About one year ago, my 20-year-old daughter went to the clinic for an abortion. Her boyfriend and I went with her. We parked around the far corner, cattycorner to the White Castle. The anti-abortion (so-called “prolife”) demonstrators were on us in a heartbeat. I was on one side of my daughter and her boyfriend was on the other. “Just ignore them,” we said to ourselves and to each other during that long, cold walk down the sidewalk to the clinic.
As we turned as a united trio toward the entrance, underneath the front covered area, definitely no longer on public property, a man rushed forward, then stepped right in front of us, determined to convince my daughter to not have the abortion. He stepped right in front of us, facing us, blocking the door, right up in our faces, still yelling and preaching.
All the calm – – albeit nervous – – . determination to “just ignore them” evaporated. Sorry, but when you threaten my child, all bets are off. Mess with my child? Seriously? Really? Really????? Shiva, The Lioness, and Mamma Polar Bear all reared up in me. I totally lost it. I was screaming, shouting, cursing, so loud and so long that before I knew it, we had pushed him out of the way and were inside the entryway. I was still yelling at him. My daughter, my calm, sensitive, centered, intelligent, beautiful, loving daughter said, “Mom, it’s okay. You can stop shouting now. He’s gone. It’s okay. You can calm down now.”
Rarely have I been so ashamed of myself. Normally, I would never speak to any human being that way. Normally, I would never scream and yell and curse worse than any sailor, especially not at a complete stranger. Although I was still shaking with rage & terror (they do use terrorist strategy, don’tcha know?), I also felt guilty, ashamed, like I owed that man an apology for treating him so horribly.
Yes, I have grieved the loss of that could-have-been grandchild. It was never mine. It was never my decision to make. And just as I supported my daughter in making this difficult, personal, private choice as best she could, I today support her decision to not go public about her abortion. It was her life, her body, her heart, her mind, her soul, her pregnancy. It was her choice and I support her completely.
However, for a year now, I have thought from time to time about how cruelly and uncivilly I behaved towards a complete stranger. That man probably felt compelled to say and do those things, based on his understanding of his ideas about God and morality. He probably believed he was trying to save an unborn human life. He couldn’t see that he was terrorizing and traumatizing three born human lives. The dilemna of how to resolve both my anger and my guilt have been answered in my volunteer work as a Clinic Escort.
Every day this week, I have been there as early as humanly possible, given my penchant for late-night tin roof sundaes, volunteering as a Clinic Escort. I started doing this a couple of weeks ago. Strangely enough, there were no weekday morning Clinic Escorts a year ago. When I went with my other daughter earlier this year for her own abortion, it was like orange-vested angels arrived to surround us and walk us in with care, respect, and dignity. We were so grateful for them. I wanted to do that, too. I hope and pray that I can control my temper, continue to provide the opportunity of safe passage to the women and men who arrive in the predawn hours at the clinic. I also hope and pray I can extend the same calm, respect, and dignity to the protestors, no matter how rabid, loud, violent, or insane they become.
Thank you for giving me a way to make a living amends to the stranger I went off on.