I’m sure if you’ve driven, walked or biked on Third Street in the last few weeks you’ve seen the “Prayer Protesters.” Those few stand in front of Planned Parenthood, ages somewhere between Medicare and AARP, holding seemingly (to them at least) innocuous signs that read, “Pray to End Abortion.” This statement, meant to demean those who choose Planned Parenthood, is ridiculous and cruel. Not necessarily in its content, for they have the right to believe what they will. But rather in its context.
Annually, Planned Parenthood provides services for more than five million women, according to its website. Among these patients, 72 percent of them have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. There currently are more than 700 Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide that provide over 10 million services per year. And of these, only 3 percent are abortion services.
Yet not only does Planned Parenthood provide services to those with exhausted options, it fosters sexual education programs for more than 1 million young adults each year. It is not simply a matter of aborting. It is more a matter of preventing. And how are we to prevent unwanted pregnancy, which is comprised chiefly of the disenfranchised, without first educating?
Students at Northern have already witnessed the anti-abortion zealots that have stopped by campus to hand out violent, grotesque pamphlets and ridicule passers-by. It’s a highly contentious issue with fervent beliefs on both sides; ones that students certainly shared with the zealots in a not-so-amiable discourse when they were on campus.
And with these new protesters impinging, the students eschewed their usual passivity and took a stand. There were multiple counter protests of these vehement Pro-Lifers last week.
Senior nursing major Kelsey Cook helped organize the counter protest.“We feel that Planned Parenthood is an extremely valuable resource,” Cook said. “We weren’t attempting to take a stance on abortion.
“Access to affordable women’s health care and health education is a safety issue. So many of our peers have had wonderful experiences with Planned Parenthood and the community should be aware of that. We wanted to do something to show our support for the organization itself as well as for the men and women being seen at the clinic.”
They weren’t offensive with their message. They were civil, rational and, most of all, compassionate.
I don’t want it to seem as if I detest freedom of speech. I mean, hell, I am writing an op-ed piece. But there is something that I personally revere more than the freedom of speech, with regard to my own hierarchy of morals on this issue. And that is respect for other people’s beliefs. I must say it is incredibly difficult for me not to honk my horn and give that fanatical bunch the bird.
I understand that my own limited perspective, a solipsistic specter that has haunted me since early childhood, does not represent the Absolute truth. We live in a country of religious freedom (another important axiom of the First Amendment) and this implicitly denotes a multiplicity. We are not a homogeneous people.
We’re diverse, and becoming more so by the minute. Being thus, we must have respect and even reverence for others’ opinions.
Planned Parenthood is not some monolithic abortion drive-thru. It is a valid, affordable source of health care for those who are impoverished, downtrodden, or as it’s now termed, working class.
So I ask, must you “pray” in front of the building? Must you ideologically assault those people, who certainly have more than enough already on their proverbial plate, going in to Planned Parenthood? After all, wasn’t there something JC said about a speck and a log? I do believe that you have the right to pray to end abortion. I just ask that you respect those who choose otherwise.