Kathryn Lopez; Heart of darkness in the buffer zone
BOSTON — “Be careful. This is a dangerous corner.”
It’s not until you visit the Boston Planned Parenthood clinic at the heart of the recent Supreme Court buffer-zone case that you realize the unnecessary danger it created. And I’m not even inside.
On this particular weekday morning, Mary gives me the heads up, as she does anyone walking by. Along with her practical advice, she will offer people walking into the clinic a pamphlet, rosary or a simple rose.
Eleanor McCullen stands in white and black this summer day, the sun blazing down, gently encouraging the youth group that has come this morning to simply pray – and also, later on, hand out roses. One young man’s Spanish came in handy as a distraught Latino father needed a prayer and a friend. The members of this youth group are here to save lives, through prayer, counsel and willingness to walk with scared mothers and fathers — to show that it’s not too late.
McCullen stands just a few feet outside of the door of the clinic. She will be the first sight for many women leaving the clinic, presumably after having gone through with an abortion. McCullen’s presence and what she represents — along with a card bearing her phone number — may just be a great help during the dark moments to come when the implications of that fateful choice gnaws at such women’s hearts and lives.
Reading some of the commentary from critics of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Massachusetts buffer-zone case, it’s become quite the convention to believe that somehow McCullen “snowed” the justices into a unanimous ruling. Anyone who believes that should come here, stand on Commonwealth Avenue for a few hours and watch and learn.
Just hours before, a coalition of left-wing groups protesting the buffer-zone decision, as well as the Hobby Lobby health-care ruling, organized a rally and protest at Boston City Hall. The general argument was that women’s freedom was being infringed upon. The attorney general who has lost her case defending the buffer zone vowed to undo the damage. The governor promised to protect women outside abortion clinics.
Even with the buffer zone eliminated now, some of the praying still happens at a slight remove from the doors of the clinic. But you see the difference that a few feet make when a post-abortion brochure and McCullen’s number are gratefully taken as a woman exits the clinic. Something has happened here, and you see it in the eyes and the very bodies of couples and friends who walk out together. If you didn’t know it was an abortion clinic, you would see on their faces the trauma that such an intimate violence has inflicted.
One woman reaches for her iPod as if to drown everything out.
What the rally at City Hall and so many protesting the Supreme Court decision seem to be missing is the humanity at the center of this debate. It’s convenient to ignore the lives at stake. But as lives end, those that go on are so often lived alone, mourning, without support or even acknowledgment.
People like McCullen, groups like Rachel’s Vineyard and Lumina and other post-abortion ministries and the work and testimonies of women like Anne Lastman, author of “Redeeming Grief,” exist to let women and men know they are not alone. Not as they are going into a clinic, often thinking they have no other choice, and not after they leave, either, having made that most grave decision.
That’s not the stuff of political protests, but humanity.
The danger isn’t McCullen and the crowd outside the clinic. The danger lies in ignoring their witness. It’s ignoring the people both going in and coming out.
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