On Saturday I was outside of the Richmond Medical Center for Women. There were nine abortions.
We have several pro-choice clinic escorts who come to the abortion facility each week to help guide the women into the abortion facility. I've begun to get to know them, and they have begun to get to know me - though we don't have very many conversations.
Their leader is a man who has learned my name, and even thanked me for guarding two of his fellow escorts from unwanted advances from a drunk man. He mocked me and another sidewalk advocate by chanting "The power of Satan" as he waved his umbrella over the property.
Another escorts is an RN who works in medical research and development with a pharmaceutical company. She was talking about her work with another escort, and I overheard.
During a slow period of time, I saw a man walk out of the clinic to his car and then go back inside. I called out to him, letting him know that it still wasn't too late and that they can change their minds. The three escorts who were still there at that time were not able to see the parking lot when I called out, and they rushed over to see whether they needed to drown me out and block me from having a conversation. When they got there, the man had already disappeared up the stairs into the door.
As the escorts walked away I decided to be a bit impish and play a joke on them. So I said, "Oh, I actually just made that up. No one was there." They did laugh at that. (I hope they actually believe it in the future in case conversations do start to develop and they think I'm just making it up. That way they won't interfere.)
If you notice in the background, there is a police car. You can see it better in this picture with Roger. Roger is a great guy who comes regularly and stands at the front with signs about stopping abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood.
It was raining heavily, at different times, and Roger got soaked because his umbrella is broken.
The police car is blocking traffic from heading south on Boulevard avenue because there was actually a shooting there right after I arrived. It was halfway down the block or so, and an ambulance did come by. I don't know anything more than that, but the police blocked the road (presumably for purposes of an investigation) for about two hours.
Roger was glad to have the police car there, saying that it highlighted the urgency of his sign. The police respond quickly to a shooting, as well they should. There is no police response to the deaths of nine people who were killed inside the abortion clinic that day. It is a tragedy that unborn human life is not valued.
Roger is such an encouragement to me. He has stood on his own many times, and is so glad to have someone else stand with him. And I am glad to have him with me. He comes in the morning, and will typically leave shortly after noon. Before he left, he came over and read some encouraging scriptures aloud on the topic of God's help for us in times of trouble. He also asked to pray together before he left. I'm so glad that Roger was there.
I talked with several people who walked to the clinic that day. Usually people drive in and park, but there were three times that I got to interact on the sidewalk on Saturday. One couple walked all the way to the clinic, presumably from their house. They didn't have any car that I ever saw. On their way in the escorts tried to block me from reaching them, but they didn't know how to effectively do that. So I was able to talk with the couple briefly and they took literature from me before going in. Unfortunately they still went through with the abortion.
Another couple couldn't find the entrance to the parking lot, and actually parked about fifteen yards away. I saw that they were looking for an entrance, and went over to the car just as the man got out to ask for directions.
"Are you coming to Fitzhugh's abortion facility?" I asked, realizing that I should have used the name "Richmond Medical Center for Women" instead. Despite my poor choice of description, the man said yes.
I used my umbrella to guard the man from the rain as I gave him some literature. His wife was in the driver's seat and didn't make eye contact or get out of the car.
"What is this for?" The man asked, taking the literature. He had a very heavy accent, but I couldn't place it. I don't know if he was from the Dominican Republic or perhaps from an African country.
"This is information about free health services throughout Richmond." I said. "There are people..." I started to say.
"Is this the way in?" The man cut me off.
"There are many health services in Richmond for you and your family. You don't have to choose this today. It's not too late to change your mind." I said.
"We're going through a lot right now!" The man said, pushing past me and walking towards the escorts (who had remained stationary. I'm glad that they are so bad at their work.).
I continued to shield him from the rain with my umbrella and walked with him. "I don't know what you're going through, but there are other ways." I said, trying to get him to engage me.
"We are going through a lot. We have a nine-month-old in the car. It is just a lot." he said.
"Congratulations!" I said. "That life is beautiful, isn't he?" I assumed, for some reason, that their baby was a boy. I saw later that I was correct.
He ignored me as he reached the escorts. "Is this the way in?" He asked them, and they said yes. They still hadn't moved, which was very odd.
As he walked back towards his car I walked with him, again asking him to consider the information and to call the services listed there. He wheeled around and shoved the information into my hand (and I shouldn't have taken it back, but I did). "Hold this!" He said. Turning away from me and getting back into his car. As they drove the short way into the clinic, they ignored me as I again told them that there were other options, and that it was not too late.
One thing that was odd during the entire exchange was that I was almost injured without noticing it. When I walked down to the car there was nothing obstructing the sidewalk. They had parked right behind this tree, and most of our conversation occurred while standing on the sidewalk right next to it. When we walked back to his car after he shoved the literature back in my hand, there was a significantly sized branch right there. It must have fallen in the short time we were walking up to the escorts.
I don't make much of this, but it was interesting to me at the time. Our conversation would have been much more interesting, or perhaps much shorter, had we both been hit in the head by this branch as we stood there.
After the woman went inside and the man sat in his car in the furthest parking space from me, I went back and moved the branch out of the way so people walking by would not be unable to pass. Many people walk with strollers in the neighborhood.
The third couple that I got to talk to on the sidewalk parked on the front side. Because they walked around the building the opposite way, I didn't get to talk to them going in. But on their way out I was able to walk around the building and meet them while they walked to their car. The man went in with the woman initially, but then he left her there. So I went to the front to meet him on his way to his car. I gave him the literature and told him it wasn't too late for them to change their minds. I asked him to go back in to share this information with the woman he had just left there.
He was also speaking with a heavy accent. This time I'm almost sure it was Creole, and that they were from Haiti. (His friend in the back of the car called out a phrase that sounded like Creole to my untrained ears.)
The man took the information, and then got in the car and drove away. I didn't see him again until after the abortion had been done and the woman came out to find him before walking to the car together. I met them both on the front sidewalk and gave her my umbrella while they walked. I told them that God loves them, and that there is help and healing after abortion. I gave them a brochure about post-abortion resources as they got in the car. They thanked me, and drove away.
I wish I spoke all the languages. It is so hard to communicate with someone in crisis when you don't speak the language.
There was a young man who dropped a woman off and then sat waiting in his car for close to five hours. They had a Christian fish symbol and a cross decal on the back of their car. I called out to the woman as she walked in, but she ignored me completely. Hours later the man came walking over to me. He was clearly hesitating to walk over, and was very unsure of himself. I said hello, inviting him to talk, told him my name and asked his.
"I don't know." He responded. I assumed he was being coy because he didn't want to give away any personal information. This is not unusual with conversations outside of abortion facilities. Half the people who talk to me either don't tell their names or make up a name on the spot.
I asked him something more, and he then asked me if I spoke Spanish. I do not. He had very limited English, and I have very limited Spanish. And he wanted to find a store to buy his friend something to drink when she came out. I don't know where any stores are in the area, and couldn't help him.
It was frustrating to not be able to talk to him about anything significant. All I could say was "Me llamo Sean, qual es tu nombre?" and to say, "Jesus amor tu." I don't even think any of that was proper grammar. He understood me well enough to repeat my name and then tell me his was Isaiah*.
I gave him the information I had on hand, but nothing was in Spanish (I need to rebuild my literature supply). I knew that the national help-line would have a Spanish translator, but he told me he didn't have a phone when I suggested he call that number.
Isaiah walked back and forth from his car to different areas of the neighborhood three times as he waited. He really wanted to talk, but we couldn't communicate clearly. It was, like I said, frustrating.
Two other noteworthy things happened on Saturday. Dr. Bill Fitzhugh did not come to do abortions. A different abortionist came in his place. She was young and red-headed. She smiled at me on her way out. I want to know who she is, but I pray that she is disgusted by abortions and doesn't ever come back. I also pray that Dr. Bill has had a change of heart, converted, and has stopped doing abortions.
The woman in the neighborhood who told me to "Leave these people alone" last week came by walking her dog. She saw me standing there and said, "You're still here," in a much cheerier tone than last week. I said, "Hello." She said, "Go home." I said, "Have a great afternoon." She said, "Leave these people alone." And I said, "Which ones?" That whole conversation took place while she walked her dog past me. She didn't stop or pause, but at least she wasn't cursing me or using a harsh tone like she had last week.
I'm becoming known in the neighborhood. Perhaps next time I'll actually be able to talk about the painful isolation that is what abortion does to the unborn child who dies alone and the woman who suffers alone. I pray that my presence there is a positive thing. As one woman who works at the clinic said as she drove home, "Now you're starting to irritate me. You're really starting to irritate the Dickens out of me." I pray that that irritation would be the start of a transformation.
*Not his real name.