It was an especially rainy 40 Days for Life spring campaign. The vigil outside Lovejoy Surgicenter was horrifically understaffed. Absolutely no one would ever show up on Wednesday mornings, the one day that the faithful men and women who pray outside its doors all year round couldn’t either. Seeing a glaring need, I got my brother-in-law and a couple signs and drove to the clinic.
I parked outside the business, just up the street. It’s easy to feel nervous before you protest an abortion business (even if just in prayer). I have always wondered if the men and women who have spent cumulative years of their lives outside these businesses still feel a bit of anxiety. Whether you believe in spiritual warfare or not, these businesses feel full of darkness. You get the distinct impression that you are an ill-equipped lifeguard, standing at the edge of Niagara Falls. You never know when a victim is about to go over the edge. But you feel compelled to stand there, just hoping you could save one.
I was feeling just that way when a young woman came out the front doors of the business. (If she had already had an abortion, she would have gone out the back doors.) Typically, the clientele of these places (I refuse to call them clinics as if they are helping people) hurry past sidewalk advocates. But this one was stalling. So I approached her and asked, cheerfully, “Can I help you?”
To my astonishment, she broke down in tears and said she had scheduled an abortion for two days from then but she was much further along than she previously thought. “I’m five months,” she said. “My husband and I just got married; we’re barely making it. He wants this.” What do you say to a woman considering an abortion? Once you’re actually facing it down, it isn’t the glorifying “choice” that the Hollywood types make it out to be. It was desperation she had written all over her face.
I acted on pure instinct, how anyone would when faced with an anguished fellow human being. I reassured her. I encouraged her. I showed her prenatal development images for the age of her baby. I said her baby could already distinguish her voice from anyone else’s. (That in particular drove a new set of hot tears from her face.) I gave her information for a pregnancy resource center near her home. By now she was determined to cancel her abortion. I gave her my number and told her I would help her however I could. (I meant it.)
Two weeks later, she texted me that they were having a boy. They were thinking about naming him Ryland.
I often think about Ryland today. He will be starting first grade this fall. If I hadn’t shown up that miserable Wednesday morning, would he still be? Probably not. In times of desperation, humanity survives by doing whatever it must. His mother and father, out of their fear, probably would have gone through with that appointment. But they didn’t. Because I was there at the edge of Portland’s own Niagara Falls, to rescue whomever I could.
This spring’s 40 Days for Life wraps up Sunday. If you participated, thank you. Let us know if you were able to save a life too! If you didn’t, it’s never too late. Take a friend and go. Or call us: chances are good we can connect you with some people who go regularly. As long as abortion is legal, we must continue opposing it. A very necessary part of that opposition is through standing on a sidewalk, waving at passersby and asking, “Can I help you?”
P.S. If you want to learn more about sidewalk advocacy, we are having Julie Engldowl from Sidewalk Advocates for Life give two workshops about it at our April conference. Early bird ticket pricing goes away April 1 so get your tickets now. (David Daleiden will be there too!!!)