I drove to work this afternoon, past my favorite abortion clinic. There’s always something going on out front, and I never lack for some thought provoking entertainment when I drive by. I wrote about this particular woman’s health clinic in the past. The other day, there was a lone, what I thought was a, protester. He was standing there with a sign, facing traffic, so I assumed he was against abortion. However, for a change, and in fact for the first time since I’ve been driving to work, it turns out that he was not. His sign read, simply yet eloquently, “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal“. I felt bad for him and his courageous stand. It’s a rarity to see something like that in these times, and especially in this neck of the woods, which is very conservative and very religious.
Alas, today, matters were back to normal, if somewhat muted. As I drove by the clinic, I noticed two women standing there, both with cardboard signs. They weren’t paying a lot of attention to their volunteer duties, apparently more engrossed in their conversation than in proselytizing passing motorists. One sign faced in the wrong direction, apparently because they couldn’t chat while facing traffic. The other sign, however, was clearly seen. It read “Pray To End Abortion“.
Usually when someone says “pray” for something, my knee jerk mental response is “Good Luck”. Prayer will get you nowhere, as it’s really no better than wishful thinking. There’s no one to pray to who can grant your wish, and if someone says there is, my next knee jerk response is “How’s that prayer thing working out for you?” Prayer has been shown to have no effect on anything. People have been praying for centuries, and so far there is no evidence that anyone has ever received anything in response to a prayer. Oh, sure, many people delude themselves think they get responses (and of course, when they don’t, they tell you the answer was “no”), but all of those are anecdotal at best, with people attributing coincidence to the hand of god. More to the point, abortion rights antagonists have been praying long and hard since at least 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade, and so far their gods aren’t having anything to do with their prayers.
I wanted to stop and ask those women exactly what they thought their prayers would accomplish if, say, there was a god, and if he was disposed to grant their prayers? How would their god effectuate the end of abortion? Would they simply wake up one day and find that abortion was not a part of the social, cultural and medical landscape, as if it was all a dream, as if abortions weren’t necessary, or at least desirable, and as if no abortions had ever been performed in the history of human existence? Would god simply wipe our brains clean of the concept? Or would he cast a spell on the abortion providers, such that their implements of abortion no longer worked, or that their knowledge of abortion procedures was somehow forgotten? Or would he magically transform society so that every child conceived was not only wanted and desirable, but necessary, so that the thought of aborting it wouldn’t even cross a new mother’s mind?
I doubt those women even thought about it that way. Most likely, what they are praying for is the perfect case to wind its way through the courts, and make it to Washington D.C., to the U.S. Supreme Court, so that Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and maybe Kennedy (or perhaps a new appointee of President McCain) will have the opportunity to abort Roe v. Wade from the body of judicial decisions still considered the law of the land. If that would happen (and that scenario is not outside the realm of possibility, though it will not be the result of any supernatural intervention, especially if Obama loses on November 4) they will then point to the result and proclaim the power of their prayers. But, again, I don’t think they’ve thought this through.
Yes, in that scenario, Roe v. Wade will no longer be the law of the land, but abortion won’t necessarily be ended. In fact, there will be many states where Roe v. Wade will be the de facto law of that state. New York, Massachusetts, and California all come to mind as states where abortion will still be “safe and legal“. (Sadly, I’m not sure I can say that about my own state, Pennsylvania, but one can hope.) There will probably be quite a few others, because the majority of the population of the U.S. favors allowing women to have that choice, even if the predominantly conservative state legislatures that govern them don’t. I’ll bet those two women were not chatting about this.
In fact, they probably have not thought about the consequences of their prayers at all. Once Roe v. Wade is gone, only women who have the financial wherewithal to travel to states that provide abortions will continue to have them. Those who don’t, primarily poorer, less fortunate women, will end up having children they don’t want, can’t provide for and most likely won’t raise properly, adding to the downward spiral of children living a life of poverty, ignorance and crime, further widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. The ironic fact here is that people who live in such conditions are also the people who are most attracted to religion, because to people experiencing a miserable life here on earth, it’s religion that gives them the false sense of security of an afterlife. So a good case can be made that those who pray for the end of abortion are actually contributing to reliance on the fantasy we call prayer, in turn perpetuating religion. Can you say “Meme“?
The one consolation I take from this is that as long as people are only praying for the end of abortion, the result they seek will not occur. It’s when they actually do something, like electing another god-fearing, wack-job Republican to office, that I should worry.