Today there was a national rally to protest Planned Parenthood and to ask our government to stop funding the abortion giant. Recent videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have shown undercover footage (as well as interviews with a whistle-blower) of Planned Parenthood doctors and staff discussing the selling of fetal body parts. Yes, the same “Products of Conception” and “tissue donated” are called what they are in these videos: babies’ organs. Hearts, livers, brains, eyes… in one video, a clinic worker talked about one baby who was a twin. In another, someone exclaims, “It’s a boy!” when referring to the victim of a 12-week abortion. (And, yes, you can tell the sex of a baby by then.)
There is a ton of coverage on the story, if you know where to look for it. You can read about how Planned Parenthood sells fetal organs and makes a profit from it. You can find the videos and watch them, if you can stomach it. You can read about Ms. O’Donnel, the first whistleblower in American history that the press hasn’t lauded and attempted to open a cause of canonization. (If it was any other business, she’d be on every newsweekly cover this week, and we’d never hear the end of it.) I wrote about the lack of coverage before, pondering how people could turn a blind eye to such horror:
Suppose our government was funding an organization that taught at-risk children to read and tutored inner city kids, but also employed people who were systematically abusing the children in their care. The organization covered it up well, though, and no one was particularly interested in looking into allegations from former employees of this educational group because it sounded crazy. Who would think that a group whose mission statement includes goals of increasing literacy rates and graduation rates could possibly be abusing the very childen they’re helping?
Imagine if someone took matters into their own hands and, after long planning and with the help of several whistleblowers, made a series of undercover videos that showed clearly that the tutors and mentors were abusing the kids: mentally, physically, and sexually. In some videos, tutors are clearly seen striking students who answer incorrectly. In others, young girls are seen having their tutors hitting on them and making sexual comments toward them. Another video shows a mentor berating a young man for failing to attend all of his classes at his high school that week. When the student starts to cry and explain that his mother was sick, the mentor calls him names and tells him he’s worthless. Then, in the break room, there were clips of these people laughing about the whole thing. “You should’ve seen the look on his face! All I did was pick up my hand and he flinched! Hilarious!” After acquiring hours of videos like this in several different tutoring centers across the country, they released the videos. Pared down to be viewed in the space of 15 minutes, the videos were released one at a time, about two each week. In addition, links to the full videos, often 2-3 hours long apiece, were also released.
Would we allow the government to continue funding the educational part of the organization’s mission and turn a blind eye to the abuse? Would we talk about how the $500 million dollars each year was something that couldn’t be reallocated to other organizations because “Who will reach out to inner city kids if they don’t?” Would we defend this organization because it had an altruistic-sounding mission statement? Would we call people “anti-education” and racist for demanding that our tax dollars be removed from the pockets of an organization so evil, or would we try to justify that as an “investment” in education, and talk about disceptive editing and racketeering?
Sadly, too many people are willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to Planned Parenthood’s activities. They’ve been led to believe that without Planned Parenthood, women won’t be able to get health care. But this isn’t the case; there are thousands of other health clinics that women can go to for everyday health care without resorting to going to a clinic where abortions are sold and promoted as “health care” to women who may not know there are other choices. And now it’s been revealed that Planned Parenthood is taking advantage of women and selling off the parts of their babies to research companies.
But today, in an effort to get the word out, people showed up by the thousands at Planned Parenthood locations across America. Our little corner of Southwest Virginia had about 350 people show up for a rally. People brought signs, handed them out to those who didn’t have them, and waved them as we also prayed. There were speakers there talking about who to contact about local, state, and federal governments defunding Planned Parenthood. There were a LOT of families there, and plenty of kids.
And that brings me to my point. I usually go to Planned Parenthood when 40 Days for Life is having one of the vigils. 40 Days is very specific about our intentions while we are there: we are there to pray. We need to pray for an end to abortion, healing for the men and women harmed by it, and, perhaps mosts of all, for a conversion of heart for the men and women who work in the abortion industry. We are there to pray for the women who enter that abortion clinic, and to offer them hopeful alternatives that don’t involve the death of their unborn babies.
What we are not there for is to harrass or intimidate or frighten people. 40 Days for Life is quite clear: you don’t bring graphic pictures or signs to the vigil. You don’t bring signs shaming women going into the clinic. You pray and offer help if you can.
But today’s national protest was not organized by 40 Days for Life, and so there were signs that I have never seen at our vigils. One man had a sign with a baby doll in a noose. I never read the sign because I was distracted by the completely unhelpful image of that baby doll being hung. Another person had a sign that had to be 3’x4′ with a graphic image of an aborted baby. Until today, I had managed to shield my 14 year-old from those images. Today, I couldn’t shield her from it, thanks to that man. It made me want to cry to see it, and I had to turn away.
I asked my daughter about it, apologizing for the fact that she had to see it. She said, “It’s okay. I tried not to look, but it was right there. I finally had to dehumanize the baby because I couldn’t handle the sight and thinking about it being a real baby.”
Think about that for a moment. My daughter knows that she shouldn’t dehumanize another person, and yet she said, “I had to dehumanize the baby.” This is completely counter-productive. When well-meaning pro-lifers bring those pictures out in public for everyone to see, I believe with all my heart that it damages our ability to get our message out. Instead of hearing that we love those women who go into the clinic seeking abortions (and the people who work there), people will only see graphic, bloody babies. And there’s no thought given to small children who might be traumatized to see that picture. There’s no consideration given to post-abortive women who might unsuspectingly drive past our rally and be confronted with that image.
I believe there is a time and a place for those images. But that time and place are never in public. It’s when you know a person, and you have spoken to them about the issue, and you know that person is ready to see the pictures. Then, and only then, should they be brought out. We should never be using them in public where any random person will be accosted with the image.
I’m looking forward to the next 40 Days for Life campaign, which begins September 23 and runs through November 1. There, we can pray and, hopefully, reach out to the “other side” with the love they deserve. We need people to know they are loved. We need them to know there are other choices. And we need them to know there is a path to healing.
If you have had an abortion, and need help to find healing, please contact Project Rachel. There are retreats across the country that are aimed at helping men and women heal after abortion. You can also reacah out to Silent No More, which is made up of the bravest men and women I’ve ever met. One of our speakers today was my friend Shirley, who had two abortions. She goes to Planned Parenthood on every abortion day and prays, reaching out to other women and holding up her sign that says, “I regret my abortion.” Shirley is one of my heroes.
If you work in an abortion clinic, you need to know that there is an organization that can help you leave the industry and find other work. And Then There Were None was begun by Abby Johnson, who was director of the Planned Parenthood in College Station, Texas, and who walked out one day to begin again. I firmly believe that she is my generation’s Bernard Nathanson.
If you are pregnant and scared, and you’re looking for help, there are countless people who are ready to reach out to you. Pro-lifers are not just pro-birth. There are places to go that provide shelter, food, parent preparation courses, educational opportunities, and more. Bethany Ministries can help. The American Association of Pro-Life OB/Gyns has several links on this page, and they give an important resource — a national hotline:
Option Line is a 24/7 phone ministry giving assistance to women and girls about pregnancy resources. You can reach them at 800-395-help.
There is always another way. Please seek out help from people who will love both you and your baby.