Every Friday there is a man in the county where I live who gets out of bed, dresses himself, drives to the local Planned Parenthood building and protests for eight hours. He is Pro-Life. He is white. His signs vary from week to week. Sometimes they are a simple message of choosing life while at others they are an in-your-face condemnation of those who believe in abortion.
For those of you who read my blog, you know my stance. I am pro-choice, pro-abortion, pro-sex education and a supporter/volunteer of Planned Parenthood. It amazes me that someone can feel so strong a conviction on this topic that they would give a day of their life each week in protest. A man, who will never be in the position of having to make that decision, could feel such overwhelming vehemence against how a woman chooses to deal with her body. In a way, I almost wish my conviction was that strong.
On Friday, a friend called to tell me that this man, this man who once served as a member of our School Board, was once again standing on the side of State Road 60 with his narrow-minded and ignorant sign. Apparently on that day, he was demonstrating his conviction alone. A myriad of feelings raced through me as I hit 'end' on my cell. I wanted to scream. I was immediately angry. I wanted to put on my clothes and push through my hangover from hell and drive downtown and confront him. I wanted to stand in front of his stupid little sign and prevent his ignorance from infecting or hurting anyone else. I wanted to yell at him until he went away. I wanted to talk to him until he saw reason. I just wanted him to stop.
I have considered myself a feminist for quite some time and have always been pro-choice. However, in the last seven years, after working with all of these low socio-economic students, I feel stronger about the existence of Planned Parenthood than ever before. I've seen these girls who have been molested, raped and seriously taken advantage of. I've seen the fear in their eyes, the feeling of total helplessness and loss of control. I've seen them struggle with the decision to have an abortion and more times than I would like to remember I've seen them struggle even harder with their choice to keep the baby. They are children themselves. Lost, confused and hurting. At fourteen they are required to make a decision that will live with them for the rest of their lives and more often than not, they choose to continue the cycle of poverty that they were born into.
How could this person, this man, this white, rich, suburban southern baptist, have any right to criticize the choice these girls are making? How could he be so blind as to think he has any idea? This man may be pro-life, but he certainly isn't pro-child. The damage he did within our school system will remain for years to come. And these children that he feels should be born, has he taken a step to assist in their lives? He hasn't helped serve food at the homeless shelter. He hasn't been at the local youth activity center volunteering his free time to tutor and entertain these children while the women he say should keep the babies work minimum wage jobs that won't even put food on the table. He hasn't done anything to assist in the lives of those who actually choose life. And perhaps that is my biggest complaint with the fanatical pro-lifers. While they spend so much time insisting that everyone should have a right to live, they do nothing to help improve those lives. There is no community outreach. No help for the young mothers. Nothing to aide them after their decision has been made.*
Perhaps it is just that I am so thoroughly ingrained in my beliefs that I can't see the other side. I like to think I can but on this one I'm stumped. Life is precious, but quality of life is equally so. Next Friday, this man will once again park his car and pull his picket sign out of the trunk and spend countless hours hurling accusations at women who enter the Planned Parenthood building. And I will get up and get dressed and go to school and try to teach those same girls that they need an education, they need to believe in themselves and they need to work hard in school in order to have a better life. I can't hold a giant white sheet up in front of this man and block his message, but I'll continue to be an example to my girls. To show them that strength in women should be applauded. That it is their life and their body and their right.
If you too are an advocate of choice, you can Join the One Million Strong Campaign. The One Million Strong Campaign is a Planned Parenthood Action Fund-sponsored effort, combining national, state, and local Action Funds to identify, energize, and mobilize one million pro-choice voters in the coming election. With your support, we will work to elect pro-choice candidates at every level, including a pro-choice president and Senate and House members; pass laws and policies that support women's health; defeat anti-choice ballot measures; and turn out one million pro-choice voters in November 2008!
*I am speaking from my own personal experience. I have looked for resources for my girls for several years now and there is nothing available from the local church and pro-life organization in my county.*