Today, I was called a despicable human being by a complete stranger on the street. I was cursed by a Satanist and told I wanted women to die. I had signs thrust in my face by two young men wearing masks. I was ridiculed and mocked all day by a group of women, men and even children from an Abortion Rights group.
But all of these encounters gave me the chance to explain the pro-life position: to the masked protester, what they argued for under the guise of ‘choice’ soon became a thoughtful discussion about when life begins (they were sent back to the biology textbooks!); the angry passer-by returned the following day, apologising for his aggression and asking us to explain our position; the cursing woman broke down into tears as she shared the sadness that followed from her abortion.
As a young woman, taking part in a 40 Days for Life vigil means I often attract a lot of attention, as people are inclined to think the stereotype of pro-life supporters as misogynistic men is true. Today, I was demanded to explain how I, a woman, could possibly be against abortion. I had the chance to explain to the two young women protesters who asked me that abortion is anti-woman: laws in this country allow discrimination against women and the disabled. These women did not know the laws, and otherwise may never have had the chance to hear the truth or consider that it is a poor society that leaves abortion as the only ‘choice’ for a woman. They were surprised to discover that I was pro-woman, and thanked me for telling them about the current laws. Later, I was joined by a group of students from the local university who helped further disprove the misconception that all pro life people are elderly men who hate women.
It’s not all action though – between such flurries of activity and discussion is a peaceful, prayerful calm (or as calm as a street can be in the middle of the day, with protesters a couple of metres away!) as we wait for women seeking help to approach us. Support for the vigil comes from far and wide as I was joined by people from Poland & Australia, later a woman and her three month old daughter from the Ivory Coast, a group of women from the Phillippines, a young student from Bermuda, and many more old and young from the UK, Italy, Cameroon and Austria!
A number of passers-by are affirming too: an elderly man and his wife gave thanks for our bearing witness to the humanity of the unborn and offering help to women in need; a young man told me how he chose to keep his daughter even though his family and partner wanted to abort her; a mother and her beautiful 2 month old daughter who were given, and continue to be given, help by the 40 Days for Life team, stopped by to join us, a powerful witness to work of 40 Days for Life.
All of this is common during a 40 Days for Life Vigil. However, in the face of such vicious opposition, one might ask: why do the volunteers and participants continue?
We continue because we want to be ‘the last sign of hope and the first sign of mercy’. Women can, and do, change their minds about abortion at the last minute and, if they do, we want to be there to offer them the practical help that the abortion clinic will not. Women can, and do, feel regret about their abortions and want to seek healing. We want to be there with hands outstretched, helping them on the path to finding forgiveness. The hours of standing in the street with seemingly little or no effect become worth it when we hear the news of just one baby being saved, or of one abortion worker who has come to see the dignity of life and that being pro-woman means being pro-life.