In August, 1996 I decided to visit an abortion clinic that was located in Phoenix, Arizona. They had just joined the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, so I thought I would fly out and check them out. To be honest, I did that as much as I could as a way to make sure the clinic we were now representing was an upstanding facility.
I arrived at the clinic early on a Saturday morning. I always tried to visit on Saturdays because I knew that, if the clinic had regular protestors, they were more than likely to be there on a Saturday. When I arrived at about 10:00 a.m. the temperature was already 101 degrees. Sure, the heat was a little dryer out there but it was still rather oppressive. As I drove up I counted about 50 protestors – including a group of children who could not have been more than 10 years old. Being somewhat well known to the pro-life community, one of the protestors recognized me and yelled something about me being a baby killer. Always eager to talk to my pro-life friends, I ambled over to say hello. They were actually rather civil (as most of the protestors I met were) and they politely asked me why I “continued to represent these baby butchers.” No shock, just the usual stuff. We talked calmly despite the heated words.
Then I asked about the kids. “Did these children decide to come out here on their own?”
Of course, the parents insisted that their children were there on their own volition and that they understood that “children were being killed in that butcher shop.” Trying not to be a smarty pants, I just looked at them with a wry grin, as if to say “gimme a break, folks, they don’t know why they’re out here.”
I just couldn’t help thinking that these kids were being used. But did the parents really think that, on this sweltering Saturday morning, their children preferred to be walking up and down a sidewalk holding pictures of aborted fetuses instead of swimming with their friends at the neighborhood pool? I watched the protest closely for another thirty minutes and was tempted to go over and ask the kids directly if they wanted to be there, but I held back, not wanting to put them in an awkward position. On the other hand, if I had asked them if they really wanted to be out there, they may have been so indoctrinated by that point that they may have said they actually preferred being out there to “save the babies.”
Pro-choicers love to criticize how pro-lifers use their kids. And when you see a situation like this, it’s easy to do so. On the other hand, I’ve been to many a pro-choice rally and, lo and behold, there are kids in those crowds as well, holding their own signs supporting reproductive rights.
I have two boys and, let’s face it, all parents “indoctrinate” their kids to some extent. We talk openly about our values, they see us reacting to political campaign commercials and speeches, they hear us arguing with others about the issues of the day. And while I never sat my kids down and insisted they support the Democratic Party and abortion rights, they somehow wound up in those camps. So, in some way we’re all guilty of influencing our kids.
But I know these kids did not wake up that morning looking forward to protesting in front of an abortion clinic. In some way, subtle or not, they were forced to march up and down a sidewalk in very dangerous weather. I think it’s great that kids get politically active but, as I watched those kids that day, I just wanted to cry.