Life or Death in 30 Seconds

Posted: Jun 24, 2013 6:01 PM
Life or Death in 30 Seconds

For a pro-life sidewalk counselor, 30 seconds is usually how much time they have to arm women with life-changing information. Cortney O'Brien reports for Townhall Magazine.


You spot her walking toward the clinic. She has on baggy pants because they told her it’s a painful procedure. She just put money in the parking meter because it’s a two-hour operation. Perhaps most tellingly, she has a despondent look on her face. You have only 30 seconds to make your pitch before she reaches the door. The difference is life and death.

This is a typical morning for the pro-life sidewalk counselor.

“We are that last line of defense,” said Kirsten Larsen-Silva, a graduate from the Franciscan University of Steubenville who has been sidewalk counseling since 2006. “Abortion is not the answer. If I can be that voice, show them that they deserve better than this, I would love to be able to use my talents and my personality to try and reach their hearts.”

Exactly what the name implies, sidewalk counseling is the method of standing on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic, counseling women and couples on their way inside, according to

“They won’t look you in the eye— they’re ashamed,” Larsen-Silva said. “But I talk anyway.”

Larsen-Silva quickly learned that tone and word choice are critical when making the case for life. As a member of 40 Days for Life DC, a pro-life campaign in the nation’s capital, she and other interested activists attended a sidewalk training course led by coordinator Libby Barnes in late March.

With new tools and confidence, the prolife advocates flash comforting smiles at the young ladies entering the clinic, almost always prepared with their talking points. Barnes advises her fellow counselors to be passionate and motherly, offering the following greeting: “Good morning, honey, my name is—. Can I have a few minutes of your time to talk about some better options for you and your baby?” Before the young women have time to say, “no,” the activists hand them pamphlets about the four free and nonjudgmental crisis pregnancy centers in D.C.

Besides making their own case against abortion, these counselors are also tasked with debunking myths Planned Parenthood likes to spout as fact behind closed doors. Barnes shared a few of the organization’s misleading sound bites she’s discovered from counseling: “Yeah, you can have the baby, I guess, if you want to wing it,” and, “What kind of mom would you be to give your child away?” Aware of these deceptive tactics, the 40 Days for Life coordinator was able to prevent an abortion for the first time. ...

 Continue reading in Townhall Magazine's July issue.





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