Background: Mizzou’s Relationship with Planned Parenthood
If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard a lot about my university lately. I go to the University of Missouri in Columbia. You probably know us as “Mizzou.”
We’ve recently been in the news regarding a number of incidents, some of which are quite troubling. Among those, one of the “hottest topics” is our local Planned Parenthood clinic and the issue of human abortion.
In September, Mizzou decided to discontinue “refer and follow” privileges to perform abortions for the Columbia Planned Parenthood. Long story short: This meant that the Columbia Planned Parenthood would have to stop providing surgical abortions on Dec. 1, 2015. Being the only place in town that performs surgical abortions, this meant that there would be no more legal surgical abortion in Columbia. This decision has upset many abortion rights advocates in our area.
“Mizzou for Planned Parenthood” Plans a Vigil to Mourn Lost Abortion Privileges
A few weeks ago, an organization called “Mizzou for Planned Parenthood” decided to protest this decision by holding a vigil...a vigil for the lost privileges to perform (and subsequently receive) abortions in Columbia. This event was planned before the violent and fatal attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and also before Mizzou decided to extend Planned Parenthood's surgical abortion privileges in Columbia until next year.
As a woman who affirms the dignity and value of human life at absolutely all stages, from conception until natural death, this vigil seriously upset me. As someone who recognizes human abortion for what it is--the intentional killing of a human being and consequent hurting of those involved (e.g. the baby’s mom, dad and their siblings)--this event literally made me sick to my stomach. As a Christian, it drove me to my knees in prayer. What more could I do than pray for the members of this organization? Only the power of the Lord can change their hearts and minds, opening their eyes to the dignity of all human beings and to the sad realities of human abortion.
Then, an idea struck me: I decided to invite a group of Christian friends to kneel and pray beside the "Mizzou for Planned Parenthood" vigil.
As our college has been in the news for all sorts of incidents, you may have seen Christians portrayed as loud, hateful, or prideful--perhaps all of the above. Therefore, in our prayerful efforts, my friends and I wanted to combat these images of Christians and strive to humbly give all glory to God, not to ourselves or an earthly movement. So, in an effort to show that Christ’s disciples are humble, peaceful and often quiet beings who respect the dignity of human life, we set forth.
Monday, Nov. 30: The Vigil
The “Mizzou for Planned Parenthood” event was called the “I Stand with Planned Parenthood Vigil.” (If you didn’t know, “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” is the organization’s latest saying for supporters to use.)
Wow. I cannot stand with Planned Parenthood for a number of reasons. Specifically, my reasons for believing that human abortion is wrong are scientific (a fetus is biologically a unique human baby), moral and spiritual. Ultimately, my reasons are rooted in God’s love for human beings and the way he has changed my life and opened my eyes to evil. Without God and his perfect law, I could not recognize sin, and I would be headed toward destruction. However, God has saved my soul by his grace and equipped me to know right from wrong.
When I feel helpless, weak or confused, I turn to the Lord. In this situation, a vigil about standing with a women’s health clinic that performs human abortions, what more could my friends and I do but kneel and turn to God in prayer?
Could we argue?
Yes, but I felt that would ineffective and appear hateful.
Could we chant?
Yes, but I felt that would be loud and inappropriate. I feared it would appear violent and/or prideful.
But kneeling before our God, our Shield, our Strength, our Refuge...our Heavenly Father. Now, that would be humble. That would be an expression of peace. That would point all of our efforts toward God, not toward ourselves and not toward arguments or political rhetoric.
So, we got some towels to kneel on and keep us dry, made some signs, went to the vigil, kneeled nearby and prayed. This activity was all about placing our lives in the hands of God and turning to him for strength. Our signs were kind, peaceful and life-affirming. Through them, we identified ourselves as Christians and proclaimed that we cannot stand with Planned Parenthood. We recognized the awful attack on the clinic in Colorado as well as the awful attack that abortion is on babies in the womb, mothers, fathers, and all others affected by the practice of human abortion. Our signs also invited others, regardless of identifying characteristics like religion or ethnicity, to join us.
The time spent with these dear brothers and sisters was very special. We prayed as a group and quietly to ourselves. People smiled at us; some blew kisses. Others affirmed us with their words, and some stood behind us in support. Very few were rude or hateful to us, and that was a huge blessing.
I truly hope that through this time the Lord planted a seed (as my sweet roommate put it) in the hearts of those around us. Perhaps people will now wonder who we were praying to and consider learning more about the Lord. I also pray that those who saw us may change their minds about abortion and learn to affirm human life no matter what.