Letter to the Boston Globe, June 8, 1989

John C. Rankin

[hand delivered, but was not published]

To the Editor:

In the Globe’s June 4 article which referred to our rally in from of Pre-Term abortion facility in Brookline, I am disappointed by both its inaccuracy and ability to miss a genuine news story.

First, I said there were “225 pro-life people” present, not “100 antiabortion demonstrators.” The figure was an aggregate for the morning at that time, as many people came and went. On average we had about 150 people at a given time, and the abortion advocates had about 125.

Second, it was not a “prayer vigil … in small groups.” Rather it was our “Ethics of Choice Chorus” with hymns and songs central. We had a large banner proclaiming “No Blockade,” as we believe all choice is based on the prior reality of human life, as we seek to empower women to choose life equally for their unborn children.

Of our 30 signs, 28 of them were in question form, not as slogans. Questions such as, “Aren’t you glad you weren’t aborted?”, “Why does the human fetus fight to stay alive?”, “Might you regret this abortion someday?”, “If feminism = human care, why destroy unborn humans,” and “Can you imagine Jesus performing an abortion? Why not?” We passed out cups of spring water to any of the abortion advocates willing to receive them, and we sought out genuine communication, to remove real and symbolic barriers.

After the abortion advocates chanted for 2 hours, while we sang, something unique happened. For about 1 hour and 15 minutes, the chanting ceased and there “broke out” dozens of honest conversations between pro-lifers and pro-choicers, involving perhaps 70-100 people from each side. It had the aura of a cocktail party conversation, of Socratic dialogue. Many pro-choicers openly remarked how gracious we were, and how grateful they were for being treated as human beings worthy of respectful interaction. This is where the news story is — true cross-partisan communication initiated by pro-lifers in front of an abortion facility.

However, Ellen Convisser of N.O.W. was not pleased. Around 11:15 a.m., as I was standing 10 feet away, I heard her say to one of her aides, “What is happening here? We are not in control. We must put a stop to this!” Then she ordered the forcible breaking up of these conversations (e.g., physically pushing “her” pro-choicers away from conversation), in order to resume the chanting. Even yet, many conversations continued. Earlier, one woman graduate student spoke with Ms. Convisser for one minute about the meaning of the various chants, but when Ms. Convisser discovered she was a pro-lifer, she abruptly spun around and cut off the conversation.

We are not “anti-” anything so much as we are pro-life and pro-communication. I am convinced enough in the integrity of our position not to force it. Can the same be said for pro-abortion idealogues? Are abortion advocates able to submit to democratic openness and process to let the facts and nature of human abortion be known, and to base law accordingly?

There is quite a difference between those who say they are “pro-choice,” and those who are actually pro-abortion like what I perceive Ms. Convisser’s position to be. “Pro-choicers” may not agree with me on abortion, but they tend to appreciate genuine dialogue. In spite of the obstacles, we did converse with many of these people on June 3, and we are all the better for it. And I believe this is the strength of the pro-life position — an intellectual and ethical openness to all facts and opinions, with a desire never to cut off any opponent’s thoughts or inquiry. We seek to listen, and to answer as best we are able. This I believe is the genius of democracy, where informed choice leads to life.

Rev. John C. Rankin, Executive Director, New England Christian Action Council. 11 Pleasant Street, Gloucester, MA 01930 [508] 283-4575.