Today I went to the Richmond Medical Center for Women to talk to women and families before they went inside for abortions. I was there ready to tell them about the Pregnancy Resource Center of Metro Richmond and other places where they can get help through their pregnancy.
When I arrived I was surprised that no one was there. The parking lot was completely empty.
Praise God! The Abortion Center was closed today! No one came except for myself, Greene, and Rodger. We were there to pray and serve as a public witness for life.
Greene and I stood on the corner for an hour with his sign. This is a picture of his grandchild. Life is beautiful, and we were giving witness to that life.
Several people stopped to talk to us, and a few shouted at us as they passed by.
Almost as soon as I got out of my car a man in the neighborhood started asking me all kinds of questions about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Vice President Mike Pence, the Kock Institute, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Kirk Cox, etc. etc. I had no idea what he was going on about, but then he concluded with the statement that Bayer Pharmeceuticals is part of ALEC, and that they make the abortion pill. I think he was expecting me to collapse in complete uncertainty because of these revelations, but I really don't care about the political allegiances of Bayer Pharmeceuticals... oh well. It was a very random exchange.
One biker was riding by and shouted some expletives at Greene and myself. We shrugged it off, but a couple who was walking by at the same time looked at us with shock. "That is supposed to be the rational side of this argument?" The man said incredulously.
Two men, Mike* and Ishmael*, came over to talk to us around the same time. One conversation was followed immediately by another.
"Do you think that a person is dying in abortion?" Mike asked, a wry grin on his face.
"Yes, I do." I answered. "My name is Sean, by the way." I extended my hand. He shook my hand and introduced himself.
"Well they're not persons." Mike said.
"Let's discuss what makes someone a person." I said.
"Yes, let's." Mike said, smiling still.
"So how would you define what it means to be a person?" I asked.
"A person is someone with the capacity for rational thought." Mike said.
"By that definition the mentally infirm are not persons." I objected. "What?" Mike said, no longer smiling. "You said that personhood is determined by the capacity for rational thought. Some of the mentally infirm do not have the capacity for rational thought, and therefore would not be persons under that definition. Do you agree with that conclusion?" "No." Mike said. "So we'll have to find a different definition." I said.
There was a pause as Mike looked around uncertainly.
"I'll give you mine." I volunteered. "A person is anyone who is a human being." "That's it?" Mike asked. "Well, what is a human being?" "A human being is someone who is unique, whole, living, and has human parents." I said. "You are a unique, whole, living individual, and I believe you have human parents. So you are a human being, and you are a person."
"Ok." Mike said. "So by my definition, the unborn are also persons. They are unique, whole, living individuals with human parents. We know this scientifically."
"Well, I can't argue with your logic." Mike said. He didn't object to any of my points, but didn't agree with them either. He took a flyer about the PRC of Metro Richmond in case anyone he knows could ever use help. Then he walked away.
Ishmael quickly followed in conversation, having been listening to the questions and answers with Mike.
"What if a woman is raped?" Ishmael asked. "She shouldn't be judged in that situation."
"No." I said, "And I'm not here to judge any women. I'm here to try to convince them not to go through with abortion."
"But if the woman is raped, she shouldn't be judged for having an abortion." Ishmael said.
"Rape is an absolutely horrible thing. The rapist takes something away from his victim that can never be fully restored, and he needs to be punished." I said. "But I don't think abortion is ever justified. It is still wrong."
"But if the woman is pregnant from rape, she didn't have no choice in the matter, and shouldn't be burdened. So abortion is her personal choice in those circumstances." Ishmael said.
"When a woman becomes pregnant from rape, how many people are involved?" I asked.
"Three." Ishmael said. "The rapist, the woman, and the unborn fetus."
"Do you think that the rapist should be put to death?" I asked.
"Yes." Ishmael said.
"I'm not sure about the death penalty personally, but he should definitely be punished to the full extent of the law." I said. "He should go to prison." Ishmael said. "Not only has he taken something from the woman which can never be restored, violating her in a terrible way, he has also burdened her with a burden that she never asked for. He has done two grievous harms to the woman, and we agree that he should be punished. What about the woman? Should she be put to death?" I asked.
"No. It's not her fault." Ishmael said.
"Right. I agree. But there are some cultures where a woman who is raped is put to death. I find the practice of 'honor killings' morally reprehensible." I said. "But what about the third person, what about the unborn child? Should the unborn child be put to death?" "That would be a woman's choice, because she can't be judged in this circumstance." Ishmael said.
"The child is innocent. And abortion kills the innocent child. That isn't justified just because the child was conceived in rape." I said.
"Hey, I've got to go." Ishmael said, "I'm going to Tikvat Israel."
He shook my hand, crossed the street, and went into the Messianic Synagogue.
"The unborn child never deserves to die because of the crime of the father," I said as he was shaking my hand and leaving, "Abortion is never justified, no matter what the circumstances are."
Greene and I continued to talk and many people passing by gave us thumbs up and honked their horns in support. Only one person (other than the biker) gave us any negative signals or words.
Right before Greene had to leave, a woman came over to thank us for being there. She was one of the people who honked her horn as she drove by. She had stopped and walked around the block to come and thank us in person.
"My name is Sharon*, and I just wanted to shake your hands and say thank you." She introduced herself to us. We exchanged names, and talked about what church we go to and why we are there. Sharon is new to Richmond, and she was so thrilled to see someone standing up for life. She is pregnant herself, and said she would love to stand up for life with us sometime. She prayed with us, and asked to get her picture taken with Greene and his sign.
It was a wonderful morning. Great conversations. A supporter who is celebrating life. And then I went over to Tikvat Israel for the Messianic worship service. (I knew one of the songs they sing, because my Dad has led this song during worship before! It was really neat to hear it sung in both English and Hebrew.)
I was joined at Tikvat Israel by Roger, who was arriving just as Greene was leaving. Instead of going home, Roger and I both took advantage of the opportunity (with the abortion center being closed) to go to the worship service at the Messianic Synagogue. After services, the rabbi's wife prayed for me and told me that God loves me so deeply. It was a wonderful reminder and a great morning.
Thank you, God, that no one died at the Richmond Medical Center for Women this morning. Thank you for that place being closed today. Thank you for the people I met and talked with. Thank you for the worship at Tikvat Israel (and for the time to worship with Ishmael even though we didn't get to conclude our talk about abortion in the case of rape). I pray that Ishmael and Mike and the others who had brief interactions with us today would think about the things that were said. I pray that they would know the truth and follow your word. Thank you for the gifts you've given me, and that I get to pursue life. Amen.
*Not their real names.