I was driving along, heading home in the middle of a busy happy Saturday, with the two older boys in the van, when I saw you. On the side of the road, with your signs, pushing leaflets at passing cars. You looked part scared, part thrilled by the anger directed back at you. Because if you are hated, you must be on the right path, am I right? You were so young, all of you. Maybe in your twenties.
And your signs. Oh my, your signs. I understand what it is that you were trying to say, that abortion is a terrible thing, and we should not pretend it is something benign. Oh, but.
Would you listen to me if I told you that I, too, am a Christian? (Although of the Catholic persuasion, which I am betting does not count to you.) Would you be able to hear me if I said that I, too, think it is a terribly sad thing when any baby dies, from any cause, at any age? I would also tell you that it's more complicated than you think, but oh, you are so young, and I'm not sure you can hear that just yet.
I'm sorry. I remember being so young and how infuriating the smug knowingness of middle age was. I'm trying not to talk down to you, because I truly wish you could hear me.
Your signs. The pictures. I believe your intentions are...can I bring myself to say "good"? How can you tell yourself that those pictures convince anyone of anything good? Do you really think that weighs in on the side of life?
All I can tell you with any authority is what your pictures did to me. Because I am not a pregnant woman, I may not matter to you. But the tiny, red-skinned body, laid across someone's fingertips? My own daughter was just a few weeks older than that baby when she died. And the severed limbs? The waxy arm and leg, looking like doll's parts, except for the bloody ends? That's what they did to my daughter's body to safely remove her from me.
I may not matter to you, but when I saw your pictures, I yelped. "Don't look at them, don't look," I begged my sons irrationally. What would you do, if you were a teen? My hands went numb and the world narrowed down to a dark tunnel for a moment. I could not breathe I could not think I could not unsee what you did. My belly ached where my baby should be, nearly term, pressing out in every direction, making it hard to draw a deep breath.
The van grew thickly silent, and I somehow managed to drive away. The boys were still, not wanting to face again the broken bits of their mother.
You can tell yourself you're doing God's work, I suppose. I'm sure you have people insisting that's true. I can't see how you can truly believe you're preventing abortions. Maybe your goal is simply to accuse. I don't know, I never read anywhere in my Bible about Jesus coming into the world to brutalize the brokenhearted. But I don't suppose we'll ever see that the same way.
All I can tell you is what you did to me.