Do Pro-Lifers Owe Rep. Brian Sims a Note of Thanks?

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Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims’s efforts to bolster his abortion advocacy credentials by berating pro-life protesters and posting it on social media have surely backfired.

Sims, a gay-rights attorney who first ran for office as a Democrat in 2012, cast himself as the star of two videos filmed outside of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Center City Philadelphia. The first was a live Facebook video on April 18; the second was a Twitter post on May 2. Each contained a continuous monologue.

In his first video, the self-professed champion of women approaches a woman and three teenage girls, referring to them as “white people” and “pseudo-Christian protesters.” The mother, her two daughters, and their friend are members of the group Sidewalk Servants. Sidewalk Servants pray outside of abortion facilities and offer literature which lists pro-life alternatives and assistance to prospective mothers.

On his video, Sims offers “$100 to anyone who will identify these three,” namely the teenagers, so that he can “dox” them. To dox is to publicly identify people on social media, or publish their personal information, so as to encourage bullying and harassment. Sims sought to dox these teenagers for “shaming people” who were coming to Planned Parenthood for abortions.

 

As the woman and girls leave, the six-foot-tall Sims scolds a meek man who stands alone praying. “What makes you think it’s your job to tell women what to do with their bodies?  The truth is I’m not really asking because I don’t care. Shame on you!” Sims barks.

In his other video, the state rep hounds a lone older woman, whom he refers to as an “old white lady,” as she prays and distributes pro-life literature outside of the same Planned Parenthood facility. During this nearly nine-minute video, Sims harangues the woman regarding her presence there as well as her Catholic faith, and implies that she is a racist. Additionally, the state rep encourages his viewers to do likewise in aggressively harassing pro-life protesters.

The legislator also encourages viewers to make donations to Planned Parenthood.

Sims describes his hostile verbal attacks on the peaceful protesters as “righteous indignation” in one video. He also makes many assumptions about the Sidewalk Servants’ motives for being there. As the state rep made clear while questioning the motives of the mild-mannered praying man, “The truth is I’m not really asking because I don’t care.”

That’s too bad.

In the years that I’ve spent within the pro-life movement, beginning in the early 2000s, I’ve never crossed paths with anyone who wished to “shame” women walking into abortion facilities. Most pro-lifers see abortion as a tragedy for both mother and child.

Moreover, pro-lifers are a diverse lot. Not all of them make their presence known outside of abortion facilities. Some work or volunteer in places like the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia’s Guiding Star Ministries, or the grassroots-founded Mothers’ Home in Darby, Pennsylvania, both of which provide shelter, assistance, and life skills training to pregnant women in need. Other pro-lifers seek to educate people about the realities of abortion and the terrible effects it has on many post-abortive women. People at places like Rachel’s Vineyard offer emotional support for women who suffer from post-abortion grief or trauma. Some pro-life activists help to elect public officials who are then able to propose legislation on behalf of the unborn and their mothers. Still others defend the right to be born within our court system. Plenty of pro-lifers practice what they preach by lovingly adopting children or raising their special needs offspring.

Does Sims even know that these other pro-life efforts exist? If he did, would he care? Or do his videos amount to mere virtue signaling?

Just as Sims makes assumptions about pro-life people, it’s tempting to make assumptions about him. Several suppositions came to mind while watching and re-watching Sims’s videos.

The first word that came to mind to describe him was “narcissist.” After all, his videos made him the center of attention rather than the cause he was purporting to advance. Speculating further, and based upon his temper tantrums outside of Planned Parenthood, Sims reminded me of a child who never learned to distinguish between positive and negative ways to gain attention. He responded to the public outcry generated by his videos with a third video in which he praises Planned Parenthood and their pro-abortion supporters without offering any apologies to the pro-lifers he harangued. This statement struck me as a calculated effort to gin up support from his political base for the purpose of securing his political survival. Vilifying your enemies is a lot easier than defending the indefensible.

Strategy Backfires
The Lord works in ironic ways, as the outcome of Sims’s self-promotional efforts indicate.

Sims not only fired up anti-abortion advocates with his bullying, but he made the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia a bundle in donations. The same social media that Sims cynically used to rally his supporters and raise money for Planned Parenthood worked against him and in favor of those he deems archenemies.

After the release of the video starring Sims hounding the “old white lady” outside of the Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh suggested that his podcast listeners gather there in protest. The idea immediately picked up support from major national pro-life organizations. Just four days later, on May 10, more than 1,000 pro-lifers gathered peacefully for Live Action’s “Rally Against Bullying” outside of that Philly Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

Sims, who was invited to the rally, was a no-show.

Featured speakers included: The Daily Wire’s Walsh, Live Action’s President Lila Rose, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson (whose story is now featured in the movie Unplannned), Students for Life’s Executive Vice President Tina Whittingham, the Susan B. Anthony List’s Vice President of Government Affairs Marilyn Musgrave, Sidewalk Advocates for Life’s Executive Director Lauren Muzyka, and Ashley Garecht who is the mother of the teens whom Sims harassed.

Meanwhile, Joe Garecht, father of the girls bullied by Sims, continues to raise big bucks for the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia on his gofundme/prolifephilly page. During the rally, Joe Garecht’s wife Ashley announced that $116,000 had been raised for the PLU and thanked Walsh and Johnson for their help. As of this writing, that number stands at $125,810.

“There’s never been this many people here,” said Pro-Life Union Board of Directors member Patrick Stanton in wonderment afterwards.

Stanton knows well the sidewalks outside of this abortion clinic, as did his father, the late John Stanton, who founded Philly’s Pro-Life Union. Both gentlemen were familiar with Brian Sims, who hounded them when he was a Planned Parenthood escort there. Stanton and his Sidewalk Servant colleagues also know well the joy of assisting mothers in need to save their babies from abortion, as Stanton’s dad diligently did.

Stanton’s overall astonishment extended to the amount of money that the Garechts’ Go Fund Me page has raised for the non-profit Pro-Life Union and the fact that so many national pro-life leaders voluntarily flew in from all over the country for the rally.

“That’s my sign,” said Stanton with a boyish smile as he pointed to a large poster with bold lettering that hung on a wall near Planned Parenthood. The poster read, “Pray for Brian.”

Editor’s note: Pictured above is State Representative Brian Sims receiving an award from Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, in 2014. (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

Marybeth Hagan

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Marybeth Hagan is an author, as well as a freelance commentary and features writer in the Philadelphia area. Her book, Abortion: A Mother’s Plea for Maternity and the Unborn, was published by Liguori Publications in 2005. Her most recent commentaries have run in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on WHYY’s (PBS Philadelphia) Speak Easy blog. She also currently writes feature stories for the Seven Mile Times in Avalon and Stone Harbor, N.J.

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