There may not be a more divisive issue today in American than abortion. And look, I’m not advising anyone to have one. I realize I’m about to offend a lot of people but here’s the thing. When I see the protesters outside our local Planned Parenthood clinic in instills in me a rage I can barely explain. I want nothing more than to pull my car over, get out, grab one of them by their smug faces and start punching. I say this as a pacifist for the love of God! It’s an emotion I don’t feel often or readily. It’s an emotion reserved for the greatest of injustices, the most heinous of offenses. So why do these peaceful protesters inspire such feelings in me? Because they are not, in fact, peaceful.
Bear with me a second. There are many ways to hurt another person. You don’t have to lift a finger to wound someone deeply. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that physical pain heals faster and easier than emotional. These protesters who claim to be out there in the name of God are doing horrible things to other people. Yes, they are. They are inflicting deep and vicious psychological wounds on their victims. Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was wrong. While there may be woman who take abortion lightly (and I’ve never met one), most are at the lowest point in their lives right then, having been through emotional hell already. Making a decision to end a life growing inside you is not easy, not by a long shot. Imagine for a moment what reasons she must have. I get a feeling that those protesters assume her reasons are that she’s a selfish immoral slut. Those are the kinds of things they say to these women.
First of all, the majority of women going into Planned Parenthood aren’t there for an abortion. They are there for low cost gynecological care and/or birth control. No young woman should end up with cervical cancer due to lack of testing because she was afraid of the bullies in the parking lot. That’s right, I said it. Bullies.
They are attacking vulnerable young women, slinging callous barbs that will take a lifetime to heal, if they ever do. Calling them baby killers and telling them they will burn in Hell. Even if you are an ardent pro-lifer and believe this is murder and a sin, ask yourself this simple question. Is this helping? Has one woman ever responded positively to this? Are they saving anyone? Are they helping anyone?
No one is going to listen to the stranger who is calling them names and bullying them. No one is going to listen to a stranger they have never met after days or weeks of soul searching and sleepless nights filled with tears. The only thing they are going to take away with them from this encounter are the psychic wounds inflicted at the hands of the bullies.
If someone truly cares about those unborn children and those mothers then sitting on comfy lawn chairs in the parking lot on nice, sunny days yelling hateful taunts at vulnerable women needs to stop. Activism and volunteerism needs to start. And yes, I said those unborn children and their mothers. Babies do not exist in a vacuum. You cannot help an infant if you do not help it’s mother.
Teenage girls need mentors and safe places to go after school, adults that they trust and programs that build self esteem in order to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Expectant mothers in poverty need access to health care, inexperienced mothers need parenting mentors, poor families need help supporting their families. Women in crisis need access to qualify mental health services. Remove the barriers to having a baby and the abortion rate will drop.
It’s time to stop pretending that the issues of abortion, access to healthcare, quality education and poverty aren’t linked. Stop insisting women produce babies that society has no intention of providing healthcare for. So many people demonize abortion on one hand and then demonize any programs designed to help these very people on the other. We don’t get to have it both ways. If we want to see abortion decrease, then the underlying social issues must be addressed. The hypocrisy of denying birth control to women then demonizing them for abortion has to stop.
I would encourage any abortion clinic protester to spend some time working with at risk women. Or women who have been abused. Or women who have already lost one child to a genetic disorder. Or women who have had an abortion and regret it. Understand the very complicated issues at play and then perhaps volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. Do some good in the world, put some positive vibes into it. Be the kind of person that a woman in crisis might listen to.