Saturday, February 16, 2008

Overcoming the Abortuary Volunteers

About three or four times a year, I am asked to lead prayers at the local abortuary. We stand on one side of the ditch by the road and offer prayers, and on the other side, the volunteers stare at us as though at any minute we might storm the grounds and pull the expectant mothers away kicking and screaming. Usually, I offer a few words to the pro-lifers between rosaries, hymns and Byzantine Prayers of Mercy for the souls of the children killed inside (with which I always conclude our prayers).

Over time, I have come to really look forward to these occasions for the "little" miracles that occur. For example, there used to be an off-duty policeman who wandered back and forth. On several occasions I spoke with him and he eventually decided that this was a moonlighting job he did not need. But more importantly, I have witnessed women who changed their minds, persuaded by the prayers, or perhaps a moment of clarity about what they had come to have happen. These times are joyous and also fascinating as the clinic volunteers, so ostensibly devoted to the woman’s right to choose, looked positively miserable that the mother would carry her child to term.

Last year, we had an interesting season at the abortuary as we joined in a forty-day vigil to end abortion. I say it was interesting because when I came for my turn leading the prayers I was frankly amazed at how the vigil had affected the pro-death volunteers. Apparently, having gotten used to our third Saturday practice, the fact that prayers were being said twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for a whole forty day period quite unnerved them. They attempted to drown out our prayers with loud Rock music - which led to repeated visit by the local constabulary who wagged the finger and told them to turn it down. (As a note, we do not use megaphones or amplifiers; just voices in prayer, never strident or overly loud.)

We did have one officer attempt to tell us that we were not allowed to speak to the women on their way in if they parked across the street. After a brief discussion about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the officer decided that he'd allow this conduct as long as the women going in did not protest. No problem. He was a nice guy; he just didn’t bank on someone schooled in the ways of protest a la the 1960’s and beyond. (“Know your rights; respect the law you’re working to change; and know you’re right!”)

The next time I came, the powers that abort had set up an orange plastic mesh fence - fairly tatty-looking, actually. The volunteers attempted to show what they must have considered a more “professional” manner. They worked in pairs and showed almost military precision. On that occasion, I started out speaking about the right of the woman to make decisions for her own body. Of course, this got the attention of the volunteers, who on that day had a small group of women from the local college out to join the fun. They listened attentively as I noted agreement that no one had a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. When I then noted that what is conceived in the womb, the fetus, is not her body but another human being whose rights are being denied they seemed stunned at the thought.

Today was most interesting as it was so telling about how things stand. When I arrived our people were at their usual positions. The volunteers, however, had brought children’s musical instruments! Toy accordions, little hand bells, jingle bells, even a little triangle bell. As I began my opening talk, the accordion and other instruments began a cacophonous racket. I also noticed that they now also carried signs, one of which warned patrons of the abortuary not to open the window and take a pamphlet from a protestor.

Needless to say, we carried on, although I must admit the lullaby was slightly distracting. While we prayed and sang, several police cars came by – why, I don’t know, but it added to the almost circus-like atmosphere. The accordion “player” attempted a few slogans that seemed trite and borne out of frustration at our presence. At one point he broke into the worst “rendition” of “This Land is Your Land” imaginable. It almost drifted into “Winter Wonderland” – no, I’m not kidding. The fact that children were being killed, literally ripped apart, inside probably didn’t occur to him.

On reflection, several things came to mind about the clinic's volunteers/ "deathscorts".

Firstly, the volunteers seem to fear that they are losing the battle. The use of children’s toy musical instruments would be silly if it were not such a pathetic display.

Secondly, while they no doubt view themselves as proponents of equal rights for women they are decidedly anti-democratic. The use of the musical instruments indicates that they do not want the prayers to be heard, and the signs warning patrons against reading our ‘subversive’ materials also reflect this.

Thirdly, assuming that the volunteers were the ones who called the police, it would seem likely that they desire some sort of confrontation to develop, perhaps in the hope of getting one or more of the pro-life protestors arrested or else raising our “fear level”. In the case of these volunteers, the possibility for violence is not so farfetched. One of the larger middle-aged men, who is almost always present, has been known to grab placards and rip them up.

Fourthly, rather than intimidate us, the volunteers have actually invigorated us. After being subjected to “This Land is Your Land” we all broke into “We Shall Overcome”.

And in this regard, I consider “We Shall Overcome” entirely appropriate. As protestors fought for equal rights for black in the 1960’s, our cause is of the same cloth. It is innocent children who are being denied equal protection, who are being treated as slaves, property to be disposed of, who are deserving of our assistance in their cause.

May our Lord convict us all to end this barbaric practice soon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Father, for your dedication to life. Let's keep this momentum going!