There are so many things I have difficulty understanding in the actions and words of the antis.
For the past six months or so, we have been told constantly by antis who come out every day they aren’t protesters. This is always said with a certain amount of anger on their part. They are just exercising their free speech. They are just giving clients all of their choices. They are just praying for the clients and escorts to see the light of truth.
Most of the antis that come out weekdays are members of Catholics in Action.* They are part of the anti-abortion group called Prayer Warriors.* They are made up of counselors and prayers. They show up daily, including Saturdays, in front of the clinic to talk to clients or sit/kneel/stand in silent or group prayer. Escorts are referred to as “deathscorts” by these antis. The second Saturday of each month Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville, leads a procession to stand across the street from the clinic. They come to pray; sometimes filling a city block, three deep.
D is a daily protester who has reacted every time we call her a protester. D arrives in front of the clinic about 630a each morning. This gives time to set up her anti-abortion signs on her car and around a tree in front of the clinic. Then with pamphlets in hand, the morning begins with the first client to approach the clinic. D is called a counselor. She doesn’t consider herself a protester.
The following happened last week and sent me on a search for why, or if, there has been any change in tactics this past year or less for the antis to view themselves as not being protesters, but something else instead.
- Most of the clients were already in the clinic and I was standing by the entrance facing a group of antis across the sidewalk. They were in their usual spot for praying. Two were seated in folding chairs they bring daily and there were four standing alongside of them. There were another three protesters ready to approach clients on the same side of the sidewalk.
- A bicyclist rode up to me and asked me, “Who is everyone here? Which side are they on?” I gestured and said, “All of those people on the other side of the sidewalk are protesters. I am an escort.” Then he asked, “Who do you escort?” “We escort clients coming to the clinic past protesters.” He said, “I’m with them,” and went over to talk. He proceeded to tell them he had a blog where he had hundreds of videos on the subject, and handed out some papers he’d made. After a short time he left.
- When the prayers left, one of the seated prayers came up to me. She stood inches away from me and quietly said, “I heard you tell that young man we are protesters. We are not protesters. We don’t carry any signs. We are out here praying for your souls.” I said, “Oh, you believe in a woman’s right to choice for abortion?” “No! We are praying for your souls.” “Then you are protesting.” She walked away from me.
In my opinion praying in front of clinic doors to shame clients is protesting even if it is quietly done. Why wouldn’t we consider her an anti-abortion protester? Why wouldn’t she consider herself an anti-abortion protester? Are the signs the key to being a protester or not? If it is the signs, why doesn’t D consider herself a protester?
What I found in my search for answers is several rhetorical questions without logical answers.
There doesn’t appear to be a recent change in terminology, but I did find denial among some of the antis about their role as protesters. 40 Days for Life* states on their website they were holding a prayer vigil not a protest in their campaigns. Bound4 Life* is saying they are not protesting, they are holding a prayer meeting, restating it on another page as “silent prayer is not a protest.”* Are the Louisville antis mimicking this terminology? Does it gain them a self-view of non-violence and rationality?
An article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by Ann Rodgers on May 9, 2012 is titled: “Praying activists once again will protest abortion throughout Lent.”
The lead sentence in the article is:
- Erica D’Amico has trouble thinking of herself as an anti-abortion activist, a label she associates with angry people and political wrangling.
If I have understood all of this correctly, protesters are viewed as angry and the word is associated with pro-access activists. We are labeled protesters and it is given an unpleasant connotation. Are escorts viewed as protesting against the “non-protester” antis or prayer meetings?
Protesters carry signs. The only exception to this is escorts. I guess our orange vests count as carrying a sign? D’s signs must not count because she doesn’t carry them?
Praying on the sidewalk or holding prayer vigils are not protests, they are prayer meetings. This is in spite of the fact prayer vigils have been recognized as forms of protests for decades. What changed about the prayers in front of the clinic that they were considered a protest last year, but are not protests this year?
I have really gone full circle with my research in an attempt to understand this position without approaching any enlightenment. There are still many unanswered questions for me of why antis in Louisville would not want to be called protesters. They are questions to which I don’t expect answers.
My last rhetorical questions:
If those praying are holding prayer meetings, why can’t they pray at home or in their own church?
What other purpose could it serve to pray on the sidewalk except to harass and shame clients?
You say “Prayer Meeting”; I say “Protesting.”
*All links to anti-abortion websites have been omitted purposely. Please use Google or message us separately if you would like a citation for sources.
protest – verb to give manifest expression to objection or disapproval; remonstrate.
pray-in – noun a form of social protest in which demonstrators engage in passive resistance and prayer: popular especially in the 1970s.