“You’re free now.”
Scott Hord — a pastor from Smyrna, Tennessee — said these words to a young African-American woman in front of Planned Parenthood Nashville after he and four others circled around her in prayer. She entered the abortion clinic’s parking lot with the burdens of a relationship full of abuse; after speaking to the Christians and changing her mind, she departed for a nearby pregnancy center — but not before she received hugs, encouragement, and contact information so that they could meet any needs she might have in the future.
Hord is among a handful of Christians across the United States who minister in front of abortion facilities. Enduring physical, emotional, and spiritual assault, these believers say they desire that no mother enters the doors of an abortion clinic without knowing three realities: that she is already a mother, that there is help available to her, and that Jesus loves her. Many sidewalk ministers pass on more comfortable or more lucrative opportunities in response to a burden from God to intercede on behalf of the lives of their preborn neighbors.
In the most literal sense, they take to heart the command of Proverbs 24:11: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”
Here are their stories.
John Barros — Orlando, Florida
John Barros, who lives in Sanford, Florida, is sixty-seven years old. He has been representing St. Andrew’s Chapel — the church of the late Presbyterian minister R.C. Sproul — for the past eighteen years at a local abortion clinic. After asking God to take care of his family, Barros began ministering on a full-time basis eleven years ago. Today, he forgoes retirement to continue his work.
Barros has seen over 3,000 lives saved — and refuses to take credit for a single one. Indeed, his favorite part about his ministry is “feeling Jesus smile.”
“We bring the gospel to the place,” he explained. “We bring Jesus to that place, and we explain to the ladies that are coming there that God has sent us. We are His emissaries, we are His ambassadors, and He has sent us to pull them away from the edge of a cliff from where there’s no return.”
Barros and his team offer the women practical assistance: “I have a lady’s doctor’s office — a medical clinic called ‘Choices’ that I’ll offer them a card for. Over there they can get free medical help, free financial help. They can get a free ultrasound, and then whatever they cannot help them with — in regards to the rest of their family or whatever their situation is — my church will help them with all of that.”
Barros stays in touch with many of the families he encounters. Formerly abortion-minded mothers occasionally bring their newborns back to the clinic and thank John for his work. However, Barros has also maintained contact with the babies saved early in his ministry — one of whom is now a junior in high school.
“He dunked a basketball for the first time,” Barros said of their most recent visit. “And that’s a big deal for me, you know, to see a kid, and the parent was gonna abort him. Now, that kid has been the number one love of his mother’s life. And now seeing him dunk a basketball for the first time is pretty amazing.”
Two decades ago, however, Barros was hesitant to become involved with sidewalk ministry.
“I had a pastor ask me if I wanted to go to an abortion clinic one time, and I said no. Why would I want to go there? And then he bribed me. He said ‘I’ll buy you a cigar if you go with me.’ And I went. And I hated it. Hated it totally. But I kept going — something was pulling me there.”
After two bouts with cancer and two brain aneurysms, Barros eventually made his way back to the abortion clinic. On his first day ministering alone, he talked with one mother for over an hour — a conversation that resulted in the mother deciding to keep her baby.
The most challenging aspect of Barros’ ministry is “getting God’s Word into their hearts.”
“The Bible tells us in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation,” Barros explained. “I don’t go down there with signs. I ask people not to bring signs, because our goal is to get conversations. I feel that, at least in our clinic, that hinders that.”
“So we try to get conversations with everybody … And then at certain times, I will preach a sermon every day, about three times a day, and they can hear every word through the windows. And that’s when God works. It’s the most amazing thing.”
Barros has also faced his fair share of physical opposition.
“I‘ve had guns pulled on me, I’ve been hit a bit, spit on, had urine thrown on me, I’ve had every kind of thing you can imagine,” said Barros. “But, again, like I said, it pales in comparison to watching God give sight to the blind, literally raise the dead. I mean, there’s nothing that can compare to it.”
Indeed, Barros explained that he does not make much of the opposition he faces: “Jesus told us it would be this way. He said in this world, you’re gonna have tribulation if we stand for Him and pick up our cross … I just want to lift up Jesus and the things that He does there. It’s so beautiful, it’s so amazing.”
As far as misconceptions about his work: “They think that the people that come out on the sidewalks actually hate the people that are going in to have the abortion, or hate the workers that are there, or are there with a vengeful type of attitude.”
“I preach every day, ‘Ladies, we’re the only ones who really love you.’ So we come down here, we’re willing to lay our lives down for you if necessary, because we want to help you and we want to keep you from the judgment that goes along with this,” Barros described. “2 Timothy 2 tells us to correct those that are in opposition, and perhaps God would grant them repentance and open their eyes, that they might see the snare of the devil, having been taken by him to do his will… That’s what we’re there for. We’re not there to call them names and do all these horrible things. We’re there to serve them.”
Barros sees the future of the anti-abortion movement going political “strong and hard, because nothing is changing.”
“I believe that we need to outlaw abortion in our land. We need to do it state by state until it’s done federally, but it needs to be outlawed. These are people. These are people we’re killing. Now all these incremental bills — these are just saying who you can kill and can’t kill. I mean, it’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. If these are people — and they are — they have the right to life, just like we do. And we need to somehow just keep praying for God to change the hearts of the people in our country and outlaw this.”
In the meantime, Barros expressed a desire for every Christian to stand against abortion.
“It’s the biggest fight there is, and it has been — let’s face it — this has been going on since Genesis,” he said. “But every Christian should be involved at some point. They don’t all need to stand in front of a sidewalk like I do, but they need to fight it on some level, either helping politically to fight it, to raise awareness in our culture, working at a pregnancy center — any number of things. Be a welcome place for girls who get pregnant, places where they can find help in people’s churches.”
“But there’s a ton of things that people can do. And everybody needs to be in that fight somewhere.”
Seth Drayer — Columbus, Ohio
Seth Drayer is the Vice President of Created Equal — a Christian pro-life apologetics group that seeks to change Americans’ minds about abortion.
Drayer pointed out that “sidewalk counseling is an eleventh-hour ministry.”
“Created Equal’s primary effort is changing minds on abortion before people plan to kill their children,” he explained. “However, when it comes to people with scheduled abortions today, there is no time for that. We must run to the front line, where babies are dying now, and offer support and share truth with parents.”
“Sidewalk counselors do not need to choose between babies and parents. We love all involved by offering real help and resources to parents and eliminating perceived needs for abortion, while also defending the humanity of the babies who might die.”
When Drayer joined Created Equal’s full-time staff, he was called on to begin serving as a sidewalk counselor.
“On my first day sidewalk counseling, I met a young man who, after going into the abortion facility with his girlfriend, told me, ‘I love what you guys are doing. I want to keep [the baby].’ But his girlfriend was committed to having an abortion. I encouraged him to bring his girlfriend out of the facility and go with her to a pregnancy resource center, where they could have all of the options laid before them. He started to text his girlfriend inside, sharing with her information we had given him. And, about half an hour later, he was able to get her to come out. He told me, ‘She couldn’t go through with it.’”
Drayer explained that his work is often joyous: “Sidewalk counseling can provide the best of days within the pro-life movement. When a baby is saved — when parents choose to value their children over themselves — the celebrations are rich.”
Often, though, it is full of mourning and loss: “When you watch other parents who do not change their minds, when you know a baby is being dismembered not far from where you stand, when you see the heaviness on the parents’ faces as they leave, the pain is very real.”
“However,” said Drayer, “our service is not based on whether we have good or bad days. We serve because God calls us to do so.”
Drayer likewise explained that people mischaracterize sidewalk ministers as hateful: “Anyone who spends time on the ground outside abortion facilities knows this is false. The people who sacrifice their time to do this hard work do so because they love the babies and their parents.”
Beyond interceding for babies’ lives, Drayer often witnesses parents surrender themselves to Christ. “The people who come to abortion facilities are not having the best day of their lives. Something has pushed them to this point. And it is our privilege to share the beautiful truth of the gospel with these people while we are seeking to rescue babies. We have seen God use our team not only to save babies but also to bring people to the foot of the cross.”
Drayer believes that apologetics and “communicating truth in our cultural context” is paramount to ending abortion in the United States.
“We are becoming better every day at communicating truth in our cultural context. That is a key to the overall project of changing the way everyone views preborn people,” he explained. “So long as they are seen as inconvenient blobs of tissue, many will continue to turn a blind eye as they are killed. But as we restore the dignity stolen from babies and draw out the meaning of what abortion is, we not only help parents see they do not need abortion but also move the cultural needle — changing our nation from one hostile to vulnerable preborn people to one that protects and defends them.”
Virgil Walker — Omaha, Nebraska
For the past six years, Virgil Walker served as a discipleship pastor at Westside Church in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as a host of the Just Thinking Podcast. With the blessing of his church family, he routinely engaged in sidewalk counseling at a local abortion clinic.
As Walker explains, his ministry entailed bringing the gospel into conflict with the cultural narrative that says “a baby is a clump of cells and can be disregarded as such,” providing women with “the choice that preserves the life of their child.”
“This is the place where a life-ending decision can be stopped. This is the place where sin can be cleansed and forgiveness can be experienced. This is the place where the message of the gospel and the light of God’s love can be experienced by those willing to repent and change.”
Walker — who recently moved to Georgia in order to serve as Executive Director of Operations at G3 Ministries — explained that he started sidewalk ministry after watching a video of Tony Miano, a friend of his and a fellow sidewalk counselor: “My immediate thought was, ‘I need to be doing something like that.’ After praying and going on a number of site visits in my area, I determined the right time and place to make myself available.”
According to Walker, the most difficult aspect of sidewalk ministry is “everything.”
“The darkest place in any city,” he explained, “is the place where the murder of innocent babies happens. Every time I went to the clinic, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I understood the nature of the spiritual warfare that was taking place. Addressing the people is the easy part. Watching a person enter a clinic with the knowledge that they are undergoing a procedure that will end the life of a child is the most difficult thing anyone experiences at the abortion mill.”
Walker’s work was not without other challenges.
“At the clinic, you experience all kinds of stories. The angry boyfriend who doesn’t want you to say anything to his girlfriend that he brought to the clinic to have an abortion. You experience the proud mom who has been to the clinic on numerous occasions who feels justified in her anger toward you, even as you offer help. While violence isn’t experienced as often as you would think, the threat of violence is always present.”
Above all else: “I’m most impacted by those who call themselves Christians — or who have a bumper sticker with the name of their church on the back — who are at the abortion clinic for a procedure.”
Walker said that most people mistake him and his team for protestors. “We aren’t. We are people who love God, love life, and our neighbors as ourselves — even our preborn neighbors. We want to see the gospel have impact on the lives of the mother and the child.”
Ashley Hoover — New York City, New York
Ashley Hoover is a full-time sidewalk counselor in New York City. Sponsored by Love Life — a ministry seeking to end abortion and the orphan crisis — Hoover ministers with her sister, Anastasia, at abortion clinics in Manhattan and The Bronx.
Hoover’s first experience as a sidewalk counselor “was as a teenager, when a family friend invited me and my sister to a large abortion clinic in the south Bronx to see with our own eyes the number of people scheduling to have their preborn babies killed in our own backyard.” She did not commit to sidewalk counseling on a consistent basis until Love Life launched in New York City — shortly after the Cuomo administration signed the Reproductive Health Act, which legalized on-demand abortion through the moment of birth.
“Since then,” said Hoover, “I have had the joy of seeing numerous babies saved from death, and have been able to walk alongside some of the mothers throughout their pregnancies and beyond.”
Hoover also clarified that she is not a protester: “Though protesting certainly has its proper place, we do not go to abortion clinics to talk to the public at large. Rather, we talk to and plead with specific couples who are entering the clinic.”
Hoover’s ministry contains two elements: showing each couple “the horrifying and morally detestable reality of abortion” and pointing each couple “to the help and the hope that exist” — both in the supplies, mentorship, and housing assistance that Love Life offers, and in “the ultimate, eternal hope that exists in the gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby each person can be totally and irrevocably forgiven of their sins if they repent and put their trust in Jesus.”
According to Hoover, every American can stand up for babies by promoting a culture of life in their various spheres of influence.
“First, vocalize your opposition to abortion,” she explained. “In your friendships and in your interpersonal relationships, do not be silent or indifferent on the topic. Be happy to be known for your opposition to abortion.”
“Also, do not say that you are ‘personally pro-life, but willing to tolerate all opinions.’ You wouldn’t say that you are ‘personally anti-slavery, but tolerant of all views’ or ‘personally against human trafficking, but unwilling to enforce my views on others.’ So why would you exhibit the same attitude toward abortion, which is the intentional killing of innocent humans, and which is just as morally heinous?”
“Second,” continued Hoover, “use your time and resources to prevent the murder of the preborn. Come out to abortion clinics and sidewalk counsel.”
Also: “Create an anti-abortion culture in your own home and family life. Do not participate in the culture of death in any way, whether by killing your own preborn child or by engaging in activities which facilitate and enable the killing of the preborn.”
In the civic sphere: “Call on your government officials to pass laws criminalizing abortion, and vote as if abortion is the most important issue of our time — because it is.”
Jon Speed — Fort Worth, Texas
Jon Speed is a missions and evangelism pastor at First Baptist Church of Briar in Azle, Texas, as well as the Texas representative for the ministry End Abortion Now. Two years ago, Speed made national news for shuttering his New York bookstore in protest of the Reproductive Health Act.
Speed began sidewalk ministry in 2011 after spending a morning ministering alongside a retired gentleman at an abortion facility in Fort Worth. The man told him to “pray about what God would have you to do, and then do what He tells you.” Speed was convicted to preach for the last ten minutes of their time outside of the clinic, since Romans 10:17 says that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
“The conversations we have flow directly out of the preaching of the gospel that we do at the clinic,” he said. “And we’re not just counseling, but offering the real hope of the gospel along with real help to abortive families who need it.”
Speed also says that “the most challenging aspect of this is facing the reality of the slaughter that is happening there and then keeping an even emotional keel.”
“Sometimes, that means walking away for a few minutes and praying. Sometimes, that means taking a week off. The gruesome nature of the murders they are committing there is disturbing. The callousness of the abortive parents can be hard to deal with.”
In terms of physical threats: “I have had guns pulled on me twice, abortionists who have swerved their cars at me or my wife, been spit on, watched as a passerby ran his car off the road onto the easement as he tried to threaten a family with small children holding signs, and just this past Saturday a contractor who was working at the clinic threatened to follow me home and kill me.”
Nevertheless, the worst opposition that Speed experiences “is not from pro-choicers,” but from professing Christians who say that he and his team are “doing it wrong” by “making the gospel of Jesus Christ the primary issue.”
To Speed, however, the most rewarding aspect of his ministry is seeing women and men decide to keep their babies: “Sitting down with them, talking to them about the gospel and the real human life inside of the womb — lives are changed.”
In 2020, God saved “roughly one dozen” babies — as well as a medical assistant that quit her job at the abortion clinic, who Speed’s church supplied with a month and a half’s salary and back-to-school supplies for her children.
Speed — who co-produced the documentaries “Babies Are Murdered Here” and “Babies Are Still Murdered Here” — stated that the anti-abortion movement must use “social media and film to influence public opinion.”
“Clinic ministry will always exist as long as abortion is legal,” said Speed, “but we need to find ways to change the culture and groundbreaking film is the way to do that.”
The average American, according to Speed, can stand up for preborn babies “by caring enough to do something.” First and foremost, Americans “have to get beyond the pro-life strategy of changing Washington and start changing our state and local governments by introducing bills which abolish rather than regulate abortion.”
“Most pro-life law merely regulates how abortions may be done in pro-life states. It’s time we demand that our elected officials abolish abortion immediately by writing and supporting legislation which criminalizes abortion.”
Speed explained that “taking a principled stand” can impact the entire world: “When I closed my bookstore for a day in 2019 to protest New York’s Reproductive Health Act, I had no idea that what we did would resonate worldwide, but we heard from people in the Czech Republic, Croatia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and many other nations. We all have influence in our neighborhoods, businesses, churches, and schools.”
Scott Hord — Nashville, Tennessee
Hord has been sidewalk counseling for the past six years through Scott Hord Ministries and Operation Saving Life. Last year, he stepped down from vocational ministry at Christ Life Community in Smyrna, Tennessee, to become a “full-time missionary for the preborn.”
God placed a burden on Hord’s heart to “engage abortion.” As Hord explained, “I wasn’t really sure how to do that, or even what that looked like, and I didn’t even know where abortions were happening.”
When he first visited an abortion clinic in Nashville — which has since closed its doors — he intended only to observe and pray. He was soon forced out of his car “to help a young lady that was in a potentially dangerous situation,” which officially began his journey of engaging abortion: “So I found out the ‘kill days’; the location I was going to killed on Tuesdays and Fridays. And so I began to go back on the kill days for four hours each day.”
“I went with humility, love, and truth,” explained Hord. “I didn’t compromise any of them just to see if I could have an impact.” At Planned Parenthood Nashville — where he has ministered for the past three years — Hord is confronted with several challenges.
“One is the coldness of our society. Another way of saying it might be hard hearts. Another challenging aspect would be the ignorance of the child in the womb, ignorance of abortion, ignorance of the pain associated with abortion, ignorance of the historic foundation of abortion.”
Hord said he is consistently surprised that African-Americans — who represent the majority of those killed at Planned Parenthood Nashville — do not know the history of the organization.
“I’ve talked to hundreds of African-Americans,” he said. “Maybe two have heard the name Margaret Sanger,” the infamous eugenicist and racist founder of Planned Parenthood. “They don’t know that Planned Parenthood gave out a Margaret Sanger Award, that they have disavowed from her name two years ago in New York City for Margaret Sanger Plaza, they don’t know the history of it.”
Another challenge to Hord is “Christian involvement in abortion.”
“It’s people proclaiming ‘Jesus is Lord’ with their lips but going in and doing something that doesn’t align with what it is to be a Christian,” he said. “When you have people going in and saying ‘Jesus will forgive me’ — as you walk in the door to kill your child — it’s really disheartening.”
Hord — a white man — must frequently confront the misconception “pumped into our society right now through media that white people are racist, and that we hate black people, we hate people with brown skin, that we’re incapable of doing good.”
“So, I get asked all the time: What are you doing? And when we talk about what we do for the women, it really surprises people that we actually do good. Some people can’t receive it; they’re like, ‘no, you’re lying.’ And then I show them pictures, and they say that those are fake pictures.”
Hord also faces the misconception that he is merely trying to shame and condemn people.
“We’re not,” he explained. “We do come with truth, we do come with conviction, but a lot of love. And the things that we do and how far we go with these people is just amazing. And some of them we’ve been walking with for four or five years. We got them out of terrible environments, and they’re doing great. It’s white people, it’s black people, it’s brown people, it’s all kinds of people.”
Hord said that the 300 babies saved through his ministry are cause for celebration. Even more so, “any time we encounter people with the gospel, and we see people come to know hope or come to faith — that makes my day just as much as a child being rescued.”
Hord added that “more and more women are coming down who have aborted in the past and have suppressed the pain of abortion, but now they’re lifted their hands off that suppression, and they are going to get healing.”
For instance, a post-abortive woman who once ran toward Hord in a church asking “Is there mercy for me?” recently experienced her fifth rescue at Planned Parenthood Nashville. “So that’s just an amazing story — not only on the front of a child being rescued, but the redemption of a woman that aborted many years ago being relieved of that pain and even taking it into a place of redemption.”
Abortion ministry routinely feeds into Hord’s own faith.
“When you look at Philippians 2, Paul asks if you have been encouraged by Christ, if you have felt the love of the Father… When I read that in Philippians 2, I’m like, that’s what it means to be on the sidewalk, because that’s where you see the best of Jesus, the best of the Father, the best of the Holy Spirit.”
“Being a pastor, being one that loves the Word, that talks about the immeasurable power, authority, and the greatness of God — it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to see it,” he continued.
Hord’s exhortation to Christians: “Go. Go. Go to the front line. The front line has to be defined as where the children are dying… And where the children are dying, Christians have to go. Do not leave these places unattended. Even if one person goes, even if they don’t say anything, even if they just take a stand through prayer — it lets everybody know in that culture that drives by that there’s something going on there, there’s something not right there.”
“And the message has to consistently be that what’s happening here is wrong.”
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.