By John Johnson (Youth Ministries Coordinator for St. Peter’s in Dixon, CA)
“Planned Parenthood has a booth at the Street Fair.” This was the text message sent to me, a youth minister, by a 13-year-old middle schooler attending the fair in our small town on Holy Saturday. After I expressed my opinion, the shocking part came: “Don’t worry, John, I talked to them; these people are from the good part of Planned Parenthood. They don’t do abortions. They want to help keep moms keep their babies!” I had to see for my self. Sure enough, there was Planned Parenthood, decked in pink, sporting a large banner that read: “We’re here.” Staffed by four women, they were operating a little basket toss game for the kids and handing out candy with smiles.
We live in a town with a predominant Hispanic population; I found it interesting that they stuck with the Sanger playbook – they were staffed by Hispanic women, one who even brought her child. It was clear what was happening. Our town does not have a Planned Parenthood; this was their first step in. By appearing benign, even warm and child friendly, they were marketing themselves strictly as a community woman’s health organization – the word “abortion” was not to be found in their repertoire. Many families passing by had no idea what their true objective was. They were innocently letting their children take candy and helping themselves to a promotional pin.
Quickly I sent out a text message and Facebook invite to all in our youth group. “Meet in 10 minutes at street fair to protest Planned Parenthood.” 7 showed up immediately; I explained what was going on; another young adult brought some quickly printed signs and within the half-hour, we had 7 young people peacefully praying on the sidewalk in front of their booth with signs taped to their shirts.
The Planned Parenthood staff was not happy; they hastened to the police and accused us of harassment. Of course the police had no problems with our demonstration which had two immediate effects: 1) Since our signs simply said the word “abortion” and were next to a Planned Parenthood booth, traffic to the booth instantly stopped. There were no more visitors to their booth for the rest of the day. As soon as the booth was actually associated with their true purpose, people wanted nothing to do with them – their ruse as child-friendly community helpers was off. 2) The witness of the young people’s demonstration inspired the rest of the fair’s attendees.
Within an hour, our group of 7 grew to about 25. People walked by and joined us in prayer. One young man made a large “honk for life” sign – passing traffic showed their support also. Organizers of the fair were approaching us and commending us for our work. We were rallied together for life.
Much earlier than the other booths at the fair, Planned Parenthood packed up and left, very perturbed. With a fake smile, they tried to give the rest of their pink shirts to some kids at the end of the block. The kids, who were newly educated by our demonstrators, immediately accused the departing Planned Parenthood reps of racism, took a marker to their shirts, crossed off “I stand,” and augmented their new shirt’s message: “I’M NOT DOWN with Planned Parenthood.”
The fairs organizer apologized for Planned Parenthood’s presence and told us that they would not be back. And I doubt they will ever try to open a clinic in our town. Prayer and the witness of the town’s youth had won the day. But what would have been if we all stayed home?