By Carolyn Talya Cakir
It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday. Most young adults would be sleeping in, enjoying their weekend. Not the members of Pro-Life Future, who gathered outside Family Planning Associates Medical Group to protest abortion through song.
“Today, we’re Christmas caroling for babies,” says Pro-Life Future-Chicago leader Meghan Meehan.
Family Planning Associates is a reproductive health facility that performs abortions in Chicago’s West Loop.
Decked in Santa hats, the dozen or so anti-abortion activists sang popular holiday songs as a “reminder to abortion-bound mothers that the salvation of the world came through an unplanned pregnancy.”
“Why Christmas caroling? Cause it’s beautiful, it’s just happy and joyous,” says protester Meghan Meehan. “This is no one’s favorite place to be on a Saturday whether you’re in the clinic seeking treatment for an abortion or whether you’re an escort. But we bring joy.”
The 26-year-old nursing student is president of the Chicago chapter of Pro-Life Future, a national anti-abortion organization for young adults. She is sweet and soft-spoken, choosing to “offer hope” to women seeking abortion rather than hate.
There are women who regret their abortions, says Meehan. She mentions a friend from the East Coast who had an abortion and told Meehan afterwards that she wished there had been “at least one person outside the clinic who told her that she didn’t have to go through with it.”
Saturday’s event is a far cry from some anti-abortion protests, where activists have been known to accost patients and providers outside of clinics, holding signs with images of fetuses. The stark difference between the two is a signature of Meehan’s brand of anti-abortion activism.
“As a kid, I went to a planned parenthood protest, and there were people screaming and people being peaceful,” explains Meehan. “So I decided which group I wanted to be in. ‘That’s how I want to protest,’ I said to myself.”
Standing along the same wall as the singing activists are a dozen volunteers in neon pink vests emblazoned with the words “Pro-Choice Clinic Escort,” who ready to help any woman approaching the building for services.
Benita Ulisano, founder of The Clinic Vest Project, organizes these clinic escorts for the Illinois Choice Action Team, a pro-abortion organization. She has spent 20 years in the reproductive rights movement, since Bill Clinton came into office.
“We help people who are exercising their right to choose and their freedom to access reproductive health services,” she says. “It’s important for patients to know that we are here to help.”
Despite the peaceful nature of Pro-Life Future’s protest, Ulisano says it is still a form of intimidation. The protesters are there to change women’s minds and their presence can be frightening for patients.
But Meehan explains that this is not her group’s mission.
““It’s Christmas time, and people are supposed to be joyous and there’s supposed to be peace and happiness,” she says. “So we bring the Christmas spirit to a place that really needs it.”
“A baby is conceived at conception,” says Meehan. “A child has a completely different set of DNA from its mother. So why do we treat this new life as if it doesn’t matter?”
This is why Meehan and her fellow protesters brave the cold to spread their message.
The election of Donald Drumpf has emboldened many of these so-called “pro-life” activists, who believe that his presidency will push forward their cause.
“I truly do believe that Drumpf will elect the pro-life supreme court judges,” says Meehan. “And I truly do believe that they will overturn Roe versus Wade and, as Drumpf said, it will go down to the state levels.”
Ulisano was quick to point out that the protesters presence outside the clinic was a constant even before November 9.
“This is nothing new. Donald Drumpf’s election hasn’t changed anything. [Anti-abortion protesters] are here every weekend,” she says. “The only difference is that after the election, we’ve seen more volunteers sign up to be escorts.”
Ulisano adds: “I will say that his election has me very scared. I’m worried that legal and safe access to abortion will banned, and women will seek out illegal alternative.”
How will anti-abortion groups respond if Roe v Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court? Meehan says they will move their entire focus to state legislatures and changed laws there.
“With the states, according to research, it says that the emails are good, but [members] don’t really look at them that well. The signatures are great but, again, they don’t really do too much,” Meehan explains. “The main thing to get your voices heard is make phone calls. So any time that a bill is on the table, we will make sure to send out email blasts and Facebook blasts requesting that people make phone calls.”
“So far it’s been pretty effective,” she adds. “But it is hard in the state of Illinois because there’s mainly Democrat people, but we still try.”