It was a sunny day, and I opted to stand in the shade. A young man stood nearby acting as security with a hand-held video camera as my teammate and I opened up our signs to display them to the public: pictures of aborted children.
They were horrible photos; they are horrible photos. My heart thumped a little harder and I glanced around to survey the reactions of pedestrians on this public sidewalk before I began what I had come to do. “What do you think about abortion?” I asked someone passing by; she ignored me. I asked again, and a few more people ignored me before I caught the eye of a young man, probably a recent university graduate.
I don’t remember everything about our conversation. We talked about many things, but one thing I do remember was his assumption that we had far less in common than we realized we did throughout the conversation. He was passionate about social justice and dedicated his time and energy to causes that worked to end systemic racism, violence against members of the LGBT+ community, and to promotion of women’s rights. His beliefs, he assumed, were diametrically opposed to mine.
He was surprised when I told him, “I think we actually have a lot in common!”
I pointed out that he was concerned about injustice. I asked if the reason he was passionate about ending discrimination and promoting equality was because he believed that all human beings have value and should be treated equally, no matter who they are. He agreed, “Yes, that is what I believe!”
“That’s awesome,” I told him, “I believe that too!”
Once we realized that we had similar passions, we began to talk about how those passions should influence our feelings on abortion. “We know there is a living human being inside of her mother when a woman is pregnant” — we had clarified that earlier, and agreed — “so isn’t abortion a violation of her human rights?”
He wasn’t willing to say that, and began to give reasons why pre-born children don’t deserve human rights; I continued to point him back to the principle of equality, that all human beings have value and should be treated equally, no matter who they are.
Maybe if I was the world’s best apologist I could have changed his mind through more argument, but I realized that most people need to see abortion to be against abortion, so I turned my sign around to face him.
“This is what abortion does to a pre-born child,” I said, gesturing to the child on my sign, whose perfectly formed arms and legs were severed from his body.
The reaction was immediate. He started stepping away and raising his voice, “No, I don’t want to see that! I purposely stood on the other side of you so that I wouldn’t see that. I’m not going to keep talking unless you turn it around again.”
I thought I might be able to get somewhere, so I turned it again and we continued to go around in circles. When we finally decided that this conversation had exhausted its potential, he decided to leave me with one last thing to think about.
“Watch the States,” he said, almost laughing with confidence. “Watch what happens now that Roe v Wade is overturned. You need to see what happens in a country where women’s rights are taken away.”
After he left, those words stayed in my mind as I talked to more people and eventually packed up the signs to go home. I was sitting in the passenger seat of the van when suddenly I thought of the perfect thing to say, as we are apt to do, too late.
He had refused to look at my sign – the picture of what he supported was too horrific for him to look at, as he endorsed it. Then, he told me to watch what happens in a country where abortion rights are taken away.
I should have flipped my sign around again then, and told him the same thing: Watch what happens in a country where abortion rights exist.
He wouldn’t look at my sign. If you believe in something, you should be willing to face it.
He told me that I need to see what will happen, but I can see what is happening. My eyes are open. My eyes are open to the children who are torn apart in the most vulnerable stage of their life, my eyes are open to mothers suffering from trauma and challenging medical situations, to name just a few.
He wasn’t willing to look at the face of a victim of abortion. If my belief had a face – a face broken by violence – I’m not sure I’d be comfortable seeing that either. It should tell you something about what you stand for when you can’t stand to look at the consequences.
I stand for human beings at every stage of their lives, whether a day old, 16 years old, or 40. It is possible to stand for both babies and moms.
In the words of Captain Sir John Lindsay from the 2011 movie Belle, “What is right can never be impossible.”
Only by opening our eyes and seeing the truth about abortion, can we see what is right. And only by seeing what is right, can we begin to imagine what is possible.