Editor’s note: As part of our new Secular Sidewalk program, Monday blog posts will be written by sidewalk counselors. This week, our guest blogger is Amelia from Alabama.
Saturdays are sidewalk counseling days. We have two shifts. The first comes early in the morning to greet the doctor, nurses, and staff. The second shift shows up at 8:30 and stays until 11 or 12. I generally work the second shift. We have about 6 people to a shift, with a bit of overlap in the middle.
The clinic is located at the intersection of an interstate and a busy highway. We park on the shoulder of the road. The clinic is located in a complex of buildings owned by a pro-choice lawyer; we’re not allowed to approach the building. A single row of the parking lot is public property, we stand there, about 25 feet from where the patients park. They have a hard time hearing us. Dr. Payne (his real name…isn’t that ironic) opens his doors at 7.
Today is game day (Roll Tide!) Gloria, the clinic manager, has her car decked out in Crimson flags. Sometimes she’s polite to us and say good morning. Other days she’ll accuse one of our members of child abuse (one woman brings her 8 year old, who mostly stays in the car and reads). Today she just ignored us. Game days are usually a bit slower, but it’s an evening game, so there’s no need to schedule your abortion around football.
A little bit after I show up, we have one couple come talk to us. We give her a Physician’s for Life pamphlet and tell her that there are other resources. She informs us that she’s just there for a “check-up.” This isn’t actually a service offered by the clinic, but we wish her good health and send her off with smiles.
She’s the only one who talks to us for the next hour. We plead with women walking in. We tell them that we can help, that this is their child, that they are strong enough to be mothers; but there are no turn-arounds today. We watch them walk in, hunch backed, arms around their stomachs. It is as if, even as they walk into the abortion clinic, they are protecting their children from us. The maternal instinct is a funny thing.
We had two families there today. In the first one, the daughter seemed to be eleven. Her parents looked like they were mid-thirties. Usually when this happens, the girl is there for the abortion; however, this time the girl was there for support (and I was so relieved). She wandered the parking lot a bit while her mother got an abortion. The other family was the first Hispanic family I’ve seen here. The daughter was definitely the patient; she had the walk. When we called to them, the father answered and promised to come and speak to us in a minute. An hour later, we still hadn’t seen him.
Eventually, we were able to talk to two men. They brought a girl and then wandered around the parking lot. After calling them over 3 times, they finally came to talk to us. I guess they figured they had nothing else to do. Usually, in these cases we tell them about post-abortive counseling and that they might want to watch for signs of depression. However, one of them had a cross on and a praying hands tattoo. So, one of our men spent about 20 minutes preaching to them instead. I don’t know how it was taken.
Halfway through the day, someone called the police on us. This is a fairly common occurrence (the real estate office next door to the clinic doesn’t like us for some reason…they claim to be pro-life, but our presence “bothers” them). The cops know us by now, and they’re always nice about it. We show them the invisible line we’re not allowed to go past, sometimes we hand them some literature, and then they wish us a nice day and drive away.
And that was Saturday. I don’t think we saved any lives today, but maybe we touched a heart or two. We stood witness to 20 lost lives. We’re one of the few people who know that these children existed. I feel that we owe this to them. If we can’t save these children’s lives, then don’t they deserve someone (someone who will mourn the loss) to bear witness to their deaths?