2nd Street and Market



On the average street corner in downtown urban America, we expect there to be business people making their way to work, students getting to class, homeless resting with their shopping carts of valuables, joggers, walkers, and tourists mixed in. We expect to hear sirens of various types as well as street chatter. We follow the instructions of the traffic light and accompanying hand signals, staying within the crosswalk for safety. Every corner predictably busy as the day begins.

A recent training revealed a street corner of another kind. It was busy with the usual downtown happenings, but it held another element—a pregnancy center and an abortion provider who share a wall. Two clinics serving women in the community and beyond, both with laborers who are passionate about the lives they see as being “entrusted to their care.” I’ve participated in trainings at pregnancy centers who share a driveway with abortion providers or share a street with them, but what I experienced in Louisville, KY at A Woman’s Choice (AWC) was an escalated version. I think it will be best, if I continue on in this article as a patient scheduled for an abortion. Through her eyes we may each get a glimpse of what she experiences at 2nd and Market.

The morning of her abortion, the young woman arrives and searches for the volunteer wearing an orange vest that says in black letters: CLINIC ESCORT.  When she made her appointment, the abortion clinic instructed her to let one of the orange vests get her to the front door of EMW Women’s Surgical Center (EMW) because she will encounter many on the street who are not abortion clinic escorts. Depending on who describes them, she will either encounter “protestors” or “sidewalk advocates.”  They come in several varieties.  Some will be trying to keep her from entering the surgery center that morning. They will be holding graphic pictures of aborted babies and shouting harsh phrases at her as she walks with a stranger to the front door of the clinic.  Some will approach in a different colored vest, offering words of encouragement and the Gospel.  Some will pray quietly maybe with a Rosary in hand.  Another group forms a line of people facing the front wall of EMW and one of them will preach all morning long. Their voices can be heard by both clinics until all the abortion-seeking women are inside the clinic for the day (usually by 9:00 AM), the droning of their voices permeates the walls of the clinics sharing a wall.

Along with the abortion-advocating clinic escorts and the variety of pro-life advocates, “legal observers” may be there – documenting through cameras and note-taking what is unfolding before her—perhaps to support a buffer law or legal action in the future.  All of this is going on as she approaches the abortion provider.  Imagine the mind of a young woman, possibly struggling with her decision to abort, and she encounters all of the passion opposing views can demonstrate just trying to get to the door.

Inside the two clinics are two groups of people doing what they do daily. Serving women. Women who have left EMW to come to AWC have shared their perspective on what happened inside, but I can only tell firsthand what happened inside AWC the week I was there. I can tell facts, and I can share my heart as I lived this corner for four short days. The facts are:  AWC provides accurate information to those who enter, AWC doesn’t coerce cooperation of the patients they see, AWC provides support for the long haul thru multiple resources, AWC makes no financial gain from the patients they serve, AWC has no sidewalk presence adding to the chaos encountered between her car door and EMW’s door.

What my heart saw was young women looking for answers. I met a couple who left EMW to come to AWC for information. I listened as a young couple shared this is the only option for them. I had a role in assisting a mother and daughter who came in to get a parking pass and had the opportunity to learn a few facts about how their day would unfold. I scanned a young mom who had let her guard down and engaged with a married man and now had to confront the consequences of such a choice, clearly struggling with what to do. Each story holds a truth about life and its choices. Each story has areas where it can be judged or accepted. Each story holds a bit of regret mixed with anticipated relief. Each story holds the heart of a woman trying to make her way to a “new normal.”

In serving patients in a holistic way, it is imperative that a medical clinic serve her emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s the spiritual piece that stands out about AWC.  Hospitals hire chaplains for a reason—the spiritual and faith aspects of medical care matter.  At AWC, women are asked about the spiritual aspect of their lives and of this decision. In all other areas of women’s health, it would be a common conversation or at least available, to have the spiritual aspect included in her care. It is a natural next step that women share their faith and how it impacts their current issue. The women at AWC . . . listen.

I don’t know what your pregnancy center encounters daily, but I do know it is a spiritual battle. In living with AWC for a week, my firsthand experience revealed a street corner alive with spiritual warfare not experienced by many. Preaching, name calling, graphic images, verbal condemnation, escorts, and quiet prayer warriors, all contributing in their way to a day in her life that is already lived in heightened sensitivity. She will be impacted for life by the happenings at 2nd Street and Market.

Our team was there to teach a coaching approach to the abortion decision. Through our Linear Shared Decision Making Program (LSDMP), patients own their decision. With a LSDM platform, staff will have decreased compassion fatigue as they let go of the responsibility of the decision, while continuing to offer life-affirming information, support, and empowerment in a high-pressured setting.

By the way, to add to the week that Sparrow Solutions Group team was at 2nd Street and Market, so was a reporter from The New York Times. I can’t speak for her, but I was impacted by what I experienced and I am guessing she was too.  The “common ground” we seek to find can be the tie that binds.

Connie Ambrecht
Founder & CEO
Sparrow Solutions Group

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