There has been a recent uptick in the onslaught of newly emboldened anti-choice protesters gathering around the streets of Baltimore. I've had the displeasure of spotting them lining a long block on Northern Parkway, hovering outside of GBMC hospital, gathered next to Eddie’s of Roland Park. I've heard about their presence in other locations, as well. With Roe v. Wade potentially on the chopping block, it’s not surprising to see them out in such vast numbers.
I wouldn't mind seeing them so much if they chose to conduct themselves a bit differently — I happen to appreciate a good protest, whether or not I agree with the cause. It’s as much their right to raise their voices as it is mine to plaster my family van with “RESIST” bumper stickers or stand outside the White House and scream “Where are the children?!” But the anti-choicers come armed not simply with their voices or posters with messages about their religion or their beliefs about why women do not deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies. Instead they come with 8-foot-high posters of Photoshopped bloody fetuses, which look practically like dead, full-term babies.
Their message is specific, and it is not to educate. It is to spread fear with these horrific (and highly inaccurate) images, and it's clear they don't care whom they frighten. As a mother in my 30s, I can handle it. I also have the luxury of knowing what’s true — that when women have late-term abortions, like these photos are aimed at representing, it is almost always out of medical necessity. And I recognize what a gut-wrenching decision it is for women to have to make anyway, even when their lives are in jeopardy. If it was just me, alone in my car, I could turn the other cheek, ignore them altogether.
But when driving around in my van, after picking my kids up from camp on a beautiful summer afternoon, I can't help but feel enraged as my small children's eyes widen when they peer out the window. "Is that ... is that a dead baby?" one whispers from the backseat. And suddenly I find myself gritting my teeth. When we arrive home, like so many other mothers, I’m rubbing their shoulders, calming their fears and having lengthy conversations with a 4 year old and an 8 year old about fact and fiction.
The very people who claim to care so much about children's lives don't care about my children, nor do they care about the hundreds, if not thousands, of children whose nightmares they are feeding with their grotesque displays on as many corners of Baltimore as they can possibly occupy. And while these groups are filled with hypocrisy — the same people who claim to care deeply about fetuses in utero don’t often rally behind causes that benefit low income mothers and families who chose not to have abortions and instead live in poverty, raising babies they couldn’t really afford. They don’t advocate for free or cheap birth control, well-women exams or sex education (It’s been proven time and time again that abstinence-only education and less access to birth control increases rates of teen pregnancy). And above all, they hate Planned Parenthood and want to see it burned to the ground, even though the organization prevents far more pregnancies than it ends. Without it, abortion rates will skyrocket. And if that means illegal, back-alley, coat-hanger abortions, then women will die.
These protesters are fear-mongers. Their signs are inaccurate; their message, misinformed. But if these people cared about accuracy, perhaps they’d understand the issue better anyway.
I am pro-choice. It is not because I love abortion. It is because I understand that abortion happens with or without legality. I understand that abortion has been around as long as pregnancy has and that it will continue to occur whether it is legal and safe or not.
You can't ban abortion. You can only ban safe abortion, which is exactly what these anti-choicers want. But the astounding lack of education they seem to have about the issue never fails to escape me. The lack of compassion for other people’s children doesn’t either.
Sarah Bregel (Facebook.com/sarahbregelwriter) is a freelance writer who lives in Baltimore with her two children.