Every Saturday morning, regardless of the weather or the state of the world, a group of anti-choicers gathers on the sidewalk outside the clinic in this city. They have been faithful to their cause for over thirty years. And, since nothing seems to change their minds â€“ not statistics, not unwanted children, not child abuse, not the costs of raising a child, not the cruelty of children bearing children nor of young lives thrown off track by unplanned pregnancy, certainly not the principle of individual freedom of choice nor enough respect for women to allow them to make their own decisions, never the arguments people occasionally give them on their way in or out of the clinic â€“ they will be there to the end of time. They do not appear to be rational people.
Every Saturday morning, no matter the weather or the state of the world, a small group from the National Organization for Women is there to counter them. We have our pet names for them of course, and no doubt they have theirs for us. But they don’t need pet names; they have our photographs, our license plate numbers, the make of the cars we drive, and taped recordings of our voices. When you are wearing a florescent orange pinny and standing within inches of these people, you have a powerful incentive to stay alert.
Over and over, they tell each woman who enters the clinic, “You’re a beautiful girl,”as if beauty defined her and certainly made it reasonable that she should produce a baby. ”You’ll regret this all your life,” they repeat, though statistics, admittedly from the National Abortion Federation, show that the most common response is relief. ”Don’t let her do it,”they tell the men, as if the decision were theirs and theirs only. ”We can help you,”they urge and sometimes a young woman falls for it and is driven off to be”helped”with diapers, a crib, much praise and little else. What to do in a world where the driving reality is that no child should be born unwanted â€“ and these folks don’t care.
There’s no hope of converting these people. The abortion wars have been fought since Roe v Wade in 1973, which should have ended them. As long as the anti-choicers keep doing what they’ve been doing, we’ll be outside the clinic doing what we’ve been doing â€“ which means not only Saturday morning escort duty but holding our legislators to their promises and keeping New York — if not the nation â€“ pro-choice. Anything less brings us back to where we were before Roe v. Wade. It lets people who don’t give a damn about women, or children either, make the decisions for all of us.
Deborah Zipf is a graduate of Middlebury College. She is active in local non-profit advocacy organizations and city political groups in White Plains, New York. Ms. Zipf coordinates graduate program admissions at Pace Law School and generally ensures that the department functions smoothly.