Memories are simultaneously wonderful and strange. At times they come to the fore without having been summoned. On other occasions they remain vague, despite the desire to recall them more clearly. No matter how far I go back in my memories, there’s no recollection of first learning about abortion. Somehow, I knew that babies are being killed before being born, but that knowledge must have been too foreign to fully process. The day this concept became reality is burned into my soul.
It was cold and dreary, not unlike many fall days in my native country of the Netherlands. A pro-life organization had urged people to stand outside abortion clinics and I joined my dad when he went. On the sidewalk were several pro-lifers, some in conversation, others in prayer. A volunteer waited near the entrance with information about prenatal development and support services. This place even had extended hours.
I remember staring at the stately building with impressive architecture. Soft yellow lighting shone through the windows. So that’s where they do abortions. A woman walked down the sidewalk. Would she join our group? She made a sharp turn toward the clinic, then paused to speak with the woman at the door. My heart felt like it spontaneously stopped for a second. Don’t go inside. Please, don’t go inside!
Conversation on the sidewalk ceased, I imagine every person interceding through fervent prayer. If she’s pregnant, please soften her heart. Please save the baby. Please show her our love. Seconds felt like minutes. I believe she reached out for a pamphlet, then quickly took the steps to the clinic door. Her silhouette I’ll never forget.
Whether an abortion took place that evening, I’ll never know for sure, but when we left an hour or so later, she was still inside. Suddenly it dawned on me. My parents’ prayers, the pro-life presentation at school, the pin the exact size of a baby’s feet at ten weeks of pregnancy. My mind imagined the ugly practice inside that beautiful building. The heavy weight of comprehending reality felt crushing.
On the way home, the condensation inside the car ran in little streams down the window. There were no words, and I was grateful for the sound of rain on the roof. Heaven weeps too, I thought.
All those memories came flooding back last week as I listened to Dr. Fraser Fellows describe how he performs late-term abortions less than an hour from where I live. When my colleague Oriyana showed the photographic evidence of his practice, however, he did not look. It’s not a pleasant thing to do, Dr. Fellows admitted. But he seems like such a nice doctor, someone commented.
Perhaps that’s the most unsettling part. Beautiful buildings hide bloody practices. Slogans promote choice without showing what is chosen. Philosophy professors leisurely debate the dehumanization of the pre-born. And friendly physicians recommend—even carry out—the killing of little children. How easy isn’t it to miss the profoundness of what is taking place?
I’ve stood outside other abortion clinics since that first time as a young teen. There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing a pregnant woman enter, to leave sometime later—often pale, teary, limping, or even vomiting. Each time my heart breaks for her. Each time I can’t help but think of the child she’s leaving behind.
As it becomes increasingly difficult to make a difference outside of Canadian abortion clinics, it’s even more important to reach our neighbours prior to that 11th hour. And when we do, there are also no words to describe that feeling: the joy of seeing a pregnant woman choose life for her pre-born child.