Beyond the Either/Or
"I can't transform them or myself. . . but unexpected things are happening."
When my job ran out of Paycheck Protection Funds, I was faced with two-and-a-half months of leave without pay before my agency re-opened. Fortunately I have an emergency fund, so the question became one of how to spend my time without work during a pandemic as an immuno-compromised person over sixty who lives alone.
Then I heard about some gruesome injuries sustained by women who in May 2020 had gotten abortions at twenty-five weeks of pregnancy at the late-term abortion facility up the street from me, one of the few places in the country that does abortions through thirty-five weeks of pregnancy. I remembered the time decades ago in New York when I had helped Rita, Rich, Joe, and Maryann start a pro-life club at Hofstra University, when I also ran for Town Council for the Town of Hempstead on the Right to Life political party line. After returning to Maryland, I worked in the movement full-time as a director of communications for an international pro-life group, while also engaging in the rescue movement, going to jail nine times after nonviolent direct action events. It was a pretty intense period, but somehow during all that, a pro-life feminist introduced me to Communion and Liberation, with which I've now been active for thirty years. After getting a library science degree, I moved on to building a career and thereafter engaged in pro-life work from more of a distance.
Although CL has educated us about the insufficiency of the self-affirming aspects of activism, it has also respected our freedom, so I've come to see that the movement does not automatically reject all activism. So when 40 Days for Life, a ministry that prays outside abortion facilities for 40-day periods every spring and fall, started up its fall campaign at the place up the street (where one woman lost her uterus and the other her colon), I realized I would be free to be there all 40 days. Thus, I have committed to that and working on related issues during this time of leave from work. Some friends in the movement, Theresa and Irene, even joined me there for a prayer vigil with my parish on a beautiful Saturday that happened to be my birthday, after which we had an outdoor coffee. Even though these friends and I don't agree on everything politically, I found myself so grateful for this simple gesture of accompaniment in these difficult times. I found there is a way to live my passion for pro-life work and be shaped by our charism at the same time. There is no mandatory either/or dynamic, as we so often see demanded in politics and social media.
All the experience I'd gained when working professionally in pro-life and the research skills I'd picked up by being a librarian were not lost as I found myself involved with people and groups trying to do something about this house of horrors up the street. I wrote to politicians about the off-label use of the powerful drug which harmed the women during the May 2020 injuries; I worked with a retired Marine to grow Maryland's Democrats for Life chapter; and I wrote an endorsement for a friend’s draft book, called "Pro-Life Democrat: An Apologia." And I have been talking with friends in CL who are trying to help each other face the election and how to grapple with political issues this year.
This time has been a great opportunity to see my poverty as I interact with people at the big intersection in front of the abortion facility who want to discuss these crazy times and their opinions about abortion. I can't transform them, or myself, during the short time we have to speak before the traffic light changes. But unexpected things are happening there. I remember how glad I was the day a woman parked her car and came over to tell us that she used to be pro-choice and had seen one man out there praying alone at 7 p.m. the other day and the bunch of us out there today, and that she believes it really makes a difference. I was glad to be with my friends Theresa and Irene on that beautiful day as we shared that experience.
Kathy, Bethesda, Maryland