Jamie Kuntz, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Abortion is an important issue, especially at a Catholic university such as the University of Dallas, where the majority of students are pro-life. While abortion is often a topic of intense concern, students find themselves at a loss when they think of what they can do to help. Two such students, seniors Ben Starnes and Michaela Sobrak-Seaton, have discovered a way to contribute to the cause they care deeply about – and maybe save some lives along the way.
Both Starnes and Sobrak-Seaton are sidewalk counselors. As such, they have been trained to talk with people who are planning on or thinking about having an abortion. Every Saturday the two go to a local abortion clinic and converse with those walking inside, in hopes that their words will cause them to reconsider.
“We don’t have much time to talk to them – maybe 30 seconds,” said Starnes. “It’s basically the last line of defense.”
Sobrak-Seaton, who has been a sidewalk counselor for two years and is the secretary for UD’s pro-life organization, Crusaders for Life, agreed, and added that sidewalk counselors offer women literature and a listening ear.
“It’s to show them that it isn’t the only option,” she said. “And there are ways to help them make the right decision and not go in and follow through with the abortion.”
While Starnes was inspired to become a sidewalk counselor by other people that he’s met, Sobrak-Seaton started her journey toward becoming a sidewalk counselor by going to Prayerful Presence. Two shifts of UD students go to a local abortion clinic every Saturday and pray for the people there. The sidewalk counselors are also there, offering guidance and support to those going inside.
“I saw the sidewalk counselors talking to the women,” Sobrak-Seaton said. “It seemed like something that I would be capable of doing. It was one more thing I could do to help these women.”
Sidewalk counselors aren’t just there to convince people not to choose abortion; they are also there to be a sort of support system for those who have already gone through with one. Sidewalk counselors have literature about Rachel’s Vineyard, an organization that helps women who have chosen abortion.
“One moment that stuck out was my first time counseling,” said Sobrak-Seaton. She saw a car coming out of the clinic parking lot after it picked up a woman who had had an abortion, and she waved it down.
“They rolled the window down, and I offered the woman in the passenger’s seat the [Rachel’s Vineyard] literature and said, ‘Here, have this, I want to help you.’
“You could tell by the look on their faces that they already knew their lives were completely changed. I didn’t ever want to see that look on anyone’s face ever again.”
Even though they are often ignored and sometimes even threatened, both Starnes and Sobrak-Seaton believe that their work is making a difference.
“I don’t always feel like I say the right things,” Sobrak-Seaton said. “But just the opportunity to have people out there is really an avenue for grace that I think is very important.”
Starnes agreed, adding, “Even when they ignore you, they’re still listening to you. I’m not there to convince them – Christ is.”
On Sept. 24 in Carpenter 220 from 7 – 9 p.m., there will be a training session for students interested in becoming sidewalk counselors. Only one session is needed; after that, students will be free to counsel.
“For people that are wondering if they would be able to sidewalk counsel or aren’t sure if they would be able to handle it, just being there is so important,” Sobrak-Seaton said. “The words will come when you open your mouth and talk to someone.”