I was nervous.
I've been pro-life for about 3 years but I'd only prayed outside of abortion facilities a few times. Each time I'd been nervous, uneasy, worried. Each time had been painful, discouraging, yet grace-filled. Bearing witness to the horror and brutality of abortion was something I'd felt called to do, and following that call took me out of my "comfort zone" and tapped into my precious reserves of chutzpah to do so.
Each time I had been joined by people with similar--if not identical--tactics on how best to achieve our shared sacred goal of saving lives, of changing the hearts and minds of those misguided mothers on their way to making the worst mistake of their lives.
Not this time.
I found the place easily (which is a huge achievement for directionally-challenged me, even though I had been there to pray once before--but after business hours.)
I felt conspicuous walking a few blocks down a residential street with the sign I'd made the night before on the particleboard drawer bottom of an old changing table: "LET US HELP U"…
But when I got to Planned Parenthood and was greeted by a few smiling faces I felt more comfortable. We prayed together and talked a bit about the current 40 Days for Life campaign and dutifully stayed behind the white line in the parking lot as a couple of cars pulled in to park. I said, "Let us help you" to the first couple I saw exiting a car. When the next car arrived, a woman next to me said, a little too loudly for my liking, "Your baby's heart is beating, you can't do this!" My Christian charitability was overshadowed by my judgment of what I perceived as her elevated volume and accusatory tone. I approached her about my misgivings and was swiftly chided, perhaps rightfully so, but she and I amicably discussed the sadness of it all and how petty bickering amongst ourselves wouldn't save anyone. We prayed together.
Then more escorts arrived.
After an hour or so of solemn prayer and only a couple of cars coming to the center, I noticed the blue-vested clinic escorts had increased in number. We'd had two the first hour, then there were three, four, wow--FIVE escorts here now!--for an abortion center with only 6 or 7 spaces in the parking lot. There were only about eight of us there praying. A few people had fliers for the local pregnancy resource center (only a couple blocks away!), me with my "LET US HELP U" sign and MapQuest directions to the PRC, and a man with a very large, professionally-made "CHOOSE LIFE!" sign with a photo of an adorable 6-month-old baby. Then they showed up, and suddenly it all made sense.
I am new to the pro-life movement. I fully accept that any of my opinions are subject to suspicion because I used to work in an abortion facility. But I'm also a very regretful and repentant post-abortive mother who was pressured into having an abortion I did not want. I had already named my child, had a prenatal care appointment made, and a call in to the local medical assistance office. I ran out of the clinic the day of my first appointment and no one was in the parking lot praying--how I wish there had been! But if any of these people had been there, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the terrified pregnant 17-year-old me (who wanted to keep my baby!) would never have approached these hostile people shouting nastiness and holding violent signs.
I felt as though I was in a movie clip filled with caricatures of what pro-abortion people, clinic escorts, and clinic workers think pro-lifers are. It was as if someone had called Central Casting and asked them to send the woman carrying a crucifix the size of her ribcage, dousing holy water, and mumbling under her breath; her contemporary carrying the huge photo of the top half of an aborted baby's skull held in forceps and snarling, "You know what you're doing is murder!"; and another cohort with a homemade sign scrawled on a bedsheet with words I couldn't quite make out--but I could clearly hear her screaming (LOUDLY) "DON'T KILL ME, MOMMY!! PLEASE DON'T LET THEM KILL ME, MOMMY!" over and over and over again.
After what felt like forever, but was probably only a few minutes, I literally shook and fell to my knees, propped my sign up on my legs and softly sang, "Amazing Grace." I didn't know what else to do.
Then I left.
I had to.
I asked someone to walk me to my car because the fear generated by those surroundings had taken hold of me--the fear generated on the same side of the line upon which I now stood.
A very dear friend with a similar background and conversion experience told me, "Truth without mercy is just facts." I saw no mercy or compassion from these people. No sense of welcome or kindness or "Let us help you" emanated from them as from those first few sidewalk counselors I'd met during my first hour there.
The overwhelming and demonstrable (and verifiable) success of the 40 Days for Life campaigns should prove to us that scare tactics simply do not work as well as the peaceful, prayerful, compassionate witness of people offering practical assistance to pregnant mothers and their families. I know that lives have been saved by the graphic signs and the shouting--but now that we know even more lives can be saved with mercy rather than shock, why wouldn't we change our tactics toward increased proven success? Because shouting down the man saying, "We can help you with medical care during your pregnancy, and there is always adoption" with "You know what you're doing is murder" isn't working.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -Martin Luther King Jr.