I don’t consider abortion an ideal solution, seeing it as something to be avoided if possible. I do not, however, share the anti-abortion zeal of the folks who picket here, at the end of the street that I live on. I am a Quaker and semi-retired therapist, and I see clients in my home office. Some of your signs have been traumatizing for these people, many of whom are already trying to recover from emotional trauma. Here are some thoughts about the way in which you are exercising your protest.
- You say you are pro-life. Then please behave that way in the world. Don’t just picket and pray. Put some flesh on your pronouncements that actually demonstrates you value life. Now that would be transformative! Are you personally providing significant financial assistance to women who are seeking abortions for economic reasons? Are you personally adopting children of mothers who would otherwise seek abortion? Are your churches opening clinics that include prenatal care and adoption services? Are you consistently pro-life? Are you also opposed to the death penalty, excessive use of force, and war?
- When you picket, make sure your signs represent your truth without judgment and blame. “Abortion Kills Children” is as violent to the mind and spirit as you believe abortion to be to the body. It implies that the woman seeking abortion, and the medical providers who assist her, are murderers. This is not a message that most people passing by on the highway consider convincing. Abortion is legal under certain circumstances; murder is not. Murder is obviously not the experience of the women or medical providers. In fact, women’s inward experience as they consider abortion is one almost universally of pain, fear, grief, loss, confusion, shame, and sometimes anger. It is your own inward violence that causes you to heap the judgment of “murderer” on them. I saw a sign today, for the first time, that approached what I think of as a respectful and compassionate message: “Pregnant women need support, not abortion.” IF you are providing that kind of support – that is, if you are willing to stand behind your pronouncement – this is both a respectful and compassionate message, and one that nearly everyone driving by could identify with and even be persuaded by. If you are not providing support, then it is just another empty pronouncement about belief.
- Please leave your children out of it. Please do not bring them with you to picket and confront. I cringe with pain for the children present when I see signs like the killing sign above. Believe me when I say that this is not good for their psychological development or their spiritual development. Children need a gentle, loving environment, however firm the family values. Using children and babies as a reproach to the women and providers at the clinic demonstrates that you are neither loving nor forgiving toward those people, places the children in a very pressured situation, and can propel them into a deep conflict about obedience, punishment, and God.
- Get over being self-righteous. Do not pray on your knees facing the traffic. Do not face your signs at particular people or cars. Do not make a righteous spectacle of yourselves. Self-righteousness actually creates feelings of disgust, pity, and/or anger in many people. (And Jesus was particularly opposed to it.) Instead, pray for humility, for loving hearts, for solutions that respect the goodness within all of God’s children, including the ones you oppose. Work at creating more space for God’s love to flow into, rather than using fear to squeeze out the hope and love of those who feel desperate and alone.
I wish you peace. I offer these suggestions in the spirit of love. I will pray for all of us.