On Saturday, Feb.11, I attended a pro-life rally at Planned Parenthood in Merrillville ​opposing further federal funding. Supporters of funding for Planned Parenthood held a counter-rally.

The pro-life side had a few more (people present) than the the other​ side, but both were impressive with over 70 each. During the hour I was there, both sides were peaceful and well mannered. The pro-lifers had prayers and good speakers, while the ​other side​ ​seemed largely silent.

Since they were turned away from us the whole time, it was hard to see exactly what signs they might have been carrying, but I personally saw only one pro-abortion sign (saying that the holder was glad she had had an abortion), and certainly none of the militant type (like “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology”) that one saw in the group opposing the Chicago March for Life in January. The overwhelming theme was simply that of pussycats (often with pink hats and sometimes with amusing black noses and whiskers) supporting Planned Parenthood.

A few individuals went from our side to their side to invite discussion. One of our leaders tried unsuccessfully to find a leader from the other side to “debate” the issues. A woman on our side (who held a sign saying she regretted her past abortion) approached the woman whose sign said she was glad she’d had an abortion to offer conversation, but she was turned down. 

A friend and I had a bit more success. When I walked along their line calling out “I’m glad you guys got to be born!” I got a couple of “I’m glad you were born, too.” -  and this despite my

​large-letter, ​white-on-green T-shirt that phrased the same point more strongly as “I’m glad YOU weren’t TORN TO PIECES before birth.”

A number of women made a point of telling me that they were there to support contraception and other sorts of medical care (not mentioning abortion). My friend and I got into issues others brought up on which we found we could agree (separation of church and state, no death penalty, healthcare for all). One woman bore with my long description of how the German Constitutional Court had found a very creative way to stand up both for the child and for the child’s mother. She took my card; she might get in touch with me.

Significantly, a woman with a “Planned Parenthood Escort” vest repeatedly put a sign in front of my face in order to stop these conversations, telling the person with whom I was speaking that now was not the time for talk. This, together with the fact that the other side had apparently been instructed to face away from us and the fact that they did not seem militantly pro-abortion, is some evidence of the weakness of pro-abortion sentiment even among local supporters of Planned Parenthood.

Two women told me that they were there just to support their “team,” the way one might support a sports team, and they did not think those on our side to be bad people. Another woman put things this way: “You love babies. We love women.” I pointed out to her that our folks carried signs like “Abortion Hurts Women,” indicating they also cared about women; we came to an agreement that both sides care about women, but that we disagree about how best to help them.

All this gives me hope that if we ​pro-lifers ​reach out in a firm but friendly way, without downplaying the truth but still truly open to listening, we can advance at least the cause of peace and perhaps also the cause of life.   

Richard Stith  J.D., Ph.D.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.

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