The official 40 Days for Life campaign comes to an end this Sunday. Then things get back to ‘normal’ at our Augusta health center, with protesters coming only twice a week instead of every day.
The campaign has given me so much to reflect on.
First, there is the gap between what the 40 Days website says and what FPA staff and patients experience. Guidelines for protesters instruct them to stand across the street from our health center, engage in silent prayer time, and refrain from raising their voices. Protesters must also pledge not to threaten or verbally abuse FPA employees, volunteers or patients.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t jive with the actual experience of staff and patients during the past few weeks. In addition to very loud songs and prayer, staff have also had to endure tauntings like:
“I know where you live.”
“How much sleep did you get last night after slaughtering innocent babies.”
“You say you care about women, but you’re killing future women in there.”
“Nice looking kid you’ve got.” (referring to a staff person’s seven-year-old child that accompanied her to work)
It doesn’t feel at all prayerful. I can only imagine what the protesters are saying to the patients who must pass them in order to receive health care services here.
Then there are the signs — the reason we call their campaign 40 Days of Lies. And the reason we call our Pledge-a-Picketer campaign, Defend the Truth.
Some signs claim that abortion is linked to breast cancer and others allude to so-called “post-abortion syndrome.” There are signs that claim to be photos of aborted fetuses. But just a few minutes of online research at reputable websites disproves all of these claims.
As an antidote to the 40 Days of Lies, here’s the story of the 40 Days campaign from inside our gates — the story as told by staff members, in their own words,
“Sometimes, when seeing the protesters, I wonder how it affects the people who use our services. Then I give a little cheer (inside) and remember how much courage it takes to drive by such anger and hatred. It’s always in the back of my mind and in my heart.”
“I work in the administrative offices and it sometimes bothers me that the protesters know what town I’m from, what my car looks like, and what my work schedule is. But then I think, we are here for our patients who need these services. So, undaunted and proud, I make my way to the office.”
“I love seeing the relief on women’s faces. In the recovery room, it’s like the weight of the world has been lifted and they get a second chance to make their life what they want it to be. I feel I’m making a difference.”
And comments from some of our patients,
“When you are in a spot, you need to do what you have to. Trust is not easy. You don’t know my reason. I’m sure everyone has one.”
“Be strong and ignore any negative comments if they arise from the protesters. Have pity for them because they are narrow in thought and lack compassion.”
The 40 Days campaign may be ending this Sunday but our work continues.
We know the protesters will still be at our gates, twice a week, in the months to come. But we also know that women depend on our services and count on us to be here. And, in comparison, the hassle caused by the protesters seems very minor indeed.