Today is Day 13 of 40 Days for Life, the pro-life prayer vigil taking place outside abortion clinics across the country.
So far I’ve visited vigil sites in Renton, Kenmore, Tacoma, and Salt Lake City. Most of the time people are willing to talk to me with a voice recorder running, even after I tell them I’m a pro-choice atheist. Only once has someone refused an interview. This week I’m meeting with two clergy — one Catholic, the other Protestant — to talk about the biblical passages supporting the pro-life movement.
In the past I’ve referred to this movement as a protest, but most people standing on the sidewalks holding up the large colorful signs insist it’s not a protest, but a vigil. The signs they hoist are not graphic depictions of aborted fetuses, but words like “Pray to End Abortion.” They don’t yell at the people entering or leaving the clinics. I’ve heard them pray for the health and safety of clinic staff. As I told one person, this story is complicated partly because the people I’ve met at 40 Days are so damn nice.
But I’m also seeing vigils are not just about abortion. Some “prayer warriors” hand out pamphlets trumpeting the dangers of contraception. One group was gathered outside a clinic that doesn’t perform abortions.
I’ve also spoken to Lee Minto, an amazing person who worked to pass Washington State’s Referendum 20 in 1970, the first citizen-approved law in the nation to legalize abortion, and an important precursor to the Roe v Wade case. She shared heartbreaking stories of what happened to both women and men in Washington State before abortion was legal.
My initial list of questions has grown throughout these first 12 days. Some of them have been answered. But I expect the list to grow as well.