I would agree with your volunteer that business was quiet outside BPAS yesterday... I was pavement counselling from 2-4pm during which time I did not see a single 'client ' enter the building. Neverthless, I had some amazing encounters with people which showed (I think), the impact our presence is having on hearts and minds: I left my prayer slot feeling uplifted and inspired by the afternoons events, outlined in brief below;
2pm a delivery man climbed the steps to BPAS just as I arrived and after knocking on the door, he turned round to face me and remarked pleasantly "I hate coming here you know...it just makes me feel so guilty." "We'll pray for you" I said "that you'll get another job" (He looked really pleased) "Thanks" he said. " I like my job, I just hate having to come here".
I stood on the pavement with a pink and a blue rosary hanging off my wrist, holding our blue leaflets and our glossy information leaflets. "Would you like a leaflet?"I called out to anyone who came past. More often than not, they took the leaflet and began reading it as they walked on: I see this as a way of spreading the word to the general public.
2.20pm (approx)The door of the clinic opened and a Professional looking woman came down the steps. Here is a reduced version of our conversation which also included discussion on genetics and what we mean by independent life. "Would you like a leaflet?" I said, handing her one. She took it. "So... she said You guys just assume that everyone going through these doors is here to have an abortion and force these leaflets on them? I smiled pleasantly and reminded the woman that I had invited her to have a leaflet, then explained that of course, we knew there were a variety of reasons for people entering the clinic, but that
a) she may know someone who was concerned about being pregnant and who could therefore benefit from our help or
b) she may be interested in learning some new facts about abortion as outlined in our leaflets, but not in the information provided by BPAS.
The woman then explained to me, that she was a doctor and stressed that she was not there to do abortions, before going on to say "But you guys, your information is full of inaccuracies." I invited her to show me something inaccurate in the blue leaflet she was holding and she pointed to the section on the possible psychological effects of Abortion saying "This just isn't true, reseach has been done to show this just isn't true, psychological after effects occur in people who already have these sorts of problems prior to the abortion." "How can you prove their psychological problems after abortion are not due to abortion though?" I asked "You can't can you?". She went silent and thought for a moment before saying "But it's not really alive , I don't belive it is a life." "You're a doctor and you don't really believe the baby is alive?" I asked incredulously"How can you say that? it's a scientific fact that the baby is alive." "Do you have a medical degree?" she asked me in a patronisingly. "No, but I have an A level in Biology" I said "and anyway, it's basic biology that if something is respiring, growing and capable of feeding then...it's alive...of course it will die, if you take it away from its natural habitat, thereby removing its food supply.!"
She looked at me with a bit more respect and went on to ask me several questions about who we were? what had led to us being there at this time? How we were funded? What kind of help we provided? How was that funded? Whether we were actually being paid to stand outside the clinic and she seemed inpressed by the fact that we were volunteers but then started saying that it was our religious beliefs that made us think the way we did. I agreed that people were capable of being influenced by their environment and the people around them and said that if that were not the case, there would be absolutely no point in us being there. She then asked me if I had ever seen an aborted baby, "I've seen pictures" I said and then took a model of a 10-12 week foetus out of my pocket and said "When you show this to people and explain that is what is aborted, they are always shocked" She vehemently denied that the model was accuarate saying that it was deliberately designed to "tug at the heartstrings" . When I asked her what was inaccurate about the model she said the hands and feet would not be formed by that time... from within my pile of leaflets I had concealed some pictures given to me by HGPI, including the one of a surgeon holding the feet of a 10-week old aborted foetus between his fingers. I showed this to her, she read the commentary underneath and I further explained that the surgeon who had performed this abortion was holding the feet and had been so moved by their perfect formation, he had them photographed and having deduced that if the feet looked like that, the rest of the baby had been perfectly formed also, he refused to perform any more abortions...She went silent and said she was going. I then shook her hand (which surprised her) thanked her for her time and said it had been good to meet and talk with her. She asked me if she could have the leaflet back that I had handed her, I gave her the blue leaflet and also the coloured one which gives facts about abortion.
I looked gratefully at my colleagues, standing in a semicircle across the road, faithfully praying and felt embraced by the power of their prayer, rooted and grounded in the protection of the Holy Spirit who I asked to continue using me.
2.50 (ish) A lovely young man stopped to talk and mentioned the scripture quote used by 40-days-for-life previously i.e. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" It was clear that these words had been playing on his mind since the last campaign, because of his personal situation i.e. 6 months before his conception, his mother had aborted his sibling. The young man had only been able to become reconciled to this by telling himself, that since he would not have existed unless his sibling had been aborted, it somehow proved that life did not begin before birth, which he said, made a mockery of the Bible quote we used. We talked and I explained that God did indeed know he and his sibling since the beginning of time because God knew everything. "Then he must have known my mother would abort that baby" he remarked how could he let that be? I explained that God can intervene but it would be interfering with his mother's gift of exercising her free will. I asked him not to judge his mother. He said he didn't, and did not feel guilty about his existence and couldn't understand why she had apologised to him for aborting his sibling. I suggested that maybe every time she looked at him, his mother must also think about what she had lost. He then passed some remark about "I know what you lot think about souls but I don't believe there is such a thing. " I explained that we did indeed believe in souls and that his aborted sibling was now with God... I then found myself saying "your sibling probably feels very close to you and is praying for you". He then revealed that he had been brought up Catholic- strict Catholic in fact, but had lost his faith in his mid-teens. A very moving moment then occurred as I gently asked him "How old were you when your mother told you about your aborted sibling? "Fourteen, but.... I've always known, really... Oh God, I know what you're going to say! " he exclaimed, realising that his involuntary remark had negated all his protestations against the Bible quote and his assertion that he did not believe in souls, plus, revealed the underlying reason for his loss of faith and shown overall, the tremendous impact that the abortion of a sibling can have...
I went on to explain that there was such a thing as Abortion Survivor Syndrome, common in siblings of aborted babies and offered to lend him some information about it, if he was there the following week..."See you next week" was his parting remark.
3.15 A young man wearing headphones strolled along and I offered him a leaflet. He pulled out the headphones to say that No, he did not want a leaflet and that he thought what we were doing was completely inappropriate. I asked him what he thought we were doing and he said we were upsetting women who were already in a vulnerable state. I agreed that women coming to the clinic were in a vulnerable state, feeling as if they had only a very small window of time in which to make life and death decisions about their pregnancy and stressed that this was why it was imperative they had access to all the facts about abortion and the sort of help available to them which unfortunately, they would not get in the clinic. We talked at some length about this and he raised all the usual pro-abortion arguments re; rape and incest. After some time though, underneath the protestation, I sensed a deep pain within him and a desire to empathise as he asked me if I thought there was such a thing as a woman not being able to cope with the stress of raising a child. When I remarked that each child was a gift irrespective of the cirumstances of their conception or the stresses of childrearing, he seemed outraged at the concept, and unfamiliar with the notion that pregnancy and childrearing are not psychologically damaging to the mother. We both agreed though, that rearing children required a firm support network, and I explained that pro-life groups tried to provide that network to vulnerable women.
3.45 a man arrived, asking many questions about the campaign, particularly the 40 days aspect. "Oh they do abortions in there do they? he said with some surprise, looking the building up and down. He seemd very interested, asked for leaflets and was very grateful when I gave him both types. After a while, he explained that he was a film editor with documentary film makers, who were based a few doors down from BPAS, and they had been curious about our presence. I suggested he make a film about our activities and he admitted he was thinking the very same thing as he had many contacts in the medical profession...Well, he has the leaflets...I told him business was quiet and wondered if the clinic had felt it unwise to book people in for appointments while we were there. He agreed that this was likely to be the case.
Can't wait for my next slot next Friday...