I resigned from Planned Parenthood in 2009, but it could have been two years earlier. I had developed a relationship with one of the anti-abortion sidewalk counselors who stood in front of my facility. We talked regularly through the fence and she had asked me to go have coffee with her one day. I was impressed with her persistence and, honestly, I thought I would really like her if I got to know her. I remember sitting at my desk, contemplating whether to pick up the phone and schedule that coffee date.
Then my cell phone rang. It was my mom telling me that a man who frequently harassed us and our patients had sent a letter to the neighborhood where my parents lived, comparing me to a child molester and telling everyone that I killed children. It even had a picture of my face on it and a very derogatory comment about my physical appearance.
I remembered the times I had seen my pro-life acquaintance talking to this man on the sidewalk. Were they friends? They seemed to be. How could I trust her if she was friends with that guy? I decided that I couldn’t.
I didn’t move across that fence for another two years. Two years. How many lives had been taken in that two years? How many more babies died by my hands because I didn’t make that call?
Respect, Patience, and Kindness Matter
How pro-lifers are perceived by those who oppose us is important. It matters because it’s these people we are trying to persuade to our side: it’s the women who see us outside the abortion facilities, their partners who read the news, and their families who may have the opportunity to persuade them one way or another who are on Facebook watching videos of protestors.
There is one abortion facility left in Kentucky, and it has become a hotbed of protest activity. Photos of older white men screaming at women have been plastered in the press. They are identified as “pro-life.”
This is not me, this is not the majority of the pro-life movement I know. Yet, it is these photos and videos that are the face of the pro-life movement in Kentucky, and to many others all across the nation who see those stories.
I am not a part of them. I am part of a movement that loves women into conversation and conversion. I am part of the pro-woman movement. I recognize that a baby cannot be saved unless we reach the hearts of the women walking into abortion facilities exactly like the one I used to work in.
I do not believe we will ever win hearts through intimidation or illegal tactics. We won’t be able to help women if we scare them. It’s illogical to think that a woman already in a vulnerable position would willingly walk up to a man who is holding a graphic image, engaging in civil disobedience, and calling her a murderer just to, you know, have a conversation with him.
Don’t Make an Abortion Clinic a Safe Place
I’ve seen it firsthand from my time working inside the abortion industry. I have seen women literally run into the abortion facility because someone was yelling Bible verses at them or pushing a graphic image in their faces. I recognized that they saw us, the abortion clinic, as a safe haven. We were going to kill their babies, and somehow, we had become their safe place.
I currently run a ministry, And Then There Were None, which has helped nearly 360 abortion workers quit their jobs and start anew at places that don’t take lives. These workers have seen the same things I did—women running into their facilities, hating the supposed pro-life people outside of the abortion facility who were screaming at them.
We must do better as a movement. We must show love, not frustration and desperation. Perception matters in this fight. Lives are depending on it.