Davich: ‘We believe in our cause,’ anti-abortion advocates say
JERRY DAVICH November 2, 2013 10:06PM
Updated: December 4, 2013 6:11AM
“Jerry, please continue to write articles that sting the conscience and prick the soul.”
— the Rev. Dave Nowak, Roman Catholic priest for the Diocese of Gary
Tom Shenberger called out to a young couple entering the Planned Parenthood clinic in Merrillville.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he gently yelled while displaying a Lake County Right to Life brochure in his hand.
“Sorry, I’m late for my appointment,” replied the man while hustling into the building with his female companion.
Shenberger, a member of St. John the Evangelist Church, smiled politely and shrugged alongside his wife, Kate, who held a rosary. The Downers Grove, Ill., couple was undeterred, patiently waiting for the couple to re-emerge on a recent Saturday morning.
More than 100 right-to-life protesters of all ages, led by Knights of Columbus officials in full regalia, circled the health center. They were separated from clients by a spacious parking lot as a Merrillville police car drove past.
And so another anti-abortion protest took place at the center, starting many years ago in one form or another. I recall escorting a female friend here more than 20 years ago and we were greeted by similar protesters. Their names, faces and reasons were different but the ultimate message was the same.
“Our goal is to close down this place,” said Cy Huerter, of Highland, a Lake County Right to Life official.
Huerter and his wife, Brenda, take part in many protests, including that day’s Jericho March demonstration, named in honor of the biblical Battle of Jericho. Protesters circled the clinic seven times while reciting scripture. (For photos and a video of the protest, visit the P-T website or my Facebook page.)
Shenberger handed me a three-inch rubbery facsimile of a fetus (at 12 weeks old), along with a card detailing its capabilities at that age: “Before you decide: Look at the ultrasound, listen to the heartbeat (begins at 3 weeks).”
Another brochure states, “You are not alone, there IS help available. Please be informed before you decide,” in addition to listing several agencies to contact for assistance.”
Shenberger and others also hand out a circular brochure on how to properly use birth control pills, designed to look like a dispenser.
“Abortion is often the second phase of birth control, when pills don’t work, so we want to help educate women how to use it,” he told me while waiting in a stiff, cold wind.
I was alerted to this particular protest by Cathy Dziubla, a local demonstrator who told me candidly, “I know that people hate us, but we believe in our cause.”
Yes, anti-abortion protesters are often yelled at by passing motorists with “Go to hell!” “Leave my body alone!” or “Keep religion out of it!”
The protesters remain unfazed.
“I think a shift in our favor is taking place,” Shenberger told me.
Really? Hmmm ... I replied.
I gauged his hopeful declaration with input from my readers, followers and contacts via social media. As you’d expect, their responses were heartfelt, heated and contentious, which I will sample for you in a minute.
But first, I contacted Planned Parenthood of Indiana for input.
The agency’s Merrillville clinic is one of four in this state and Kentucky, out of 28 total clinics, which offer abortion services. However, more than 93 percent of the nonprofit’s services are preventive in nature, including Pap tests, breast and testicular cancer screenings, birth control, STD treatment and annual wellness exams.
During the 2013 fiscal year, the Merrillville center had more than 10,500 patient visits and 90 percent of them for services other than abortion, which always attracts protesters.
“Protesters at our health centers are nothing new, and we let our patients know they may encounter protesters,” said spokeswoman Tammy Lieber. “We believe everyone has a right to express their opinions in a peaceful, law-abiding way.”
If only the ongoing debate over this war-of-words-weary issue could be as peaceful. It often sinks to a name calling diatribe laced with curse words, ignorance and scripture. Sometimes by the same person. But first, it begins with the battle of definitions.
“It’s a fetus, not a child,” commented Lee R., referring to the protesters’ cross, stating, “IN MEMORY OF ABORTED
“Is it just a fetus when it has a heartbeat and body parts?” countered Phyllis M. of Chesterton. “This fetus has a soul and will never get a chance to love.”
“It is a fetus and a child,” added Rita C. “Not to be thrown away because you had unprotected sex.”
And then comes the sidebar debate over religion versus reproductive rights.
“Religion has no place in this issue. Period,” said Katrina S. of Portage.
“Pro-life supporters are ... shoving their religious beliefs into law,” said Stacey T. “Bible thumpers and Republicans won’t rest until they force every single American woman to procreate. It’s 2013, not 1913. If men bore children, there would be more abortion clinics than Starbucks.”
“Whether you believe life starts at conception or not, it’s hypocritical for (churches) to put that cross up,” said Pat C.
And then the argument goes from abstract to personal.
“I had an abortion and I don’t consider myself a murderer. I was raped and did not feel any connection to said embryo,” said Terri F. of Calumet City, Ill. “Don’t judge anyone until you have walked their path. I leave that job to my God. My soul is forgiven.”
“I am Catholic and will never ever change my view on this subject,” said Rita C.
This sums up how most of us feel about this issue. Few of us will change our minds. But the right-to-life supporters are hoping to convert those who might.
As a lifelong pro-choice supporter, I don’t fault them for doing so, just as I don’t fault believers for trying to “save” me. But don’t expect me to tolerate their didactic judgments or to get sucked into a never-ending debate that I aborted years ago.