Shabbat at Planned Parenthood
The people awake at 7:15 a.m., when I left the house this past Saturday morning, were walking their dogs, washing off the streets in front of their stores and picking up a bite to eat. Usually, I’m never awake before 10 a.m. on Saturdays, so even if I pretend I’m going to make it to shul, it never works. On this day, though, I was on the train at 7:30 a.m.; an hour later, I was at a Planned Parenthood clinic, wearing a blue smock labeled “volunteer.”
The protestors showed up by 9 a.m., which apparently they do on the first Saturday of every month. There were probably 45 of them, with crosses and rosaries and a bullhorn — even a violin — chanting the Catholic “Hail Mary” prayer over and over.
There were also some men from Bikers for Life, walking around with flyers. The whole point of an escort is to get people who need to get into the clinic into the clinic. Sometimes, that means going over to the person telling a woman she’s about to murder her baby and helping her extract herself from the lecture; other times, it just means making eye contact and opening the door.
People who live in the neighborhood stopped to chat with us; we petted their dogs, answered their questions about the protestors. Women and men went into the clinic and came out safely. Sometimes, men went in with women and came out alone, asking us where to get food or coffee.
When my shift was completed at 10:15 a.m., the protestors were kneeling on the ground, their hands clasped in prayer. For a second, I remembered being eight years old and seeing my mother light Shabbat candles for the first time, ever. I put my hands together, fingers pointed up to the sky, a gesture I’d seen often on television. “Don’t do that,” my mother said. “That’s not what we do.”
Chanel Dubofsky is a contributor to the Sisterhood, which crossposts regularly with Jewesses with Attitude.