The SAU Signs and Molly Yard of NOW

John C. Rankin

[excerpted from First the Gospel, Then Politics …, 1999, Vol. 2, not published]

In 1990 or 1991, when then president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Molly Yard, was addressing a rally at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts, we learned of it a day-and-a-half beforehand. I then lived one town over, in Manchester, and along with Rockport (where I lived for nine years), and Essex, these four municipalities equaled what is called Cape Ann, a cape on the North Shore of Boston jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Molly Yard was on a bus tour to “rally” support for abortion-rights. The tour brought her to Stage Fort Park, and its beautiful vista of Gloucester harbor and the ocean. It was a blustery day, and about 100 supporters for NOW showed up, and with an ad hoc phone tree on short notice, we saw 80 pro-lifers turn out. We simply stood at the perimeter, with the banners and the signs, and said nothing.

I was not the only organizer of the event (the local leader of the Birthright center was the other), but I asked our people to quietly stand, be gracious, receive any opportunity to speak with NOW partisans that might happen, and listen to the NOW event and learn from it. One deeply committed Christian woman was so excited because she had never been to such an event. It multiplied her confidence in the Gospel to hear the president of NOW speak – to experience first hand the intellectual, moral and political paucity of the abortion-rights argument, and also to witness the anti-Christian nature of the abortion-rights argument first-hand.

I was holding one of the poles that held up the banner, bracing it continually against the wind. Our presence unsettled the NOW organizers and Molly Yard specially, for we were not disruptive. We were only exercising our First Amendment liberties to be in attendance at a public event on public land, and we respected the fact that they organized the meeting and wished to address their supporters and potential converts.

Some supporters turned and looked at our signs, but most refused to (at least noticeably). Had I organized an event for my Christian and pro-life purposes, and NOW or other protesters of my advocacy were to show up in similar fashion, I would not be rattled. I would be overjoyed that they cared enough to be there with a contrary vantage-point, and I would have invited their leader or leaders to the podium to give me their questions directly.

In the middle of her talk, Molly Yard got frustrated, and looked straight at me and the banner, and yelled, “You say that we have the power to choose life? You’re damned right we do – women’s lives!” And her people gave a cheer that was not wholehearted.

The banner does not just affirm unborn human life, but it affirms women’s lives and all lives, in its simple inclusiveness. The understatement of our presence and this slogan made it hard for her and her supporters to demonize us. She needed us to exclude women somehow – but we do not. I clearly sensed that she was dissatisfied at the response of the crowd, and how she was thus deflated a bit as she continued her speech. And we never said a word. The power to love hard questions.