In my town we have what the religious right love to call an “abortion clinic”, but which in reality is actually self designated as a woman’s reproductive health clinic. It provides gynecological and reproductive health services to women in the surrounding counties, and as part of those services, provides abortions. It’s a real magnet for the bible thumpers and sidewalk kneelers, who, if I remember correctly, used to actually picket the place and harass women who went in, until a restraining order was entered which restricted them to demonstrating on the sidewalk at the front of the property. Now they can be seen picketing and thumping and kneeling, albeit at a slight distance from the front door. They were there today, about 50 strong, silently facing the building with a few signs, and some with rosaries in their hands, presumably praying for the souls of the recently deceased fetuses, and to supplicate their god into performing a miracle for them by staying the hands of the doctors performing the abominable medical procedure they love to hate.
The clinic is located on the main thoroughfare into town, and since my office is on the same street, I must pass by it every day on the way to work. Often, the demonstrators are standing on both sides of the road armed with huge poster photographs of the results of an abortion. Far bigger than life size, by a factor of a hundred, at least. The graphics are disgustingly gruesome, which, I guess, is the point, though I really don’t think little children should be exposed to them, and I feel the exhibition coupled with the catcalling is a distraction to passing motorists. I can see the day when someone faints, has a heart attack, or vomits, loses control of the vehicle, and plows into the sanctimonious crowd. But I digress.
As I said, I passed them this morning, and for some reason it struck me as funny. All those people, silently praying to their god to stop the abortions, and I started to laugh. In fact, I laughed and found myself saying to no one in my car, “Nobody’s listening!”. “Nobody’s fucking listening!” (I can be ironic too, sometime.) There they all were, praying to something that didn’t exist, asking him to do something he hasn’t done for anyone, ever, and shows no sign of doing at anytime in the future, and that seemed funny to me. But the humor was short-lived.
Being a bit introspective, I began to question myself why that would be funny, and came to the ultimate conclusion that it wasn’t. In fact, it was the opposite. It was sad. It was pathetic. it was downright idiotic, and those people were idiots. And it was delusional on their part to believe that they were doing something constructive. Perhaps it made them feel better, and perhaps they enjoyed the company of each other and perhaps the prayer session in front the the abortion clinic brought them together for a common purpose, in the process of which they all bonded with each other, maybe even forming new friendships. Nothing wrong with that. But the cause that brought them together was based on a non-existent premise – that there was a god who was listening to them. They would be better off forming a bowling league, for all the good they were doing.
In fact, to the contrary, it can be argued that they accomplished more harm than good. First, it pissed me off (at least when I stopped laughing), and that’s no small consideration. Second, their mere presence still harassed the women that have to enter the premises and see those people with their moral indignation and supercilious expressions on their faces, and as a result, those woman may feel guilty about having their abortions. They probably feel confused enough about their decision, no matter how much good sense it makes in their particular lives, so they don’t need a layer of religious opprobrium added to the mix. The mental stress placed on the woman at that time is more than enough for them to handle, yet these do-gooders ironically don’t care about the health of the women entering the woman’s health clinic. So in that sense, their recrimination is not only misplaced, it’s counter-productive.
Aside from all that, though, what really bothers me is the truth value of the premise behind the prayer. As an atheist, I find no evidence for the existence of any kind of god, not even the deistic sort, and certainly not the sort these folks believe in – the one who will listen to their prayers, and grant them, by interfering in the natural course of events. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. (In fact, this January 22 will be the thirty-fifth anniversary.) The religious nut cases have been praying ever since. I’ve been watching these people on my way to work since 1979. Literally millions of fetuses have been aborted since then, yet their god has not seen fit to interfere in one single abortion. That alone speaks volumes to me.
A lot of effort has been invested into organizing, and leafleting, and canvassing, and picketing and praying to stop abortions. If only these people would recognize, and eventually shed, the delusional aspect of their belief systems, maybe they could actually do something productive to reduce and eliminate abortion in a manner that does not depend on a magical disruption of reality. There are many, many babies who make it past the potential abortion stage, and are born into a world that doesn’t want them. There are many teenage boys and girls, and young men and women, creating babies as we speak, albeit unintentionally, who, with proper, realistic reproductive information and resources, could prevent much of that. There are millions of loving couples who will adopt. Why don’t these people stop chasing their delusional beliefs, accept the truth, and spend their time having a real effect on what they consider a scourge on humanity? They would still be working for the same cause – the reduction and elimination of abortions.
They would have the added bonus of actually seeing results.