On Election Day, I was standing outside my polling place minding my own business. I’m a pretty staunch Democrat and everyone in my area knows it. But, on this day, I was not handing out literature to voters. I was just sitting in the background and leaving that work to other younger poll watchers. There were about seven of us Democrats and just about 30 feet away the Republican Party had their table and their workers were doing the same. As usual, everything was generally rather civil.
Then, suddenly, over near the Republican table I hear some woman at the top of her lungs say “I know you, Pat Richards, you’re a baby killer!”
Now, as a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers for 13 years, I had gotten somewhat used to being called names during protests, rallies, etc. It came with the territory. I even kind of enjoyed it – it meant they knew who I was. But it’s been about 8 years since I’ve been in that movement and this was the first time in many years that I had been confronted with something like this in public.
Her screech cut through the chilly wind and pierced my ears. Interestingly, I found that my heart started palpitating wildly. I couldn’t believe I was hearing that crap again. I looked over and made eye contact with this woman, who then yelled out “Yes, Pat, we know you teach people how to perform abortions.” This absolutely ridiculous statement brought me back down to Earth because now I knew she wasn’t dealing with a full deck. And now I was intrigued.
I quietly walked over towards her and just said “what are you talking about?”
“Oh, we know who you are and what you do.”
Fair enough, I thought. I mean, this world famous blog is a public document so in a funny way I was actually flattered that she knew who I was. So now I really wanted to converse with her, to see if I still had those ole debating skills. You see, in the years I represented abortion providers, I loved engaging the pro-lifers and enjoyed trying to have a civil conversation about the issue. I may have been delusional, but I always thought that if I just had a chance to explain why women have abortions and why the doctors put their lives on the line every day, then that person might understand just a little more and be less angry. I never thought I would convert them, I just wanted them to understand. But the person I was talking to now felt a little different.
“I know you write that blog where you teach people how to perform abortions.” I asked her if she had ever read my blog and she said “no, but they have,” and she pointed to a group of 3 or 4 fellow Republicans who were peering at me, as if I had horns. “If you haven’t read my blog, how do you know what I say? You know, I do look at things rather objectively and there are times I don’t even agree with the pro-choice folks. You should really read my stuff.” No answer.
By this time, others were joining in on both sides. There was no shouting (my friend did shout but I found out later she was hearing impaired) but it was tense and everyone was just talking over each other. But my new “friend” and I just kept “talking” (she talked and I listened) and we ultimately learned we had another non-abortion connection in the community. She then segued into asking me questions about Obama: “Please tell me, I really want to know, how can you be voting for Obama?” When I started to answer, she interrupted with “no, really, I really want to try to understand, I want to learn, I want to…..” And she kept going on and on. It was a constant monologue.
I had to get away so I told her I had to leave. I came back about two hours later and she ran up to me and said “Pat, let me ask another question. You’re really the only one here that I can talk to….”
- Misogyny will cost the GOP (salon.com)
- The American Family Association’s New Short Film Will Have You Regretting Your Abortion in No Time (patheos.com)
- #VAW -Raped by stepfather at 13, Forced to illegal abortion #Mexico (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Abortion, rape shaped key races (politico.com)