ARLINGTON, Va. (BP) – A crisis pregnancy care center in Washington is reconsidering its admission policy after a group who registered as church members erupted in profanity-laced outbursts at a fundraising dinner Dec. 1.
“These people that were there actually signed up to come,” Janet Durig, executive director of the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, told Baptist Press. “They actually registered and we had them seated at a table. This young man emailed and registered, told me which church he goes to, and he registered three young women to come with him. And we seated them at a table that had half a table.”
A handful of protestors, including those at the table mentioned above, arose individually at the event at various times when she was at the podium, Durig said, and yelled profane statements accusing the center of mistreating women and other misdeeds.
Security forcibly escorted the protestors from the event and no injuries were reported.
“We are going to have to come up with a new way to vet people who want to come to our banquets,” During said, “which is a shame.”
Former Southern Baptist ethicist Chelsea Sobolik, senior director of policy and advocacy at Lifeline Children’s Services, was at the event in her personal capacity as a pro-life advocate when the protests occurred.
“It honestly made me so sad. My husband and I were hosting a table. I’ve attended these dinners for a decade,” she said. “The first group of protests were directly to our right, and then the second group was directly to our left. So we were surrounded. Security came right in and escorted them out, and thankfully the program was able to be quickly resumed.
“But it did cause a disturbance,” Sobolik said. “There were protestors outside when people were walking in, but then, I wasn’t expecting protestors to be inside.”
Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center has withstood protestors before. The center offers a number of services free to the public, Durig said, including pregnancy testing, baby clothing and supplies, parenting and child birthing classes and pregnancy loss counseling. Information on abortion options is provided only with permission, Durig said.
“Women who want to keep their baby, in my opinion, have a right to keep their baby,” Durig said. “What’s coming across from groups (who protested) last night is, do they not think keeping your baby is still one of the choices?”
Funds were raised by donations at the event that drew 400 attendees as most protestors did so from the street outside the venue. The center has been able to generate donations without charging admission at fundraising events, Durig said.
“We don’t sell tables. We have table hosts who host the table, and you know that that table host knows the people. But when we’ve had other people come in, we’ve never had a problem before,” Durig said. “They ate our hors d’oeuvres, they ate our meal. The people sitting at the table with them said they talked about how delicious everything was. And then the protests started.”
The center remains committed to its cause, Durig said.
Sobolik said she will pray for those who interrupted the event.
“Something that really stood out to me, we were all there to talk about all the ways the center serves women and children, and it’s not this coercive message,” Sobolik said. “It was really about love and service and care.
“I pray for them,” she said of the protestors. “They heard the Gospel presented last night, so I hope that that planted some type of seed in their heart.”