Every Saturday, they meet at 9 am in a parking lot within walking distance of the clinic. Each week it’s a different group, typically represented by one of the churches in the area. The numbers of individuals range from 12-25, sometimes more. After a brief orientation and prayer, they walk a short distance to the front of the clinic.
The Abortion Clinic is a small, nondescript brick, one-story building, approximately 1500 square feet in size. It sits in a business district at the end of a cul-d-sac. The owner of the business has four of these clinics spread across the city. This one has a tall wood privacy fence in the front, erected to prevent folks inside from looking out. The parking lot has two access points, one on each side of the building which loop around the back.
People from the church are positioned across the street in a small, open, median area, in front of the clinic.
At approximately 9:15 am, cars start arriving. In the parking lot, there are clinic volunteers with rainbow umbrellas. As cars pull in and park, these volunteers meet the passengers of each car and cover their faces with the umbrellas as they walk behind the tall wood privacy fence and enter the clinic.
All quotes below were taken from the Astra Women’s Center website. There are two types of abortions at the clinic: medical and surgical.
Once a group, typically between 15 and 20 pregnant women, is assembled in a small conference room, they are encouraged to ask any questions they might have. In our state, there is no mandatory counseling required before an abortion procedure. Once all the questions are answered, each is given a pill to take with a small glass of water. They are given a second pill to take home with them, to be taken 24 hours later. This is termed a Medical Abortion, which “can be up to 98% effective”. It can be used in the first 12 weeks of gestation and the “whole process can be completed in two weeks”. The first pill, taken at the clinic, stops the production of progesterone, needed to maintain a pregnancy. The second pill causes contractions of the uterus which “ejects the pregnancy” during the remaining two-week period.
For those women who are beyond 14 weeks, “a surgical abortion by vacuum aspiration is a minor surgical procedure where the uterus is emptied using a gentle suction”. Some clinics use a “manual” method of suction, others use an “electrical vacuum”. It is unknown which procedure is being used in this clinic.
The church people in the median of the cull-d-sac spend the next hour in prayer. Some pray silently by themselves. Some pray quietly in small groups. They have sheets of specific topics to be praying for, handed out during the orientation. Near the end of their prayer time, the patients who were offered the pills begin to leave. Most do not look at the church people.
Since 9 am that morning, there are two others in attendance.
The first is a small group of ladies who regularly stand just off the clinic property. As patients drive up, they try to hand out brochures promoting alternatives to abortion. Seemingly unsuccessful, they also try to engage with the occupants.
At about 9:30 am or so, a former NFL football player begins preaching at the tall wood privacy fence, while standing just off the grounds. Though his tone is loving, his voice is intentionally loud enough to be heard through the walls of the clinic. He keeps it up for nearly an hour.
When the patients begin departing, the women who were trying to stop and talk with those on the way in, have moved to the exit side of the parking lot. They are holding signs asking, “Honk if you said no to the abortion.” One of the women, who travels 10 hrs. every weekend to be a volunteer, keeps track of how many honks, and how many continued around the cull-d-sac rather than entering the clinic.
On Sunday, the sponsoring church for that week gets an email documenting the praise of those women who rejected the pill and the surgical abortion and instead choose life. The Saturday our church volunteered, 5 women choose life for their unborn babies.
With the recent Supreme Court decision, returning the question of Abortion back to the States, there has been a change at the clinic on Saturday mornings. By the time the Right-to-Life folks arrive there is already a contingent of Pro-Choice protesters where the Lifer’s used to stand. So, the second group, often with kids in tow, has found another place to pray quietly on the side of the cul-d-sac. Last Saturday, one of the more vocal Pro-Choice advocates using her bull-horn as expectant mom’s arrived, posed a question to the Pro-Life group when she asked, “Why bring your children to a place where children are being killed?”
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