As Bostonians returned to work on Tuesday morning after a sizzling hot Fourth of July weekend, the main story on the news was the appearance of the dreaded Asian Longhorned Beetle.
This pesky little tree-eating-creature, first spotted in Worcester, Mass. back in 2009, had now made its strategic and unwanted presence in Boston, right across the street from Arnold Arboretum. People in the area were put on the lookout for signs of the beetle and one website even provided a toll free number for those “seeing anything suspicious.”1
On the same day, a small group of locals gathered under a shade tree across from the “Women’s Health Services” clinic in Brookline, Mass., before braving the near-record temperatures for a noble cause.
They were not there to save trees from Asian beetles, however, but human beings being killed by doctors. This particular clinic, located at 111 Harvard Street, offers first and second trimester abortions2 and is one of the clinics targeted by this local chapter of Operation Rescue.
When I was invited by Carmel Farrell of Plymouth, Mass., to join them on this hot summer day, where temperatures reached 90-plus-degrees in the shade, I gladly accepted. I had participated in such events before, but what I found that particular day was simply amazing. As I prayed, watched and pondered the Bostonians reactions to the pro-lifers, it occurred to me that the people I encountered could easily be categorized into three defined groups; The hot, the cold and the lukewarm.The Hot: “We can Help!”
As the first customers for the day, a young couple, approached the building, the ardent defenders of life went to work. Carmel Farrell, pleaded from a distance for them to reconsider what they were about to do. Try as she might, there was no response.
This was due in large part to a landscaping crew who just happened to show up when the clinic opened. Their noisy generators and hedge trimmers made verbal interaction with clients of the clinic nearly impossible.
The large red truck parked outside the clinic partially blocked the efforts of fellow pro-lifer Elizabeth Kenny on the opposite side of the street. She was holding a sign with a simple phrase stating that in 2009 they had saved 99 babies from abortion; “We can Help!” She stood between two pro-life vehicles with large pictures of innocent babies draped over the side. She held her sign in a strategic way to shield the merciless sun from further scorching her already bright red forehead.
The periodic drinks from water bottles did little to ease the discomfort, yet she, Joseph Shubster, Jean Healey and Carmel Farrell, doing sidewalk counseling on the opposite side of the street, carried on with a single mindedness that was admirable.
After the first couple entered, I prayed, hoping they would re-emerge from the clinic to speak with the counselor. They did not. It was not long before the parking lot was full and not a single person stopped to consider another option.
Suddenly it occurred to me, as I watched this scene, how it represented a smack in the face of God, the ultimate creator of human life. Genetically distinct human beings were quickly becoming mere statistics by the hands of abortion doctors like those at work in the clinic.
Yet through it all, this small group of pro lifers continued to hold signs, pray and plead with those entering the facility to reconsider. These member of Operation Rescue showed a red hot zeal that matched the rising mercury and refused to sit idly by while human life was being snuffed out, but they had their work cut out for them.
The Cold: “They do Other Things as Well!”
While a number of cars honked in support for the pro-life effort, others driving by showed disapproval by flashing immoral gestures. Some passersby gave them hateful looks while clinic employees stared out the doors at the scene before them with cold determination.
Many of those entering the clinic seemed to share in the resolve of the people who were helping them take care of their “inconvenient” situation. As I hoped to see a change of heart, it occurred to me that the customers we were trying to help had a callousness similar to that of the Pharaoh, whose heart had been hardened.
Inside the coolness of the air conditioned clinic was a security guard whose job it was to protect those entering. How ironic that a man who represents law and order would be the protector of such a heinous crime. Yet he, like the rest, seemed impervious to the stark reality of the dark deeds being performed under the same roof where he now stood.
At a certain point, I began to engage the passersby in conversation, to see if I could find some reaction. The first person I spoke with was a white-haired gentleman, dressed in a shirt and tie. Pointing to the clinic, I naively asked him if he knew what it was. He said it had something to do with women’s health services.
“It is an abortion clinic, isn’t it?” I asked. Showing a visible discomfort with this statement, he angrily responded, “they do other things there as well.”
“Yes,” I responded, “but they also do abortions don’t they?”
In an effort to contain his fury and maintain his comfortable neutrality, he coldly turned his back on me and walked away.
The Lukewarm: “I Don’t Know Anything About it.”
Others had a different reaction to my importunity. An oriental man feigned ignorance of the stark reality of what really takes place in the facility while a young woman confirmed that it was in fact an abortion clinic but conveniently added, “I don’t know if they do them in there.” It seemed preposterous to me that people could casually live their lives in the presence of such a place, with such culpable ignorance and willful disinterest.
With these thought racing through my mind I approached a man who looked to be in charge of the landscaping crew and asked him if he knew that they performed abortions inside the clinic. In a “see no evil, hear no evil” way he curtly responded, “I don’t know anything about it.”
As I watched the amorphous masses casually saunter past the pleading counselors and pro-life signs, I knew I was witnessing one of the greatest, if not the greatest obstacle to stopping abortion, and so many other moral evils in our country: indifference. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph, the saying goes, is for the good to do nothing.
It all reminded me of what our Lord Himself said about these three categories of people. He clearly counseled us to be either hot or cold without necessarily saying what would happen to those who choose these first two options. But who can say he does not know what our Lord has reserved for those who remain lukewarm in the face of such infamy.
At the end of the day I could not help but contrast the cry of alert that went out to save Boston’s trees from the Asian Longhorned Beetle, with the indifference towards human life I found outside the abortion clinic. There were no press conferences in Brookline that day, no televised appeals, nor toll free numbers to report “anything suspicious.” There were only the Hot, the Cold and the Lukewarm.