Sidewalk Counselor’s Guidebook

This is a book for those people who feel they are called to go to the abortion centers to counsel women, but have not gone because they didn’t know what to say. We have put together this book, and training for sidewalk counselors, to help people who are in that dilemma. It is easy to let our insecurity restrain us from action. Excuses are numerous when the costs are high. The truth is that thousands of babies die every day, and they can’t hear our excuses. If you think of sidewalk counseling as crisis evangelism, and you think of the mother as a respected friend, you will find that counseling women is easy. There is no other place where you will find such a dramatic need for Christ. The abortion centers of this country are the new mission field. God is looking for missionaries to go forth and preach the Gospel. If we dare to call ourselves Christians, which means being Christ-like, we have a responsibility to make disciples of the world starting in our neighborhoods-at our doorsteps.

We have written this book because we wanted to share our knowledge, and our hope. As a former Planned Parenthood worker, Judith has, from the inside of an abortion facility, observed what tactics work. As pro-life activists we have seen, from the outside of abortion facilities across the country, what tactics work. We hope and pray that our trial-and-error experiences will help future counselors to get around the blocks and dead-ends that we have encountered. It is always hoped that the student will surpass the teacher because the student can draw on the teacher’s experiences and not make the same mistakes. This book may help achieve the same thing. Additionally, all too often, if we don’t see results, we think that we have no effect. Please remember that just because a woman goes into an abortion facility does not mean that she will have her abortion. There were many times when Judith was working in the abortuary and women got off the table just prior to having their abortions. We do have an effect, even if we don’t see it-remember, faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.


Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.(Matthew 10:16)

We hope that through this book each person will find the style of counseling that God has given him. Each of us has a personality type, and a style of counseling, that is his own. What works for Joshua does not work for Judith; what works for you will be as individual as your fingerprints. This book emphasizes the individual talents and gifts that God has bestowed upon each counselor. Through training, we hope you will utilize these gifts and talents to the greatest extent possible. We also hope and pray that training will prevent the severe burnout rate that has occurred among many counselors. As with anything, practice will hone your skills and cause you to look to the Lord instead of to the circumstances surrounding you. Remember, none of us started out as “good” sidewalk counselors. The only way to become an expert sidewalk counselor is to go out and counsel women and their partners at the clinics. Like the Lord’s prayer, this book is only a pattern for the counselor’s use. It is important, as will be stressed throughout this book, to develop your own counseling style. When we are in front of the clinics, we are to be driven by love, compassion and obedience, not anger and obligation.


Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (I Corinthians 1:10)

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us . . . (Romans 12:4-6)

Jesus told us that a house divided against itself cannot stand; that is true of the Church and of the pro-life movement. If we are in front of the abortuaries and are not of one accord, God cannot use us, and we will get trounced. Rather than look to our differences, we need to accentuate the similarities in our faiths, primarily that Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose on the third day is our Lord and Savior.

In the past there has been backbiting and judgment among brothers and sisters who share a concern for, and dedication to, God’s precious preborn children. We must stop attacking one another and attack our real enemy-Satan-the father of lies. We are called to love one another and to support one another. And, as our grandmothers always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all . . .”

Imagine the awesome work that God could do if we were not wounding our own and leaving them on the battlefield to slowly bleed to death. Some of our best warriors have been so wounded by their brothers and sisters that they have left the ministry, and some have even turned away from the Lord. Please, let’s strive for love and unity at the abortion facilities.


Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The clinics present us with a tremendous opportunity to reach out to those people who will not come to our churches, and who seldom see God’s love. It was the sinners, those who had little to do with the religious leaders of the time, whom Jesus sought to reach. At the killing centers, one may find the radical left, those involved in the occult, the walking wounded from churches (in some cases), the homeless, the clinic workers, the abortionists, the mothers, the fathers, the AIDS victims, and those who simply need the Lord.

Jesus dined with the publicans and sinners. He said that it was the sick who need a doctor; that situation has not changed. Christians know the truth of the Gospel, and we are convinced of its validity, but there is a world of people who do not have a revelation of the truth, and they deserve to hear it. The abortuary provides one of the largest cross-sections of people of any ministry field. This sounds like a good place to share the hope and life provided by Jesus Christ. What better place to show life and peace than a place of death and despair? Just as Jesus reached out to the thief on the cross, we should feel compelled to reach out to the abortion-bound mom, and the people who are leading her to destruction, those who press towards their own destruction.

Christ set an example of how we are to live. This includes ministering to those who make us uncomfortable, the socially undesirable, the religious outcasts-those who have not heard the truth. Do they not need Christ more than those who are already saved? It’s time to get out of our armchairs and get back to the streets. Even if you do not feel a call to minister directly to the moms, you will definitely find someone to whom you are called to minister.



Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling and to communicate that you understand, while at the same time remaining objective enough to help them. If you understand your own feelings, you can generally empathize.

It is sometimes easier for us to turn away from people in pain, rather than reach out to them in their pain. It is difficult to hear the anguish and despair of another person, but we must hear that anguish if we are to minister to those who are hurting. Hearing someone’s despair means really listening to his words and not assuming what he is feeling and what he is going to say. Scripture is always true, but there are times when people need to see Jesus in us, not our quoting Jesus at them. Holding a hand, or crying with someone, can often be better ministry. We cannot cringe at the pain that needs mercy, nor can we walk away from the burden that needs bearing. We are called to be the Lord’s hands and heart to those who are hurting.

Empathy is not assuming that another person’s reactions or emotions to a situation are the same as ours would be under the same circumstances. Our reactions may not be “proper,” but those reactions must be dealt with because they are still genuine and valid. Sometimes we need to see the face of Jesus in the face of another person.

Please remember that someone else may not feel the way you would under the same circumstances. Although we must be involved enough to hear what is being said to us, and to make use of our own emotional experiences, we must also be detached enough to be able to tell the difference between our emotional experiences and those of the woman.

If you have unresolved abortion issues in your life, it is often difficult to effectively deal with another’s pain until you have resolved your pain from your abortion experience. It is important to walk through a healing process before going out onto the streets, in front of the abortion facilities. Your local crisis pregnancy center will be able to assist you in finding post-abortion counseling services.


Sincerity is the ability to be true and not hypocritical, honest and not false. Sincerity is being yourself and not hiding behind phony piety or defenses.

Although you may want to watch other sidewalk counselors and model your style after them, you do not want to try to be exactly like another sidewalk counselor. If you do model your style after someone else, this is fine. Within a short time, you will find that you have developed a style that is all your own. This style will be sincere and flexible because it will be modified by your counseling experiences.

Unconditional Acceptance

Unconditional acceptance is caring for and accepting the other person despite his lifestyle-accepting him despite his sin. Judith often says that her heart was touched by a pro-life activist who said to her, “Jesus calls us to hate the sin and love the sinner.” She was touched by him because he did love her despite her job assisting in the killing of children. Remember, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:7).


Humility is recognizing our own strengths and weaknesses. It is the evidence of respect for God and for the other person. God can use anyone in this woman’s life; you are not responsible for her decision. You are not to blame if she has an abortion, nor are you to claim any glory if she does not.


To love God is to obey Him. Our love for the Lord is evidenced in our obedience to Him and to the tasks He assigns us.

But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. (Jeremiah 7:23)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

Obedience to God is not a feeling; it is a state of being. It is a daily commitment to walk in the paths that God has set before us. Sidewalk counseling on a regular basis can be very frustrating. We must continually remind ourselves that we are out there in obedience to God, whether or not we see the results of our obedience. Obedience is not some warm, fuzzy emotion . . . it is continuing to step out and follow the Lord without regard for what we see, or for the circumstances.

Other Qualities Needed to Be an Effective Sidewalk Counselor

  • An effective sidewalk counselor must be familiar with what the Bible teaches on the sanctity of human life.

Psalm 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jeremiah 1:4-6 The word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Galatians 1:15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me . . .

Psalm 127:3 Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.

Leviticus 20:1-5 The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: Any Israelite or alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him. I will set my face against that man and I will cut him off from his people; for by giving his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people both him and all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molech.”

Matthew 18:10 See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.

Isaiah 45:9-10 Woe to him who quarrels with the Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Do the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” Do your works say, “He has no hands?” Woe to him who says to his father, “What have you begotten?” Or to his mother, “What have you brought to birth?”

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Deuteronomy 30:19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

  • A firm commitment to the pro-life position . . . even *in *the hard cases. Abortion is not the eraser that makes rape and/or incest disappear.

More information on how to counsel the rape and/or incest survivor is included later in this book. However, it is important to have some knowledge of what rape and incest are.

Rape is a forced sexual encounter against the will of the woman. You should not make a judgment about the woman’s involvement in the situation, it is important that the woman clarify the situation and how she feels for herself.

Ask her is she is willing to tell you what happened. Listen to her carefully. Encourage her to continue to talk about what happened, even if the details make you uncomfortable; it is important that you not let your discomfort show. Assume that the woman was functioning well in her life until now and that all signs of distress are related to the rape. Be prepared to make a referral for additional counseling.

Incest and child sexual abuse are the sexual involvement of adults with children. All cases of child sexual abuse must be reported to the child protection agency in your area.

Take the time to discuss the rape and/or incest with the woman in a low key, undramatic manner. Avoid implying or suggesting perversity, unnaturalness, or illegality. Help her in planning how she will deal with the situation.

It is difficult to listen to the pain of a woman who has been raped; it is harder still when it is a child. However, it is important to not turn from the woman’s pain. We are called to bear one another’s burdens, to walk through the wilderness with those whom the Lord places in our path. If a woman discloses to you that she has been raped, she is placing her trust in you; she is also reaching out to you. This is not the time to offer pat answers. “Give it to Jesus” can often sound like “Don’t give it to me, I don’t want to hear it.” “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” is true. However, the woman will receive this as your not being interested. Listening, showing compassion and love, and a simple “I am sorry that happened to you” will be more useful to the woman. We are called to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. There are no quick fixes for the pain of rape, incest, or sexual abuse.

  • A concern for the woman as well as for the child.

The uterus is a very strong muscle. You cannot reach through the woman to reach the child. You must reach the woman to reach the child.

  • Recognition of your own values and biases.

Values: A worthwhile principle or quality, something of importance.

We are more comfortable sharing ourselves with those people who share our values, those who hold dear the same things that we hold dear. This is not always the case with counseling; you will not always counsel women who share your view of the world. It is important to recognize our own values so that we can more easily accept the values of others. We may not agree with the woman’s values, but if we can accept that they are her values at this point, we have a better chance of reaching her.

Biases: Prejudices; preconceived opinions.

It is important to recognize those things that we have strong feelings against. It is hard to hide a feeling of aversion from someone with whom you are counseling. The woman will feel your reluctance and lack of acceptance. Acknowledging our biases often makes them easier for us to accept in a counseling situation. However, if you have strong feelings and biases about someone, or about a lifestyle, it is often more productive to let someone who does not have the same strong bias counsel that individual.

  • A commitment to confidentiality.

Assume that everything said to you is said in confidence. When a woman shares something with you, it is important not to repeat what you are told. What is shared with you is between you, the woman, and the Lord.

  • A warm, caring personality.

Warm, caring people who relate well to others and sincerely enjoy others make excellent sidewalk counselors. A warm and caring spirit can be felt by the woman you are counseling. These qualities and attitudes are a gift from God to the woman.


Any woman can experience a crisis pregnancy. However, there are similarities among most women with a crisis pregnancy. She is usually from a single-parent home or a home where both parents work. There may be pressure from her partner, family or peers to abort. She may feel that she is trapped by circumstances and cannot continue the pregnancy (money, job, school, illness, drug use). Please remember she is bombarded by messages each day that encourage sex and abortion-on-demand. It is an education process to undo the messages that she receives from television, school, magazines, etc. Oftentimes, in front of the abortion clinic is not the place to begin this education process. It is better to direct the woman to the crisis pregnancy center in your area. They are better equipped to counsel and undo the damage done by the fallacies the woman has been fed.


Any pregnancy that causes stress is a crisis pregnancy.

A crisis is defined as an event or series of consequences that threaten our well-being and interfere with our normal life. Some of the feelings associated with a crisis are anxiety, ambivalence, dependence, low self-esteem, anger, helplessness, detachment, fear and guilt.

Any pregnancy, even one that was wanted at the time of conception, can be a crisis pregnancy. The crisis will occur because the woman perceives the circumstances to be so hostile to her situation, her life, or her pregnancy that she must seek an escape. All too often, the way of escape for the woman appears to be abortion, even to women who would never before have considered abortion.

Society has pushed abortion as a cure-all for the woman in a crisis pregnancy. When people are faced with a crisis of any nature, they will respond by using the information they have been taught. They will look for the easiest answer possible. This mind-set will direct a woman on a single course of action, one that has been presented time and time again-the abortion option.

The crisis may interfere with the woman’s normal ability to look at a problem and come to a rational decision. This does not mean that the woman is a “bad” person; rather, she is responding, in a very human fashion, to what has been presented as a threat -by seeking immediate relief. When confronting the crisis, it is essential to present simple, direct, clear and precise answers to the woman’s situation. Lengthy oratories will only confuse the woman. Because of the need to find a clear answer in a crisis, it is important to deal with the prominent concern the woman has regarding her pregnancy. Helping the baby without helping the woman is doing a disservice to everyone. You cannot solve all the woman’s problems on the street. You need only direct her to the crisis pregnancy center where the woman can receive the aid that she requires.


  • Establish a rapport with the woman-make contact-smile and look her in the eyes.
  • Help her to reduce her anxiety; allow the woman to talk out her feelings.
  • Explore her circumstances with her-remember to stay focused on the issue.
  • Encourage her to take action-give her a map to the crisis pregnancy center; go with her to call and make an appointment. If you can, accompany her to the crisis pregnancy center.

Crisis pregnancy centers exist to help women with the support necessary to continue their pregnancies. It is important that each woman who is turned away from an abortion center receive some type of information on the crisis pregnancy center closest to her; it is not the responsibility of the sidewalk counselor to support the woman throughout her pregnancy.


“We who are strong ought to bear with the failing of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1)

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

One of the greatest gifts you can give a woman in a crisis pregnancy is listening to her. The woman will be able to tell if you are really listening; not just by what you say in response to her, but by how you say it, in what she observes and senses in the way you react to what she says . . . verbally and nonverbally.

Our body language tells people if we are really listening, if we really care for them. How do you look? Are you relaxed? Do you seem open, smiling, friendly? Do you look like someone she could trust and respect? Do you seem interested in what she is saying, or are you obviously thinking about your next response? Are you looking her in the eye, or staring at the ground, watching the activity on the street, looking at your watch? Are you fidgeting? Fidgeting is a giveaway that you are feeling impatient. How is your voice? Are you strident or judgmental, or is your voice quiet and soothing? It’s the easiest thing in the world to say that we understand and that we want to help, but does that show in how we hold ourselves?


One technique of good listening is asking open questions. Open questions allow the woman to explore her feelings and do not guide the conversation along pre-established lines. There are no “correct” or “incorrect” answers to open questions; they do not direct the woman’s thinking. Open questions show the woman that you respect her. If she feels respected, she will be far more willing to listen to you when you suggest that she accompany you to the crisis pregnancy center.

If your questions can only be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” you will find you are asking question after question; you will be doing all the talking. Additionally, you will sound like a prosecuting attorney or an angry parent. This is not at all useful to the woman. Be silent after asking a question so that the woman has a chance to think about her response.

  • Here are some examples of open questions:
  • When did you learn you were pregnant?
  • How did you feel?
  • How does your partner/mother/father feel?
  • How have other people reacted to your pregnancy?
  • How did you come to your decision to have an abortion?
  • What are your feelings about abortion?
  • Could you tell me more about that?
  • How did you feel when he/she said that?
  • Can you give me an example of that?
  • What do you mean by . . . ?

“Can you tell me?” and “Will you tell me?” allow the woman to say no, although she will generally answer you. It is very important when dealing with survivors of rape, incest or sexual abuse to allow them an opportunity to tell you no. These women need to have control of the sidewalk counseling situation; when you ask open questions, you give them that control.


She is not the woman in the silk dress and the expensive shoes wearing the Planned Parenthood name badge. It is fairly easy to recognize a woman who is entering a clinic for an abortion. She will generally have someone with her, as she needs a ride home after the abortion. She will be told by the abortion center staff to “wear a comfortable, loose fitting, two-piece outfit, like a sweat suit.” With younger teenage women, there will often be several young women walking together. Since teenage girls tend to release tension through giggling, expect them to appear lighthearted. This is a common reaction among very young women, so please do not be judgmental.


Many clinic workers have had a previous abortion experience. A high percentage of the women who work at abortion facilities have child sexual abuse, incest or forcible rape in their backgrounds. Some of these women have grown up in alcoholic, emotionally abusive, or physically abusive homes.

When dealing with the clinic workers, please bear in mind that some of them are wounded women. Although their dedication to abortion is confusing for us, to them it makes sense. If you grow up in a home where “I love you” means “I can hurt you,” a home where there is no safe place, a world of secrets and pain, where the only safe place is the company of other wounded women, then it is not reaching very far to come to the wrong conclusions-the wrong conclusions that killing children means saving them, and that women are safer, more autonomous, and better able to care for themselves in a dangerous world if they bear no children.

These of course are the wrong conclusions, but they are the wrong conclusions that come from a place of pain. We need to share the truth, and the love of Jesus, with these women if we are to successfully battle these wrong conclusions and help them combat the pain and fear in their lives. We need to love them as Jesus would-uncompromisingly, all-consumingly, and unconditionally. We need to love them with a love that they have never known, a love that will leave them standing in shame under the hand of the living God.

Other clinic workers become involved in abortion rights because they truly believe that they are helping women. For these clinic workers it is much more a political choice. They are involved because of their love and concern for women.

When we are in front of clinics and we hear the shouts of “murderer” and “the blood is on your hands,” it is a knife that goes through us. These are women who need our compassion, they need our love, they need the healing power of a risen Savior. Yes, what they do, the wholesale slaughter of innocent children, is heinous. Yes, it must stop. But the way to stop it is to reach out in love, not to retaliate in anger.

Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. We are not condoning sin, nor are we excusing sin. However, if we can get into the heads of the clinic workers, if we can understand the other side, we will be better equipped to battle our true enemy-the father of lies-Satan. We will also be better able to love the clinic workers as Jesus would-uncompromisingly, unconditionally, and all-consumingly. Remember, we are called to love the clinic workers.


The best opening line is the one you come up with yourself. However, there are some opening lines that are not appropriate. “Please don’t kill your baby,” “I’ll take your baby for you,” and “You will still be a mother-the mother of a dead child,” are not very productive if you want someone to stop and talk with you. The object of sidewalk counseling is to get the woman to stop and talk with you. We have seen some wonderful sidewalk counselors use very simple opening lines, so we have included some of our favorites.

  • I’m not here to tell you not to have an abortion. However, I do have some information about this clinic that may be of interest to you.
  • Excuse me, ma’am, can I get just a few seconds of your time . . . ah, c’mon, please . . .
  • Will you talk to me for just a second? My boss is over there watching me, and the information I have for you really won’t hurt you.
  • Look, I know it’s hot (or cold, or raining, or . . .), and you’ve already made up your mind, but I have some information on the medical malpractice suits against this clinic that I’d like to share with you.
  • Hi, I’m giving this information to everyone who is going into this facility today-would you like some additional information?
  • Can I get you to stop for just a second so I can give you some information that you won’t receive inside this facility?

By the time a woman is approaching the doors of the abortion center she is determined to get inside. She has been warned that you, the radical anti-choice terrorist, are going to try to stop her. The way to disarm what the abortuary staff has told her about you is to be friendly. No one is expecting polite, kind, gentle people. That is not what they are shown on the news, and your quiet spirit will disarm them.


It is important to know about the stages of pregnancy and fetal development when talking to some women. It is also important to understand the basic anatomy when discussing the possible complications of abortions. It is always best to know as much as possible about a subject you are discussing with someone; it never looks credible if you have no facts.

  • Ovaries are the egg depositories where thousands of eggs are stored. The ovaries are located on either side of the uterus and are connected to the uterus by the fallopian tubes.
  • Fallopian tubes are small tubes about the same diameter as a piece of raw spaghetti. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries with the uterus. Because of the size of the fallopian tubes, they are easily damaged or, in the uterus, covered by scar tissue.
  • The uterus is a muscle about the size of a woman’s closed fist. This is where the fertilized egg (zygote) implants and grows for the next 38 weeks.
  • The cervix is a small sphincter muscle the size of a quarter located at the bottom of the uterus. The cervix remains tightly closed until the third trimester of the pregnancy, when it softens to prepare for birth. Once a month one ovary releases an egg, which waits in the fallopian tube for fertilization. The entire system is geared for reproduction. At the time the egg is released, the uterine lining is best prepared to accept a fertilized egg. If fertilization does not occur, at the end of the menstrual cycle the uterine lining and the unfertilized egg are discarded and the process begins again.

If the egg is fertilized, the zygote will spend about six days traveling to the uterus. On approximately day seven, the zygote implants in the uterus and the placenta begins to form. The implantation takes about three days. When this happens, the woman’s menstrual cycle is stopped. Shortly thereafter, when she misses her period, she will suspect that she is pregnant. The baby’s cardiovascular system is the first to develop, and blood is being pumped by the third week. In the third week of pregnancy, the central nervous system is forming, and at 40 days, detailed EEG (brainwave) and EKG (heart tones) can be detected.

Between the fifth and eighth weeks, the face forms; ossification begins in the backbone vertebrae in the eighth week. This is the end of the embryonic stage. All major organs are formed, the skeletal system is established, blood is pumping, and the fetus responds to outside stimulus and resembles the baby we know it to be.

The renowned fetal stage is next, and will continue until the birth of the child (“fetus” is Latin for “little one.”) During this time many changes will occur in the child, such as:

  • the excretory system begins functioning in the ninth to twelfth weeks, with the formation of urine, which is excreted into the amniotic fluid;
  • fingernails and toenails begin forming at ten weeks;
  • between nine and twelve weeks, the sex of the baby is evident;
  • at the 20th week, the hair on the baby is readily visible.

At the end of the second trimester, the baby is capable of sustaining life outside of the womb, with assistance. The third trimester marks maturation of lungs, liver, kidneys, and heart. Because the baby receives oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord, these organs need not develop earlier; they are needed to function outside of the womb more than inside. All of the systems in the body are functioning and getting the final nurturing they need before the baby is born.


Addressing the Abortion Option

Listen to the reasons a woman has for being at the abortion clinic. Do not trivialize her reasons; they are very important to her, and you are not in her situation. If you treat her answers lightly, she will not feel safe or respected, and she will go into the abortuary. You may want to describe the methods of abortion and the possible complications of those methods. Talk to her about the emotional complications of abortion. If you are a woman who has had an abortion, it may help to share some of your feelings about your abortion. This is a good time to evangelize. You do not need to hit her hard with the Gospel, but you can ask her how she feels about God. You can also ask her, “How do you think God feels about abortion?” Always let her know that you are telling her these facts because you care about her. Remember, if you are not sincere, if she does not feel safe talking to you, she will find the “safety” promised in the abortuary.

Letting her know the facts about abortion is important, but it is also very important that you acknowledge and talk about why she feels abortion is the answer to her crisis pregnancy. It is the job of the sidewalk counselor to relieve some of the pressures she feels. In order to find the pressures she feels, you must be able to listen. Try to find the greatest single problem she is encountering, reassure her that there is help for her in her situation. Do not give pat answers; you must reach her in her situation. No one else has her specific problem. If you can provide a path for resolution of some of her problems, the stress she feels will diminish. The woman may need a friend and little else. Therefore, treat every woman like a close personal friend.


First-Trimester Abortions

During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, two types of abortion are performed: vacuum aspiration, and dilation and curettage. Most abortion centers use vacuum aspiration because it is cheaper, faster and easier to perform.

Vacuum Aspiration

The cervix is dilated with metal rods. A plastic tube, called a cannula, is inserted into the uterus. The tube is connected to a machine which works very much like a vacuum cleaner.

Many women are not prepared for this procedure because they have been told it is quick and easy. Women have also been told that the pain they will feel is similar to menstrual cramps, but a little more painful. They are reassured that they will be given a local anesthetic. Despite the use of a local anesthetic, many women find this method extremely painful.

The suction is quite powerful. It must pull the fetus and the placenta from the wall of the uterus, and also cut them into small enough pieces to pass through the cannula and tubing. At this point the doctor must scrape the lining of the uterus with a sharp instrument called a curette. The doctor will then suction again to be sure that no fetal tissue or parts remain in the uterus.

If even a tiny piece of tissue remains in the uterus, severe infection can develop. This infection can lead to bleeding, cramping, fever, and even sterility. It may result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an inflammation of the reproductive organs that can recur for years and cause scarring that makes it difficult to conceive a child. Infection may also be a sign that the uterus was injured. Surgery, and occasionally a hysterectomy, may have to be performed if prompt medical attention is not given to the problem.

Excessive, uncontrolled bleeding (hemorrhaging) can also occur during or after a suction abortion. The larger the fetus, the more of a chance there is of excessive bleeding, but any woman can suddenly start hemorrhaging during an abortion. Blood transfusions, which increase the risk of exposure to the HIV virus and hepatitis, may be needed.

There is also a risk that scar tissue will form in the uterus. During the pregnancy, the placenta roots itself into the wall of the uterus, and often after suctioning, the abortionist must scrape the wall of the uterus to remove all remnants of the placenta. This can leave areas where the normal uterine lining cannot grow again, making it difficult to conceive because the embryo cannot implant on the scar tissue.

Scar tissue may block the Fallopian tubes, either partially or completely. If the tubes are completely blocked, conception is impossible. If they are partially blocked, sperm may pass through the Fallopian tubes and fertilize an egg, but the zygote is then unable to leave the tube and move into the uterus. As the embryo starts to grow in the Fallopian tube, the woman may experience a great deal of pain. This condition is called an “ectopic” or “tubal” pregnancy. If the tube is not removed surgically, it will burst, resulting in internal hemorrhaging and possible death.

During the pregnancy, the uterus becomes softer, and easier to perforate. Perforations may be “mild to severe,” and may also cause scarring and hemorrhaging. Remember which organs are nearby. If the abortionist is not careful, he can pull part of the intestine through the uterine wall. In the event of a perforation, it is sometimes necessary to remove the uterus to control bleeding.

Dilation and Curettage

Dilation and Curettage (D & C) is seldom used because the risks are higher than with vacuum aspiration. D & C is similar to the vacuum aspiration. The cervix is dilated so that surgical instruments can enter the uterus. Once the cervix has been sufficiently dilated, a curette is used to scrape the uterine wall to remove the placenta and any remains of the fetus.

This procedure takes longer to perform than suction aspiration, and anesthesia is almost always required. There is less bleeding and less chance of hemorrhaging, but in other ways the risks are greater. The cervix must be dilated more, thus there is a greater chance of damage to the cervical muscle. There is also a greater chance of the uterus being perforated.

Second- and Third-Trimester Abortions

Once the pregnancy is beyond 12 weeks, abortion becomes more difficult and the risks are greater. By 12 weeks, the baby has grown to about three inches long. The skeleton is hardening as bone replaces cartilage, and the skull is too large to pass through the cannula. The uterus is much larger, and there is a much greater chance of hemorrhaging. Four types of abortions are performed during the second and third trimesters: dilation and evacuation, saline instillation, prostaglandin, and hysterotomy.

Dilation and Evacuation

By 12 weeks the baby has grown to be about the size of a human palm. The bones are hardening, and the skull is too large to be passed through the cannula and tubing. The abortionist alternates between cutting and tearing the fetus into pieces and vacuuming out the contents of the uterus. The skull of the baby must be crushed with forceps and drawn out carefully, because the jagged pieces of bone can tear the cervix. This procedure is used most often in late abortions for two reasons: (1) it is believed to be safer for the woman, and (2) it ensures that the baby will be delivered dead. The risks of bleeding, infection, and perforation of the uterus are much higher than in a first-trimester abortion.


Because of the high incidence of maternal deaths, and live births of severely damaged babies, saline is rarely used anymore. Saline abortion is generally done after the 16th week of pregnancy, when there is enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. A long needle is inserted through the mother’s abdomen directly into the amniotic sac. Some of the amniotic fluid is drawn out and replaced with a strong saline (salt) solution.

The saline is absorbed into the lungs and the digestive tract of the baby. The outer layer of skin is burned off by the high concentration of salt. It is a long poisoning process, and the baby dies slowly.

The woman suffers discomfort during this procedure. She can feel the baby struggle and sometimes go into convulsions. Saline solution also brings on labor, although other drugs are often used to speed labor. She will generally be in labor about 12 hours after the injection. This means that the woman is hospitalized overnight. Women are often left alone to deliver the aborted child. This can be an emotionally devastating experience.

Serious complications can occur with saline abortions. The saline solution causes a drastic change in the woman’s blood-clotting ability. This means that it is very hard to stop any bleeding. If hemorrhaging occurs, the woman can die. Blood and amniotic fluid can embolize to the woman’s lungs and/or brain, causing death. There is also a very high risk of infection following a saline abortion.

Prostaglandin Abortions

Prostaglandin is a synthetic hormone. It is usually injected into the womb and works by bringing on labor and causing the mother to deliver prematurely.

It causes severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It produces a very irregular or violent labor that can be both painful and frightening. A more serious complication after 20 weeks’ gestation is rupture of the uterus, which occurs because of the violence of the labor. This can result in hemorrhage, hysterectomy, and death.

Although this method may seem less dangerous than saline, often living, very premature babies are delivered. Usually they do not live long; however, some abortionists leave them to die, or kill them directly, rather than transfer them to neonatal units where they can be cared for properly. With the lifting of restrictions on federal funding of fetal tissue research, these living children have been “harvested” for their organs.


This is much like a Caesarean section. The abortionist cuts through the abdomen and uterus, and removes the live baby. Various methods are used to kill the child. Many babies who are aborted by hysterotomy are old enough to survive if they were given proper medical treatment.

Hysterotomy is very rarely used, but this may change with the lifting of the ban on federal funding of fetal tissue research. It is also the riskiest of the abortion methods. It involves major surgery and, therefore, has much higher complication rates. Because of the risks and ethical issues involved in handling a live fetus, many abortionists refuse to perform hysterotomies. Legally, however, hysterotomies can be performed up to the end of the pregnancy.

In presenting the facts about abortion, it is important not to frighten or pressure the woman. Do not exaggerate the risks or play on her fears. Give her the facts, and allow the Lord to change her heart.


The emotional and psychological aftermath of abortion is usually ignored or downplayed. It is important to warn women about the possibility of emotional difficulties after an abortion, and to be sure to give her a phone number she can call if she is having any difficulties. Share with her some of the symptoms that are common among post-abortive women.

  • Depression: numbness, not being able to feel anything, withdrawal from others, frequent crying, suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Guilt and/or remorse: preoccupation with the baby, avoidance of pregnant women, babies, etc.
  • Sleep disturbances: nightmares, sleeplessness, or sleeping too much.
  • Anger, directed at themselves (leading to self-destructive behavior) or at others.
  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol, food, etc., to escape the pain.
  • Sexual dysfunction: decreased sexual desire, fear or anxiety every time a man touches her, pain with intercourse.
  • Mourning: grieving over the child, often in dysfunctional ways, such as getting pregnant again to replace the child who was lost to abortion.

Abortion is the loss of a child. When a woman has a miscarriage, stillbirth, or a child who dies shortly after birth, her friends and family gather around her to give her support and comfort while she mourns her loss. Although the loss of a child is always painful, she is at least allowed to grieve openly. Women who have abortions do not get this support. They do not grieve openly, and they may feel complicit in the death of the child. It is very important that women know that the crisis pregnancy centers will help them with any post-abortion problems they may experience.


Any counseling that separates the woman and her decision from the Lord is defeating. We are called to be the salt and light of the world. Our job as sidewalk counselors could be better described as that of crisis evangelists.

Matthew 28:19-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”


There are alternatives to abortion, and generally the best place for these alternatives to be discussed is the crisis pregnancy center. However, each sidewalk counselor should be aware of alternatives to abortion. Because the atmosphere on the street in front of the clinic is usually very stressful, this is not the proper place to discuss alternatives. The crisis pregnancy center with its stable, safe environment is the most appropriate place for the discussion of alternatives.

Foster care

The placement of the child in a temporary home until a final decision about placement can be reached. Foster care buys the woman time to make a decision or to change circumstances in her life. It is not the best alternative for the child and should be kept as brief as possible.


Adoption is a permanent placement of the child. This can be done through an agency or independently; it can be an open or closed adoption arrangement. Often the birth mother can choose who will adopt her child.

Keeping the baby

Some women will decide to continue the pregnancy and raise the child themselves.

Whatever the woman chooses to do-foster care, adoption, or raising her child-we must allow her to make the choice with the support and counsel of people she trusts. This is why the crisis pregnancy centers are so important. They are specially trained to help women make these decisions, and then support women in their decisions.


Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are trained to be professionally friendly, and to appear to be the woman’s best support during a crisis pregnancy. Please be aware of this when you are talking with a woman.

One in six abortions is performed on a woman who considers herself to be an evangelical Christian. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are adept at persuading these women to have abortions.

Terry Beresford wrote a training manual for Planned Parenthood that is the recommended manual for training all abortion counselors. What she says about Christians is very telling:

Women who are Catholic, Southern Baptist or Mormon are the most likely to feel deep concern about their religious beliefs and the questions raised by contraceptive practice, pregnancy, childrearing, and abortion. You will want to distinguish between two types of religious concern. The majority of Catholic women (to choose Catholicism for our example) are just like all other women you counsel. They feel doubt and uncertainty about values and ethics; they are facing a difficult decision that has no absolute right answer; they feel ambivalence; they have concerns not only about pregnancy, but about family attitudes and traditions, self-image, their relationships and their sexuality. They may express their anxieties and fears largely in religious terms, but as you explore feelings with them, it becomes clear to you and to them that much of their feeling is because they are human rather than because they are Catholic.

A small number of women will be distressed because their beliefs, their education, and their upbringing have made them rigid personalities, prone to obsessive behaviors and feelings. They tend to suffer unduly from guilt in all aspects of their lives, and to be in constant fear of punishment and retribution. They are often the product of parochial schools and an authoritarian and restrictive, repressive home life.

You may be alerted by a single-mindedness in the woman’s thought processes or talk. She may repeat words like sin, evil, destroy, suffer, punish and guilty many times with much feeling. She may speak little of her feelings but appear exceptionally rigid in body postures and gestures. Her problem is not her religious beliefs but her “religiosity” and rigidity of personality. This woman may need referral for more extensive counseling. A pastoral counseling center with a pro-choice philosophy or a priest or cleric with training as a therapist would be a suitable referral.

In his book The Abortion Practice, Warren Hern (the “father” of the “dilation and evacuation” abortion method) states:

Women with strong religious backgrounds hostile to abortion sometimes seek abortion for eminently practical reasons. There are a wide variety of attitudes concerning abortion among the many religious traditions and among the practitioners of each religious tradition. For some patients, it is enough to point out that religions differ in their views. For others, it may be helpful to have literature available from the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights and Catholics for a Free Choice. I have helped Catholic women find understanding priests with whom they can discuss their conflicts and feelings about abortion.

In this situation, it is most helpful to the woman to support her in determining how she feels about abortion and whether it is in her own best interest as well as the interest of others to have the abortion. These women, above all, should be made aware of all alternatives. Frequently, fear of discovery of their pregnancy if they continue it outweighs their fear of going against religious precepts.

A poignant experience in abortion is counseling someone who has been actively opposed to abortion or who has family members actively opposed to abortion. Anti-choice activists frequently have morbid fears and imaginations concerning the fate of the fetus or their own risk of death. People from highly conservative or traditional religious backgrounds frequently feel overwhelming guilt at having had sex or even considering abortion. With these patients, it is desirable to be especially supportive, particularly as they work through their excessive sense of guilt, emphasizing that no one else can make the decision for them but that making a decision to have an abortion does not mean that they are “bad” people. In Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark said, “I must be cruel only to be kind.” Unfortunately, this is how many pro-life activists appear to the abortion clinic’s escorts, workers, doctors, and the abortion-bound mothers. The shouts of “Please don’t kill your baby; if you kill your baby, you are going to burn in hell” and “The blood is on your hands” are not terms of endearment. Statements such as these make us look like cold, uncaring, judgmental people who have a concern only for the baby. True, we do not wish to see that baby killed, but we must remember that if we do not change the hearts of the moms, and the hearts of the abortion workers, we will not help that baby.

When we appear to be concerned only with the baby, we validate everything that abortion industry has told the mother. If we do not show unconditional love, the mother who is experiencing a crisis pregnancy will find a place and people who will “love” her and care about her. Unfortunately, that place is inside the abortuary. Christians have a legacy of “emotional brutality” to overcome. We have been portrayed as harsh, unloving judges. When we shout at the moms and the abortion workers, we only perpetuate this belief . . . and we make it a fact. Everything we do should be done in love and with gentleness. We are called to make disciples of all the world, not to judge and berate them.

I Corinthians 31:1, 4-7 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal . . . Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”


The Chicago method is simply handing out a list of medical malpractice suits against a specific clinic, as well as deaths that have occurred there. This involves a little research at your local courthouse, but it is time well spent.

Abortion is a selfish act. By the time a woman gets to the clinic for her abortion, she has emotionally distanced herself from the child she is carrying. It does little good to address the humanity of her child or the inhumanity of abortion. The Chicago method appeals to the woman’s instinct for self-preservation. Although she may not want to be pregnant, she does not want to be hurt, and she certainly does not want to die.

The Chicago method also reaches the clinic workers. The average clinic worker does not know that there are medical malpractice suits against the clinic where she works. Although a worker may accuse you of lying when you first hand her a list of lawsuits, it will often be the start of her questioning what she sees at her clinic. Once a worker begins to question what she is experiencing, the fabric of lies and half-truths begins to unravel.

For more information on the Chicago method, you can contact: Pro-Life Action League; 6160 North Cicero Avenue; Chicago, IL 60646; or telephone 312-777-2900.

Continue to Part II (Role Play)