This week, the Supreme Court basically declared harassment of women entering family planning and abortion clinics constitutional. With this kind of legal protection, now we have to rely on the kindness of a crew not known for kindness in the face of abortion. I suggest that we lean abortion foes to be comprehensively pro-life in light of the fact that fewer abortions will result from a less confrontational and more progressive stance. There’s a distinct difference between being pro-life and anti-abortion. While both are against abortion, the first one takes a more comprehensive view of caring for human life while the latter is mostly concerned about regulating, coercing, and otherwise trying to abolish abortions.
SCOTUS’ unanimous decision was that Massachusetts’ 35 feet buffer zone is too big a zone of protection, but in the ruling (which was backed by the conservative judges and particularly Scalia, of course) Chief Justice Roberts and the other four conservative judges argued that such buffer zones are a violation of anti-abortion protesters’ free speech rights.
“Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks — sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history,” Roberts wrote. While the state has an interest in public safety, it “pursued those interests by the extreme step of closing a substantial portion of a traditional public forum to all speakers.”
Yet there are some forms of speech that are not protected, and rightly so, such as speech that leads to crimes based on gender, race, religion, sexuality, or class. When NATO and the G8 Summits were in Chicago, they were protected from protesters by much more than 35 feet, with a wall of riot gear-outfitted police officers keeping protesters in place. Yet that was and likely under this court would not be ruled unconstitutional. In the United States, we recognize that some speech is harassment and leads to physical violence, but we are slow to identify the connections and this SCOTUS is reactionary slow to see it. So, we must change the tactics. We must show anti-abortion forces how counterproductive their actions are.
Here are five points to talk to your anti-abortion family, friends and churchgoers about:
1) Don’t yell in people’s faces. It makes them defensive and you fail to show love.
Harassment is harassment. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for what you consider a good cause or not. Passion does not equal legitimacy, and fear is the opposite of love. When we, Christians, make fear the primal element of our Gospel message, we drive out love. As I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” If the person who fears is not made complete in love, then what of the one who preaches and pushes fear? Punishment, retribution, malice, slurs, hurt, threats – these are things that the typical client seeking help with their pregnancy is faced with coming to a family planning clinic. These are tools of hatred and fear, punishment and abuse. They are not of Jesus. Additionally, for the most part all you do is show off for the cameras and each other. You’re not winning hearts and my young anti-abortion self knew that and refused to join your charades and parades for that reason. Consider something more prayerful if you’re going to go down there. Better yet, just be friends.
2) You’re gonna need to do better than crisis clinics.
Some of my conservative, anti-abortion friends argue that crisis pregnancy centers – which are anti-abortion clinics designed to intervene with at-risk women seeking guidance and assistance with their pregnancies – should be able to fill the gap in for closing Planned Parenthood clinics. But this assumption is based on the premise that CPC’s offer much in the way of medical or other types of assistance. Their guidance is shallow, misleading, and often pressuring (“Don’t get an abortion because babies and murder.”), but their door prize is that they’re supposed to help women in crisis. Yet most only offer a take-home pregnancy test, maybe clothes and even some financial help. For those not ready to have a child and who are in a crisis mode, this limits their options and is usually nowhere near enough help. This is especially true if the person/people in crisis do not have adequate health care. Many come to services such as Planned Parenthood because they do not have the insurance or money to go to other gyno-centric health facilities – they get their reproductive health needs met at the PP clinic. This is something that crisis pregnancy centers are not equipped to do, no matter the argument. The results are babies born with families still in crisis, and more babies with bad health.
3) Support free, high-end contraceptives.
Until recently, reducing access to contraceptives was mostly a Catholic pro-life issue and not an Evangelical one. But with the popular resurgence of the Quiverful movement (where families are encouraged to have as many children as they possibly can and each one is considered a weapon against the forces of evil) and Hobby Lobby’s political activism colluding with the Religious Right’s hatred of Obamacare, now all of a sudden Science Be Damned, Birth Control Pills Are The Devil. But as we’ve noted again and again, the more accessible and higher quality contraceptives are, the fewer abortions. By the way, many clients come to Planned Parenthood and similar clinics for birth control counseling. So, another reason to lay off.
4) Support family planning and comprehensive sex education.
Let’s face it – most abortions are the result of unplanned pregnancies. The more tools available to prevent unplanned pregnancies, the smaller the amount of abortions. Anti-abortion Christians are going to have to make a choice here: Would they rather stigmatize sex or reduce aborted pregnancies? The facts don’t lie – people are going to have sex inside and outside of marriage. Just help them to have better options. There are also, and this is important, women in abusive situations who need to leave – but children are an extra anchor that keeps both them and their loved ones tied down to the physically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically harmful partner. For them, they need help to make these decisions and taking that away from them puts them at a great risk. Are pro-lifers really willing to allow that?
5) Support progressive policies.
I know this may sound weird. How can anti-abortion people go against the Republican party and the Religious Right? Well, meet Jim Wallis and Sojourners. And there are many other Cradle-to-the-Grave pro-lifers who are not only religiously/morally opposed to abortion on the belief that the pre-born are human lives and euthanasia, but are also firmly against the death penalty, against war and military conquest. They also tend to support socialist and progressive policies that would support would-be parents currently in crisis – like extended maternity and paternity leaves, universal health care, universal daycare/childcare, living wage jobs, affordable college education, and food justice. These would actually be pro-life. Most anti-abortion policies tend to be only concerned about not ending the pregnancy before term – which can be detrimental to the health and life of both the pregnant person (who is sometimes looked at as merely a gestation body) and the fetus. A more comprehensive pro-life position would make it so that the parents and children would be healthy and taken care of throughout life. It would also reduce abortions. Isn’t that what anti-abortionists say they’re fully against? If they’re so strongly against it, perhaps it’ll change their policies and dogma to realize that their ways are detrimental to their cause.
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