Today was the first time I've returned to the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Harrisburg since I've been back in Pennsylvania. This clinic is one I have been to many times, but the conditions have changed a little bit.
What has not changed is that twenty women came for abortions (both medical - using a regimen of pills - and surgical abortions are conducted on Thursdays).
What has not changed is that the City of Harrisburg has restricted pro-life people to the very edge of the sidewalk.
We stand balanced on the curb as we offer free resources and small gift-bags to anyone entering or exiting the building. These gift bags include life-saving information, literature, and gift cards to local restaurants for a free meal!
These gift bags and all of the information is made available for free by the outstanding pro-life group, Undefeated Courage. They are having a training session in Lancaster this autumn, and a benefit Gala is coming up in December. I'll be sharing more about that and I encourage you to attend both. Learn more about the ministry and how you can get involved by visiting www.undefeatedcourage.org.
I was so glad to be back in the action of offering help and mercy to those who are having abortions. And yet, it is a very difficult thing to do. Just as I walked up to the abortion facility, a couple was leaving with the brown bag which presumably holds the final dosage of the pill abortion regimen. They had ignored the four women with Undefeated Courage who were standing outside of the door, and I let them know that there was free help for them.
"I'm here to join those pro-life ladies this morning in letting you know that there is free help for you or anyone you know who is in need." I said as they pointedly ignored me and walked on by, not returning my initial greeting.
Despite the painful experience of watching twenty abortions happening just before their eyes, Undefeated Courage sidewalk prayer partners and sidewalk counselors remain steadfast, with smiles on their faces, offering the truth about the beauty of love and life.
This kindness from Undefeated Courage is not new. They have been doing this work consistently for years. And they have seen many lives saved!
What is new at Planned Parenthood is a security guard named Harold who stands just inside the doorway. He does this every week not only in Harrisburg, but he also travels to York to do the same there. It's a shame that they think it's necessary to block us out - even pushing us to the curb with a city ordinance.
We're no threat, we are offering help and free Chick-fil-A. What's wrong with that? (Maybe it's the Chick-fil-A? We have McDonald's gift cards, too.)
Another new features is the pink-clad pro-abortion escorts. There were four people out there to stand between us and the women and men going in and out of the abortion facility. They try to block us from handing out the gift bags, and try to interfere with any conversations we would have that could potentially save a life.
They have volunteers who cover the whole day to make sure our message of love cannot be heard - at least, that's what they try. But they're not very good at their jobs. They barely blocked our line of sight most of the time, and they were very quiet, so our offer of help was always heard and frequently acknowledged.
While I was standing there, a man walked past the escorts and looked quizzically at them and at us. I said, "Good morning," and he responded. "So, are you pro-life?" He asked. "Absolutely." I replied. "Ok. Then F*** you." He said nonchalantly as he began to cross 2nd Street. "Have a great day." I waved as he departed.
Another man came up and started talking to the escorts before he turned his attention to us. "Good morning," I said to him. "Good morning." He replied, somewhat pleasantly. "What are you doing here?" He demanded, before taking another pull on his cigar.
"We're offering help and resources to those who are coming here." I said, walking around the street sign to stand more directly in front of him so the Undefeated Courage volunteers wouldn't be distracted from doing their work as he engaged in a conversation.
"We want to make sure everyone knows they have other choices." I said. "Of course they have choices. This is one of them. This should always been one of them." He said, gesturing towards the building entrance fifteen feet away. He was standing in the forbidden "bubble zone" where I couldn't step, but I had a conversation with him from across the imaginary line.
"Be that as it may," I started, questioning whether I really understood the meaning of that phrase, "we are here to let them know about help available so they never feel they have no other choice to make."
"No one chooses abortion as a first resort." He said. "Oh, I don't think they do." I responded. "Most women choose abortion because they feel they have no other choice." "That's not true." He protested. "I have spoken to many women for whom that is true." I responded. "It's anecdotal evidence, but it is what I have. At any rate, we are here to make sure that doesn't ever happen. It's sad that we're being pushed away from sharing that message effectively."
The conversation paused. "Nice hat." I said. "Are you from Canada?" (He was wearing a red cap with a bold, white, maple leaf on it. Pretty good give away for a Canadian connection.) "Yes." He said. "Socialized medicine there, with free abortion for everyone." "I've heard that." I said. "I'm glad to hear you confirm that it's true." "Don't believe everything you read about Canada's medical industry. Most of what's written south of the border is propaganda from the AMA." He said. "Surely they wouldn't have a motivation to lie." I joked. He looked at me and laughed a single laugh.
"I've heard that Canada has no abortion laws at all. Is that the case?" I asked. "It's a decision between a woman and her doctor. As it should be." He replied, confirming that it is true. "That's how every medical decision should be made in Canada, right?" I asked. "Just a patient and the doctor can decide whatever procedure they will do?"
"That's right." He said.
Somehow after that he started asking me about how awful the Catholic Church is for covering up child sexual abuse. I refused to defend an institution that I have no part in. He also said that the Senate Republicans were blocking a law to remove (or extend) the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. I admitted that I hadn't heard anything about this bill, and would most likely agree with him more than those Senate Republicans on this particular policy question.
Then he asked me this question.
"So why are you here?" He said, but his voice was muffled by a passing car. "I'm sorry?" I asked. "Why are you here? You're not an unintelligent person [thank you]. Don't you have anything better to do than be here?"
"Because every day in the United States approximately 3,000 human beings are being killed by abortion, and nothing is more important than trying to stop it where I can." I replied.
"They're not human." He said.
"Yes, they definitely are." I replied. "From the moment ..." "They're fetuses." He said, "Not children." "'Children' refers to a stage of development." I answered, "So does 'Fetus'. They are human beings at both stages of development, and every human being is equally valuable and should ..." "The Bible says." He cut me off.
I held up my hand and said, "Wait a second." "The Bible says..." he started again. "I'm sorry." I stopped him. "I didn't get your name." "Bob." He said. "The Bible says ..." "Let's not bring the Bible into this, Bob." I said, holding up my hand to stop him going any further along that track. "Ok." Bob said. He looked a bit taken aback. "Then let's just talk about the science." He said. "Absolutely." I agreed. "From the moment of conception, a unique, whole, living human being - distinct from any other - is there ..." "Did you eat eggs for breakfast?" He interrupted me. "Umm... no." I answered. "I ate Raisin Bran."
"Do you ever eat eggs?" He asked. "Yes." I answered, and waited for him to complete the obviously flawed comparison.
"So you ate a fetus." He said. A small glimmer of triumph was in his eyes. "Not so." I responded. "Most eggs are not fertilized." "But some are." He jumped back quickly. "Indeed. So I have eaten the blastomere somewhere inside of those eggs." (It's not called a blastomere... what is it called?) "It's the same thing." He said. "I don't have any moral objection to eating chicken." I responded. "I do have a moral objection to killing human beings." "They're not human." He repeated. "They absolutely are." I responded. "From the very moment of conception..." "They're only potential humans." Bob cut me off again. He wasn't being loud or sharp, but the conversation was flowing together very quickly.
"You will not find any scientist who disagrees with me." I asserted boldly (Too boldly. I can find a "scientist" to say pretty much anything, no matter how inane it is.) "I'll send them to you!" Bob declared. "Good!" I accepted his promise. "What's you're email address?" Bob asked. I didn't have anything to write on, so I entered it directly into the email form on his phone.
"To be clear," I said as I entered the address, "my argument is that from the moment the sperm fuses with the egg there is a unique, whole, living human being present." "You got it." Bob said. Then he turned around abruptly, said something more to the pro-abortion escorts, and walked down the alley.
I'm excited to receive his email later. I'll let you know if he finds any scientists to refute my assertions. This was a good experience out on the sidewalks. I hope that Bob thinks about what I said, and that I successfully challenged his preconception of what pro-life people are like. You can make a difference by standing up for life at an abortion facility. I'd love for you to join me and Undefeated Courage, or find another Sidewalk Advocates group or 40 Days for Life near you. You might meet a Bob from Canada, or you could simply make a difference by inviting Harold, the security guard, out for coffee. Show people that you care. There are over 3,000 abortions every day in the United States. What better use of your time is there?