The Catholic Commentator  

Noise can be a major contributing factor leading women with crisis pregnancies to choose to have an abortion. The clamor can come from boyfriends or husbands saying, “Get rid of it or the relationship is over;” embarrassed parents or grandparents saying, “You have the rest of your life ahead of you, don’t ruin it;” or the mothers saying to themselves, “My life will be over.”  

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Julie Hanks, Amanda O’Neill and their children, known as “The Demon Busters,” pray outside of Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge.  Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 

 

A last distracting voice comes from volunteers quickly ushering them into the abortion clinic saying, “Don’t listen to those protestors” trying to drown out the trained sidewalk counselor’s message, “God loves you, you don’t have to do this.”

 During 40 Days for Life, scheduled for Sept. 7-Nov. 5, a peaceful community-wide vigil of prayer, sidewalk counseling and other peaceful vigil activities will take outside the Delta Clinic to let God’s “still small voice” override such noise.  

Chris Sellars and Newman Roblin, known as one of the “patriarchs” among the pro-life ministers at Delta, are often the first to come into contact with people coming to Delta. They hand out literature to people in their car before they pull into the parking lot of the clinic.  

“We try to be non-confrontational,” said Sellars, a member of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge. He said three things counselors must do are “be nice, be nice and be nice.”  

He estimated that 95-98 percent of the women coming to the clinic are young and unmarried. Often they are pressured into having an abortion.  

Roblin said, “I look them in the eye,” adding conversations may start with a simple, “Hey that’s a nice looking truck or car” before asking if they need help. This can lead to deeper conversations. He said some of the women need someone to talk to. But he leaves the results up to God. </span id=”8″>

Roblin and Sellars said counselors work hard to convey love, support and abortion alternatives to the women before they enter the clinic, because often once they enter it, “it’s a done deal.”  

Sellars conceded, “It’s a miracle if they change their minds,” but he sees it happen. 

Especially when it’s evident the mothers are hesitant to have an abortion, it can take changing the mind of the people accompanying them.  

Sellars recalled a young man from Africa brought in his girlfriend for an abortion. The counselors prayed with him and he went into the clinic and got his girlfriend before she had the procedure.  

“God performs miracles all the time,” said Sellars. 

Roblin and Sellars said last year, through the efforts of counselors and prayer groups, there were about 135 “confirmed saves” meaning the mothers told the counselors they were not going through with the abortion. They were given rosaries and baby gifts and ongoing support from the counselors, said Sellars. He also writes their names down to include in a weekly “activity report” he emails to pro-life ministers and requests prayers for them.  

Roblin also started a prayer line so people of the local church parishes can pray for the women the counselors have spoken with.  

Sellars and Roblin said there are a lot of “ups and downs” concerning the abortion issue, but counselors stay committed to their ministry.  

“We’re going to be there no matter what,” said Sellars.  

This was echoed by other counselors, some who drive long distances to get to Delta.  

Kamie Sanchez, of St. Francisville, has sidewalk counseled for the past five years. She came the first time because her husband, now a member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in St. Francisville, invited her to accompany him when he was a member of St. George Church in Baton Rouge and the church’s “That Man is You!” group went to Delta Clinic to pray.  

A member of Healing Place Church in St. Francisville, Sanchez felt the tug to become involved in pro-life ministry, but resisted. She did some “drive-by prayers” until she believed God really was calling her to pro-life ministry.  

Sanchez said she sometimes gets discouraged.  

“You can go for a week or two weeks without a conversation,” said Sanchez. “You feel like your presence is in vain.”  

She recalls spending 30 minutes encouraging a young woman not to have an abortion, but at the end of the conversation, the woman said, “This is what I have to do.”  She prays for all the women she talks to, and sometimes it yields fruit. Sanchez has several pictures on her smartphone from her visits to the hospital to be with the mothers she ministered to who gave birth to their babies.  

“To see the joy on the mothers’ faces in the hospital when they see and hold the baby is a beautiful thing,” said Sanchez.  

The sidewalk counselors make many sacrifices to come to the clinic.  

Jaqueline Martin, a member of St. John the Baptist Church in Zachary, has been sidewalk counseling for two years in the midst of family and medical problems.  

“Standing on the sidewalks is hard,” said Martin. “But I give it up for the children. My prayers have caused me to get over it and get on with it. They (the babies) are dying. But they are not alone. We are at the foot of the cross with them. They are not alone.”  

She and the other counselors also pray for the conversion of the volunteers, referred to as “deathscorts,” who usher the people from their cars into the clinic. They are often young adults who are misled by concepts about when life begins and “choice,” according to Martin.  

Julie Hanks and her friend, Amanda O’Neill travel with their children, who are homeschooled, from Ponchatoula to Delta. The group is known among pro-life ministers as “The Demon Busters.”  

Hanks said she was volunteering at the Restoration House Pregnancy Resource Center in Hammond when she felt God calling her to be involved in pro-life ministry at Delta.  

She said it is unsettling for some of the people coming to the clinic to see the young children, who send a pro-life message with their presence.  

“They (the children) are aware of what’s going on. They know children are losing their life and there is death going on in the building. They know more than most kids their age,” said Hanks.  

“The kids are such a beautiful witness to life. Jesus said ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ ”  

O’Neill and her husband were house directors with Gabriel Project, which assists women with crisis pregnancies for  for homeless women, before moving from Florida to Louisiana. She also felt the tug to become involved with pregnant women who are not as pro-life minded as those coming for assistance to the Gabriel Project.  

She said number-wise, it may not look like many babies are being saved, but she continues reaching out to the women.  

“Like any spiritual battle, I believe the reward will be in heaven. You don’t always see the fruit, but I believe God is good and asking us not to be wrapped up in success, but to be faithful,” said O’Neill.  

Which is where the children come in. She wryly said when she and Hanks don’t feel like going to Delta, the children will say, drawing out the word “Mom, we have to go save babies.” She noted that when she was sick, her daughter Claire asked to ride to the clinic with Hanks.  “I feel it’s important to be here to change people’s hearts,” said Claire.  

Those who are interested in the various ways they can participate in 40 Days for Life can contact Danielle Van Haute, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, at 225-242-0164 or email  dvanhaute@diobr.org.