"This spring over 50 communities around the country will be praying, fasting, and holding vigil for the unborn from February 6th through March 16th. Our community will be joining in the unprecedented national movement.
40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion in America.
The mission of the campaign is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion in America."
As part of the Lenten preparation for Easter, I've been taking part in the Bellingham chapter of this national vigil.
For several years, I've struggled with the general idea of demonstration--that is, standing on street corners with signs; the more, I suppose, as there is no escaping it in activist Washington. Downtown Anacortes, for instance, hosts an amusing setup every Sunday afternoon: the anti-war protest gathers on three corners of the Commercial St./12th St. intersection, dressed in jeans and frowning, and the "support the troops" group holds the fourth corner, wearing just-won-the-lottery smiles and as much red, white, and blue as they can muster. I'll drive blocks out of my way to avoid having to pass between those two groups.
The average posterboard sign doesn't do much for me, perhaps because so many of them come equipped with spite, nonsense, and poor spelling. Of course, in this part of the country, I generally disagree with them.
Signs or no, I found myself attracted by the fact that this around-the-clock, forty-day vigil came with the mission of intentional, specific prayer. It also pleased me by its focus on faith and life rather than mere politics. And once I got down there, even the signs won me over, though I'm still kind of picky about which ones to use.
For at least an hour every week, then, I've been standing on the corner in front of Planned Parenthood, holding a sign that says Women Deserve Better than Abortion, praying, and smiling at people in cars. It is always an interesting experience.
I prefer the quiet shifts because confrontational face-to-face debate makes me incredibly nervous and emotional. So far, I haven't had to hash over things vocally yet; people who drive by and yell mainly want to vent their ridicule, and I can handle that well enough. If they really upset me, I can think "I will eviscerate you in fiction ..." like Geoff in The Knight's Tale, but I haven't had to go quite that far yet :-) Anyway, none of them come back around the block for an answer.
"Read a book!" one of them shouted during my first shift, hanging out of the passenger window. I have, I wanted to say. Starting with the Bible. But even Harry Potter should be enough. Maybe I should get a sign that says Harry Potter Stood for Innocent Life and So Should We :-D
I would like to propose to some of the drive-by shouters that profanity is actually not a logical argument, but shouting anything back doesn't seem like a good option. This is, after all, specifically a peaceful vigil. But I did laugh at someone who flipped me the bird the other day; I had thought they were waving, so I went to wave back, and then laughed when I realized they only had one finger up.
Not all of the opposition comes from moving vehicles. "You have no right to be here," said a rather pretty--if over-pierced--young female pedestrian to my boyfriend last week, presumably because he doesn't have a uterus. Had I realized in time what she'd said, I would have liked to say "He's with me", accompanied by a look all women would understand. Lou said, simply, "I was a fetus once."
Now and then, we get a counter-protest across the street. One such personage was present during my last shift, equipped with Sharpie and reversible markerboard, sometimes dancing on the corner like one of the kids Domino's Pizza hires for advertising. He wore a sweatshirt with the hood up and his hair all in his face, and I'm afraid I rather naïvely thought he was a woman until Lou corrected me. One side of his sign said "Great Idea: Let's Add to the 40,000,000 Living In Poverty". Lou and I had a lively and excellent discussion about poverty and the sort of ideology that considers any form of killing a good answer to such a question.
It seemed rude to stare, but that guy certainly drew the gaze. Lou held a sign that said "Smile: Your Mother Chose Life", and whenever I looked across the street the guy made a point of turning his sign so I could see the side that said "Frown: Unfortunately Yours Did Too". That made me laugh. Also, whenever someone waved at us while driving his direction, the kid got on the edge of the curb and forced his sign into the notice of the oncoming car.
It amazes me that the Christians are the ones that get accused of hate. I guess I'm just still not accustomed to the ways of the world.
But not all the reactions are nasty. One woman came by twice within two hours. "I was raped years ago," she told me, "and my son's in his teens now. He's the light of my life. You guys keep doing what you're doing." And Kathy spoke with two women, one of them four months pregnant and considering abortion:
She was curious about how big her baby would be now. Since I had left my bag of brochures and handouts in my car, due to the rain, I invited the women to follow me to the car and there I gave the pregnant mom one of my little “Precious One” babies (a rubber-like model of a 12-week pre-born baby) to hold and keep, along with the little card that tells the week-by-week developments. She was surprised at how tiny and yet how well developed it was, and she said, “My baby would be a little bigger at four months.”
Her friend chimed in that she still thought an early abortion would be okay since “it” was so small. So I gave the friend the “First Nine Months” brochure so that she could see for herself how fast the baby develops even though so small. And I gave her the “Precious Feet” pin that depicts the exact size and shape of a 10-week unborn baby’s feet.
I encouraged the pregnant mom to return to the Pregnancy Clinic for an ultra-sound and maybe to join the Earn While You Learn program, where she could receive parenting help and earn all her baby’s material needs.
Both women seemed pleased and they thanked me. As they walked away the pregnant mom said, “You saved a life today.”
A lot of the bad rap pro-lifers and other "culture warriors" get is an idea that we're just about getting political power, that we want to bring about a theocratic rule with the intention of oppressing anyone who disagrees. No. That is not what we are about. Doubtless there are oppressors in every philosophy; but we are there to support the good of women and children and men and families and society as a whole. We just disagree strongly with the office behind us, and the guys across the street, about what really is good for societies and individuals.
There is room for disagreement. There is not room for slaughter of the innocent, in any stage of development. So we stand and pray.