It was a chilly fall evening, and I was briskly walking down Michigan Avenue. Immersed in a crowd of people, I hurried past the store fronts and cafes, dodging shoppers and strolling city dwellers. I had just left work, the sky was darkening, and the one thought on my mind was making the next train home.
As I continued my hurried flight down the sidewalk, a flash of pink caught my eye. There were three people wearing bright pink colored vests, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, beckoning to the passersby. I immediately assumed they must be salesmen. I told myself,
“Just walk fast, keep your eyes down, and they won’t notice you.”
And yet, as the three came more into view, I realized these pink-vested patrons were not working the streets for just any organization. These were street marketers trying to garner support for Planned Parenthood, which I could now see printed on their chests. As a young woman actively working in the pro-life movement, I felt as though I were about to cross into the territory of the opposition.
“Will they try to talk to me? What do I say? How will they react when I tell them I’m pro-life?” I thought.
I just wasn’t sure what to expect.
Leaving the outcome of my next few steps to Providence, I continued walking, mentally prepping myself for who knows what. Sure enough, as I came closer to the triplet in pink, an enthusiastic voice spoke up and said,
“Hey there! Would you like to show your support for Planned Parenthood today?”
I lifted my eyes from the ground. A young woman with a clipboard had stepped right out in front of me and was looking straight at me. She had short hair and a little nose ring. She was about my height and looked just about my age too. Her voice was energetic and her eyes were friendly.
“Sorry, but no thanks.” I responded, while smiling. “I’m pro-life.”
I continued to walk along, but I had only taken two steps when she again interjected,
“Okay. Hey can we talk for a minute?”
No matter how uneasy or uncertain I felt about talking to someone who actually worked for Planned Parenthood (or so I thought), I couldn’t walk away. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to share the pro-life message, present the truth about Planned Parenthood, and be a voice for the unborn children whose lives Planned Parenthood has taken. Inside I told myself, “Here we go.”
“Sure,” I said with a gentle smile.
She smiled back at me, shook my hand, and introduced herself,
“I’m Carrie, what’s your name?”
And so it began…
Contrary to what many (like myself at the time) might assume, Carrie was not aggressive or confrontational. As I was soon going to discover, she was actually quite the opposite – kind and friendly. Moreover, I was shocked by how young she was. We both moved off to the side, out of the sidewalk traffic. It was then that she began to tell me all the “wonderful” things about Planned Parenthood and why I should be a supporter, like…
“Planned Parenthood is a great women’s healthcare organization.”
“Planned Parenthood provides women with a variety of healthcare services, such as:
Birth control and other contraceptives
Manual breast exams.”
“Abortion is only 3% of what Planned Parenthood actually does.”
Now, during this enumeration of all the “great and wonderful” things about Planned Parenthood, the temptation for me to jut in, interrupt the conversation, and refute every single Planned Parenthood talking point was nearly overwhelming! But I couldn’t let that get to me…
From being an active member in campus and community pro-life groups, I learned, among other things, something very important: if you get into discussion with someone who’s not pro-life, stay calm, listen, and be respectful. Don’t be aggressive – keep your cool. Nothing is more of a turn-off than a person who interrupts you all the time, gets angry, and never lets you talk. I thought – if I do this, I’m just asking to be tuned out – or disregarded as a crazy person.
Once she finished making the case for the abortion giant, it was my turn. With another smile, and in a kind, friendly tone, I began with the question,
“Did you know Planned Parenthood recorded in their latest annual report that they aborted over 323,000 children, just this past year?”
The statement seemed to catch her off guard. She looked at me, a bit bewildered, and it seemed she didn’t know what to say.
“323,000 children died because of Planned Parenthood. As a woman, I do want great healthcare, but to be honest, that just doesn’t sit right with me.”
She glanced down at her clip board for a few seconds, looked back up at me, smiled and nodded her head.
“I know. I know. I understand,” she said. “I personally don’t like abortion, and I don’t think it is a good thing either. But when I signed up for this, the people at Planned Parenthood gave me all this information to read up on. They listed all the services they provide women, and I was like ‘wow’ they do a lot. It changed my mind. Like I said, abortion is only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does.”
I was a little taken back by what she had first said.
“Wait…” I thought to myself, “She signed up for this? Was she not a bold and true Planned Parenthood patron after all?”
It sounded to me like she was just another young woman looking for a job.
Furthermore, how could Planned Parenthood just hand someone a script of their redundant talking points and then move them out into the streets to market for them? I don’t know for sure, but something smells of desperation.
“Well, here’s the thing,” I said. “If Planned Parenthood counts every single pregnancy or STD test, every single contraceptive pill or device, and every single counseling session and appointment that goes along with an abortion, then it might mathematically be able to portray abortion as 3% of what it does. But that whole logic is extremely deceptive. An abortion procedure -which costs on average $450 – is not equivalent to a pregnancy test or birth control that costs just a few dollars. 323,000 abortions in one year is a huge number…and a huge source of revenue for Planned Parenthood.”
This time, the young woman was staring directly into my eyes. She was nodding her head up and down, like she understood what I was saying and didn’t know how to respond…and it was true. She was at a loss of words. I realized how uneasy she probably felt at that moment, so I proceeded with my last and final point in a gentle tone,
“I know Planned Parenthood says they do all these other things for women too, but you wouldn’t believe what I just learned. There are only 17 Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois, but there are 670 other women’s healthcare clinics located throughout Illinois that women like you and I can go to for all these same services. I could even get a pregnancy test for free at a pregnancy resource center!”
She looked down and continued nodding.
There was a short pause. Then she looked up at me. With a genuine smile on her face, she proceeded to say something that took me by surprise:
“You know, I’m going to remember you when I do this for Doctors without Borders,” she said. “Hopefully you will stop by and talk to me then too.”
“Oh?” I said, laughing a little.
“Yeah. I think you’d like that better. And I really appreciate you taking the time to actually talk to me and have a conversation about this. It means a lot.”
She took my hand, looked at me and said,
“It was really nice to meet you. I enjoyed talking to you.”
“Same here, Carrie,” I responded with a smile. “Stay warm.”
And that was that.
We parted ways – she walked back to join the other pink-vests and I continued with my journey to the station. I had missed the early train, but at this point it didn’t matter to me. I probably won’t ever run into Carrie again, and who knows if our discussion changed her mind or not. However, what I can say is this: we talked about the facts and the truth behind Planned Parenthood, she was open to what I had to say, and at the very least, now she had some food for thought.
If you happen to get flagged down by a pink-vested pedestrian for Planned Parenthood, you have a choice – to engage in conversation or not. If indeed you choose to stop and chat, keep in mind that there is a lot you don’t know about the person under the pink vest. Sure – they could definitely be a staunch advocate for Planned Parenthood ready to defend them to the last stand, but they could also be a victim of the lies created by the abortion industry and be open to hearing the truth – like Carrie.
In light of this experience, I personally feel that the best way to bring anyone into the pro-life movement is through education and love, and the way we approach our conversations with those on the “other side” should reflect this.
I definitely feel that it was meant to be that I miss my train that night by getting flagged down by a street marketer, and I don’t regret it. To this day, I still pray for Carrie.
By: Regina D’Amico, Program Manager Illinois Right to Life