10 Years, 22,000 Lives Saved: Sidewalk Advocates For Life President Reflects on Reaching Out to Women in Crisis

Ashley Sadler

Communications Director

(Oregon Right to Life) — Proponents of legal abortion typically frame their arguments in terms of “choice.” But the head of a prominent pro-life sidewalk advocacy organization says that doesn’t describe how many women feel when they seek out abortion.

“A lot of women are [at an abortion facility] because they ironically feel like they have no choice,” Sidewalk Advocates for Life (SAFL) president and CEO Lauren Muzyka told Catholic News Agency (CNA) in an interview highlighting SAFL’s 10th anniversary.

Muzyka’s organization encompasses the largest network of sidewalk advocates in the U.S., with 282 teams across the country. In Oregon, SAFL teams can be found in Salem, Beaverton, and Portland. 

SAFL’s stated vision is “[t]hat peaceful, prayerful, loving, and law-abiding sidewalk outreach be present outside every abortion and abortion-referral facility in the U.S. and beyond, redirecting all to life-affirming alternatives, thereby ending abortion.” To achieve that end, SAFL aims to “transform the sidewalk in front of every abortion and abortion-referral facility in America and beyond into a place of real help and hope…”

Sidewalk advocates, with SAFL and other groups across the country, engage in compassionate, caring dialogue with abortion-seeking women. They listen to the woman to understand her needs and anxieties, and then direct her to relevant support and resources.

“There’s always a reason or set of reasons that brings a woman to an abortion facility,” Muzyka told CNA. “The idea is, if we can fill that crisis, then what we see is that that mom … often turns back to herself and reconsiders the life of her child.”

Far outnumbering Planned Parenthood facilities, pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) and maternity homes provide women experiencing unsupported pregnancies with a wide range of resources, from baby bottles and diapers to food and shelter over an extended period of time.

RELATED: Oregon Maternity Home Founder Speaks About Caring for Moms in Need

Muzyka told Catholic News Agency that trained sidewalk counselors let the abortion-seeking woman “know how we can help her, and then we give her a vision forward for how it’s possible for her to have her child and to have the life that she wants as well.”

Not every interaction is successful. But SAFL counts over 22,000 unborn lives saved, as well as “hopeful saves” numbering more than 5,000. “All we can do is invite, and it’s up to that other person to respond,” Muzyka told the outlet. “We do get a mix of rejection and then people who take us up on that offer of help.”

Saving unborn lives through compassionately presenting women with life-affirming alternatives isn’t the only way SAFL has made an impact. According to its website, the group has also seen 99 abortion workers quit their jobs and 55 abortion facilities close down at locations where they’ve performed sidewalk outreach.

In her comments to CNA, Muzyka said these successes during SAFL’s 10 years are due to a “beautiful little mix of practical and spiritual.”

“It’s the grace of God. It’s his hope, it’s his love, it’s his peace that’s really winning someone over,” she told the outlet.

RELATED: Maryland Woman Retires After Fostering 40 Children Over 40 Years

Pro-life advocates interested in sidewalk outreach sometimes feel nervous about getting started, perhaps anticipating conflict or even serious legal consequences. In numerous high-profile incidents, pro-life advocates who have violated laws such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act have been arrested and imprisoned. 

But Muzyka says that type of advocacy is not at all what SAFL is about.

In an earlier article published by the Federalist, Muzyka emphasized the importance of being welcoming and kind, as well as always abiding by the law in sidewalk outreach.

“I’ve dedicated my life to this cause, discerning how best to help abortion-vulnerable women choose life,” she wrote in her article for the Federalist. “After 22 years on the sidewalk, I can tell you that, to truly reach the heart of a mother in crisis, we have to go out of our way to create a safe, confidential space and avoid anything that could paint us as unapproachable or threatening, including doing anything illegal.”

“If we say yes to peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding outreach at an abortion facility, our name may not be in the headlines, but we’ll win a much greater prize: more lives of innocent children, more hearts of hurting women, and more communities gradually proclaiming a culture of life,” Muzyka said.

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