I'm quite ashamed of myself right now. When I wrote my blog on 'Pro Life United FC', I placed sidewalk counsellors and prayer vigilists as my goalkeeper. The last line of defense, vitally important to the cause. However, these front line vigils are something I've personally never done.
I had the opportunity to join a few friends at such a vigil in a relatively controlled environment at an abortion clinic in Leeds, my home city, last week. I didn't take it. I made excuses. Why?
So, why didn't I go to Chapeltown to join the '40 days for life' prayer vigil?
Well, maybe. We are a front line public service, supposed to be apolitical but I currently work in a Catholic school, so can voice Church teaching; indeed I must until Christmas according to my contract. Also, I can be involved in politics in any way I like outside of school as long as it isn’t a conflict of interest, which this isn’t. No excuse.
Is it inconvenient?
Well, I’ve got epilepsy so can’t drive and it's a bus right into central Leeds on a busy route and then another out again, which is a pain and does take a while. But in my teenage years I used to get those same buses to get to a friend's house at least once every weekend and more in the holidays. I still do sometimes to meet people for a drink or something. I'm also sure that, for the right job, I'd happily do that commute twice every day. So no, I can't use that excuse either.
Do I doubt its effectiveness?
No, there's too many stories of turnarounds, by patients and staff. Also, as a Christian, I strongly believe in the power of prayer.
Do I want to avoid negative publicity?
BBC news ran an article on its main 6 O’Clock News slamming the pro-life movement because one organisation showed graphic pictures of abortion on a London high street. For me, that was a justified complaint (although I still feel that the article was biased). Nobody wants to see that on Carnaby Street on Saturday afternoon. There's a time and place and that's not it.
However, I honestly believe that, in a conscience or moral matter, there is no such thing as bad publicity. If it's in the media, there will be opportunities for talented pro-life speakers to get their perspectives out on many platforms and people will be inclined to look into the facts and arguments for themselves.
What about apathy? Someone else is doing it so I don't need to.
That doesn't work either. This blog was doing a great job before I joined as a contributor yet I still really wanted to get involved and make my own contributions. I want to be involved in organisation or music at retreats and other events that I attend, rather than just be there.
I can only come to the conclusion that I was scared. Scared of putting myself out there without the backing of an organisation of some kind behind me, the relative anonymity of this blog, peer support etc... I was too scared to go and be there for just an hour, in solidarity with thousands all over the world.
A group of people silently protesting and/or praying will invite questions. Answer their questions honestly, sincerely and compassionately. Shed light not heat.
For non-religious people, your presence serves as solidarity for those women who either aren't sure or are being pressured. If you have a religion, it is likely that prayer of some kind is key. Both are a fantastic use of your time!
I suppose there's two reasons I've written this piece. One is to give a big thumbs up and thank you to those who have done and still do what I avoided last week while encouraging others with the same fears into doing the same. The other is, pretty much, to shame myself into doing it next time, to put my head above the parapet, step out of my comfort zone and be that 'goalkeeper' I talked about. I'll let you know how that goes.