The Birmingham Letter Project, a four day event, began Wednesday morning with a small group of prayerful pro-lifers crossing a street. It probably looked like a small act to any uninvolved bystander, but, to the people of the Birmingham pro-life community, it was an act of immense courage, a miracle of God, and a moment of brilliantly shining hope.
The street that was crossed lies directly in front of the New Woman All Women abortion clinic. For thirteen years there has been a sign posted in front of that building which states that any pro-life person stepping within 20 ft of the property will be arrested and prosecuted by a federal court. This means that anyone in the pro-life community who has come to that abortion clinic to pray for the preborn, to peacefully protest against the lawful killing of children, or to sidewalk counsel women who have been told that their only option is abortion, has been forced to do so from a distance. For thirteen long years, not one group advocating for Life has planted their feet on the concrete and grass beside that clinic and made a stand for the babies being murdered behind closed doors. Until Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, around nine o’clock, the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust (a youth-based pro-life group from California) led by Jeff White, and accompanied by Rev. Pat Mahoney, Bud Shaver, Pastor Walter Hoye, and long-time local pro-life advocate Fr. Terry Gensemer boldly crossed the street to the clinic to pray a liturgy for the preborn. The police were present and the enraged director of the clinic stood in her parking lot demanding their arrest, but the group remained untouched by local law enforcement and unwavering in their decision to stand in front of that clinic. Because this group knew something that has long been covered over with intimidation and deception: they knew that the sign in front of the clinic was a direct violation of their first amendment rights–a thirteen year old lie–and they were not going to allow the community of Birmingham to be bullied by it any longer.
For the people standing in front of the New Woman All Women clinic, their freedom as Americans and their commitment to stopping the murder of innocent children far outweighed the threats by the operators and legal representatives of the clinic. And because of their dedication, falsely forbidden territory has been taken back from the Enemy and placed in the reach of prayerful saints.
That evening, the Survivors held a rally at Fr. Gensemer’s church in Fairfield. Christians came together for worship, for encouraging words from leaders like Walter Hoye and Jeff White, and to give thanks for the awesome works of a mighty God. Hoye’s talk in particular captured the spirit of this week’s events and objectives. He said, “The extent to which you fight for life, is the extent to which you’ll have life.”
The Survivors and many others who have helped bring about this week’s Letter Project are willing to fight. And their fight is not one of weapons and violence, but of prayer and surrender to the Lord. The same sort of fight exhibited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he wrote his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” the inspiration for this week’s event. In that letter Dr. King explains that nonviolence “seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” This is the heart of pro-life groups like the Survivors. Not to pick a fight, but to publicly expose the truth of abortion to a country that has chosen to ignore it.
On Thursday the group returned to the sidewalk in front of the clinic. The police were once again present, and the director of the clinic once again demanded their arrest, but God is ever-faithful and His people remained untouched.
After the clinic, the Survivors traveled to Parker High School, another site of injustice. Just a year previous, nine members of the Survivors team were wrongfully arrested and jailed overnight for speaking out about abortion on the high school campus. This activity is protected under the first amendment, but that amendment was ignored by Birmingham police as they violently handcuffed the young people and placed them in the Birmingham jail where some were shackled in wrist and leg irons. A lawsuit was filed against the City of Birmingham shortly after by the Life Legal Defense Foundation. The Survivors prevailed, and on Thursday they were able to speak with kids on the campus, hand out literature, and establish the kingdom of God on the campus of Parker High School.
That evening, the pro-life community met for a second rally at Fr. Genesemer’s church in Fairfield. They praised God for His mercy and power, prayed for leaders in the group, and heard from Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. Cody has worked on countless cases for pro-lifers across the nation. She is a giant of a saint, a protector for the voices this world would like to silence, and, after greeting the people before her, Cody said with unexpected emotion, “You are all heroes. You may not feel like heroes, but you are.” That is an enormous compliment coming from a woman who so adamantly refuses to tolerate injustice.
There are still two days left in the Birmingham Letter Project. Each day, the Survivors will return to the abortion clinic and prayerfully stand for the preborn. They will also return to the UAB Hill Center Plaza, yet another site where they were wrongfully arrested earlier in the year. The group is believing for God’s protection and justice, but they know there is a chance that their group will be arrested. They will show up anyway. Not because the Survivors lack a respect for authority, but because they know the law allows them freedom of speech and that God has called them to stand against abortion. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Birmingham Letter Project will stand against injustice.