Cortney O'Brien

Pro-life activist Brett Manero has been sidewalk counseling young women at the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington clinic for three years, hoping to change their hearts and minds as they hurry in to their abortion appointments. At this particular clinic, it is a task all the more somber considering the surroundings.

“Sometimes, when I’m counseling, if you turn and look you can see the White House,” Manero told Townhall. “I think how Thomas Jefferson lived there, the author of our Declaration of Independence, which reads we all have ‘inalienable rights, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ It’s such an irony.”

The White House is considered by many at home and abroad to be a symbol of freedom and leadership.

“The president’s job is to protect the rights of all citizens,” said Manero. “Yet, children are being killed in the womb. It shows the terrible situation in America. It can get very discouraging, especially now that the president is so supportive of abortion.”

It’s not hard to understand why pro-lifers often see DC as little more than a morgue. At a rate that is twice the national average, 41 percent of pregnancies end in abortion. Not exactly pleasant statistics for the capital of “freedom.”

Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington has been operating for 70 years now.

“It has to be one of the busiest clinics in DC. It’s right downtown -- that’s why we go there.”

Manero estimates that approximately 40 abortions take place at the clinic each week -- a number corroborated by his fellow sidewalk counselors, one of whom documented that on Thursday, May 16 alone, a heartbreaking 48 abortions took place.

Sometimes, however, there is good news. By handing out pro-life literature and showing these concerned pregnant women compassion, Manero says he and other pro-life activists witness a few saves each week. He shared a memorable instance from 2010 when he was praying by the front door of the clinic and a woman came and sat beside him. Through tears, she told him she didn’t want to have the abortion.

“I was so moved by the sight of a mother who clearly had a bond with her unborn child -- it was so powerful. I prayed with her and gave her my Rosary, which she kept. I told her that she didn't have to go through with it, that she could choose life for her baby. I don't know if she ended up having an abortion or not, but it was an undeniable sign of the power of motherhood, of the emotional bond

between mother and child, and of the effectiveness of prayer and sidewalk counseling.”

Moments like this make it all worth it for pro-life activists. Yet, for the sidewalk counselors in DC, as they watch young women walk into the abortion clinic that is a mere stop sign or two away from the president’s house, it is a sobering reminder that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, there is one demographic that often enjoys neither.

Cortney O'Brien

Cortney O'Brien is Townhall's Associate Web Editor. Follow her on Twitter @obrienc2.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography