Since the early 1970s, Oregon Right to Life (ORTL) has hosted a yearly event for pro-life advocates. What started as a small gathering of like-minded Oregonians has morphed over the decades into the largest pro-life conference in the Pacific Northwest. Today, this conference is known as Together We Advocate. It typically features hundreds of attendees, nationally-known figures in the pro-life movement and a variety of professional workshops and sessions.
But as the entire globe knows, the past year has been anything but typical. In that vein, Together We Advocate temporarily pivoted from being an open-to-everyone event in one location to a more focused day in two cities for those interested in advocating at abortion facilities.
Called “sidewalk advocacy,” the practice involves being physically present near abortion clinics to offer tangible and moral support to abortion-minded mothers. Advocates often talk with possible clinic clients, their partners and/or families and even clinic workers and escorts. They also typically educate on local resources like pregnancy resource centers, food banks, therapy programs, legal options, clothing closets, adoption agencies, government assistance programs and more, helping vulnerable women and girls choose life.
Forty-three sidewalk advocates attended Together We Advocate at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, while 14 came to the county fairgrounds in Redmond. Held in early March, each session featured a masterclass from pro-life apologists Josh Brahm and Jacob Nels of the Equal Rights Institute.
“The Redmond crowd was small, but it included attendees from Medford, Grants Pass and Bend, which are all locations of Planned Parenthood facilities,” says ORTL executive director Lois Anderson. “It was challenging to organize an in-person event, but well worth it!”
Topics within the masterclass included getting to know your local clinics, signs and brochures, conversation starters, talking with clinic escorts and workers and how to process failures. Such counseling-specific themes have been on ORTL’s “wish list” for quite some time, Anderson says.
“On the heels of the closure of Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter [see page 7], the importance of sidewalk advocacy in saving lives and impacting the abortion industry has been amplified,” she says.
Anderson reminds Oregonians that pandemic shutdowns never affected Oregon abortion clinics. “The danger to the unborn has not subsided!” she emphasizes. “We must be vigilant and prepared to advocate when we have the opportunity.”
ORTL hopes to return to their regular Together We Advocate format with a dozen workshops and three general sessions in 2022.