Beautiful Stories Heard Outside Planned Parenthood

A woman pushes a stroller April 16 past the Planned Parenthood in the Financial District neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.
A woman pushes a stroller April 16 past the Planned Parenthood in the Financial District neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. (photo: Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images)

I have been part of a group praying in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion center on Long Island every Friday for the past several years. We pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, and a few sidewalk counselors try to talk to the young women (and sometimes men) heading in or coming out. Now and then we’re reminded of why we’re there.

About two years ago, we were just finishing the Rosary when a woman crossed the street with a young man beside her. She approached us and said:

I just want to thank you for being here! Seventeen years ago I came to a place like this planning to have an abortion, and there was a bunch of people praying outside that day just like you. There signs were so beautiful. ... I remember one said, ‘Life is sacred.’ It got me thinking, and I decided to go home and think about it. I just couldn’t go through with it after that. So I had that baby, and here he is!

She beamed as she introduced her 17-year-old son. The two of them joined in praying with us.

A young man started showing up to pray with us. He had a sign that said, “Life is sacred,” and tried especially to reach the men bringing their girlfriends to the abortion center. None of us knew him, and one day we got around to asking what prompted him to join us. Dan, 30, shared that he’d pressured a girlfriend into aborting their child in college. He started drinking too much and acting out in anger, not connecting any of it with the abortion.

Not until a few years later did he recognize the life of his unborn child, when his older sister shared her baby’s ultrasound pictures with the family. That led him researching the effects of abortion on men and eventually attending a men’s post abortion healing retreat. In learning just how many young men go through with aborting their child without realizing the ramifications, Dan decided the best thing he could do with his regret was to try to reach some of those men. That’s when he started coming out to pray at Planned Parenthood an hour or two a week.

I’ve seen the looks on the faces of the guys dropping off their girlfriends for abortion when Dan says to them, “I was just like you. I thought everything will be the same as it was before if I just have this abortion. Please give me a few minutes. You will always regret this, and they won’t let you see the ultrasound.” They listen to him in a way they’re not going to listen to an older woman like me.

Just recently a woman pulled into the parking lot. One of the sidewalk counselors gestured for her to roll down her window and she did.

“We can help you, whatever you’re here for,” he told her.

She began crying and said, “It’s too late! I did it last week.”

“You had an abortion last week?” “Yes,” she said. “I didn’t want to but I had to...”

We asked her to pull over, and one of the counselors offered to sit and talk with her. At a diner a few doors away, the distraught woman said she’d felt overwhelmed by a third pregnancy and the baby’s father was pressuring her to abort. She’d come back to PP for a “follow-up visit,” which we’ve learned usually means getting the woman on birth control.

In asking about her abortion the week before, we learned that, as usual, the abortion center never mentioned any of the negatives of having an abortion, and turned the ultrasound screen away from her so she couldn’t see her own baby moving with a beating heart. This tactic is appallingly hypocritical to the “choice” mantra, with the ultrasounds done only for the abortionist’s purposes of seeing the size of the baby and therefore how much they’re going to charge. The woman talked about her regret that now her 3-year-old wouldn’t have a sibling.

We asked if she’d like to talk to a priest, and through her tears she said yes. Within a few hours we arranged for her to meet with a priest experienced in post-abortion trauma.

Another time an older man was walking by. “It’s a good thing you’re doing here. My daughter was almost another one of their victims,” he said, pointing toward the building. He went on to tell us that 25 years ago his daughter became pregnant. The man she lived with made it clear that he would have nothing to do with her unless she had an abortion. She thought maybe he’d have a different reaction when he saw their baby’s ultrasound pictures but he wouldn’t even look at them. He said a baby was not in his plans to become a chef in a top restaurant and travel the world. This man’s daughter was heartbroken because she’d assumed they would marry. Now she had to choose between him and her child.

“But she knew it was wrong to end the life of a child, and she went ahead and had that baby who is now 25 and a complete joy to everyone in the family,” the child’s grandfather said. In all those years, the child’s father has never once tried to reach out to his own daughter.

“The betrayal has been painful, but she’s never regretted having her child.”

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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