"Big Four" Highlights


 

Diary of a Young Pro-Lifer

Just another cold morning at the clinic

By Clare Hinshaw

It’s 6 o’clock on a frigid Saturday morning, not a time you’d expect to find college students up and about. Yet a group of us – looking like the “Michelin man” encased in multiple layers of heavy clothing – has just attended Mass in the chapel, ready for the physical and spiritual challenges to come.

“Sidewalk counselors meet in the back.”

About ten of us make our way to the vestibule, where we are given handfuls of rosaries and pamphlets.

I volunteer for the wind tunnel, an open stretch of sidewalk located on the main road outside the Pittsburgh abortion clinic. With assignments selected, we take the 45-minute ride from Franciscan University to the Allegheny Women's Health Clinic. Standing in the cold for four hours, trying to counsel women against abortion, is not fun. Yet there is a sense of necessity to what we do. Lives are at stake, and we stand on the front lines.

Adrienne and I head for the wind tunnel. Meghan stays by the parking lot. Brother John stations himself by the front door. Others gather into prayer groups at strategic intervals on the sidewalks. And Victor walks around smiling and chatting with every passerby.

Adrienne and I begin a rosary. As women arrive, we take turns speaking with them, while contending with the “Pro-Choice Escorts.” When a woman arrives for an abortion they form a circle around her, seeking to keep her away from us as they rapidly hustle her into the clinic.

A car parks on the street in front of us. It’s my turn. Deep breath. Smile. A girl and her parents step out. The escorts are coming. I arrive milliseconds before them and end up within their “protective” circle. The trio has their backs to me. I begin to talk and offer the woman a rosary as we’re shuffled toward the clinic. Then the girl’s mother turns abruptly and screams in my face. That’s never happened before. I stand still in shock. As my ears begin working again, I hear an escort informing the woman that “she touched you first.” Touched? I didn’t touch anyone. But I know what it means. A harassment charge. Cops. Getting arrested. I know because a little over a year before they hauled my best friend into court.

I inhale, rapidly review protocol, and follow at a distance. I reach the ten-foot line, a chalk-marked circle marking the ten-foot diameter around the entrance to the clinic which only patients and escorts are allowed to cross. As always, I drop to my knees at the line and pray an emergency novena. I lean over and kiss the sidewalk, blessed by the blood of so many innocents, then rise and return to Adrienne.

Just then the cop comes around the corner. Deep breath. Smile.

“Just wanted to remind you you're not allowed to touch the patients.”

“I know. I didn't.”

“All right, just remember that.”

Exhale. Thank you, Lord. We return to the rosary. Adrienne counsels the next woman. Then another couple comes. This time the escorts get there first. I stand on the outside of their barrier. My hand reaches past them to offer the woman a rosary. Then one of them turns to me.

“NO TOUCHING!”

Is she serious? How could I possibly touch the woman with them in the way? I’m nowhere near her!

Once again I take a deep breath, follow at a distance, kneel at the circle, pray, and head back to Adrienne.

“Are we allowed to touch the escorts?”

She laughs. “How can you help touching them? They're always jostling us!”

The cop comes back.

“This is your last warning.”

I lean back against the building. I am exhausted. If they’re going to keep playing this game, they might as well arrest me now. I can’t stop counseling. I haven’t done anything illegal and I’m not going to. The next woman to show up will undoubtedly be my “head straight to jail” card.

“Time to circle up.”

God is good. The clinic has no more appointments for the day, which means it's time for us to head home. We gather around Brother John for a closing prayer, after which everyone puts a hand in the circle.

“WHEN I SAY, AVE, YOU SAY, MARIA! AVE!”

“MARIA!”

We break and head for the cars. I collapse in the backseat and close my eyes. Just another morning at the clinic.

Clare Hinshaw is a recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

(CNS photo/Rafael Crisostomo, Catholic Standard)