Women need to be able to access the EMW Women’s Surgical Center unafraid and unbothered by nosy Christian anti-abortion activists whose interest has more to do with their fear of an ethereal ghost father and less to do with the real lives these women and potential children they might have — that is, if they are even born. Less than half of pregnancies are successful.
It is this clinic that allows women the option for a safe, legal abortion in Kentucky.
It is the only one left in the state.
Over the next week, Operation Save America will stand on Louisville street corners, preaching and waving pamphlets for any who will listen to their pleas to stop the legal, safe practice of pregnancy termination for women who have to make this most grueling decision of their lives. Operation Save America hopes through its shouting and waving of fetus images that these women will change their minds and give birth to infants who may be born addicted, in dire poverty, or unwanted — ending up in a state care system where they will sit unadopted for years.
Despite the tales of waiting adoptive homes, the numbers don’t lie. Only about half of children in state’s custody will be adopted, and those are just the ones eligible for adoption. There are over 100,000 children every year who are eligible nationwide. The average child in state’s care available for adoptions waits about three years for an adoptive home.
These numbers climb when the child is African-American.
When I walked into the hive that was an anti-abortion presser with Operation Save America, I knew I’d probably made a grave mistake. All of my objectivity stayed on the opposite corner. The group was mostly men. Women were positioned as victims, some standing by silently. The ones asked to speak told tales of woe — “If only someone had told me.”
One pastor called women who seek abortions, “defenseless women,” — women who can’t possibly understand or make their own decisions.
My eyes are crossing from the heat, and my blood pressure is definitely higher than it should be in this moment. Confrontation does not afford me my best self. My son, 4, is tugging at my leg. He wants to play under the tree. I ask him to stay with me for a minute. I’m trapped in a face-off with Pastor Joshua Spurgeon of Operation Save America, like a cat watching the ankles of its owner.
Should I pounce?
“I think government has this responsibility. To protect good and punish evil,” he told me.
“You think government should punish evil? So that’s not God’s realm anymore,” I asked. (I’m not sure why I even offered him that much of the fairy tale. Does God exist? That’s not my world but I will allow him this carrot.)
“What I mean by evil… I mean crime. That is the responsibility of the civil government,” Spurgeon replied.
My inclination to be more argumentative is high, but I hold back. Spurgeon isn’t rude. He’s fairly friendly, with his youthful face and a red beard that’s beginning to show signs of gray. He’s dressed in a suit and tie, despite it being close to 100 degrees. I’m wilting, and my son has had enough. He wanders to the tree, and I change positions to keep him in view.
“What happens if women don’t have safe access?”, I asked.
“Do you put pillows under your windows to your house,” he said.
I take the bait. “Why would I do that?”
Spurgeon is amused, “In case a thief were breaking into your house, and you don’t want him to get injured.”
That’s not the same thing.
He said, “This is murder actually, which is worse. Murder should always be unsafe. Yes.”
Still not clear on his analogy, I press on and ask about what happens to these maybe children when they are born. I wanted to know if Spurgeon supports government assistance for poor children.
“Tell me what do you feel about the welfare system,” I asked, knowing the answer.
“What about the welfare system, that’s a completely different thing,” he said.
“No, it’s not. More children are on assistance than anyone else.”
“I think welfare system has created a dependent class of people and that’s very bad. If you go back and you look at the history of our country… I don’t have time to go all the way through that with you today, or to debate you but the point is, that’s really a red herring regarding abortion,” Spurgeon is uncomfortable with this question.
“No, if you’re going to protect a life before it’s born, then you should protect it after. The welfare system affords that protection,” I said.
How do people become anti-abortionists and care so little about the lives the children will live? Perhaps a clue can be found in Spurgeon’s own origin story.
“I have three children and one on the way. Seeing our baby, that just moved me as a father,” he said. “To witness women coming in here that murder their children, it just conflicts inside of you. It destroys you. I’m sitting there loving this baby and someone wants to murder their child. I can’t allow this to happen in my city.”
Spurgeon’s view has been recounted many times by anti-abortion activists. It is a romanticized view of what happens when a child is born. It is the attitude of people who desire and can actually care for a child. What actually happens to a baby born to a homeless addicted mother is never discussed. It assumes every embryo becomes a life.
One speaker at the press conference, Angela Minter of Sisters for Life, said she considers herself “post-abortive,” after having had two procedures. “When I was 17 and 18 years old, my husband and I paid money for two of our babies to be killed by abortionists. There were no sidewalk counselors that day. I had no idea there were organizations, pregnancy centers, pregnancy homes that could assist me or help me.”
Her speech mirrors Spurgeon’s romantic view. If only someone had told them, everything would have been fine. If only the babies were born, the rest would be sunshine and bubbles.
Safe, legal abortion should be undeterred and easily accessible.
These protesters have the right to protest, and women have the right to choose when — or if they ever have a child. •