Recently I heard a plea for more people to consider becoming foster parents. I was struck with the irony of this, having worked as a volunteer patient escort for Planned Parenthood for several years.
Each time I work, I face a group of people on the sidewalk, just behind the “No Trespassing” signs, the ones put up to keep these people from approaching those using the health care services of the clinic.
They spend their time imposing their religious views (almost all carry rosaries, draped like weapons in their hands) and attempting to invade the dignity and privacy of the patients of the clinic.
As an escort, I’ve had my picture taken, as well as photos taken of my license plate. I suppose this is in an attempt to deter or frighten me, not what I think of as Christian worship.
How much better their time and efforts would be if they were truly involved in those services that reach out to children in dire straits and needing homes.
These protestors have told me that Planned Parenthood has stolen my soul. They have also informed me I’ve had an abortion (news to me) and that they can help me and that they pray for me. Their voices are anything but helpful; rather they are more like something one would expect from members of a cult — a singsong, rote delivery.
Sometimes they line up on kneeling pads and practically shout the rosary, again in a singsong delivery.
When patients attempt to leave in their cars, some of the protestors will approach the passenger window, knock on it and attempt to give a sack of literature of dubious quality to whoever will roll down the window.
They also offer items like free lip gloss if a patient will just roll down the window. Of course, as they do this, they obstruct the view the driver has of traffic on Providence Road, a busy and dangerous place to be distracted.
One protestor told me, if anyone was hurt pulling out, she knew the fault would be mine.
They sometimes tell patients there is a proven link between birth control and breast cancer. It is not true, and the only motivation I can think of, is that they are opposed to all birth control.
One of the signs they carry frequently offers "Free Pregnancy Tests." These occur in crisis pregnancy centers that operate without medical regulation and offer no birth control options.
A recent study using volunteers showed a pattern of misleading information — condom use might increase the risk of HIV/AIDS and abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, for example. Personnel in these centers also attempt to convert women to Christianity.
Patients of Planned Parenthood are provided preventive health care, which includes essential screenings for cervical and breast cancer, both killers of women. The care is of high quality and affordable. Planned Parenthood also provides family planning, based on the individual needs of its patients.
I believe in religious freedom and don’t dispute anyone’s right to hold opinions I might not agree with. But I draw the line at interference with the freedom of others to access legal, affordable health care.
These people are not offering prayer and counseling. They are mean-spirited, seemingly angry people who harass those who use Planned Parenthood.
This is not about helping people, it is about restricting women from getting the health care they need and deserve.
Kathleen Cain lives in Columbia.