Baltimore, Md., Jun 7, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).
Less than a week after a violent attack against two elderly pro-life activists outside of a Baltimore Planned Parenthood, both men returned to the abortion facility to continue their work as sidewalk counselors promoting life.
The two senior citizens were brutally assaulted in front of the clinic on May 26 by an assailant who remains at large. The unidentified suspect attacked two elderly men after engaging in a “debate” with one of the pro-life activists about abortion.
Dick Schafer, 80, who was knocked to the ground and kicked, left the scene, bleeding from his head, with cuts, scrapes, and body aches.
The second man, 73-year-old Mark Crosby, who was badly beaten and kicked, was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and treated for external and internal bleeding that will require multiple surgeries.
Despite the severity of the attack, both men were not deterred from returning to the Planned Parenthood clinic on Tuesday, May 30, the next day the facility was open. Schafer and other members of the pro-life community were also there on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
“I’m not well,” Crosby told CNA. “But I’m better off than a baby that’s been butchered.”
Schafer, whose injuries were less severe, said he didn’t think twice about returning.
“I think [Crosby] might have taken a few more blows that I might have gotten,” he said. “After Mark [Crosby] did that, I had no choice but to go down there again.”
“It’s not for everybody, but I like being there, that’s for sure,” Schafer said.
‘The last line of hope’
Schafer provides sidewalk counseling, in which he engages with men and women who are walking into an abortion facility. He hands out literature, tries to converse with them about choosing life, and directs them to resources that can help them with the pregnancy.
“I talk to people going in there and I offer some help,” Schafer said. “I ask them to choose life.”
The Planned Parenthood facility is in downtown Baltimore on North Howard Street, across from several vacant buildings and a day care center. Next door to the abortion facility is a pregnancy resource center called Options, which provides women with non-abortive pregnancy services as an alternative to Planned Parenthood’s services.
Last Friday, Planned Parenthood had one security guard and four volunteer escorts stationed at the door of the clinic. That morning at least five pro-life activists were trying to engage men and women who walked toward the facility. One of the men also handed pamphlets to people who were stopped at red lights in their cars. A sixth man paced the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood while praying the rosary.
Brenda Bicksey, who was there to assist with the pro-life activists’ efforts on Friday with her young daughter, told CNA she comes to the clinic to show parents there are alternatives to abortion.
Bicksey said she wants to “let these parents know there’s help and they don’t have to murder their baby” and to “help find them whatever they need.”
“We’re sort of the last line of hope,” she said.
The Planned Parenthood escorts, wearing rainbow-colored vests with the words “CLINIC ESCORT” on them, were observed trying to prevent Schafer and other pro-life sidewalk counselors from talking to anyone who planned to enter the facility. They also tried to stop the activists from handing out pamphlets about alternatives to abortion.
In one instance, an escort forced himself in between a counselor and a woman who was walking toward the facility and physically boxed him out while trying to prevent her from receiving a pamphlet.
“Don’t take anything from them,” the escort implored the woman. “Those are protesters.”
Some of the literature included information about the number of Black babies killed by abortions in the United States, the emotional and physical risks of having an abortion, stories about mothers who chose to keep their babies after contemplating abortion, and information about resources that could help them through their pregnancy. One of the pamphlets geared toward men asks the father of the unborn child to step up and encourage the mother to choose life.
Most of the people entering the abortion facility refused to engage with the sidewalk counselors; one woman just shouted “bye” multiple times as she walked past them and entered the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Crosby, the activist who was more severely injured, told CNA that he takes a different approach than that of sidewalk counselors.
“I always have my rosary in my hand,” he told CNA, adding that he sprinkles blessed salt and holy water outside the clinic’s entrance. He prepares baggies with rosaries, prayer cards, and a prayer book, which he said he offers to those he encounters at the clinic.
“I don’t counsel people,” Crosby said. “I’m not a protestor. … I walk around in front of Planned Parenthood. I’m usually out in the street and I pray the rosary, and I don’t counsel people unless they come over to me.”
Crosby said he is “not forcing anything on anyone.”
The May 26 attack
On the morning of the May 26 attack, Schafer and Crosby were engaged in their normal routine outside of the Baltimore Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Schafer was counseling people near the building and Crosby was out in the street.
Schafer told CNA he was having “a little chat” that was “kind of cordial” with an advocate for abortion who had expressed disagreements with his pro-life views.
“We had two or three back and forths,” he said before he told the man that he needed to get back to work.
When Schafer turned away from the man, he bent down to replenish some of the material he was handing out. At this moment, the man struck him. Schafer initially thought he was hit by the train that runs parallel to the road.
“As I’m leaning over: ‘Boom!’” Schafer said. “I thought the train hit me. I thought ‘I never felt anything like that.’”
Witnesses saw Schafer lying on the ground unconscious, but he said he did not immediately realize he had been knocked out.
“I thought I instantly hit the sidewalk with my back and I [looked] up and it was sunny and blue skies and I kind of thought a little bit about what just happened,” he told CNA. “I got up and I noticed that the back of my right hand was bleeding a little bit.”
Crosby said when he was out in the street, just before the attack, the man had pointed at him and told him, “You stay out in the street.” He said he saw the man hand his drink to a Planned Parenthood escort right before he attacked Schafer.
“This person gets in a football rushing position and now Dick’s got his back to him, [he] hits him hard up into the plate glass [and then] he went through this big huge planter,” Crosby said. “Dick hits the ground [and] the guy kicks him.”
Crosby rushed over to help Schafer, but the man then turned on Crosby.
“This guy grabs my chain around my neck with crosses and medals,” Crosby said.
“[Then] he hits me in the face, I hit the ground, [and] he kicks me,” Crosby added.
Crosby lost consciousness for a brief period but eventually got back up and was “staggering around the sidewalk” until he walked into Options, the pregnancy health center next door, to sit down and wait for an ambulance to arrive.
After the man kicked Crosby in the head, the man left the scene. He was not apprehended by police, and the Baltimore County Police Department is still searching for him. Metro Crime Stoppers released a photo of the accused man on Wednesday and is offering a $2,000 reward. They are asking anyone with information to call Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-7LOCKUP.
“So within a minute, this guy does all that destruction and he’s out of there,” Crosby said.
“If they’re killing babies, well, what’s the big deal [to them] about beating up an old man?” John Roswell, who runs Baltimore Sidewalk Advocates for Life and arrived shortly after the attack, told CNA.
“It wasn’t a fight,” Roswell added. “Nobody in our group had their dukes up.”
Roswell said the investigating officer spent about two hours on the scene. He told CNA he wasn’t optimistic that the Baltimore County Police would put in the effort to find the attacker, saying “they don’t want to make Planned Parenthood look bad.”
Crosby told CNA he had a “severe concussion” and two fractured fingers that probably need surgery. He said he lost sight in one of his eyes, which is bleeding internally, and will likely require surgery. He added that “my knees are killing me” and “my head is still pounding right now.”
Schafer was not taken to the hospital but instead decided to drive home. At first, he planned “to go to a rosary and then Mass and Communion,” which he does daily after spending the morning at Planned Parenthood. However, on his drive, he said, “I touch my head and I look and my head’s bloody.”
Schafer decided to visit a doctor to get cleaned up and checked out but still has aches and pains. He said that Crosby’s intervention may have saved him from being injured worse.
Opposition from Planned Parenthood escorts
Several pro-life activists outside of the Baltimore Planned Parenthood told CNA that the escorts and pro-abortion advocates entering the facility or simply passing by are often hostile to the pro-life activists.
“We are threatened on a very regular basis,” Roswell told CNA.
In one instance, Roswell said a man tried to hit him with his car after Roswell convinced the woman he was with to go into the pregnancy resource center rather than abort her child at the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Because of the frequent threats, Roswell began to carry pepper spray for self-defense purposes. He said he’s never needed to use it, but once pulled it out when a man shoved him and “[pulled] out a pipe wrench.”
In that instance, Roswell said the Planned Parenthood escorts “hustled [the man] out of there.”
Roswell said the escorts “create this atmosphere that emboldens people” and “they stand there and smirk if somebody’s threatening us.” He also said the police have mostly been unhelpful and, in one instance, encouraged him to walk away from the person when he called to report a threat.
“If I walk away from here every time there’s a threat, I wouldn’t be here,” Roswell said.
Crosby said that the escorts also become physical, stating that one of them “tries to get in our way and knock us down because we’re seniors.”
Bicksey, who was at the clinic on Friday, also said threats happen “all the time here” and that she has “been pushed around.”
“We need more hands on deck here. We need Christians here,” Bicksey said. “We need church leaders. … We need more people.”
Schafer recounted that people “threaten to kill me” at times, but “I always have a smile on my face.”
Legal fight ahead
Given the brutality of the attack, Crosby and Schafer are pursuing legal action and are being represented by American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative nonprofit legal team.
“This is horrific, and we’re appalled that it happened,” Olivia Summers, senior litigation counsel for ACLJ, told CNA.
“There’s been an escalating violence against the pro-life community … since Dobbs,” Summers added.
Summers said the ACLJ is still in the fact-gathering stage and is in contact with the police about finding out who the man responsible is.
She said the ACLJ is looking into tort claims and civil claims as well as determining whether the assailant violated any federal laws, such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. She added that ACLJ is also trying to find out whether the man is “known to anybody [or] had any connection to Planned Parenthood.”
“[We need to] take a stand and make sure people know this isn’t going to be tolerated,” Summers said.
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