One of my earliest childhood memories of participating in the pro-life movement is the image in the Houston Planned Parenthood at Fannin Street, and peering through the bars of the enclosing gates.
Though surrounded on all sides by protesters chanting the rosary, I recall clearly the image of a woman in nursing scrubs who stood well beyond the reach of the protesters by the clinic doors, and the sound of her mocking laughter. She wore a contemptuous sneer, her jeering laughter was directed at us, as if we were clumsy clowns putting on a circus.
In the many times I have gone back to this same clinic over the years, I have witnessed other forms of insults from those working in the clinic: an old man in sunglasses and straw hat who volunteers as an escort , who takes pictures of each protester, and will write down the license plates of our cars if we park within viewing distance; if our numbers are a particularly high count, they will stand by the doors, scowling with unpleasant expressions in our direction. I once heard an clinic worker loudly tell an incoming client, surrounded by yellow-vested escorts, to 'ignore those babbling fanatics and their craziness.' Those words are a truly accurate description of how they view those who make a stand in prayerful protest: not as people who are exercising their right to free speech or making a stand for all human life, but as people who are there to harass and intimidate in the most vulgar of fashions. Their treatment of prayerful protesters may be disdainful, barely tolerant at the most, or downright mocking, but it is something we must accept.
When one goes to make a prayerful protest in front of an abortion clinic, on a Saturday morning when the clinic is accepting the most clients and clinic escorts buzz around the doors like sentinel guards, the act of gathering in front of the clinic similar to lining up as soldiers on a battlefield, ready to directly, physically confront those who value an ideology over a human life.
We know what it feels like to stand on that side of the fence, to stand vigil in the hopes that each woman seeking an abortion will see our example, hear our prayers, and have a change of heart. Yet the idea of the peaceful clinic protester is not always the image pro-abortion workers want to see, or can see. The pro-abortion sphere of the internet is filled with blogs written by abortion clinic workers, mostly escorts, who write their harrowing accounts of facing down 'creepy and aggressive' protesters each working day.
These escorts who post these blogs show nothing but the worse of the worst in protesters, and are always careful to keep a log of the amount of protesters with each blog post, to show the extent of the 'harassment' in numbers. And while its sadly true that there have incidences of inexcusable incivility from pro-life protesters-I have been eyewitness to those a few times-these blogs paint the vastly unbalanced picture that all who make a peaceful stance for human lives are all dispassionate, maniac fanatics. We must show them, at all costs, that this perception of the pro-life movement is an erroneous one, and that we are not there forcefully wretch away the woman's right to choice, but to show her that there are people who care not only for her, but for the life of her unborn child-and that we are there to give a voice for that child's right to life.
This blog, Every Saturday Morning, paints a disturbingly fanatical portrait of the abortion clinic protester. Each week, a new story is posted. One story details how a woman, accompanying her daughter for an abortion, was accosted by one man in the most rudest of manners, the man literally screaming in the daughter's face not to kill her unborn baby, and the mother, her sense of protection for her child (irony) causing her to completely lose it, the protester and mother carrying on a screaming match to the front doors. Still more blog posts have youtube videos, showing with irrefutable evidence that these clinic escorts and their clients are indeed harassed by the protesters. Often, the bloggers will make a concentrated effort to show the protesters as middle-aged and male, who according to their opinion, have no right to concern themselves with abortion, as men cannot get pregnant. They will avoid showing younger people or young women there to protest abortion, in an effort to keep the stereotype intact.
In my own experience praying outside the Planned Parenthood at the Houston Fanin location, I have been exceedingly irritated witness to these over-the-top antics a few protesters get to. Each time I've gone this past year, an elderly man patrols the gates that circle the building, shouting at each woman who walks in a Bible verse about the killing of innocents and the blood of millions, and if he's close enough, will attempt to shove a rosary in their faces. Massive marches for special occasions, such as the annual March for the Surviving Youth, have brought out a more vicious side: at the last March, which occurred November 4, about 2 or 3 teenagers circled around a clinic escort, chanting “You are not God's child, you speak of death!”-an event which the Planned Parenthood Volunteer blog, I am Emily X,, was quick to note and ridicule in horror. Having witnessed the unfortunate event with my own eyes, there is little I can say to that, only to apologize for the ugly aggression that a few show-and to point out that we do not all support those tactics, nor do we engage in them.
Yet these are single incidences, a single protester out of 30, or 4 out of a 300-but they do not represent the attitude and action of each and every protester. Even so, these blogs written by pro-aborts seek to perpetuate the stereotype that each and every protester is a maniac zealot, incapable of feeling compassion for the woman and striving to push their Biblical and moral beliefs upon others by screaming or shoving to make their agenda known. But they do not and cannot represent the entire pro-life movement. These protesters who succumb to blind emotion are but a single facet of what we believe in.
What can we learn from these one-sided reports of pro-life protesters? We can learn to always, always, maintaining a prayerfully civilized attitude. Even when provoked by the pro-abortion clinic worker in manners so mocking of our cause, we must only keep prayerful, peaceful vigilance. We go to these clinics to pray for the souls of the unborn, that they may be protected, and to pray for the souls of the abortionist and clinic worker, that they may convert. We pray for the woman who may feel driven to the choice to abort, who feels that her situation is too desperate, that she cannot afford a child-we pray that God will aid her in her time of trouble, and that she will make the choice of life for her child.
We need not resort to ugly mannerisms or screamed condemnations; our presence there, lined up in front of the clinic, whether our heads are bowed in prayer or we wave a sign of a child in utero for the world to see-just our presence and prayers can and will make a difference.