These are just a few impressions of my experience this weekend when Bill and I spent a morning outside the Hope Clinic for Women, as part of the Peaceful Presence program of the Missouri Coalition for Religious Choice. We were there to support the patients and counter the protestors, who that morning came in three flavors. Stage left was a small group that seemed to be having some sort of open-air Catholic mass. Their lovely framed art of Mary and Jesus (I assume) contrasted oddly with their Cardinals attire and American flag folding chairs, as if they were at some sort of religious sporting event. They prayed loudly but did not yell at anyone that I could tell. The center stage crew had an RV, several large dismembered-late-term-fetus posters, and a boombox playing Christian soft rockâ€”it was a rather soothing song, especially for early morning, but unfortunately they played the same song on continual loop for two hours. I was sure it would be stuck in my head for a week, but since the only word I could understand was â€œJesus,â€ that hasnâ€™t happened. Stage right was the sidewalk preaching corner. There were two preachers who took turns, one from the black church tradition, one from the AA witnessing tradition. Stylistically, I preferred the former, though the personal story of the latter was more interesting. I was glad to hear that his belief in Jesus had helped him stop drinking and taking drugs, but I still donâ€™t get how that led to his intense need to harangue young women who were already probably having one of the hardest days of their lives.
Overall, it was a very easy morning for us; I felt ashamed that it had taken me so long to volunteer. Itâ€™s a little hard on the knees, to stand around for a couple hours with a sign (I had a specialized one that said â€œAbortion can be an ethical choiceâ€â€”Thanks, Allison!), and at one point an odd-acting man was a reminder that some protestors actually try to kill people at clinics, but the guards had their eye on him. A few of the protestors muttered or shouted at us, but their assumptions and understanding of life is so radically different it was almost like being addressed in a foreign language. It was a pleasure to meet the other peaceful presences, including several seminary students (who took issue with the certainty of the protestors that Jesus was on their side). . . . The group of us supporting the young women entering the clinic seemed to include a lot more women, and women of childbearing age, than the protestor groups. Go figure.