The simultaneous protests at Planned Parenthood facilities throughout the nation -- protests which occurred in over 330 cities at the end of last month -- will continue in the months ahead. As one of the leaders helping to organize these protests, I can speak to the spirit and purpose of these events. That spirit and purpose is just as important to know as the existence of the event itself. Let me make five simple points.
First, yes, these are protests. In our day, many Christians shy away from the word 'protest,' but there is no reason to do so. To affirm good means to reject evil. To stand up for what is right means to protest what is wrong.
When people realize the atrocities going on in Planned Parenthood, such as the harvesting of body parts, and when they have the courage to view what an aborted baby actually looks like, a voice of protest arises from inside of them: "No, this is wrong; this must stop!"
These protests embody the voices of women who have in fact had abortions and have learned through bitter experience that abortion doesn't solve any problems.
At that point, every human being is at a crossroads: we either act on that voice of protest or we silence it.
To have organized, public protests is one way to choose the former option; to choose the latter and ignore the problem is to begin to deaden one's conscience.
Second, these are prayerful, peaceful, and legal protests. A key tactic of the supporters of legal abortion is to paint those who protest it at "violent extremists."
I have personally been the target of protests organized in New York City by Planned Parenthood, and have been called violent myself, not for any action I've performed, but simply for positions I have taken.
It's time for the American people to see through these tactics. Instead of listening to the complaints of Planned Parenthood about the anti-abortion protestors, look at the protestors for yourselves, and you will see a cross-section of American families, who are law-abiding, peaceful citizens. You will see people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, expressing their faith in prayers, songs, and smiles full of compassion for those who feel they need to have an abortion.
And that brings me to the third point. When you look at the organizations that help sponsor these events, you will find people and groups who pour out their time, money, and energy all year long to provide alternatives to abortion and healing after abortion. Some of the organizers are pregnancy centers and maternity homes. Abortions do not happen because of freedom of choice, but because some people feel they have no freedom and no choice. The same people who come out and protest a Planned Parenthood on a Saturday will volunteer at a pregnancy center during the week. Moreover, they reach out to provide counseling and healing to those who have had abortions. We who reject abortion do not reject those who have had abortions, but rather embrace them with mercy and forgiveness.
Fourth, while those who oppose us will try to say that our protests are part of a war on women, the reality is that these protests embody the voices of women who have in fact had abortions and have learned through bitter experience that abortion doesn't solve any problems, but only creates new ones.
As we at Priests for Life help to organize these protests in so many cities, the women who belong to our Silent No More Awareness Campaign come forward to not only attend the protests, but to bring their signs that say, "I Regret My Abortion."
Many of them speak at the protest rallies, sharing their testimony of how they had an abortion not because of choice, but because of the coercive power of despair.
They speak about how it devastated them and their families, and about how they found healing and peace through some of the very ministries the help organize the protests.
We also have dads holding signs saying, "I Regret Lost Fatherhood." Other signs you will see include, "I Mourn My Aborted Sibling," "I Regret Losing My Grandchild to Abortion," and even, "I Regret Performing Abortions."
And finally, these protests fuel constructive action to change public policy. We give to those who come to these gatherings specific action to carry out once they return home -- actions that involve electing public servants who know the difference between serving the public and killing the public, and lobbying those in public office to pass measures such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which will be taken up in the Senate next week, and actions to change policies that force taxpayers to pay for abortions.
The bottom line is that the pro-life movement is the largest, most sustained, most peaceful human rights movement in our nation's history. We who are its leaders are proud of its accomplishments and of its protests.
Father Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life and Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. He is president of the National Pro-life Religious Council and Pastoral Director for Rachel's Vineyard, the world's largest ministry of healing after abortion. He travels throughout the country, to an average of four states every week, preaching and teaching against abortion.