The highly successful film Unplanned has inspired many people to pray in front of abortion clinics. It may have inspired you. But before you do, you need a plan.
There is nothing wrong with praying in front of abortion clinics. After all, the 40 Days for Life campaign, depicted in the film, has saved the lives of many babies, along with many souls of abortion clinic workers like Abby Johnson. But there may be something better for you to do in the cause for life, something no one else can do.
Look at Abby Johnson, and you’ll see what I mean. When she converted to the pro-life cause, she went right out to the fence to counsel abortion-minded women. That was the proper thing for her to do, for that season of her life. The local pro-life people had everything in place for her to step into that work. They surely brought her “up to speed” about the larger picture of the pro-life movement.
But Abby Johnson didn’t counsel at the fence forever. She had an additional mission that only she, a reformed director of an abortion center director, could do. She formed the group And Then There Were None to counsel other abortion-industry workers. She wrote her autobiography, Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line. She inspired the film we are all so excited about. None of that would have happened if she had gotten comfortable and settled into a lifetime of sidewalk counseling. She followed a plan distinctively crafted for her.
Volunteering at the local pregnancy-care center or praying at the abortion clinic may be exactly what you are called to do. Or those same activities may be your steppingstone to something individually suited to you. We each have a distinct calling from God. We need to constantly discern what that calling is so we can live up to it.
We have all heard the admonition: “Do good. Avoid evil.” This expression makes it sound as if these two things are parallel. But they really are quite different.
Everyone can avoid evil, especially serious evil, all the time. Every person can go an entire lifetime without ever defrauding a workman of his wages, killing an innocent person or committing acts of sodomy.
But doing good? No one can do all possible goods. We can all “love our neighbor as ourselves” in an abstract way. But as a practical matter, we cannot give each individual person equal care and attention. The Church has never said otherwise.
Each of us has a personal call from God to a particular mission. We have the primary responsibility to get our children to school, to bed on time and to church at least on Sundays. Our duty to love our spouses involves far more than our general charge to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” God will hold us to a higher standard of accountability for our primary vocation. If I fumble the ball as wife and mother, well, let’s just say my particular judgment day is not going to be pretty.
What does this have to do with praying in front of abortion sites? After seeing Unplanned, you may feel that you want to do something! Yes, by all means: Do something! But is praying in front of an abortion clinic really what God wants you to do? For some people, for some period of time, it is. For others, maybe not.
Let’s say you are a physician. Perhaps you have become acutely aware that your profession has become corrupted by its complicity in abortion. What can you do, as a physician, that no one else could do? You could join an organization such as the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Catholic Medical Association or the American College of Pediatricians. If there isn’t a local chapter of any of these groups in your town, you could be the one to form one. Find a few like-minded health-care professionals in your community. Maybe you can find a pediatrician and an ob-gyn and a couple of nurses. You are on your way to forming chapters of all three groups!
Your group could issue statements refuting the claims that abortion is safer than childbirth or that hormonal contraception is risk-free. “The Pill No Panacea: Lake Charles Chapter of Catholic Medical Association States,” for instance.
Build up relationships with local media outlets. They begin to call on your group when they need a quote from a “Not-Completely-Crazy Pro-Life Person With Professional Qualifications.” You will be helping the pro-life cause, believe me.
I challenge attorneys and schoolteachers, insurance agents and accountants, college professors and advertising executives, therapists and artists. Ask yourselves what you can do, within your professional calling, to build up a culture of life.
Take the most expansive view of the pro-life cause, to include pro-family and pro-marriage issues. Maybe your particular calling will involve questions like protections at the end of life, limits on third-party reproduction, limiting unjust divorce, healing family breakdown or monitoring school curriculum to weed out objectionable material. All these fields need the attention of dedicated, well-informed Catholics and other Christians. (I offer a bunch of ideas in the last chapter of my book The Sexual State.)
That is why I say: Don’t be “unplanned” for life. While you are getting involved in pro-life work, perhaps for the first time, ask God what he wants you to do and how he wants you to do it. His plans are better than ours, for sure! (He is God. We are not. Hello.)
By discerning God’s will for us and trying to follow it, we will, by definition, be doing the best possible thing we can do to build up a civilization of love.
Now that’s a plan!
which includes a 15-point “Manifesto for the Family.”