A day on the vigil line is never dull. That is to say, there is very rarely a shift when you just get to pray and then go home. There is always the sadness of the place, the despair of the women, the finality of the death of a child, closely followed by the figurative ringing of the cash register.
There is always the cavalier attitude of some of the abortion mill workers too. While some seem to genuinely believe they are helping, others are simply keen to ridicule us as they come and go. One doctor gets his regular morning coffee from McDonalds. He leaves the clinic, walks down and comes back about twenty minutes later, always with a snide comment. ‘Yours is supposed to be a silent prayer’ he said one day as we sang softly and gently. Poor man. We forgive him.
There is always the car passing by, carrying someone angry with us. ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves’ is a common call. ‘What you are doing is disgusting’ is another. One car kept circling past, and we recognised the occupant as a man who had brought his wife to the clinic the day before. He was obviously in torment, but was masking it with bravado. He eventually stopped and asked me an inane question I can’t remember now, before driving away. Poor people. We forgive them.
Then there are the pedestrians. They are either friendly locals who greet us cordially and have even offered us drinks or other things. Then there are the others who intimidate. During the last Lent campaign one man would walk up and back and then make as if to run at us aggressively. It happened when two women were at the vigil by themselves. They were upset and rang me wanting to leave. As a result of that incident we will never again roster women by themselves, or any less than three people at a time.
This particular man repeated his tactics one day when I was there. He obviously did not realise I was there and wanted to intimidate some of our female prayer vigil attendees. When he finally saw me he suddenly stopped, not knowing what to do, before turning his attention to me. He let loose a string of abuse and began to ask a series of crude questions. He eventually left when he realised I wouldn’t take the bait. Poor man. We forgive him.
On one vigil the Mormons were canvassing the street. They stopped to talk to us and tell us how much they supported what they were doing. We thanked them but begged them to get off the footpath lest someone in the clinic conclude they were part of our group and call the police. It was a nervous time!
Then there is the callous husband or boyfriend. He is the one who has convinced himself – and presumably his wife or girlfriend – that an abortion is a normal, minor procedure like getting a clean at the dentist. He has convinced himself that there is no moral dilemma here, that abortion is just part of the family planning process.
The Callous Ones drop their wives or girlfriends at the abortion mill, then drive away to go shopping or grab a coffee at the local coffee house. They are usually driving a late model car or 4WD.The Callous Ones are gone a while, sometimes hours, presumably waiting for a text message to know when to return. Some don’t actually return: their women are left to get a taxi home by themselves.
It is clear these women have convinced themselves their boyfriend is right on the way in, but it is also clear they are beginning to change their minds on the way out. You can only lie to yourself for so long. Poor men. We forgive them. But what selfish cowards they are.