It was my birthday, and the last place I wanted to be was on the sidewalk of our state’s only abortion facility. I know this is selfish, God, but I don’t know if I’m up for this today, I admitted.
It didn’t help that my prayer partner had been called out of town on a last-minute emergency. Knowing I couldn’t do it alone, I stopped by the diocesan chapel for Mass, to thank God for the gift of life, and to garner extra courage. Pausing briefly in the pew afterward, I felt inspired to pray for a “save” on my birthday. What a gift it would be to know a child had escaped death on the 52nd anniversary of the day I was given life.
I showed up on the sidewalk a while later, ready for whatever God had planned. I’d only be able to stay an hour, but I desired to make it count and do God’s will. Soon into my hour, God introduced me to the young women he’d sent me to encounter.
They both came charging in rather boldly, though at separate times, with scrutinizing expressions. The first, a tall, beautiful college-aged woman on her way to lunch, who seemingly had just noticed us, crossed over to where we were. “You don’t have any right to do this. It’s their choice,” she began. And before we could answer, she added, “And what about in cases of rape? I was raped.”
With that invitation, two of us began engaging with her, acknowledging that, indeed, rape is a horrible crime, but abortion only worsens the violation and violence of it. And while, yes, abortion is a choice by our country’s laws, we are there to help expand that choice, not limit it, as well as offer the hope of life to the voiceless child. Because of her own birth mother’s choice, we added, she now has a voice, and that is a good thing.
Within only about five minutes of conversation, her stiff stance relaxed, and she said she better understood our purpose and was grateful. Her friend, standing quietly to the side, was a second witness to the truth we shared. Two seeds planted; only God knows how they will grow.
Just minutes later, another young lady walked by with a scowl, then turned back around to tell us how wrong we were to be there. This time, I was alone in reaching back. Little by little—largely because by now the escorts had hung up their rainbow-colored vests and disappeared—I was able to freely explain what we really had come to do. Her defenses up, she stood firm in her position that it was the woman’s choice, and our presence made things worse.
I calmly persisted, sharing what our post-abortive friends have agonizingly repeated to us about the enduring trauma—and regret—of abortion. We hadn’t come to coerce or judge, I insisted, but offer a way out for those who might feel powerless in their circumstances.
“It’s not even a child until it’s born, though,” she said. “It’s a fetus, not a person.”
In that moment, an inspiration came. “You know, you were a fetus once, too, and look at you now! You are a real human being. If you’d been killed as a fetus, you wouldn’t be standing here as a human now. Our size and location don’t determine our value.”
“Well I wouldn’t care because I wouldn’t exist,” she said.
“But we would,” I responded. “We would sense your loss somehow. Every person created makes a difference. You are wholly unique and unrepeatable, and the world would have been deprived of you.”
I saw a transformation come over the exterior of the person I was facing, as if watching tangibly the melting of her heart. It seemed she needed to hear these words, and I was glad to share them with her. Suddenly, I noticed her amber eyes, once dark and narrowed, now shining beautifully from within, a softness having emerged.
“Look, I can tell you’re trying to do good, and I am sorry for being like that earlier,” she said.
“And I’ve really appreciated our conversation,” I said. “Thanks for taking the time.”
I asked her name, then, repeating it back, assured her of my prayers and God’s love for her. “God loves you, too,” she said.
After we parted, I beamed at my friend Nick, who, having overhead, was smiling. “Nice work,” he said.
“I feel like I got my birthday present,” I remarked, elated. “I know we didn’t have any official saves today, but maybe, hopefully, there were some saves, after all.”
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s October 2020 issue.]
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