivated by the opportunity to save lives and help women in the darkest moment of their lives.
The other escorting moms inside while violating the 6-foot distancing guidelines, using up critical supplies of PPE, and stuffing a dozen clients at a time in a waiting room, motivated by money and a desire to rid mothers of the “inconvenience” of a child.
But when the police came that morning, you can guess who was shrugged off without a second glance and who walked away with a citation. Within an hour of the escort arriving, seven police cruisers were blocking traffic through the main entrance as they issued our ministry’s director with a citation and a court date.
Persecution is not uncommon there, despite our peaceful presence. On top of verbal threats, we’ve had rocks thrown at us (assault), been swerved at with a car, and been physically shoved out of the way (battery), and in spite of documented evidence in those cases the police have failed to follow up.
But we persevere. Sidewalk counselors save lives as evidenced by the 343 babies rescued by 40 Days for Life between February 26 and April 5th. Since March 14th, five moms had chosen life at that facility as our counselors have stood to receive them. To those moms and to their babies, we are an essential service.
Up the street at the second entrance to the abortion lot, away from the police cars and mess of sounds, signs, and people, I was able to have a conversation with a mom. She was looking for the facility and came to me; she said this was her first abortion and it would be her last. I talked to her about the OB/GYN who we have on stand-by ready to provide services for expectant moms, the financial support we provide, and options for adoption. We prayed and talked about hope in the midst of a dark time.
Her two daughters are everything to her, but she was still scared of this third child. I shared about the resources our student group provided on campus to moms in need of babysitting and assistance and we shared a laugh over a video of the antics one of those babies, himself saved from abortion by a compassionate mother. She smiled. But in the midst of this hope, her male companion, having gone ahead and found the entrance, came back and pulled her away despite her reproaches. He was in a rush. As she left, I heard her say, “I know this is wrong.”