If you've driven on Poplar Avenue near East Parkway any time in the past couple of months, you probably saw some people on the sidewalks holding signs. You may or may not have known why they were there. You may or may not have cared that they were there. But you should care, and I'll tell you why.
The protests are part of the biannual "40 Days for Life" protests at Planned Parenthood health centers around the country. They're schtick is "pray to end abortion." They are supposed to be praying and standing vigil. But recently they've become more aggressive--approaching and even yelling at people walking into the building. One of their leaders has posted a video blog post about it. You really should watch in order to hear what these "prayer warriors" think they are doing. The audio is crap, but that's on their end. Skip to 7:01 on the timeline to hear about the "sidewalk counseling" (harassment and trespassing) that they were doing on private property. (Which, by the way, is illegal.)
What is wrong with praying to end abortion? Like a lot of people, I fervently wish that there was no more need for abortion. I wish that women would never again get pregnant when they they don't want it or don't expect it. I wish that every pregnancy was a wanted pregnancy. I want every pregnant woman to get the best possible care during her pregnancy so that she carries to term and delivers a healthy baby. I wish every baby was born healthy and no family ever had to suffer the pain of stillbirth or infant death. If I were the praying type, I would even pray for these healthy and happy outcomes for our women and their families.
But praying outside of a woman's health center is a lot more than that. It is, in fact, an attempt to shame and intimidate women who seek care and the medical staff who serve them. It is sending the message: "You are doing something wrong and evil. You will suffer and go to Hell for it."
Jesus himself spoke out against public prayer. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." -Matthew 6:6. He also said, "Judge not that ye be not judged." -Matthew 7:1. (I could go on and on. I went to Sunday school, too, you know!)
What would Jesus say about "40 Days for Life"? I honestly don't know. But I think he might ask these judgmental "sidewalk counselors," who drive Mercedes and pricey SUVs, when they are going to give up their worldly goods and follow him.
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