As I write, a Franciscan priest I know is in a courtroom in Ohio. Father Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, was charged with criminal trespass for walking into an abortion facility in Cuyahoga Falls. It’s called a Red Rose Rescue. He goes inside, offers women roses, and when asked to leave says he’s happy to once the doctor performing abortions does, once the abortions stop. So the police wind up getting involved.
While the New Yorker was in Ohio, back in Lower Manhattan, a neighborhood man with a dog missing a leg was urging the police to do something about a pro-lifer who made some ruckus earlier about God and abortion. I wasn’t there for his plea, and it’s not my style — people already think they are being judged when people outside a Planned Parenthood clinic are trying to offer an alternative to abortion. An invitation requires something harder than being preached at.
And yet, I’m grateful someone is recognizing that something grave is happening. As the man with the three-legged dog and others were arguing about everything under the sun on a dreary day, a young black girl walked out to her boyfriend waiting in a car. She looked like she was having the worst day of her life. In a sense, I hope it was. The pain of abortion can be a miserable cross not just to a young woman but in all of her relationships. Death creates distance, especially when it’s a death that we’ve come to pretend isn’t a death. We know better. We can see.
Former NFL player Benjamin Watsons and his wife, Kirsten, are executive producers of a recent documentary, Divided Hearts of America. In it, they set out to find out how we got to this place of nearly a century of legal abortion. The Watsons got more involved in pro-life advocacy after the experience of having their first child — and seeing that developing baby in sonograms.
It’s hard not to see a child as a gift, especially when the child is the fruit of love. That’s part of our problem. We don’t seem to know what love is anymore. “Love is love” seems a political assertion. And yet what on earth are we talking about? Love involves not mere pleasure, but reverence and sacrifice. Love draws you out of yourself to care for another as another self. I fear so many have no idea. Especially the young.
When the Me Too movement came to be, what an opportunity it could have been — could still be — to appreciate the cruel extent of sexual abuse in our country. Human beings suffer, and if we were open and honest about that, we might have a shot at understanding one another. That’s what the Watsons do in the documentary: listen. Ask questions. And not antagonistic ones. The man with the dog who hops down the concrete streets was asking questions like You want God to strike down all the LGBT people? My goodness, no. I can’t speak for everyone who stands outside an abortion clinic praying or offering counsel, but all I’m wanting to do is to help, to offer some hope for a girl or woman who is looking for a sign. Sometimes that’s all she wants, desperately. Sometimes she feels as if the abortion is expected. Sometimes she just needs someone to listen.
One recent Saturday, a gal with an appointment at Manhattan’s Planned Parenthood wound up with the Sisters of Life in their Visitation Mission, which exists exactly for them. Sit down. Have some tea and cookies. Be loved.
We need to love one another better. Our politics will never get better until we do. We look for political solutions for problems of the human heart, and that’s just never going to work. That’s why we’re so divided. That’s why there is such anger and violence. We don’t value life and love as we ought. We don’t see precious human life in one another, and we certainly can’t bring ourselves to love those who disagree with us and want to cancel us. These outbursts we see that become tyrannical ideologies with religious fervor, the inability to see a person with wounds and hopes, are cries for help from a country that can do better. And it starts in recognizing our universal humanity — and yes, even that of the unborn, as well as that of the scared mother who deserves better than having to walk into an abortion clinic, or to receive pills by mail to end her pregnancy. We’re never going to have any kind of healing in our land until we talk with one another differently about abortion.
When Father Fidelis walks into a clinic with roses, he’s trying to help us see. These are women who deserve to be loved so they can love their children. They are already mothers. Let’s stop lying about that.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.