Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

The Hero You've Never Heard Of

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2011 Sep 09

Posted by Jim_Daly Sep 8, 2011




Over the course of the last ten years, in the shadow of the White House, Richard Retta has quietly saved over 350 lives.

But he's not a doctor, fireman, paramedic or a policeman.

The 79-year-old grandfather is a sidewalk counselor outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington D.C.

Mr. Retta's approach is understated and gentle, but direct. As a woman approaches the entrance, he walks within earshot of her, politely striking up a conversation. In those few fleeting seconds he tries to convince her to spare her baby’s life, and, in doing so, save herself from years of grief and torment. 

He fails far more than he succeeds, and each loss strikes him hard. But when you consider the number of children he's saved, and add it to the 1,300-plus other babies his pro-life colleagues have rescued at the clinic in Washington, their ministry has irrefutably helped change the world, and in no small way.

If you ask me, Richard Retta is a modern-day hero, but according to the Department of Justice, he's a suspected criminal, having allegedly violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Charged with intimidating a woman, walking too closely, and blocking her entrance, he stands to pay a $25,000 fine if convicted.

Mr. Retta denies the charges. It should be noted that FACE does not prohibit a counselor from walking next to somebody on a public sidewalk. As for the claim he blocked the woman's entry, insiders say the charge is "dubious" - especially when you consider that Richard Retta himself wrote the guidelines for his group's conduct outside clinics.

Item two on his list of “don’ts”: “DO NOT block the woman’s path.”

Particularly galling about the charges, however, is the apparent bias against pro-life advocates inside the Department of Justice. Writes the Heritage Foundation's Legal Fellow, Hans A. von Spakovsky:

Retta was not dressed in a black paramilitary uniform, he was not carrying a nightstick, and he was not yelling racial epithets or blocking the entrance to a polling place. Yet this is the same Justice Department that dismissed a voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther party, whose members engaged in exactly that behavior. Somehow the behavior and speech of a 79-year-old sidewalk counselor violates federal law against intimidation, but the speech and behavior of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia in 2008 was just fine…

He continued:

The circumstances of this case cast great doubt on the legitimacy of the DOJ complaint, which describes Retta as “among the most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protestors [sic] outside of the Clinic.” Of course, even “vocal and aggressive” speech is protected by the First Amendment — or so the Justice Department claimed when it dismissed the New Black Panther case. Retta’s real problem appears to be political: He offers women an authentic choice, in a one-option zone.

I thank God for Richard Retta and all of those courageous men and women who have devoted their lives to saving the most innocent among us. Won't you please join me in praying for justice in this case? But also, let's pray for every woman who is, even this very day, walking on a lonely sidewalk towards an abortion clinic, preparing to end her child's life. May the Lord place a hero like Mr. Retta in her path, and may her ears and heart be open to choosing life.

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