Yesterday I took Sienna to an abortion clinic to pray outside.
I’ve never done this before. I’ve never participated in a March for Life, or what I grew up with, a Life Chain. I’ve always been pro-life but I’ve never outwardly done anything to further the cause of life. Recently I’ve been terribly convicted about my silence, so yesterday I woke up early, made everyone breakfast and got Sienna and myself ready to go.
We went to Starbucks first so we could talk about where we were going and how she should behave. I really wanted to bring her. I thought it would be a good thing for her to see me praying actively for someone else, not just at nighttime or meals or at Mass, but somewhere outside the norm. However, I also felt that she was too young to be told about the gruesome reality of abortion, so I explained that in the world there are some people who are lost and who don’t know God, and we are going to pray for them. She asked if we were going to a church to pray and I said no, we’re going to a building to pray. Then she asked what happens inside the building and I said that people who are lost make bad decisions in there.
She’s not a stupid kid. She knew I was being evasive, and she kept pushing. I finally just told her that I wasn’t going to explain what happened inside the building but I would like for her to come with me and pray for the people in there anyway. She agreed and only pouted for a few minutes.
The clinic is just down the street from us, in an office complex littered with doctors. Liam’s urologist is there, my dentist, and my oral surgeon. There are also a number of OB/GYN practices. I assumed that the office was one of these but couldn’t figure out which, so I called the Ogre and asked him to look it up online. He ended up having to call the number listed because “Green Valley Abortion Services” are listed separately from “Nevada Women’s Care” even though it’s the same office, probably to deter people like me. As I walked along the front walk, clutching Sienna’s hand in mine, I noticed that the abortion clinic/women’s care center was right next to a different OB/GYN office. The other OB/GYN had huge white lettering on their glass door that read, “NO TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY HERE.” I stopped for a moment, stunned by those two doors, side-by-side. I thought about the mothers walking in there and the babies they were carrying, and how walking in one door meant life and walking in the other almost certainly meant death. It was a sickening realization.
I stood in front of the door and looked around, uncertain. This was no Planned Parenthood in a seedy neighborhood; this was an upper-middle class area. The parking lot glistened with BMWs and Porsches. The lawns were perfectly manicured, the grass green and lush, the office buildings clean and well-kept. I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t kneel in the parking lot because the spaces were full. I wasn’t sure I could kneel on the sidewalk right outside the door. Aren’t there laws preventing that sort of thing? Wouldn’t the clinic owners get mad? I didn’t want to make anyone angry. I also didn’t want to kneel in the grass because, you see, grass is rare in Las Vegas and I know there are regulations preventing people from trampling all over it.
In the end I settled for kneeling on the side of the building. There was a small area right next to the clinic but toward the back where the pavement opened into a circle and two small benches faced each other. I knelt down and pulled out my rosary. Sienna joined me for the first decade and then lost interest, preferring instead to flip through her Bible and play quietly with some sticks and rocks.
I found it hard to concentrate at first. My mind wandered to the benches I knelt between, wondering how many couples had sat on them, or how many girls had sat there alone. I wondered if any of them had walked away or if they had all walked through those doors. Then I looked at the windows of the clinic, row after row of windows, all the blinds pulled tightly closed.
I started wondering if anyone could see me back here. Probably not, unless they walked by. They probably wouldn’t see me if they just walked into the clinic.
But that isn’t the point, I thought hastily. I don’t want to be seen, I just want to pray.
But…well…if I don’t want to be seen, why did I drive down here? Why not just pray from home? Isn’t part of the reason I came here so that people would see me? So that they would see my child and reconsider? So that they would think twice, knowing that someone loves them and their baby enough to kneel on the freezing concrete and pray for them?
I thought about getting up and moving to the front of the clinic, but there it was again. The fear. The fear of making someone angry, of getting in trouble. The fear of someone accusing me of making trouble or being insensitive to women in difficult situations. The same fear that’s kept my mouth shut for twenty-six long years.
I stayed where I was and finished my rosary. Then I got to my feet and Sienna and I began to walk down the sidewalk toward the front of the clinic.
In all that time, no one had parked in front of the clinic. No one had walked up to the door, no one had gone in or out. I felt…disappointed, somehow. As we rounded the corner and walked past the front doors of the clinic, a woman in a cream-colored BMW pulled up. I looked straight at her and she looked straight at me, and then her gaze shifted to the rosary still dangling from my hand. She froze and stared. I held her gaze for a moment and then walked on.
It was an odd encounter, and how much of it was my own imagination I’ll never know. She could have been going to the clinic next door, or to a different doctor altogether. She could have just hated Catholics, or she could have been a Catholic and looked at me in recognition. I’m not sure, but I do know that in that instant my heart jerked. Not with hope, or sadness, or even empathy, but with fear. I was terrified that she was going to yell at me or berate me.
When we got into the car Sienna began asking me again what happened in that building. Oddly enough, I felt that same familiar jerk of fear. I was afraid to tell my daughter the truth, afraid to see the incomprehension and eventual pain in those blue eyes, afraid to be the means through which she learns a terrible truth about the ways of the world.
So I didn’t tell her.
Later last night the Ogre talked to Sienna about people running away from consequences. He explained that there are always consequences to our actions, and it’s better for us to accept those consequences because when we don’t the consequences get even worse. He told her how the only way to learn to be better is to accept consequences and learn from them. Then he explained that the people who went to that building were there because they were trying to run away from consequences.
She still wasn’t satisfied but she let it be. After she and Charlotte were asleep I lay in bed with Liam, watching him sleep and thinking about my fears.
At the abortion clinic I wanted to pray for protection for those tiny souls, but I let my fear of the reactions of others keep me from praying in a more visible place, a place where my presence might be noticed and might do some good. With Sienna, I wanted to protect her from the reality of abortion, but it was my fear of her reaction that ultimately kept me from telling her the truth.
The next time I go to the clinic I won’t succumb to fear. I’m there, after all, for the babies, not to win the affection of those who work there or the women who go there. But as I listen to Sienna sing, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world” in the other room, I can’t help but be grateful for that moment of fear yesterday. She’s not ready to know yet. I’m far from wanting to shelter my child, but I want to give her a little longer in the unsullied light before I show her the darkness.