I’ve been hesitant to write this post because of the strong reactions I received when I asked people what their opinion was on this topic on one of the forums. But the topic has been floating around in my head, popping up more and more frequently until I can think of practically nothing else when it comes time to blog. So I’ve decided to risk the criticism of other parents (and people who’ve never actually been around a child but are eager to give parents advice!) who know what’s right for me and my children a second time (the first time being on the forum) by writing the post that I’m apparently meant to write.
When we moved out to Florida Paul joined the school’s prolife group and we excitedly talked about going to the local Planned Parenthood to pray with the group. I had Paul ask one of the more experienced members if it was an environment that would be safe for children and she said that it absolutely was and that families frequented the prayer vigils. But it always seemed like we had something on Saturday mornings. And I was sick for a very long time. So the idea was nearly forgotten until 40 Days for Life rolled around and I realized that our Saturday mornings were now wide open (no more ballet) and that we were all well enough to go.
So we’ve been getting up on Saturday mornings and heading over to our local Planned Parenthood. It’s on a side street, and there’s a grassy area that some of the kids play on, although our girls have both been more than content to stay in the double stroller with a large amount of snacks and books to gaze at. There are dozens of people of all ages. There are large amounts of senior citizens from local churches. There are plenty of college students. This last weekend there was a busload of high schoolers ready to pray and hold signs. And there are plenty of families with children of all ages who come and pray the rosary with the group and in small family groups.
The peacefulness of the area belies the great evil taking place inside. The only contact we have with workers was a security guard with a shirt that tells us he’s armed. He came over to tell a few of the older gentlemen that there shoes were on the grass and that they needed to step back onto the sidewalk. He spoke to me first, since I was on the edge of the group nearest the entrance and said in a gentler voice that the babies were okay where they were (our front tire was barely touching the grass). I got the distinct impression that he didn’t want to be there, but that his job was his job and that he was doing it. He walked around looking vaguely miserable.
There were two grey haired women acting as escorts into the clinic. When a woman would arrive they run across the parking lot with a huge umbrella and hold it up so that the woman can’t see the line of people praying. I thought it odd though when I watched what happened when each woman left. They would sit in their chairs cackling (which is what they’re doing when they’re not hustling women in) and did not move an inch. The woman was on her own for that long walk back to the car. They didn’t care if she saw the group now. Planned Parenthood had gotten her money. The woman was now on her own. The sad reality was striking, even from the sidewalk.
Sadie was the most enthusiastic about the part after the prayers, which is when we go and hold signs. She held a sign, in her stroller, that said “babies are awesome” and was gleeful about being big enough to have her own. People honk and wave. With my now noticeable pregnant bump I held a sign that said: “Honk for Life.” Most of the reactions are positive. Occasionally an angry looking senior citizen makes a rude gesture.
When the girls have had enough sun, we head home.
But yesterday morning, before Mass, Sadie began talking about the experience.
“What did we do yesterday Mommy?” She asked.
“What did we do?” I replied, thinking she was talking about going to the local water park for the first time ever.
“What did God think of what we did yesterday Mommy?” She asked the question and then continued to answer her own question: “God was pleased. We helped babies.”
“That’s right, we prayed for babies yesterday.”
“We prayed that mommy’s would keep babies away from bad people.” Then she looked at me as if to reassure me: “Our baby is fine Mommy.”
No we haven’t gone into any long explanations of what happens at Planned Parenthood. One day when we were going and she was her regularly bubbly self full of questions I asked her if she remembered the pictures of babies when they’re very tiny (she pours over a book on fetal development that we have and loves the pictures of babies when they’re only days old in utero, and even loves looking at one full page picture of an egg in a fallopian tube). I explained that some mommy’s don’t know that their babies are babies when they’re that little and so we have to pray that they know that they’re babies and don’t hurt them. Sadie nodded and began talking about helping babies.
She’s now enthusiastically excited about going to “pray for babies.” Her simple three year old faith shines through as she talks about it. After all, she’s praying for the babies, so they’re going to be okay. She’s not frightened and in our house she was bound to hear something about it sooner rather than later. Our children often understand far more than we give them credit for, just from picking up bits of overheard conversations (and homilies! She’s heard plenty of homilies on abortion since she was born!).
This caused somewhat of an uproar with some people when I brought it up on the forum (after another mom was attacked for mentioning taking her children to a prayer vigil a single time when they didn’t have daycare). It was strange to me because I also understand parents not taking their kids. It’s a personal decision. However, I have a problem with people telling others that this decision is going to scar their children for life, and that no child should be taught anything about abortion before their able to understand it fully at the age of 12, (yes that was actually said).
If they don’t understand it fully, they should not be there, some said. I pointed out that children don’t understand the Mass fully, but we still go as a family and it is still beneficial for all of us to do so. Yes, they said, but the Mass isn’t disturbing. There’s nothing a child could ask about the Mass that would upset them. Really? You can’t think of anything about the Mass that could make a person a teensy bit uncomfortable? Do you understand what the Mass is? Do you believe that you’re receiving the body and blood of Christ? Do you believe that he died for our sins? Can you not imagine how, when explained to the questioning child, this sacrifice could fall into the same category as something that is “potentially be difficult for a small child to understand” or something that they might find “disturbing.”
They’re just for show, others said. That’s the only reason a parent would take them. My instant reaction to this statement was that it was sad to see someone have such a low opinion of their fellow man’s motivation. I take my children with me everywhere. They’re with me all day, every day during their waking hours. They have been all their lives. We eat as a family. We pray as a family. We go out together as a family. Going as a family to pray in front of the clinic is a natural extension. It would feel unnatural to leave them somewhere else, because we don’t do it. We pray the rosary at night as a family. And we pray in front of the clinic as a family.
There are plenty of reasons that people take their children to pray with them. It’s something each family must discern and decide on their own. I doubt that many of the motivations are as negative and horrible as I’ve heard some people suggest, however.
So those are my rather lengthy thoughts on our most recent experiences praying at our local abortion clinic. No one has to be out there. I’m not suggesting you go out with your little one’s if the idea makes you wince. But let’s try not to tear down the people who are there, especially the people who’ve managed to come out with their families to pray together for an end to this evil. Let’s all try to remember that our own parenting decision are not infallible orders sent down from God himself, but choices that we make as we walk this long path of service towards God.