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Recently, Charlotte Allen recounted her experience as a pro-life witness outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C. I write in response to her story, in hopes that one of the men or women who volunteer as Charlotte did, praying for and offering support to women who seek abortions, may know how valuable their work is—even though the visible return for their efforts may be scant.

I sought an abortion at the same facility Charlotte described, the ostentatious multimillion-dollar nucleus of Planned Parenthood in northeast D.C. The too-modern bulletproof building is incongruous with its dilapidated surroundings. Perhaps that’s part of the point (and the problem): It deceives the women who see it, signaling that this lavish and imposing building will bestow on them more safety than their decrepit community can, more hope for their unpromising lives.

I wasn’t more than three weeks pregnant when I made my appointment, the first of the day on a Saturday morning. I had walked in zigzag patterns across town to get to the clinic, believing that doing so would eliminate the chance of a friend or acquaintance seeing me and knowing where I was going. I knew when I was nearing my destination: A troupe of pro-choice “escorts” in neon vests asserted themselves, waiting to shield frightened and ashamed women like me from the Jesus-loving volunteers.

My eyes were glued to the ground. I had hoped to make my way discreetly into the clinic without being ushered. Impossible, I learned. I looked up, and an ashy-haired woman with tender eyes was in front of me. She held pamphlets in her hands. Instinctively, I reached for one, my hands shaking. “I don’t have every answer,” she said to me. “I only know the Lord in his kindness made you and your baby in His perfect and wonderful image, and that you’re already forgiven.” It was then that the pro-choice ensemble became aware that I was not merely a passerby. They mobilized and surrounded me, sheltering me from this woman’s message of love and charity.

The lobby was adorned with an eclectic assortment of chic and too-bright fittings, masking the harshness of the laminated flooring and the whine of fluorescent bulbs that lurked behind the next set of double doors. The building is a hospital-turned-morgue, masquerading as a boutique. They require full payment for all services upfront. Hoping to remain nameless and untraceable, I declined use of insurance and paid in cash. I watched the receptionist count my five hundred dollars worth of bills, my stomach turning at this meager price tag attached to a human life. How deep our faults must run when even moral repugnance can be so easily suppressed by the allure of free exchange—as if the sanctity of human life could be reduced to such utilitarian calculations. With the decay of faith and civil society, hyper-individualized capitalism cares not of virtue or vice.

When they finally called my name, I was whisked from one waiting room to another—from a general waiting room to an abortion-only waiting room. When I sat down, a nurse offered me a glass of water. Seeing the pamphlet for the Christian pregnancy center I had received from the woman on the sidewalk, which I was still nervously clutching, she said, “I’d be happy to throw that in the garbage for you, Miss.”

The heartbreak hit me when I looked around and saw that I was the only white woman in the room (except, of course, for the two doctors—both white). This Planned Parenthood was intended in part to gentrify a deteriorating neighborhood—but what it succeeds in is something very different. This unholy place purports to be a beacon of feminist triumph and community rejuvenation, but behind the scenes, minority women are disproportionately targeted and taught that the brightest future is one without their posterity.

I left the clinic after several gruesome hours listening to nurses who refused to say the words “baby” or “fetus.” “The tissue,” I’d overhear from the next room, “is thirteen weeks developed.” I watched and listened as they called in another doctor for a woman who wanted a late-term abortion. “She thought she was twelve weeks along,” the nurse said to the doctor on the phone, “but the ultrasound measures her at twenty-three weeks.”

I walked out of the clinic not because I was courageous or strong, but because I couldn’t bear the thought of making my child—a mark of my sin but a product of God’s providence—just another corpse to throw in the trenches of our culture of death. I miscarried shortly thereafter.

I write this both in sorrow and in gratitude, as a humble thank-you to the men and women who volunteer their time and their souls on those hostile sidewalks. This is the war that has been waged against us on our own soil. The war against human dignity. The war against life and the God who gifts it. My message to those kind strangers acting as witnesses to the gospel: You are the bold and vital human agents of divine Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Though you will not save every life, you might save just one. And the saving of even a single soul offers infinite praise and glory to our Creator.

Constance J. Thatcher writes from Washington, D.C., where she works to defend the institutions and cultivate the civic virtues that sustain American republicanism.

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