Intervention: What a Red Rose Rescue Reminds Us About Civil Disobedience in the Consistent Life Movement
by Sonja Morin
Susan B. Anthony being arrested for voting when female suffrage was not yet attained. Henry David Thoreau refusing to pay taxes to support unjust war. Abolitionists flaunting the attempts of slave catchers to arrest escaping Black families. The sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and marches of the civil rights movement of the last century. Civil disobedience has long been an essential part of advocacy, especially in our country and for the consistent life movement.
Much of the pro-life movement has shied away from this type of action. My theory is that, due to the fragile state of our cause, many fear bad publicity. Regardless of the reason, civil disobedience is crucial to any social cause because it interrupts normalcy to draw attention to an issue that concerns the whole community. It makes the issue impact the individual, to the point where they are forced to confront its consequences and be encouraged to act.
An act of civil disobedience was undertaken on Friday, August 27 in Philadelphia at the city’s Planned Parenthood clinic. Red Rose Rescue was undertaking sidewalk advocacy. Participants offered the namesake flower to those going into the clinic, as a last effort to rescue them and their pre-born children from the abortion giant. The morning had been successful, with several patients turning away from the clinic to a life-affirming pregnancy resource center close by.
Since their actions were interpreted as an obstacle to Planned Parenthood’s business, workers summoned local police forces and a SWAT team to intervene. They forcibly attempted to remove the sidewalk advocates. One activist in particular, who still remains unnamed, did not want to comply with the orders. He successfully entered into the facility and locked himself in the men’s restroom. He was eventually arrested, but his entry closed the clinic for the whole day, halting all abortion appointments.
When I spoke with Terrisa Bukovinac, founder of Pro-Life San Francisco, who is an atheist and a staunch human rights advocate, she expressed how tense it was being on the scene that morning. The atmosphere was rife with anxious anticipation as to what was going to happen next. Planned Parenthood employees waited alongside sidewalk advocates, waiting to see what would happen, and if the facility would reopen that day. While there was some “heated discussion,” some productive conversation arose between the two camps.
Since that tumultuous Friday scene in Philadelphia, I waited to see if any media coverage would detail the event. I wasn’t surprised when I found only one local news article in response to the event, which didn’t cite the activist’s reason for entering the Planned Parenthood location, or acknowledge the fact that he posed no harm to anyone inside. What did stun me is the silence from most pro-life circles in response.
We should be celebrating! Several lives were saved that day, and parents were spared the pain of abortion. Employees confronted sidewalk advocates and were exposed to the truth. Planned Parenthood at large was reminded that their days will be numbered, as justice resets the recognition of all human life as having dignity in our country.
I decided to highlight this event, not only because of the good it accomplished, but as a reminder of what we as consistent life activists are meant to do. We are meant to intervene through civil disobedience, letting truth and human dignity guide our actions. Our advocacy is not just limited to an online presence or occasional conversation, but includes legitimate attempts in the public sphere to influence change.
May the efforts of the sidewalk advocates who were present at Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia inspire us on our continuous mission for the good of all human lives, and their protection from violence. Now, let’s move onwards in civil disobedience for the cause of civil rehumanization!
For a post on a similar action, see:
For more posts about nonviolent action, see:
Making a Nonviolent Revolution: Review of Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know
Remembering Gandhi at 150: The Power of Nonviolence and Respect for Life