Lauren Muzyka – founder, president and CEO of Sidewalk Advocates for Life – leads a training session for potential abortion sidewalk counselors. COURTESY PHOTO

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CEO to lead training for life-saving sidewalk advocacy

Do you want to help save lives and souls, and maybe even help shut down an abortion clinic?

If so, Lauren Muzyka has just what you’re looking for.

Muzyka – president and CEO of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, based in Allen, Texas – will be training potential abortion sidewalk counselors at three days of events in Omaha, Aug. 20-22.

The events include a required training session noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 20 at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha; a recommended Q & A session Aug. 21 with Muzyka and attorney Martin Cannon of the Thomas More Society, 2-4 p.m. at the parish; and a required training Aug. 22 from 8-10 a.m. outside an abortion clinic at 3105 N. 93rd St.

If necessary, the Aug. 22 training can be rescheduled for another time.

Registration and further information is available at https://mykgbi.com/event/side-walk-advocate-life-training/2022-08-21/ or at stroberts.com.

Muzyka, an attorney and founder of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, spoke with the Catholic Voice about sidewalk advocacy. Her interdenominational organization offers a peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding way to approach and counsel those seeking abortions.

Sidewalk Advocates for Life has teams in 239 locations in the United States, Mexico and Colombia.

In recognition of her work, Muzyka was named Pro-Life Woman of the Year at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference in June in Indianapolis.

Muzyka said she’s been a sidewalk counselor and prayer volunteer since her early days of college at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas.

Science and reason tell her life begins at conception, she said, and her Catholic faith helps her appreciate the value of every individual person, made in the image and likeness of God.

 

Q: Why is it important that people be trained as sidewalk counselors?

There’s an opportunity in this battle to be there for women in a very special way.

When women arrive at an abortion facility, the other side loves to say that she’s already got her mind made up.

What I can tell you in over 20 years of being on the sidewalk is that that’s just not true.

There’s a lot of women who are in a valley of decision. There’s a lot of women who end up there because, ironically, they feel like they’ve got no choice. And it really is an opportunity for us to speak peace into her circumstances and offer her life-affirming resources, hope and help. We can really be the hands and feet of Christ at what is the darkest place in our local community. 

Just by going there and showing up and offering the free services at the pregnancy resource center, women will turn around and they will have that more difficult conversation in a life-affirming center.

Even the women who don’t choose life, I believe they’ll remember that a Christian was there standing for them.

So there really is just such an opportunity to minister to women in crisis, in self-preservation mode.

Also, when we’re not reaching out to clients, we’re reaching out to the workers and sending them to Abby Johnson’s abortion worker ministry. (See https://abbyj.com/.)

 

Q: What about people who already have experience as sidewalk counselors?

We find that a lot of people who are experienced as sidewalk counselors go to our training and say “Wow, you know, there are some additional tips and strategies that I was able to glean from the training.”

… God has given us the opportunity to be able to look at research, testimony and lived experience on the sidewalk … to glean best practices and even then have the space to extrapolate, to grow, to learn from others. And so that’s really what we wanted to provide for people was this ready-made program. 

 

Q: The training includes “understanding the heart of a woman in crisis.” What are some of the most common reasons for seeking an abortion? What are some of the struggles and challenges a woman might be facing?

What the statistics tell us, and what we see on the sidewalk is that the vast majority of women are there because of a financial issue. Maybe especially in this economy, she’s having trouble putting food on the table, or she’s trying to reconcile a life with school or career. Maybe mom and dad are getting ready to kick her out of the house because she’s still living at home.

There’s a financial (aspect) to a lot of the crises that we see at the abortion facility. That’s why a lot of times by just offering to cover rent, groceries or a place to live, many women will suddenly see hope when we offer those resources.

There’s a whole bunch of other situations that one might imagine, maybe news of a prenatal diagnosis, or she has gone through a rape and she’s traumatized by what she’s just been through and trying to figure out how to move forward with this new life inside of her.

It can be that she has a health issue. Or it may be as simple as, “I’m getting ready to go to college. How can I continue with college and still have my child?”

So it’s really just being able to come in and say, “Here’s all the wonderful things that we can do for you. Here’s all the resources at the pregnancy resource center to cover those needs,” and letting her know that she’s not alone and that we’re privileged and honored to journey with her. 

 

Q: What makes a good sidewalk counselor?

Someone with a help-oriented, helpful heart.

A lot of people are tempted to think, “Well, in order to be successful on the sidewalk, I must be a woman, or an extrovert, or matching the age of the women who are going in there.”

And what we find is that that’s just simply not true.

If you are a loving, peaceful, hope-filled person, you can see mountains move on the sidewalk.

I’ve seen men be just as successful as women on the sidewalk with offering these resources and inviting people to turn around, people with all different personality types and various gifts and talents.

We just remind people that God is going to use you as you are, that the training is there to help you as you uniquely offer this help and hope to women in crisis.

 

Q: What role does prayer play in the work of a sidewalk counselor?

That is the absolute foundation by which we have the strength to do this.

We have seen so many situations where we said all we could, we did everything we could, and still she’s really struggling.

When we’ve bathed that situation in prayer, we have seen a change of heart.

There are times when I’ve barely been able to say something to a client, maybe because they’re rushing into the abortion facility or someone else is vying for their attention. In each case, we’re deep in prayer through our entire shift, and we’ve seen some pretty miraculous things through the power of prayer.

We love inviting people out to the sidewalk just to pray.

That’s such an important part of our ministry, having prayer volunteers out there while sidewalk advocates are reaching out to women and men. We usually like to send people out in twos. We don’t want sidewalk advocates going out there by themselves.

So you always have a partner on the sidewalk, and you usually take turns in reaching out to people. When you’re not reaching out to a client, we tell them to pray over the interaction that the second sidewalk advocate is having with the client.

We also encourage people to appeal to their community to come out and pray while the two sidewalk advocates are out there doing outreach.

 

Q: What are some of the blessings you’ve witnessed as a sidewalk counselor?

Our ministry, by God’s grace, has witnessed nearly 18,000 women turn around and accept life-affirming help. That in and of itself is a great victory. In about eight years on the sidewalk, we’ve also been able to help 85 abortion workers leave the business with the help and witness of a sidewalk advocate. We have abortion facility number 30 now pending closure.

The ministry as a whole has seen great blessings. As far as me personally, it never gets old when I see a woman finally accept help and hope.

It’s not an easy thing to go to the sidewalk and experience some rejection. That’s part and parcel of what we do. But when you see the difference it can really make in someone’s life, it’s just like a magnet. It keeps pulling you back.

From what we hear, that’s the same thing that our sidewalk advocates are saying, they are just continuously pulled back to the sidewalk to be there for women and men because they see the difference that it can make having someone there and offering these resources.

… Abby Johnson tells us that at the last Planned Parenthood conference she went to, before she came to our side of the fence, they told her that when there’s a peaceful presence in front of their abortion facilities, the cancellation rate can go as high as 75%. We’re just not going to know about every victory. … A lot of times the victory does go unseen, but it doesn’t mean that God is working any less. 

 

Q: How does the overturning of Roe v. Wade affect your organization and the role of sidewalk counselors?

Our work in post-Roe America doesn’t change.

I even had somebody ask me: Now that Roe is overturned, do you pack up and go home, at least in the abortion-free states? And we said, no, we still have a lot of work to do.

Our work is not done. It’s just shifting. So for example, in abortion-restricted states where abortion is illegal, Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry are now making use of these facilities called abortion referral centers.

So these are Planned Parenthood clinics. There’s also some independently owned providers that are doing this. They don’t do abortions within their walls, but they are referring across state lines.

So for example, the largest Planned Parenthood in the western hemisphere is in Houston, Texas. Within days of Roe being overturned, they were handing out $300 gas gift cards for women to travel across state lines.

So we have had sidewalk advocates, if their abortion facility closed, look up their nearest abortion referral facility and go there, because they can catch women and make this offer of help and hope before the women are tempted to cross state lines. That’s a real blessing.

Then of course … we have very pro-abortion states like Illinois, a lot of states in the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond that. It’s still the same, but they might have an influx of out-of-state women. So sidewalk advocates are trained to refer mothers in crisis to the nearest pregnancy resource center.

Then from there, they also refer to the pregnancy center they have back home, so that there’s a continuum of care. So sidewalk advocates in pro-abortion states are needing to be very resourceful in ensuring she gets connected to services back home, so she continues to choose life.

Sidewalk advocates in abortion-restricted states are first seeing if there’s at least an abortion referral center in their area. Typically there will be.

If not, then they can go to the proverbial town square. They can go to a high-traffic area and hand out news of resources or partner with, say, the pregnancy center and take a mobile unit across the street from the university campus.

Those are just some of the options that we have at our fingertips in a post-Roe America.