Monday, March 26, 2012

Praying Outside Abortion Clinics with Little Ones

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.


  1. I have to admit, my attention span is pretty short, and I rarely read a complete post of this length, but on this one I read the whole thing.

    I love that you take your kids with you to pray at PP, and I love how you explain it to them. How anyone can possibly think it could do harm, when handled appropriately (not giving graphic details), by just simply letting them know it's an act of love to pray for others, so that bad people don't hurt them is beyond me.

    People may say I don't have a right to an opinion because I have no children (yet), but I've been surrounded by children my whole life, and I do remember what it was like to be one and I remember the things I was exposed to (movies, music, inappropriate behavior, etc...), and I guarantee the things I was exposed to (you know, all that's considered normal by the world) did greater harm to me later on (adolescent/young adult years), then what can possibly happen by praying "to help babies".

    I find it hard to believe that anything negative can possibly come of the good you and your family are doing.


  2. Great post, Cam! This is something I have been personally wrestling with. I"m the mother of a nine-month-old girl, and I think it's so important to have her stand up for her faith and her (hopefully, someday) pro-life beliefs. But the thought of bringing her to a PP makes me ill. I think it's just the thought of her (she's so innocent) being around such evil, and also because I've heard of people being arrested outside clinics, screamed at, had things thrown at them, etc. and I would be terrified if that happened there with my baby. I'm still not convinced we should do it, obviously :-p But thank you for your bravery and your awesome family! :)

  3. One of my husband's relatives once phycially placed herself between me (with toddler in my arms) and a viewing at a funeral. She was certain, based on her subjective life experiences, that my daughter would be scarred for life, if she were to attend. I, however, knew both my child, and the atmosphere in which we were raising here and teaching her about life.

    People have an interesting tendency to project their own life history, knowledge base, and subjective experiences upon children.

    Mommies, (the good ones anyway), are in tune with their children. A child's parent knows how her child is processing a life experience, and is best equipped to protect him/her according.

    Who are we to stand in the way of God's greatest ambassadors?

    Life does not occur in a bubble. Ones children ought begin to be "in the world, but not of it", at a developmentally appropriate level, from the beginning.

    God endowed you with the instincts of a mother. You are the one who gets to mother your own children. You are the one who is best equipped to do it well.

    Raising extraordinary children extraordinarily always causes others to throw rocks. So, dodges them with a kind word and a smile.

  4. First off, I love your blog and your family is beautiful!

    I have noticed the same sad thing when praying at the abortion clinic. There are escorts galore and a huge effort to welcome women and get them into the clinic quickly away from those apparently frightening praying people on the sidewalk. But on the way out, the women walk alone, looking stunned and sad, back to their cars. I couldn't help but think, "I was treated with more concern after my wisdom teeth removal than these women are after terminating a pregnancy." I would think a woman who has just been sedated and undergone surgery would warrant a helping hand to their car but I've yet to see it happen. So sad.

  5. I'm sorry to hear you got that reaction - that you should leave your children home because "they're just for show". That's pathetic!

    The truth is, lots of people who go to pray outside the abortion clinics (my hubby and I included) have children, some have lots! What are we supposed to do with our children while we go pray? Find a sitter? Why shouldn't they come (as you pointed out) and help pray for the babies and women too? The prayers of little ones are very powerful, and Our Lord and Our Lady love the little children when they pray.

    Perhaps to those driving by (the ones making rude gestures at the folks praying) they think "look they brought all their kids so they can show the world...". But to us who go to pray, that's not the case.

    I'm 22 weeks pregnant with son #2, and our first son is about 14 mo old now. I've taken him with me in the stroller to pray outside the clinics before. I'm sure hubby and I won't stop taking our children in the future either!

    Good for you for educating your girls & taking them with you. They're really benefiting, even if they don't completely understand the evils of contraception and abortion (and I might argue that they do - if they understand "killing babies", that's all they need to know).

  6. Reading this with interest.

    One year ago I was a twice-divorced, Buddhist/Unitarian Universalist atheist, pro-choice mom of 3. Now I'm starting RCIA in the fall and have a new baby. I realized how far I had come (and that yes, I'm pro-life) when my 7 year-old asked me in the car Thursday: "Mommy, what IS abortion, anyways?"

    I explained in as briefly and in age-appropriate terms as possible. She replied, "But don't the mommies know about adoption? Do the police come and arrest the doctors?"

    Gave me a lot to think about and sealed the deal for me being pro-life.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to write your 'blog and thank you for this post. You're a great mom and I've learned a ton from you.

  7. I regret to say that we have not been out to our local PP to pray during this 40 Days for Life. We've had a hard time planning to do anything 12 hours in advance.

    However, on the day of the March for Life we did take the whole family to the PP and prayed a Rosary, and held up signs. All 7 of us, including our not quite 5 mth old and not quite two year old sitting in a double stroller. The 4 year old, the 7 year old and the 10 year old held up signs and jumped up and down as cars drove by.

    We're right there with you. Except we're way north of you. But well, you get the idea. :)

  8. My children go with me everywhere also. Abortion is a reality in this sick society, unfortunately, and my kids will know about it before they are 12... They know that we go to pray for babies and that sometimes people aren't happy when the Lord blesses them with a baby, that it is a very sad situation and that we need to pray for their protection. They don't "get" the rest of it, but I know it's coming soon... You are doing the right thing.

  9. The Baron and I don't go pray at PP only because I don't think The Baron would be able to control himself and not kill the people working at PP. I wouldn't mind going but I don't want to go alone just in case something happens and I get arrested. In this politically environment things are not looking good for religious rights.

    He used to go to pray at PP when he was a child. In fact that is where he learned that PP killed babies. He was 5 and one of the little girls (who he estimates was also 5) told him that abortion means that people kill babies. He remembers thinking "No one would want to kill babies! She can't be telling the truth."

  10. Good for you! Praise God for your courage and witness! This has been something that we have wanted to do with our children but have not done... yet. When my husband was very heavily involved in the pro-life movement before we were married, he witnessed and was the victim of violence against peaceful pro-life people. As a couple, we prayed together at the local death mill and saw and heard much that we would not have subjected our kids to willingly. I think those combined experiences have caused us to be more hesitant, waiting until the kids were older and more equipped for this battle. We have teenagers now... and it is time. They are raring to go!!

    Having said that, I think the witness of babies and children at the abortuaries is important. I have heard accounts of mothers moved to change their minds by the site of a little one. We all have our time and place. God's will be done.

  11. I always hope that the presence of children at PP will make the women think twice - that it will be to them some sign that God doesn't want them to do this, that children can be a great blessing and that there is a community waiting to support them.

    The escorts at our local PP are pretty nasty. Their hatred is palpable. When I'm there, I sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet just to block out their "evil vibes." It seems to quiet them, and they just listen and don't talk.

    I'm glad you keep Mae in her stroller...that would be a particularly bad time for her to pull one of her dash-and-go stunts!! At least the workers couldn't arrest her!!

  12. When I was in the 3rd grade, I remember walking on the playground with 2 friends and one friend said that her mom has just had an abortion. The other friend asked what that was, and I piped up and said something like "that is when they a kill a baby before it's born." My parents were very active in the pro-life movement, and so I obviously knew what abortion was at a pretty young ago. I don't think knowing about abortion scarred or traumatized me at all.

    However, now I feel great sadness for my friend, when I think of what a heavy burden her mom put on her by telling her that. That is a much heavier burden to put on a child than just knowing what abortion is.

    The world is full of evil and bad things that kids need to learn about..even in school they learn about slavery and the wars and the holocaust, etc. No matter how much we may want to, we can't shelter our children from all that is evil in the world.

    However, I do think that any abortion protest which involves graphic pictures is not suitable for children. Thankfully, most of them don't involve that. However, I do think it is prudent to find that out before taking children to pray outside a clinic or to a pro-life rally. Last spring, there was slight issue with that down here (people did try to take graphic photos to pray outside the abortion clinic), but thankfully the situation has been resolved and now everything is very peaceful and gentle. Teaching children to pray for others is a wonderful thing, and even more wonderful is teaching them to sacrifice a bit..give up some free time and sacrifice by standing in the hot sun (or cold depending on where you are) to pray for others.

  13. You know, before I had children I used to be against kids at marches or other pro-life events. I had lots of opinions on parenthood before having children. Don't we all.:)

    But now, I truly believe children can be such powerful messages of beauty and truth and hope at places like Planned Parenthood.

    I like to think women considering abortion would take one look at a little girl (or boy) and seriously consider not going through with it.

    With that being said, I don't think young kids need to know all the gory details of abortion. I like the idea of keeping my children sheltered from the evils that exist out there. So it's a delicate balance, but it sounds like you're doing it well.

    God bless!

  14. I think this is a very individual thing, mainly because of the varying political climates surrounding the issue in different locales. Clearly, your situation is a peaceful and prayerful one, as it is here. Not too far away, however, it is a very different story, as a clinic there was bombed.

    When our girls were little, there was no clinic here, so it wasn't an issue. Our older daughter would have been sad but stoic, and the younger one would have had a much harder time dealing with the reality of abortion, as she is a very sensitive, gentle soul. I would never have exposed them to gruesome signs, knowing that it would cause them worry and upset; praying in a peaceful situation would have been fine.


  15. I have taken my kids to pray outside PP. Like you, they get a general explanation of helping babies, but no more than that. My big requirement is that there are no graphic signs. I'm really against them personally and abhor them from the perspective of a mom with 4 small children.

    That said, I am completely understanding of parents who do not want to take their kids. It really depends on the parents, the children and what is best for them and that should be determined by the parents.

  16. I've never prayed outside a clinic, because, well...I'm not a Christian so if there is anyone else out there praying I kind of feel out of place amongst them.

    I don't have a strong opinion about bringing kids along to pray at clinics. After all, I've seen pro-choice moms bringing their kids to events and having the kids wear t-shirts or hold signs about how they're happy their mom is pro-choice. So...I don't see why it can't be the other way around.

    The only thing that would give me pause would be if the clinic in particular had received prior bomb or gun violence threats. I'd hate to see more innocent people get caught in the crossfire!

  17. It never ceases to amaze me how people just love to spout opinions about what one does with their own children. Ugh! It's great that you take them and I'm sure if it bothered them in some way you wouldn't. You're their Mom and you know best. I've only been to a clinic a few times, I haven't seen any children yet. I wouldn't be able to take mine withe as I'm still way too emotional about it given my history and it takes all my strength to just be a witness let alone if I had to answer the million questions that I know I would get. Maybe some day!

  18. I brought my baby to the 40 Days for Life demonstration, and I think it was positive for everyone involved.

    I was in about 2nd or 3rd grade when I first learned what abortion was. Is saw a Pro-Life commercial on television (wow, what freedom of religion we had back then!) and asked my mom about it. I don't recall the words she used but I remember feeling very sad. It is something I could have never imagined happening if I had not be told about it. Ever since then, I have grown ever more passionately Pro-Life.

    I don't know what I'll do with my little one when he gets old enough. I guess I will have to pray about it and discern when the time comes.

  19. We have an abortion facility two blocks from my house (I know, vomit) and we've only gone a handful of times to pray. The 40 days for life is at another facility, one that is the largest abortion provider in our state (Indiana).

    We took Maggie last spring during the campaign when she was just 3 months old, because she slept the whole time. I worry more this year as she is a very active toddler and might not hold still in the stroller for more than a few minutes.
    But, I do not see anything wrong with taking children, as long as there isn't any threat of violence directed at them. I'm so glad you are teaching your girls young about the truth (in an age appropriate way). I plan to do the same.
    Rock on Momma!

  20. Thanks for the inspiration! I've been feeling a pretty strong pull to start taking my kids with me to pray at a local abortion clinic, but have been feeling a bit nervous...I've never done it, even by myself. I spoke with the people who go, and they said it's quite safe, so...this week will be our first time!

    It's so nice to know there are parents who are teaching their children to fight against such terrible evil. God bless you!


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