Sidewalk advocacy + pregnancy help centers = lives saved

Sidewalk Advocates for Life founder, CEO, and President Lauren Muzyka speaks at the 2022 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference/Lisa Bourne

A workshop presented at the 2024 Heartbeat International Conference by Sidewalk Advocates for Life (SAFL) showcased the partnership between SAFL and pregnancy help centers and how that partnership both saves unborn lives and helps pregnant women avoid the after-affects of abortion.

“We see ourselves as an extension, the sidewalk component, of the pregnancy help movement,” Sidewalk Advocates for Life founder, CEO, and President Lauren Muzyka told participants in her workshop, Sidewalk Advocacy & PHOs in post-Roe America. Heartbeat is the largest network of pregnancy help organizations both globally and in the U.S. It’s annual Conference, held this year in Salt Lake City, Utah April 24-26, is likewise the largest gathering of its type.

“We are the gateway to the loving, life-affirming resources in our local communities and 98 percent of the time that’s going to be you, the pregnancy resource center, the pregnancy help organization,” Muzyka said.

In the spirit of the conference theme, “United for Life, Muzyka told her audience how lives are transformed when SAFL and pregnancy help organizations (PHOs) partner.

“We see ourselves as a team for life, and that's how we have seen more than 22,000 lives saved in 10 years of ministry on the sidewalk,” she said.

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SAFL celebrates 10 years

She began SAFL, which conducts peaceful, prayerful vigils outside abortion centers and abortion-referral facilities, in 2014. She is a pro-life attorney who worked with the national team of 40 Days for Life and who has been in the pro-life world for several decades. Through teams of volunteers, her organization covers more 280 communities with an abortion clinic in the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Columbia.

“We are Christ-centered, we are Christian, and we have a national reputation for being peaceful, prayerful, loving and law-abiding,” Muzyka told her audience. “We believe each one of those values is essential to winning the trust of that woman who's coming across our path [and] the abortion worker that we want to win out of the industry.”

In the two weeks prior to the Heartbeat Conference Muzyka said a report came across her desk that showed 197 babies were saved from abortion during early April. She also told workshop attendees that 55 abortion facilities have closed “where there’s been an SFL outreach” in the 10 years since her organization began.

One of the those was in Texas several years ago where former abortion worker, now pro-life speaker and founder of And Then There Were None Abby Johnson once spearheaded the facility. Now, the two organizations work together.

“We always get our workers over to Abby Johnson's abortion worker ministry for ongoing healing so in a sense we're also the gateway to that ministry, letting abortion workers know that there is life for them and life abundant waiting for them if they would say ‘yes,’” Muzyka said. “When you help enough clients and you help enough workers, it's hard for abortion facilities to stay open.”

Lauren Muzyka presents at the 2024 Heartbeat International Pregnancy Help Conference/Gayle Irwin

Closing abortion facilities, helping abortion workers

Studies indicate between 700 and 800 abortion facilities exist in the United States, down from more than 2,900 during the early 1980s. More than 60 abortion centers closed after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the Dobbs case nearly two years ago. However, increased access via mail to the abortion pill likely contributed to the rise in abortion numbers reported earlier this year by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research organization.

Even though many states enacted pro-life laws, including gestational age limits for abortion, many facilities that once performed abortions in those states now act as a referral agency, encouraging, and even making appointments for, women to travel from a pro-life state to an abortion-welcoming state. The need for sidewalk advocates at these referring facilities is also necessary, Muzyka said.

“What we're finding is that Planned Parenthood maintains their presence on the ground in Texas and Tennessee and Louisiana,” she said.

“They have these family planning facilities before Dobbs that referred women to the next nearest abortion facility,” she explained. “They are playing an even greater role in the Dobbs era so the Planned Parenthood family planning facilities, and once in a while the independently-owned facility that had enough funding to stay open – they are now referring to the next nearest abortion facility 300 and 600 miles away.”

“They are still trying to make money off of the women in [our pro-life communities,” Muzyka said. “So, we're able to say, ‘Before you drive three to six hundred miles away, will you try the services on our mobile unit? Will you try our pregnancy resource center?’”

She shared a story about a Houston-area advocacy group, who about three weeks after the overturn of Roe, helped 14 women “choose life in a morning shift.”

Covering more abortion facilities and places that refer for abortion is a primary goal for SAFL. At least two advocates per shift are required.

“Our goal is that we would have full time coverage of the abortion or abortion-referral facility, even if that takes weeks months or years to accomplish,” Muzyka said.

“There's roughly about 777 abortion and abortion referral facilities in America,” Muzyka told workshop attendees. “Sidewalk advocacy to us is crisis intervention, [being] in front of the abortion facility encouraging a woman to choose life, empowering her to leave the facility and, of course, being a witness, reaching out to all present to bring about a conversion of heart from a culture of death to a culture of life, and thereby ending abortion.”

“So, the way to think of it is we consider ourselves the folks who are like the paramedics – we’re like arriving to the scene of the crisis, but our goal is to get her to the hospital,” she said. “Now the hospital ultimately is Jesus Christ, but the body of Christ is in our pregnancy help organizations.”

Unity and partnership

Partnering with SAFL brings training, materials, and support. Sidewalk advocates bring clients to community PHOs, whether a brick-and-mortar building or mobile unit, as well as provide Heartbeat International’s Option Line and Abortion Pill Reversal information.

“We have partnered with Heartbeat International for a long time [and]there are so many pregnancy centers now that have joined our ministry that are running Sidewalk Advocates for Life underneath their banner,” Muzyka said. “I'm just so grateful for that new springboard of collaboration.”

Lauren Muzyka and SAFL Vice President Nate Robertson at the Sidewalk Advocates for Life workshop/Gayle Irwin

Unity and partnership are critical.

“When we work together, you wouldn't believe the fruit!” she said. “Jackson, Miss., just before Dobbs was handed down, they saw client visits increased five times when they added sidewalk advocacy to their array of activities – just so beautiful.”

Tweet This: When we work together you wouldn't believe the fruit-Lauren Muzyka, Sidewalk Advocates for Life on partnering in the pregnancy help movement

Muzyka added, “It really is a dynamic program that helps people to commit to this mission long-haul. The more that we have a direct line to you, or we can do a hand-off very quickly, the more we see success. The more that we see her make a solid decision for life, the more that we can treat you like the emergency room if you'll let us, the more lives that we see saved.”

More about Sidewalk Advocates for Life and partnering with the organization is available HERE. SAFL, along with other pro-life groups, will host a National Celebrate Life Conference in Washington, D.C. in June to commemorate the Dobbs anniversary.

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages the Abortion Pill Rescue® Network (APRN), Option Line, and Pregnancy Help News.

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