New sidewalk counselor: ‘My heart goes out’ to women in crisis pregnancies

| January 6, 2017 | 12 Comments

Nicky Peters, 19, stands outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul twice a month to offer information and compassion to women going there for abortions. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

It didn’t take long for Nicky Peters to feel the drama of being a sidewalk counselor outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul.

The 19-year-old sophomore at St. Catherine University in St. Paul and member of St. Ambrose in Woodbury had decided last spring to take her pro-life passion to the streets. She signed up to volunteer with Pro-Life Action Ministries in St. Paul and paired with Ann Redding, the organization’s sidewalk counseling coordinator.

This past June, the two showed up on Vandalia Street hoping to encounter women in crisis pregnancies. It was Peters’ first time.

“That day was amazing,” she said. “I met Ann there, and within the first hour, a woman came up to us and told her [Ann] that she had changed her mind about having an abortion, but she had already had part of the procedure done.”

Clinic workers had inserted laminaria sticks to help dilate the woman’s cervix to prepare for the abortion. But, after the sticks were inserted, the woman changed her mind. She jumped off the table and left the clinic without having them removed. When she encountered Redding and Peters on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, Redding hustled into action, leading the pregnant woman to nearby Abria Pregnancy Resources. Two months later, a healthy baby boy was born.

Peters, who is studying sign language interpreting at St. Kate’s, will never forget that day. In fact, it’s what gives her the strength to spend hours alone on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, sometimes enduring insults and profanity hurled her way by vocal abortion supporters.

“It all goes back to that first day; the passion that I have is about helping these women,” said Peters, who does sidewalk counseling twice a month for about two and a half hours each time. “My heart goes out to them, honestly. A child is such a wonderful thing that I’d do anything to help [the pregnant women].”

The seed of her current volunteer role was planted at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., one year ago. She made the trip down on a plane, but rode back on a bus chartered by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis when flights were canceled due to a powerful storm that swept the region and dumped nearly 2 feet of snow.

She rode back with other teens and young adults from the archdiocese, plus three women who belonged to Katie’s for Life on her campus.

“All these women were talking about how involved they were in the pro-life movement,” Peters recalled. “One girl in my college group who does a little bit of sidewalk counseling and is a prayer supporter described what it was, and it really sounded like something that I was called to do. I loved being pro-life and I really, really wanted to be more involved, so I looked into it, did some research and decided that this was for me and I wanted to do it.”

After going through a seminar and getting some training, she went out to Planned Parenthood with Redding, who instantly recognized the value Peters brought to the ministry of helping women arriving for abortions to receive love and information about carrying their pregnancies to term.

“I’m just really glad she’s on board,” said Redding, who has been in her role at PLAM since 2000. “She’s out there to be compassionate with people. Whether it’s a save or not, we’re recognizing the humanity of the child that’s [in danger of being] killed. Secondly, we are letting people know that we care about them.”

Redding noted that Peters is the perfect age for counseling because most of the women who come to Planned Parenthood for abortions are 20 to 24 years old. She estimates that 30 of the 200 regular sidewalk counselors who volunteer through PLAM are in that age group. Many of them are seminarians who come regularly on Friday afternoons.

“This is the best age group to be out there on the sidewalk,” Redding said. “The college-aged have physical strength, idealism and beauty. Young people have that beauty that draws someone to talk to them.”

However, the responses can be negative, even ugly, at times. Peters has discovered this, which surprised her initially.

“I do take a lot of heat, especially on the sidewalk, and even from people on campus,” she said. “I get profanity, the middle finger. I get anywhere from, ‘Oh, you’re just totally wrong,’ to large profanity statements.”

In between the encounters are long periods of silence, in which she sees no one and must figure out useful ways to spend her time.

Her go-to practice on those occasions is prayer. She prays decades of the rosary and calls on the intercession of the saints and Mary. And, her words to God and to the people she meets are steeped in a deep faith that believes she is making a difference, and a faith that keeps her coming back for more, even when the coldest days of the year lay ahead.

“I just love it, honestly,” she said. “It can get a little bit discouraging, but I always have to go back to that first day of helping that woman. I just have to go back to that day because I know that that truly was amazing and I have to keep doing that so I can help more women. Even though people will give me the middle finger, I just have to sit there and pray for them and pray for a change of heart.”

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  • Dominic Deus

    Does Abria offer contraception before pregnancy or after delivery? Planned Parenthood does. Proper contracpetion=no abortion, almost always.

    What does Nicky say if asked how to access contraception? Exercising Catholic conscience and freedom of speech to offer options to abortion is a worthwhile choice but not providing all the options is dishonest. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4225fc5468b660b9049eb175a104fbb6be9f74632f7326a872c22334a37b1998.jpg

    • tschraad

      Dominic Deus – The Catholic Church does offer the best contraception advice available. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is called “NO”.

      It also makes available God’s plan on spacing children. Natural family planning is the term used as my wife and I were bless with five children.

      Not all contraception methods prevent contraception and in fact are designed to kill the life of the new baby. These chemical abortions are now being called contraception to sanitize or be PC. SAD.

      I am sadden by your remark “not providing all the options is dishonest.” I disagree as killing your child is and never should be an option. Would you offer a terrorist (abortion doctor) all his options on how to kill more humans? I think not.

      • Dominic Deus

        “Just say no” just doesn’t work and never has. There have always been unplanned pregnancies. The best way to prevent abortion is to use contraception.

        • tschraad

          Dominic Deus – I disagree. Saying no always works and always has. Raping a person is a crime. Unplanned pregnancies do happen but the child should be welcomed by his/her parents. Unplanned pregnancies should be a rare occurrence as responsible parents know when to abstain from sex.

          Contraception does not work. If it worked, there would be not need of killing innocent children. All contraception methods do fail as has been well documented and being PC woman used the next PC contraception which is the killing of the innocent human being and then butchering the child while still alive and selling the parts. A intrinsically evil act.

          Abstinence is the higher moral ground.

          • Dominic Deus

            Therein lies the problem . “Moral” is good.”Higher” is a matter of opinion. Claiming higher moral ground is dangerously close to proclaiming personal, cultural, racial or religious superiority.Genocides are a work of “higher moral ground.”

            Better to remember that the ground we walk upon is often not of our choosing, higher or not. God puts us there and says, “Make it work. You have free will, and a conscience. Use them.”

            Sorry, but I don’t see the connection between a rape victim and woman who carefully and thoughtfully chooses contraception. Have to go–it has been interesting dialoguing with you

          • tschraad

            Dominic Deus – Rape is when a woman says no and the male proceeds. No need for contraception if male understands the word no.

            Contraception is not acceptable for Catholics as all acts should not have any barrier preventing or denying conception. This is why the natural family abstanence program is acceptable for Catholics to space their children. Unmarried need not apply as all sex acts are prohibited.

          • Dominic Deus

            Thank you for your reply. Setting our differing opinions aside for the moment, surely we would agree that we cannot rely on a rapist to stop his sexual assault simply because a woman says “no.”

            Regarding your other points, I recognize them as the traditional teaching but the fact is they are simply ignored by the overwhelming majority of Catholic women. These sisters in faith use contraception in exactly the same percentages as their non-Catholic counterparts when adjusted for socio-economic class and access to women’s health care. It’s been like that for at least two decades. As a physician and man, when women speak to me that emphatically, I listen and I advise the Church to do the same.

            Thank you for your continuing interest in this discussion. Your opinions matter and I respect them. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4225fc5468b660b9049eb175a104fbb6be9f74632f7326a872c22334a37b1998.jpg

        • Mole

          No, best way is to use BRAIN.

          • Dominic Deus

            Mole–Many women do not have that choice. Sex is forced upon them socially, culturally, by peer pressure, or economic necessity. Sometimes theyv become pregnant because they, like the rest of us, are in need of compassion, tenderness, and intimacy. Sometimes the only thing they have left at the end of the day is that. I am guessing at about 95% certainty you are a man. So am I. That doesn’t disqualify us from having an opinion but it does disqualify us from getting pregnant. Basically, I can’t think of a reason why men shouldn’t simply shut up for about 200 years and let women talk about pregnancy and the need for contraception . I’m willing to do that . Thank you for your comments 🙂

      • lapswimmer

        Chemical abortions are not called contraception. You are confusing chemical abortion with emergency contraception, which must be used within hours of having intercourse. Extensive studies show that emergency contraception (with the possible exception of “Plan B”) prevents ovulation or otherwise prevents conception; it does not prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

        • tschraad

          lapswimmer – I did not intend to nor did I say this. The pro abortion crowd uses the term “contraceptive” for methods that also include killing the fertilize egg. Which in my opinion is wrong as the uninformed accept their illogical conclusion.

          Any method used that kills a fertilized egg is an abortion which is the killing of an innocent human being. All methods that stop conception is a contraceptive.

  • Michael

    Wonderful story. I pray for all sidewalk counselors , that they have courage , and the peace and compassion of Christ for all of the people they encounter.