CHICAGO (BP) — Pro-life advocates will hold banners on highway overpasses June 22 proclaiming “abortion takes a human life” to rush-hour motorists in 50 U.S. cities spanning 24 states.
The first National Pro-Life Bridges Day is designed to use a non-confrontational statement to spark conversations on abortion among hundreds of thousands of Americans, event organizer Eric Scheidler of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League told Baptist Press.
“We were looking for a way of talking about abortion in a very few words that would get people talking,” said Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League executive director. “We know from experience that when we raise the abortion issue people do talk about it. What we hope … is that drivers passing by will start talking with their passengers. They’ll have a conversation about abortion that they haven’t had before.”
Pro-Life Bridges Day has a Christian element of hundreds of volunteers pledged to pray during rush hours, Scheidler said, but organizers have purposefully avoided messages that might discourage insightful conversation.
“That’s why we chose the phrase that we did for these banners. They say abortion takes a human life. We wanted it to be ‘a’ human life, a specific human life taken with each and every abortion,” he said. “We decided to avoid any language that was going to be religious or political in an explicit way, or moralist, or judging the issue in some way.”
About 2,500 abortions are performed every day in the U.S., according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute.
“We’re not saying on these signs that abortion is murder, abortion should be illegal, abortion is a sin, because that kind of a message is only going to appeal to some people,” Scheidler said. “It doesn’t resonate with everybody and it makes some people feel more turned off than curious.”
In the pilot project, the league recruited a leader in each city to rally at least five volunteers to hold the banners at designated time slots, provided the banners and information on the event’s legality, and held a trial run event this past winter.
“Our 50 local leaders represent a cross section of the public,” Scheidler said. “We have clergy and lay people, college students, retirees and every age in between, leaders of pro-life organizations and itinerate activists…. This is an event that requires a very small number of people.” About 300 volunteers are spread among the cities in 24 states, and many volunteers were placed on waiting lists in case the event works well enough to repeat, Scheidler said.
The league considered such safety issues as sidewalks, wide shoulders and guardrails, he said, choosing pedestrian bridges for a fifth of the locations. The Thomas More Society, a nonprofit Chicago law firm fighting for life, family and religious liberty, provided legal advice for the event.
“The federal courts have consistently held that highway overpasses are a public forum where our First Amendment rights are protected,” Scheidler said. His mother Ann Scheidler is chairman of Thomas More’s board of directors, and Eric Scheidler leads the league his 90-year-old father Joe founded in 1980.
Pro-Life Bridges Day is slated for overpasses in Montgomery, Ala.; Fresno, Santa Cruz and South El Monte, Calif.; Jacksonville, Port St. Lucia, St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla.; Chicago, Country Club Hills, Countryside, Joliet and Naperville, Ill.; Delphi, Evansville, Gary and South Bend, Ind.; Council Bluffs and Dubuque, Iowa; Frederick, Md.; Beverly, Leominster, North Oxford, Springfield and Worcester, Mass.; Ann Arbor, Whitmore Lake and Wolverine, Mich.; St. Paul, Minn.; Jefferson City, Springfield and St. Charles, Mo.; Billings, Mont.; Omaha, Neb.; Manchester, N.H.; Hamilton Township, N.J.; Patchogue and Utica, N.Y.; Akron, Ohio; Tulsa, Okla.; Audubon, Bridgeville, Greensburg and Wyomissing, Pa.; North Charleston, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; San Antonio and Waco, Texas; Alexandria, Va., and Olympia, Wash.
Specific bridges for events are listed at https://prolifeaction.org/event/bridgesday2018/. Volunteers are still being accepted to participate at some locations, Scheidler said June 20. The league describes its purpose as saving unborn children through non-violent direct action.