Prayer Outside Abortion Clinics is Powerful, Says Former PP Employee

“When you are on the sidewalk, women see you as an outward sign of their inward conscience.”

Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2018.
Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2018. (photo: Jonah McKeown/CNA)

Once again, I come to this blog as the voice of the reluctant prolifer.

This year, two of my kids are going to the March for Life but I am not. Do I still believe the March for Life is worth it? Yes, of course. It’s just that I already have plans that day. I plan to be where I usually am on Friday mornings, praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy outside of the local Planned Parenthood on abortion day. It is the last place I want to be.

I haven’t been going consistently for long — maybe just a few months. My local prolife involvement has not been stellar.

It started years ago, when I was expecting my second child. My husband and child and I used to go pray locally and even attempt to talk to people entering the building. But it gave me nightmares and day sweats and I didn’t last more than several months. I can still see the face of the girl who told me, “Why don’t you go out and get pregnant!” And I told her I was and that her child was just as important as mine. Her child was aborted that day and mine was born a few months later. I have thought of her and her child often as I watched my child grow up and act in plays, and sing, and travel, and teach, and get married and have her own children. Yet when local prolifers would ask for support, for years the most I ever did was hold a sign on a busy city street alongside dozens of other people on Respect Life Sunday. As for getting near an actual house of horrors, no way.

Then one day a few years ago now, a stalwart prolife woman named Mary from our parish got up and began to make the usual pitch for more people to get involved in 40 Days for Life. I expected to hear again how there are never enough volunteers to go pray outside of clinics. But this time it was different. She cited a statistic given by Planned Parenthood itself. According to Abby Johnson, the prolife convert who used to manage a Planned Parenthood in Texas, upper management would complain whenever prolifers were outside because the no-show rate could go as high as 75%.

“You see, when you come to pray, you are saving lives even if you don't know it. Women see you and instead of pulling into the parking lot, they drive right by. When you are on the sidewalk, women see you as an outward sign of their inward conscience,” she said.

That did it for me. Even a coward like me could stand still and pray. Out of two clinics, I chose the one with its own parking lot, where I could be seen but not stand anywhere near the door. I spent the next few 40 Days for Life Campaigns in that spot, sometimes by myself. No nightmares. No day sweats. No contact with anyone going in or out of that house of horrors. Perhaps being there triggered someone who was already having doubts to keep on driving and find a way to give her baby life. I have no way of knowing. But I do know that it helped me. It was another step toward what I am doing now — which is still not much, don’t get me wrong. What I am doing now, standing outside just a few feet from the door of a local PP, praying, occasionally trying to talk to someone, is still just another step. Does it help anyone? I don’t know. But I hope it at least prepares me to help someone when the time comes.

What kind of help someone will need I do not know. Will I help with the decision to save life? Will I help a mom to get prenatal care? Will I help once the baby is born? Will I help with an adoption? Will I end up raising someone else’s child? I don’t know. All I know is that I won’t help anyone if I am not there when God calls.

It is not easy. For one thing, other prolifers have already pounced on me – at least it feels like pouncing – because they are worn out and the sight of a new volunteer makes them want more, more, more. For another, the feeling of being inadequate is always there. I recently watched a sidewalk counseling video so I’d know what to say but I still don’t. Who am I to these people? Why should they stop to talk to me? I’m just a busybody to them. They don’t know that I’d rather be anywhere else. At the same time, I feel that as a mom I need to be there praying to Our Blessed Mother to take the murdered baby into her loving arms where he or she will be loved for all eternity.

Just as it was all those years ago, I am already haunted by their faces. I recently watched a woman my age escorting her daughter, a teen the age of one of my daughters. The girl was texting on her way in. Her mom could have been me. The girl, my daughter. The baby, my grandchild. A rush of anger that I have never felt before came over me. I am a grandmother. How could that woman take her daughter in to destroy her grandchild and ruin her daughter? I wanted to shake her and get in her face. Immediately after the feeling left me, I regretted it. In my mind I am still seeing their faces and praying for them. They are why I keep going back. It is the last place I want to be but the first place I feel called to be on Jan. 18.