I happened upon an anti-abortion protest last week. There’s a Planned Parenthood across the street from the post office near my house. I have a PO box there, because I’m getting old and that’s what old people do.
These protesters had been there before, but for some reason I felt moved that day to show my disagreement with their message. I left the post office, went home, called Planned Parenthood and made a $10 donation. Then, I made the sign that you see to the right, and went back to stand right next to the demonstrators.
As I was walking up, one of the people holding a sign, a younger girl who looked to be in her 20s, turned and smiled at me. That smile disappeared little by little as she read each line, until she looked up at me and simply said, “Oh.”
I said hello, then stood about 10 feet to her left, so that the arrow would be pointing at her and the others standing at each corner of the intersection. We talked briefly, when I told her that I had to give them credit for having the dedication to stand out in the rain. “We get our power from the holy spirit,” she replied.
“Well, I’m an atheist, so I guess I’m just here because I feel like it,” I offered, trying very hard not to come off as sarcastic. I wonder if she thinks I’m here because of Satan, I thought, doing my best not to ask her. Abortion is a contentious subject, and I wanted to remain civil.
Eventually she moved away, choosing to walk back and forth down the block, and I stood against a tree with the sign resting against my leg, so it would be at roughly the same height as passing vehicles. One thing that struck me was that very few people looked at any of us. There were a couple people who smiled or gave me a thumbs up, but most of them seemed to intentionally divert their eyes, as if acknowledging the protesters in any way would somehow make them culpable for the message.
After about 45 minutes, a new person got there. She stopped and talked to two or three of the other protesters, then walked up to me, introduced herself as Marie, and asked, “Why are you here? What led you to make this sign?”
I explained to her that I was checking my PO box, had felt the urge to make a donation after seeing them protest, and then wanted to come down here to express my support of Planned Parenthood. She looked at me skeptically, in a way that made me think that she may have suspected I was asked to be there by Planned Parenthood. “Did you know that Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist? Did you know that Planned Parenthood still locates in minority neighborhoods?” she quizzed, as though I must simply be uninformed on the issue, or that my support for Planned Parenthood was somehow an implicit endorsement of the principles of its founder.
It was difficult to not reply with disdain and point out that Planned Parenthood tends to locate in economically depressed areas which have, as an unfortunate result of our society, higher minority populations, or that a Catholic suggesting an organization should be judged by its leaders may not be the most compelling argument. Instead, I just acknowledged that I did know these things, and told her that I fully supported a woman’s autonomy over her own body, and that all other arguments were secondary.
In the interest of brevity I won’t rehash the entire discussion, but several of the standard pro-life lies were trotted out: abortion causes cancer (false), birth control causes cancer (sort of true and sort of not, but like many things in life it’s complicated), that abortion is the modern-day equivalent to slavery, and that overpopulation is a myth promulgated by the “population control movement.” I won’t even dignify those last two with a rebuttal, because I refuse to address insane conspiracy theories as if they were even remotely factual.
I was also handed the small plastic fetus you see on the bottom left corner of the picture to your left. The sheet of paper includes heart-tugging lines like, “Heart is beating (since 18-25 days)” and “He has fingerprints and can kick.” This is designed to engender sympathy for the embryo that may be aborted by giving you a visual representation with emotional appeals.
What they neglect to mention, however, is that over 60% of abortions occur before the 9th week, when the fetus is still no larger than a raspberry. And that’s what this all comes down to: lies, distortions, and exaggerations. Because at the end of the day, they most likely believe that any form of birth control is bad and that life beings at the moment of conception. There are no facts to back up these assertions, so instead of changing their assertions they attempt to change the facts. To me, this is the most disturbing part about what they’re doing. If they were just honest about it, were forthright and said that their belief system has led them to the view that life begins at conception and therefore must be protected, I would at least respect them for their honesty. Instead, they have attempted to mold reality to their own end, and to use “science” as a justification for their views. This is absolutely unacceptable to me, and deserves no respect, only denouncement.
I ended up taking a lot of paperwork from Marie– I figured it was less propaganda they could give to someone else– and plan to put together a short, one page refutation of the main points their brochures make, complete with references. I am also going to create a more permanent sign that says, “I donate $20 to Planned Parenthood every time I see these protesters!” (and, of course, I’ll do just that). I hope to see Marie again, because I’ll ask her what Jesus would think about misrepresenting the truth. I’ll be sure to post her response.
This has been Day 20 of my blog-a-day goal for the month of October. I hope to write 500 words or more per day, or ~15,000 for the month, to get myself in the habit of writing every day. How do you keep yourself motivated for creative pursuits? It’s definitely something I find difficult.