Support on the sidewalks: Sidewalk advocates in Arlington and Fort Worth support mothers in crisis with God’s love and kindness
Christine Antolin, the Respect Life coordinator of St. Joseph Parish in Arlington, had been volunteering with 40 Days for Life when she came across a sidewalk advocate who expressed the need for more people to help bring a “loving, peaceful, woman-oriented solution to abortion” through “prayer and peaceful outreach.”
Working closely with the parish groups who make their vigil at the locations for 40 Days for Life as well as for other ministries, sidewalk advocates are volunteers who receive training and pledge a “commitment to a peaceful, prayerful, and law-abiding approach” to provide women who visit abortion clinics with resources and information.
After all, Antolin noted, “so many people may know where the Planned Parenthood is in the neighborhood, but they don’t know about the pregnancy resources.” Once the information is shared, women have an opportunity to realize “there’s hope, and there are people out there, a community, and places that will offer them assistance, whether it’s financial, medical, spiritual, or things like that.”
Since joining other volunteers in praying outside of three Planned Parenthood locations in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Antolin has helped equip countless women with support and kindness.
As a Sidewalk Advocate for Life, Antolin believes, “It is so important that people are there to let [the mother in crisis] know that you’re not alone, whether it’s your job or you don’t have a supportive family member or support system, there are people that will walk with you through this journey.”
Daylong training for new sidewalk advocates is often hosted at different parishes, Antolin said. However, just as the advocates strive to provide warm support to the women they encounter, new advocates are welcome to remain in prayer until “the Holy Spirit gives the opportunity, and then we just share.”
Antolin’s husband, for example, “initially didn’t feel comfortable offering or approaching anyone,” she shared. But at the sight of a couple of teenagers sitting in a car, “the Holy Spirit just kind of moved in his heart to reach out, and the [girl’s] friend took the information.”
Some people, she explained, are quick to step into the role and others learn more gradually. But the entire experience is “such a beautiful gift” to help women and provide them with information and services that other pregnancy resource centers provide.
“You hear so many of these stories of people saying, ‘If somebody had been there; had I known; had somebody been there to offer help’; or ‘I wish I had never had the abortion,’” Antolin described.
Providing that support and access to alternative options is what drives her to invite others to join her in her sidewalk advocacy.
“We are striving to cover the three locations,” Antolin said. “Our aim and our goal is to cover every hour that they’re open in prayer. It would be an ideal situation to have at least one person praying while the other person is there available for sidewalk advocacy.”
The community of people praying outside the centers represent all different types of backgrounds, professions, or faiths, and who, like Antolin, are very aware that abortion is now illegal in Texas.
“It does not mean it’s not happening,” she stated, which is why “when we’re out there, we’re still thinking of all our brothers and sisters in all the other states and countries where it occurs, so we’re praying locally and across the boundaries of people.”
The occupational therapist admitted to nighttime thoughts of “the women who are in the middle of the abortion pill process at home, alone, and very scared.”
In one of her greatest moments of need, a woman will wake up in pain and see red.
“How much blood is too much blood?” Antolin imagines more than one young girl has asked herself during the night after taking the abortion pills.
“These young girls and women are having the abortion at home [with the use of abortion medication], and going through all this trauma,” she said.
Antolin’s prayers and volunteer work as an advocate help her focus on the hope that abortion will end.
The inconveniences and difficulties she may weather “are nothing compared to how that woman, or that young teenage girl, feels like when she’s at home, alone, or when she’s at the abortion center.”
Antolin admires how, as an organization, the Sidewalk Advocates for Life — a national program based in Allen, Texas, that coordinates the support, tools, and training for the hundreds of advocacy programs in the country — places importance on protecting and loving the mother in crisis.
God is always first and foremost in the advocates’ minds, Antolin stated, which is how they can “approach the woman first with her in mind, and then the baby, and then [address] God.
“Because if she’s just in that storm of turmoil and anxiety and something has made her think that her only best option is for her child’s life to end, and if we can address that issue and make her feel safe, then everybody wins.”