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True Life: A Good Morning at the Abortion Clinic

The abortion clinic in Asheville, North Carolina is located on Orange Street, a quiet street on the edge of the downtown area. It’s only two blocks long and has mostly houses that were built in the 1930s and 40s and have been converted to office buildings for lawyers, beauticians, psychologists, and so forth. The abortion clinic is on the second block and it was built 30 some years ago. It’s a one-story light brown brick building surrounded by a wood fence on one side and a chain link fence on the other three sides. It looks like one of those unattractive public school buildings that are all over the United States.

The preborn babies are killed on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. The pregnant women arrive periodically in a car usually driven by a man or another woman. Next to the sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic there is a car with a battery-operated speaker on the roof. It’s connected to a microphone that’s in a basket alongside the car. When a car pulls into the parking lot in front of the abortion clinic, a woman picks up the microphone and begins speaking when the pregnant woman gets out of the car.

Waiting for the woman when she gets out of the car is at least one escort and often two. The escort is a pro-abortion volunteer who wears an orange vest with silver stripes, sort of like what construction workers wear when doing highway repair. The escort greets the woman with a welcoming smile and talks to her as she goes from the car to the abortion clinic door. They want to put her at ease, but also to distract her from the voice of the woman on the microphone.

The woman on the microphone has very little time, less than a minute to plead with the pregnant woman to turn away, not go through with the abortion. She will talk about the unborn baby, that it is a gift from God, that to kill the baby is a terrible evil. But she will also talk about the suffering this will cause the pregnant woman for the rest of her life.

Besides the woman on the microphone there are usually two other counselors on the sidewalk. One, usually another woman, stands at the driveway entrance with a handful of pro-life brochures and pleads with the occupants of the car to stop and take one. They rarely do. Another protester, often a man, stands nearby with a pro-life sign of some sort that the car occupants will see as they come down the street and turn into the parking lot. While I am there, I hold up a sign that says “Let your Baby Live!, We Will Help.”

The morning I’m going to tell you about was a beautiful fall morning, bright and sunny with low humidity. This morning, Helen is responsible for the microphone and I am at the driveway entrance with my sign and the brochures. We stand and talk for 20 minutes or so before the first pregnant woman arrives. It’s a conversation we’ve had many times about how discouraging our work is, about how few people respond to the fact that a million preborn babies are killed every year, or try to save these precious lives.

Months and months go by without a woman turning away. I remember my first morning at the abortion clinic when I asked about pregnant women who don’t go through with the abortion. A woman told me: “It happens, but it’s rare.” Well, she was certainly right about that. After spending over one hundred mornings at the abortion clinic, I still haven’t seen a “turn away” for sure. A number of times a woman will go through the door, only to come back out in five or ten minutes. But we don’t know why, because some of the women who go there are picking up contraceptives or have some other business in that building besides having an abortion.

The biggest problem that the woman on the microphone is up against is that the women who come to the clinic are mostly in their 20s or teenagers. They have the perception that they can “end this pregnancy,” and that that will put this unpleasant business behind them. They think they can get on with their lives because they are deceived into thinking it just a “pregnancy,” not a child. This view is reinforced by the Planned Parenthood counselors as well as friends or relatives and the people at the abortion clinic.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Young people don’t have much of a past yet and for them their focus is all on the future and the good life they are sure to have. What they don’t know, and really can’t imagine, is that everyone takes their past with them. The significant things in your life continue on in your memory and you revisit them over and over again until you die.

The sidewalk counselors know this from their own experience (most are in their 60s and 70s) but also from their time here on the sidewalk. Cars go back and forth on the street, and in the course of the morning probably a couple of hundred pass by, an average of one or two a minute. And some of the drivers react to what they see. The ones that are pro-life will smile and wave or give the thumbs up signal. Some will stop and say something like, “thank you” or “God bless you.”

Some of the pro-abortion drivers will give a thumbs-down signal, or give you the finger, or yell something like “get a life” or “go work at a food bank.” Then there are the screamers. The screamers yell whatever comes into their heads and they are distinguished from the others by the violence of their emotion. These are the women who have had an abortion often, or men who have been complicit in the abortions of their partners. And it is really something to see and hear.

One morning I arrived early with the microphone and speaker. I had set the speaker on the roof of my car and put the microphone in a basket near the rear tire. I was getting my foam-board sign out of the trunk when a woman came up the sidewalk behind me. She began screaming at me, “You don’t know what it’s like for these women who come here. You’re a man and you don’t know what they are going through.” She said this over and over. She looked to be in her early 30s, attractive, with light brown hair in a pony tail. She started to cross the street to her car, but stopped in the middle, turned and yelled at the top of her lungs, “You’re a man, not a woman; you have a penis, not a vagina!” (I’m not inventing this). Then she turned and walked to her car. She had probably had an abortion herself, and this outburst was the only way she could tell her story.

Then there is the man in the shiny black Lexus who drives by every couple of weeks or so. He stops his car, rolls down the window, and shouts “F--- you, f--- you” over and over. His face is so contorted with anger and hatred that I wouldn’t recognize him if I walked past him on the street an hour later.

One morning, a veteran in the sidewalk advocacy work told me about a note that was found next to a bush in front of the abortion clinic about ten years ago. It was pinned to the ground by four tooth picks. A man had addressed it to his aborted child, who, he wrote, was now in heaven with his mother. He said that it was not his idea that the baby be aborted, that he had pleaded that it not be done, that he now begged for forgiveness. The sidewalk counselors treated the note as something sacred, a sort of monument to the aborted baby, and wouldn’t touch it, although the husband of one of the women came to the sidewalk and photographed it. A couple of weeks later it was gone and then in the next week they found it across the driveway under another bush. It looked like a dried up leaf. One of the women took it home and preserved it between the pages of a book.

All of the protesters can tell stories about the screamers. They go by a few times a week, some new some who have gone by before. What they shout differs from one to the other, but the furious outpouring of emotion is all the same. They have been not able to “put it behind them.” Instead, it has stayed with them like a wound that will not heal. Not that they think about it all the time, but that the memory of their abortion comes back to them, perhaps as they lay awake in the middle of the night wondering where their child would be today: getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school, getting married. Or maybe the memory would be triggered by a bumper sticker declaring: “It’s a child....not a choice,” or when they learn that someone they know is pregnant.

You see, pro-choice people, who are focused on expediency, still know that if the preborn baby is not killed, it will be born, have a life, however short, however long. They know that however their abortion was justified, abortion takes a life. They know that if they had been killed before birth by abortion, they wouldn’t be here today. So killing the preborn baby is a horrendous thing for the woman and man, but especially the woman. This is not like killing your next door neighbor, or a bank teller, or even a relative. This is killing your very own child and it is something that – once it has been do