Religious freedom in the United States allows those who love a particular tradition to share it with others. In fact, particular traditions obligate their followers to proselytize. It’s a tradition no different than acts of charity. But sharing your faith can be like an overly enthusiastic used car salesman. It’s like sharing that pushes too far, fails to listen and, sadly, too often lacks civility. In fact, claiming that one’s faith tradition is the only way to salvation to an unwilling audience is unethical. These are practices that anti abortionists engage in, not out of love, as they claim, but out of their own proclaimed rights to free speech and rights to practice their religion, otherwise known as pure propagandizing and harassment. Just ask those who are experiencing the anti abortionists’ proselytizing if they experience their actions as loving. If they do not, then the antis will have found the limits of what they ought to be doing. Anything more and they are no longer educating or witnessing, but propagandizing and harassing. It’s what anti abortionists do every day they lurk outside clinics.
Several years ago, a woman decided to take the protesters’ offer of a free ultrasound and traveled with them to the hospital. She said the women were very nice but that they just didn’t listen to her and didn’t respect where she was in her life. They refused to hear how she simply could not carry on with the pregnancy. They refused to help her on her terms. So she returned to the clinic and had the abortion.
Another story from a few years back centers around a young woman who arrived in a cab with her young daughter. Because the appointment would have been difficult for the daughter, all the escorts in the parking lot entertained the young child while her mother went inside. After the appointment, the woman retrieved her daughter. She and the little girl in the little umbrella stroller left the parking lot followed by doggedly determined protesters chewing in her ear all the way to the Mc Donald’s across the street. On and on, babbling, offering to buy her stuff, help her. But not listening to what she was saying. Never listening. It was a week later, when the young woman showed up again for an appointment. One protester called J-Dog recognized the young woman. Her first words to this young woman were heated, curt. She barked at her, “I TOLD YOU we would help you.” No words of love or kindness. Just pure nastiness. What’s comically pathetic is that after words of nastiness come recitations of prayers—all out of the same mouth, in the same breath.
This combination of nastiness and prayers is particularly evident in another protester called Linebacker. Ever busy toting her rosary and praying about spiritually adopting babies about to be murdered, this anti is also very quick to anger. She’s also quick to point out that her anger is righteous anger. (Oh, give me a freakin’ break!) One day about four years ago, Linebacker showed up at the clinic entrance with a framed image of our lady of Guadalupe. As an aside, it is noteworthy that some Catholics worship graven images of all sorts of folks. They use these images to ward off evil spirits, to talk to, and to threaten people at abortion clinics. So, back to the story. Linebacker used her show-and-tell piece to yell at a woman entering the clinic, shoving the image in the air saying, “the blessed mother is angry at abortion.” Now, here’s where the connection between religious proselytizing and anti abortion protesting goes terribly wrong. Linebacker pivots on her heels and really yells directly at me. Keep in mind, I’m videotaping all this for a documentary. She grasped her graven image firmly, raises it upward and toward me and yells, “The blessed mother is very, very angry at you Kate, you and all those who will watch your stupid documentary.” It had to be one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed for its nonsensical religious rage.
One last story comes from the likes of a Pappa Smurf look alike, white beard and all, named Gerry. He is a man who believes in himself. He once said to escorts who were rightly laughing at him, “Laugh at me and you laugh at God.” But the crowning psycho-religious comment happened when a mother and daughter arrived at the clinic. The mother revealed that her daughter had been brutally raped. Gerry’s response, in typical My-proselytizing-is-more-important-than-your-situation, was “If your daughter is pregnant because of being raped, it’s the way God wanted it.”
The common denominator amongst the anti abortionists is a belief in a position of superiority with their faith as the only true faith. The see anyone outside their belief system as inferior, filled with errors, Satan-inspired, bound to an eternity in Hell, in need of prayers and on and on, ad nauseum. So it is little wonder that when these lovelies assume such a position in their religiously informed antiabortion proselytizing, that they are met with objections, disdain and reciprocal disrespect. Show no respect, get no respect. It’s the basics of Ethics 101.
“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh