By: Ashley Garecht
I was nervous about taking my two teenage daughters and their friend with me to pray in front of the Planned Parenthood at 12th and Locust on Holy Thursday in April. Mostly because I was still quite a “newbie” as a Sidewalk Servants volunteer, but also because my husband, Joe, had expressed concern about our going downtown without him. As you know by now, things took a rather dramatic turn about 20 minutes later. We were aggressively approached by a man who we later learned was PA State Representative Brian Sims. At one point I was compelled to insert myself in between Mr. Sims and the girls because he was walking toward the teens directly. He yelled and accused us of being “white racists” who only wanted to tell women and young girls what to do with their bodies. “Shame on you! Shame! Shame!” he cried, irrespective of our peaceable posture and in spite of our friend’s repeated declarations that she is “far from white.” Indeed, our goal in that moment was that women of all races would choose life for their babies, because we know that all life is precious.
When Mr. Sims left, I checked on the girls and apologized for the mistreatment they had endured. We shared a laugh at his nonsensical and preposterous claims, and we prayed that he would have a personal conversion of faith and come to know the truth about life in the womb.
After we finished our rosary and were preparing to leave, Mr. Sims approached us again, this time with his phone camera. He pointed the lens directly at the girls and offered a $100 bounty in exchange for their identities. I attempted once more to engage in civilized conversation with Mr. Sims, but when it became clear that he was only interested in a diatribe, we proceeded with our exit.
The girls, I should point out, were not intimidated by Mr. Sims’ antics. While I was glad to put an ugly incident behind us, all three of them told me that we needed to go back to stand in solidarity with the gentle young man who had been praying with us and was now on the receiving end of Mr. Sim’ vitriol. They were not afraid to stand up to the harassment and abuse for the sake of a comrade and for the sake of the babies inside that clinic.
No one was more surprised than we were when Mr. Sims’ video went viral, bringing an unprecedented level of attention to the pro-life movement in Philadelphia. With our anonymity erased, the only question was how to respond in a positive way that would bolster the crucial work of ending abortion in our city and around the country. We launched a GoFundMe to benefit the Pro-Life Union of Philadelphia, which I am thrilled and astounded to report that 2,650 individuals donated a total of $129,000, and we participated in the Pro-Life Stand Against Bullying Rally (along with more than 1,000 other people) that was held in front of the very same clinic on May 10.
Amidst the whirlwind of that day, and then the weeks following, one thing is abundantly clear to our entire family—the Holy Spirit is moving in profound and powerful ways in the fight against abortion.
As a family we have been praying and pondering what comes next. We cannot deny what we have seen first hand:
- God loves all His children and it is our duty and our privilege to fight for the lives of the unborn;
- As Americans (especially as Philadelphians) we have the unique right and ability to declare our beliefs in the public square and stand for the rights of babies in the womb;
- The Holy Spirit is blessing actions big and small as we strive to end the destruction and sin of abortion in Philadelphia and throughout the country. One hour of prayer at a clinic, $20 given in a fundraiser, personal communication with elected leaders, public rallies in the streets—God is using ALL of it for His holy purpose of protecting life.
With this in mind, we are excited as a family to offer our time and our talents for God’s work. We will continue to pray in front of the clinic at 12th and Locust until it closes (join us; sign up for a time slot at sidewalkservantsphilly.com). Then we will move to the next clinic and the next. We will be haranguing the Pennsylvania State Legislature until a substantive anti-abortion bill is passed into law. We will continue to speak to anyone who will listen—reporters, neighbors, longtime friends and new acquaintances—about the sacred life of babies yet to be born and the important efforts underway to protect them.
For those of you who have been engaged in this fight for decades, THANK YOU. I know that everything that has happened is because of the foundation of your prayers and unceasing effort. I am grateful for and humbled by the opportunity to stand with you at this pivotal time.
For those of you new to the pro-life movement, welcome! I’m the greenest member on the block and am so grateful for your partnership! I can promise you that we are standing on the side of Angels and that God has a bigger, more exciting plan than any of us could dream or imagine; it’s just up to us to join the adventure.
(Article from the Pro-Life Union’s June 2019 newsletter update.)