‘Aloneness’ worth success in abortion counseling

October 18, 2012 BY ALAN PIÑON | The Michigan Catholic

Peaceful protesters bear stinging cold, words for sake of prayerful witness

SOUTHFIELD — It’s 5 p.m. on a Wednesday in mid-October. Howard Weathington of Detroit is standing outside on a sidewalk beside Southfield Road near 11 mile. He has been here for a few hours.

Howard Weathington said his own history with abortion was a driving factor in his decision to pray and counsel others. “Maybe me being out here is part of the healing process for me,” he said.

It’s cold and the sky is overcast. The wind is a piercing 10 miles an hour. The air is damp, which makes the cold seem colder. It isn’t raining at the moment, but it had earlier in the day, the kind of rain that comes down fast and small and actually stings as the wind whips it into your face. But Weathington is mostly unaffected by it all. He has reason to be here.

It would be dark soon and the temperature could drop to as low as 34 degrees by midnight. But for those like Weathington, who are currently standing along the side of the road in a peaceful protest against abortion, it’s just something “you get used to.”

“The cold doesn’t bother me too much, once you get acclimated, it’s not too bad,” Weathington said.

Weathington is participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign, a 24-hour, 7-day–a-week, peaceful protest of abortion clinics in the United States. Weathington and other volunteers are at a clinic is Southfield. They are a little under halfway done with the vigil. The volunteers pray, handout literature, or even, if given the chance, talk to people entering the clinic to see if they can change their minds.

“It’s really about education. I just want them to know there are other options. There are services out there that we can provide for them to help them care for the baby,” Weathington said.

Peg Moore-Jones kneels in intense prayer. She was one of just two peaceful protesters outside the Southfield clinic that day as part of the 40 Days for Life continual prayer vigil. Barb Yagley, an organizer of the campaign, said more support from the Christian community is needed.

But when there is no one to talk to, Weathington walks slowly back and forth in front of the building, reading and praying. The only other volunteer out with him at this time is Peg Moore-Jones. She is kneeling down, eyes closed and praying near a cross they set up.

Each day out on the sidewalk is different, but the sound of car horns is pretty regular. Passing motorists often blow their car horns happily in what seems like support as they pass. Cars also slow, and drivers yell profanities, often accompanied with an obscene gesture.

“I had one guy flip me off, and I asked him if he was showing me his I.Q., and he laughed and walked away, he knew I got him,” Weathington said.

The names and gestures don’t really bother this crowd. They have taken a vow to be peaceful. They take the bad with the good, and the occasional good does come along. Sometimes they will have passers-by stop and pray, or just talk about the issues, Weathington said.

Though in large part, the vigil is lonely, says Barb Yagley, a vigil coordinator for the Southfield site.

“We don’t get a whole lot of support from the Christian community,” Yagley said.

“The aloneness, though, can be a means to relate with God, who desires to meet us in the quietness of our souls,” she said.

The vigil, especially at night, is indeed lonely, but they are there to keep others from making, what in their minds, is a tragic mistake. One both Yagely and Weathington have an intimately familiarity with.

“I do this because I have had an experience with abortion — it was the worst experience of my life and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” Yagely said.

Weathington, too, said he made some mistakes with women in his past. He says he was young and uneducated. “I told them they could do what they wanted, and I regret that, always will.”

Rosaries hang from a makeshift cross set up outside WomanCare, an abortion facility in Southfield, as peaceful protesters pray outside.

Weathington, a former teacher, said his experience and guilt is why he is here. He wants to teach, get information out about other services available to young mothers, and he does it with a deep understanding of what they are going through.

“I have been part of what they have come here to do and I feel bad about it. Maybe me being out here is part of the healing process for me,” Weathington said.

Sometimes the volunteers are successful in their efforts to change someone’s mind. Sometimes they get people to look at the literature or take them up on their offer of free ultrasounds down the road. Or to maybe just take some more time to think about it.

When you can do that, Yagely says “it makes the bad weather, the ‘one finger’ salutes, and the isolation worthwhile.”

“There is nothing quite like looking into the face of a sleeping baby whose mother credits you with giving her the courage to choose life,” Yagely said.

Alan Piñon is a freelance writer from Dearborn.