Interview with Chris Coatney (2.12.2007)
Christian Activist Pro-Life News
Dear Friends for Life,
I am blessed to introduce you to Mr. Chris Coatney of Dearborn, Michigan: a humble and faithful witness speaking on behalf of the preborn babies slated for death at the American Family Planning Death Camp. His witnessing for the LORD against the murderous deeds of Planned Parenthood has not been easy, and Chris has received opposition from the local authorities. After reading this interview, I pray you will keep Mr. Coatney lifted up in prayer.
Angela Wittman, editor
|Chris Coatney - |
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3MFOy8ubCM
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:10-12 – ESV)
Why can't we save these children?
AW (Angela Wittman): Please tell us which death camp you minister at and when you started witnessing there?
CC (Chris Coatney): Mostly I go to American Family Planning at 4132 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn, Michigan. It's closest to home. They're open 5 hours a day M-F, 4 hours on Saturday. I first went for 9 days in July, 2000, but was arrested and falsely accused of trespassing and didn't make it back until October, 2001.
AW: What (or who) convinced you that your presence is needed at the baby-killing center?
CC: In the early '80s I went to a church in Ann Arbor which picketed Planned Parenthood on Saturdays. 15 or 20 people at least were out there with signs. I never sidewalk counseled; I left that to the ladies. They were located on N. Main St. and on football Saturday’s thousands of cars would drive by and see the graphic and other types of signs we held up.
Planned Parenthood later moved to a new location. For whatever reason, the church stopped picketing. I had left the church and come back later. I was also backslidden for awhile. In the early '90s I was getting my life back together with the Lord and met Mark Gabriel witnessing at a killing center in Ypsilanti Township. We kept in touch and I began receiving his newsletter when he quit his job and went to work with Operation Save America in Dallas.
I supported what Mark was doing but was working two jobs and didn't think I could afford to spend time at a killing center. I was also leery of getting arrested. I'd been arrested a few times in the late '70s after my marriage broke up. I didn't hurt anyone or steal anything. I had emotional problems and was drinking, but getting arrested was the worst thing in the world that could happen to me because I wasn't brought up that way.
I began substitute teaching in Detroit Public Schools in '94 and began working for the Post Office in '95. I wanted to reach out to the inner city and Detroit was closer to both my jobs, so I moved there in '97. I went to my first Operation Save America outreach in July of '97.
I knew there was a need for sidewalk counselors at the abortion mills in the Detroit area. I began to feel that God might want me in that type of ministry but was reluctant to give up my teaching job. Occasionally I visited some of the high schools in Detroit early in the morning before my own school day began and passed out pro-life literature. Eventually, after the Renewal of the Summer of Mercy in Wichita in 2001, I made the switch and began sidewalk counseling, but just to try it out. I had no idea I would get as involved as I have.
AW: How many hours/days per week on average do you spend there?
CC: In 2001 I only went one day per week. I was going to another mill in Westland twice a week where the police had set up a lady and falsely accused her of trespassing at a closed down credit union where her truck was parked. The Thomas More Law Center asked me to meet her there so she would not be alone.
In 2002 I began driving a church bus around the area with anti-abortion signs on it. After the November elections I began witnessing at the Dearborn mill every day and parking the bus on the side street across from their parking lot. Eventually I began staying all day until the mill closed.
The bus is no longer part of the ministry because the city put up a No Parking sign in my original parking spot in 2003. When I began parking on Schaefer, the main road, the bus was cited because it was not parked at a municipal bus stop, of all things. Later I was ticketed for parking at the bus stop located directly in front of the mill. As far as the city of Dearborn is concerned, I can't win.
I fought the tickets in court and lost but Clymer & Musser, a Pennsylvania law firm, recently intervened on my behalf. They sent a demand letter to the city asking them to rescind the tickets. The city refused and Clymer is preparing a lawsuit. For the last two years I've parked a van with signs down the street from the mill but it's not as effective as the bus, which is larger and holds more signs. If the lawsuit is successful I should be able to park the bus in one if not both of my original parking spots. I'm looking forward to that day.
AW: How has this impacted your life?
CC: Spiritually it's brought me closer to the Lord. I've always tried to witness for the Lord, even when backslidden, but never put so much on the line before. Physically it's hard to keep going every day but I do it because I've made a commitment to be there. Sometimes when you least expect it someone responds to the truth. We go through much less in America than Christians in other parts of the world. It's the least we could do for His children, which is who these babies are.
AW: Do you use the graphic aborted baby signs?
CC: Yes, I do. Most of the signs are from the Center for Bioethical Reform and http://www.antiabortionsigns.com/. I also use pictures of live unborn children and newborn babies. I use a few text signs, including two with an 800 crisis pregnancy hotline number. I'd like to make more text signs with different messages but haven't had the time to yet. I'd also like to purchase a portable DVD player to show videos of unborn babies in the womb at the mill.
AW: How many other people join you in ministry?
CC: Most of the time I'm alone; usually about 9:30 during the week, after the mill is already open, one or two Catholics show up to pray for 30-40 minutes, though not every day. A larger group comes out on Saturday for about an hour. An older Catholic man used to come out until noon or 1 PM 3 days a week but he hasn't been there for a while.
The greatest blessing has been a group of younger, motivated Catholics who've been driving out from Ann Arbor on Fridays and Saturdays for the last year. They arrive before the mill opens and stay for an hour and a half. They're more aggressive in reaching out than the local folks. They've taken women to crisis pregnancy centers in their own vehicles and visited some in their homes. They're affiliated with Ann Arbor Activists http://www.annarboractivists.org/, organized by Ed and Monica Miller, longtime prolifers from the Milwaukee area.
The biggest disappointment has been the lack of response from the evangelical community but I'm working on that. I may be partly to blame because I haven't been to church much for the last couple of years. I drove a church bus every Sunday for 2-1/2 years and when the church closed down I decided to take some time off to get my house fixed up. I haven't made much progress. I need to get to work on the house and start visiting churches to let people know what's going on.
AW: Do you call out to the women going in to the abortion mill? What do you usually say to them?
CC: I don't have all the answers as to what to say. I try different approaches to see what works best. I'm fortunate to be able to stand on the sidewalk right outside the death camp door. I alternate between preaching and singing hymns. When people approach I ask if I can share some information. What I say next depends on their response. Sometimes a friendly approach works best; sometimes sin needs to be rebuked. Sometimes a little humor works best; sometimes you need to get angry.
I've had people cuss me out, threaten me, throw things, and aim their cars at me, but I've also seen hardened hearts melt because I was persistent and didn't give up the first time they said, "No!" Some people would call that harassment. I call it loving your neighbor as yourself.
AW: If a woman changes her mind about killing her preborn baby, will you help her find the resources she needs as in directing her to a pregnancy care center or a shelter if she is homeless?
CC: In the morning I try to hand a package of 16 brochures to everyone going inside the building in case they're scheduled for an abortion. I have a package of 6 additional brochures for African-Americans, about 2/3 of the clientele, addressed specifically to them. Later in the day I wait until they come out to offer the literature so it won't get thrown out inside. It's expensive to pass out that much literature and I've given some thought to cutting back on the amount.
One of the brochures is from the Lennon Center, a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Dearborn Hts., the closest one. Another brochure is from Ann Arbor Activists, with their own crisis number. I plan to print out a sheet with all the Crisis Pregnancy centers in the metro area soon. Usually I don't ask for phone numbers but when a woman is undecided and is willing to share it I pass it along to a handful of people who are willing to make the call. I also hold up a sign that says, "Help for Mom + Baby 1-800-NO-ABORT" for those who won't take the literature.
One woman who was homeless this past summer, sleeping in her car with her two children and pregnant with twins approached us at the mill one day last summer. She'd had a previous abortion but didn't want to do that again. The homeless shelters were filled up with people escaping the heat. It took a few days of making phone calls but the Salvation Army found her a spot in Monroe, about a half hour south of the city. From there she moved into an apartment and delivered her twins by C-section December 18. I've had the privilege of seeing those babies and holding them in my arms. I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life.
AW: Do you present the Gospel while ministering at the death camp?
CC: I try to. I use different approaches but try to relate everything to the Bible. There was no bloodshed, sickness, sorrow, suffering, pain, or death in the Garden of Eden. Sin would destroy the whole earth if it weren't for what Jesus did on the cross. The world was so wicked in Noah's day that God destroyed the human race in a flood. Jesus said in the last days it would be like it was in Noah's day. The fact that abortion is even legal is a sign that the end is near.
I talk about abstinence, the fact that God made us male and female so we would reproduce and have children. I talk about the love that Jesus had, giving His life for us, and how we should love the younger generation the same way. We've had our chance; let them have theirs.
If we can rescue hurricane, tsunami, and earthquake victims, why can't we save these children? If we can spend billions of dollars on entertainment and things we don't even need, why can't we spend a few measly dollars - or a few hours of our time - to save the life of a child?
Unfortunately, America has become addicted to its own self-pleasure. I'm really afraid it will take a national tragedy to wake us up. I believe what lies ahead for America is judgment from God and I will thank Him for His mercy when it comes.
AW: Please tell us about a “save” which particularly blessed you.
CC: Most of the saves I don't hear about. The reason I stay all day is because Michigan has a 24 hour notification law. If I can reach them the first visit they may not come back. If they come back the second time they can still be reached, but it's harder. According to the Lennon Center about 35% of the nearly 1000 babies they helped bring into the world last year came from the Dearborn outreach. I wasn't responsible for all those, but probably the majority as I pass out the most literature. Other women have certainly changed their minds without going to the Lennon Center, but there is no way estimate their number.
All of the ones I've heard about were gratifying. A few walked out just prior to the "procedure". Some I didn't know about until they came back with their newborn babies to say thanks.
AW: Have you been arrested for witnessing at the abortion mill?
CC: I've been arrested 3 times at the mill and once elsewhere.
The first time at the mill the police accused me of trespassing. According to the police report I was standing in a parking lot south of the mill, but that was owned by a restaurant which was closed by the Health Department. I had no intention of pleading guilty but a Christian attorney who just graduated from law school worked out a deal with the judge where I would plead guilty, stay away for a year and everything would be erased from the record. He said the cops would say I was on clinic property and the jury would believe them. Maybe so, but I think it was wrong to plead guilty when I was not.
The second time, in 2003, I was accused of playing a tape of a children's choir too loudly. I didn't turn it down fast enough for the arresting officer and was accused of disobeying a police officer when I turned it back up slightly from inaudible. Another Christian attorney handled that case but was unprepared for the trial. I was charged with disturbing the peace, which should have been challenged on Constitutional grounds, but this was never done. Clymer & Musser has said that part of their lawsuit will challenge this law.
The third time, a year and a half ago, I was assaulted and punched several times in the head. Because of false witnesses, including the abortionist, who said I kicked my assailant while he was lying in the street, I was arrested and charged with assault and battery. The only injury to my assailant was a cut knuckle from punching me in the head. That case was dismissed last May when two witnesses, including the girl he brought for the abortion, failed to show in court. The city brought charges for the same incident last August of disturbing the peace. That case was dismissed last November because the assailant and the girl he brought for the abortion both failed to show in court.
My attorney has encouraged me to file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution, which I'm considering. Among other things, he says the police are not supposed to arrest for misdemeanor violations if they don't witness the incident.
AW: How can our readers help and pray for you?
CC: Prayer is what I need the most, and not just the prayers of others. I need to pray more myself. Pray that God would give me a humble heart and the wisdom and discernment to speak to the people who patronize the killing center. I'm not the most qualified person for this type of ministry. I've had a lot of growing pains. I think there are others who could do a better job but for whatever reason have not answered the call. I've learned a lot in the short time I've been out there but I know I still have much more to learn.
The biggest need outside of prayer, however, is laborers for the harvest. I keep thinking there's going to be a big revival and Christians will get serious about saving babies. Who knows? Miracles have happened before. One lady who works for a local Christian radio station has said she'd like to join me one day next month and talk about it on the air. If she does, maybe that will help get the ball rolling.
One of my goals is to get African-Americans on the front lines, taking a stand against the industry of death. I have to almost laugh when I hear what some of the modern bands are playing. Rage against the machine? What do you think abortion is? I pray that God will give me the courage to do whatever He's called me to do. Thank you for this opportunity to share my needs and thank you for your prayers.
Blessings in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!
Editor’s Note: If you would like to send Chris a note of encouragement, please send email to Chris A. Coatney [email@example.com]. Thank you, AW