The Line...between Life and Death

I guess I looked the part.

I was dressed in jeans and my WVU hoodie.  I was alone and probably looking a little stressed.  I hesitated as I stepped into the cross walk, unsure of exactly where I was going (even though I had driven by first - it looks different on foot).  I clutched my purse and my eyes darted from one side of the street to the other; wondering where do I go exactly and will I need to let someone know I'm here?  I was still more than a block away, but I immediately noticed the bright yellow vests that Abby Johnson had described in Unplanned.

And then a man approached me, hand outstretched with some sort of pamphlet of information. ''Please look at this before you go in there."


"Oh, no, I'm actually here to pray."

And it began.

The man (I'm embarrassed I don't remember his name) smiled, welcomed me, and started to walk with me.  Over the next block I told him this was my first time participating in a 40 Days for Life vigil and asked if there was someone I needed to check in with since I had signed up for the 9:00 hour.  He introduced me to another man (again, horrible with names, next time I will take pen and paper in addition to my camera) who was holding one end of a 40 Days for Life banner.

Both men asked where I was from, when I said Morgantown they commented how far of a drive it is.  Funny how those from Pittsburgh always think it takes so long to get to Morgantown and those of us from Morgantown don't think it's that far at all.

I was told about 'the line'.  The line separating life and death.  The line that I was not permitted to cross while praying.  And as I was looking at the line, a young woman and what looked like maybe her mother walked into PP.  Instantly tears filled my eyes.  Was she going in for an abortion?  Was I ready for this hour?

There was a group across the street praying a rosary and as I was very uncomfortable standing right next to 'the line', I decided I'd head across and join them.  Thinking maybe I'd come back across the street in a little while.  I had remembered to take my rosary with me and I was glad to have a group to follow.  The lady who I needed to check in with was also across the street and while I wasn't worried about 'getting credit' I wanted to be sure they knew that the person who had signed up for the 9:00 hour did indeed show up.

From 9:00 to 10:00 on Saturday morning it was what I thought and expected.  And it was not at all what I thought or expected.  It was more.  so.  much.  more.

There were men and women.  Young and old.  All there, praying.

As I watched those who crossed the line, who entered PP, I found myself wondering about their story.  Wondering if they thought like I used to - that PP would offer them all of their options; that choice was necessary, even if it wasn't for me?

After I'd signed in, I stood next to two young girls holding a Gabriel Project banner.  "Hold it up proudly, they can see it from inside through the windows."  They can?  "Yes, they can."  And the girls smiled and held their sign up proudly.  Their hope contagious.

Then there was a woman who crossed the street.  Arm-in-arm with her daughter.  One of the 40 Days for Life women, wearing a sandwich board sign, immediately approached them as they crossed.

At first, I couldn't hear her words, but I could hear the mother's response - and it wasn't nice.  She followed them all the way to the line.  Reminding the mother that it was her responsibility to protect her daughter.  Almost begging her not to do it.  She stayed in the street, just outside the line praying and calling out to the woman and her daughter.  Occasionally she'd turn just enough that I could catch a glimpse of her face from across the street.  The pain was visible.  And heart wrenching.

Tears filling my eyes as I let myself process what was going to happen.  My heart breaking as a daughter trusted her mother; her mother who was leading her across the line between life and death.  And a voice whispered to me deep from the pit of my stomach 'that's what I'd do if it were you.'  A flashback of a conversation from a ride in the car when I was in high school; when my mom and I discussed a friend who everyone suspected had had an abortion.  Maybe that's why this road to being pro-life was one I fought against turing down so hard?  Thank God it was never me.

A few decades of the rosary later and two girls about college age came out.  One of them was wearing a Duquesne sweatshirt.  If our Catholic campuses aren't reaching their young women, how can any of us expect to?

As I watched the coming and the going, those praying and those working, I couldn't help but notice that the PP escorts often looked our way and laughed.  But it wasn't a deep belly-laugh.  It was more of an uncomfortable laugh.  I wondered what they really thought.  I wondered if their hearts were being changed.

As the clock neared 9:45, I felt tugged back toward the other side of the road.  To move closer to the white line.  I thanked the man who had shared their vigil guide with me and told the girls holding the banner I would be praying for them.

And as I started to cross the street once again, I couldn't help but notice the irony.  The PP in Pittsburgh is on Liberty Avenue.

I put my toes on the edge of the white line, next to a lady who later would tell me she is 72 and stood up to the K.K.K all by herself in 1972.  I bowed my head to pray, keeping my eyes focused on the line between life and death.

As 10:00 arrived, I was surprised at how quickly the time had gone and a part of me was sad that it was time to leave.  I thanked the man who was holding the 40 Days for Life Banner for welcoming me so warmly.  I looked to see if the first man was still down the block across from the parking garage and was glad to see that he was.  It seemed fitting to say goodbye to him just before crossing the street for the last time.  This time, I was walking much more confidently and he knew exactly who I was and why I was there.  He greeted me warmly.  I thanked him for his help and for welcoming me so kindly, saying 'God bless you,' as I walked away.

No, God bless you.

And with that I crossed the street for the last time and prepared to head home.

Forever changed.


  1. Very powerful! Thank you for sharing!

  2. You are courageous. You have stood at the modern-day Calvary. You are a true disciple. Thank you.

  3. I am so glad this change has come to your heart. What a beautiful thing you did.

  4. Rebecca, I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for going and participating in the 40 days vigil at PP. There's so much confusion and so many hurting women and Satan preys on them in their darkest hours. And you were there, being a light for them. Those workers laugh their uncomfortable laugh because the Light of Christ was there before their eyes and it made them uncomfortable.

    God bless you. Bless you abundantly!

  5. What an amazing experience, thank you for sharing!

  6. Sitting here crying. I'm so glad you went and prayed and shared.

  7. Wow... just.. wow! This is an AMAZING post. Thank you for sharing your experience! I wonder sometimes if I would have the guts to go pray at a PP clinic... maybe now that I am moving to a bigger city I will find the grace and courage to go pray.

  8. What an amazing experience! I'm truly in awe :)

  9. I'm bawling. You are so courageous. God bless you indeed.

  10. This morning, I watched a local news program here in Arizona that mocked Jon Kyl for his recent statistic glitch. The news program is one that allows viewers to present their opinions, and to my surprise, everyone featured supported the "great work" of P.P. What? That troubled me.

    While reading your post, I feel called to action. Thank you for sharing this...you've inspired me!

  11. Thank you for sharing your experience. It's so good to hear a pro-life perspective that involves presence, support and prayer, not screaming and bodily intervention.

  12. Oh Rebecca. Thank you for sharing this. Praying at the abortion facilities is the hardest thing. Especially on "killing days". I am trying to be brave enough to go. So far we have gone twice this spring. It never gets easier. But it is so important.

    I love seeing how God's been nudging you in this pro-life journey! God Bless you friend. :)

  13. Thank you for coming to our vigil in Pittsburgh, and for sharing your beautifully written reflections and photos! Can I copy these photos for our 40 Days for Life website?


  14. Thanks for sharing this! It's very powerful and so strange to think of so many people crossing the line every day.

  15. Thank you for your witness. This was a powerful piece.

  16. I'm sorry, but I have to say something here. This was very-well written, Rebecca, but the tears filling my eyes as I read this post were for the women visiting PP that morning who had to endure this harrasment (specifically the women who exchanged angry words while the pro-life woman badgered them all the way to the line). These are the times that I am ashamed of the pro-life movement. Intervention with these girls needs to start WAY before their visit to a PP clinic for an abortion. Who knows, maybe these mobs of people who spend their days casting guilt upon PPs clientele are one of the reasons these girls aren't visiting PP in the first place to talk about pregnancy prevention.

    The thing that I don't understand is why isn't this movement about teaching respect and prevention instead of what was described here -- doling out guilt and shame after a decision has already been made? In my (very) humble opinion (that is quite the minority in this space), teaching these girls to love themselves enough that they don't make choices that result in pregnancy would do so much more to solve this problem. If everyone who gave an hour to pray that morning instead gave an hour to mentor a pre-teen girl once in awhile, think of the lasting good that would do...and it wouldn't be about making these girls feel guilty about their choices and forever searing them with guilt about the decision to have an abortion. Instead, it would be a message about love for yourself and there's nothing controversial about that.

  17. I want to reply to Kaybeeski, but I want you all to know that the reason I've waited almost a day is because about 5 minutes after I got the email with the above comment, I received another with an apology (that you will see below I didn't think was necessary) and a request to just delete the comment. The next few comments will be from me and are my reply to her...and I leave Kaybeeski's comment above with her permission.

  18. Kaybeeski - there is no need to apologize, I appreciate your honesty and you make a point that I didn't mention. Before deciding to go, this was my fear that women who are hurting and feel they are making a good choice would be harmed further in the process. That there would be judgement of the women. And I didn't make it clear enough through my words that this wasn't how it was at all. In fact, prior to attending as a member of the 40 Days for Life vigil, you must sign an agreement to not do any of those things. To be there, to pray, and to offer support to women (both before AND after any appointment they may have). When the woman approached the mother and daughter, her words were kind, of support, offering to help this mother help her daughter. The daughter looked straight ahead and held on to her mother, but the mother shouted back profanity and flipped the woman off. When the woman stayed at the line, she offered prayers for the mother and daughter, called out in offer of help. There was no tone of judgement in her voice - only love. I don't go into detail to try to refute that what you are saying happens because it does, every day, but to say that this day it didn't happen, at least not in the hour I was there.

    Most of us who were there stood and prayed silently or said the rosary with the group. Most of us said not a word to those walking by who crossed the line. And those that did speak (I heard them - one of them even approached me by mistake) offered help and support both on that day and in the future. I can't speak about all prayer vigils, but at this one it was all about reaching out and offering a better choice. (to be continued)

  19. I completely agree with you, and since this is my space, you are in the majority :), that we need to start with love and teaching girls to love themselves. That if all we do is stand in front of an abortion clinic and pray, we aren't doing enough. It was a first step for me. I don't know what my next step will be, but I know I'm not finished. I know that one hour on a Saturday morning isn't enough. I think this is why the girl who was wearing a Duquesne (a Catholic University) sweatshirt and coming out of PP bothered me almost more than anything I saw that day. If she's not getting the message about Life and children and marriage and loving herself then how can we expect young women in far more at-risk circumstances to get it?

    I don't write these words to try to debate, but rather to clarify some as to what I saw and participated in that day. And to say, clearly, that I agree with you. That we (those in the pro-life movement) are failing young women daily if all we do is wait until they are ready to walk in to the doors of the abortion clinic. I think we (as a whole) are figuring that out and starting to act on it. I know that I am and will.

    Thank-you so much for sharing your feelings here. It makes me proud to know that you felt safe enough to do it.

  20. And that was my reply. It was sent via email first as part of my request to keep Kaybeeski's comment posted here. Ultimately, we agreed we are much more similar than different on this issue (as I suspected) and I am grateful for this dialogue and this space to do it in.

    To all of you, who agree and disagree with me and each other, thank-you for making this space a comfortable 'home' for me.

  21. Wow Rebecca - not only your post, but your open and honest discussion with Kaybeeski. If only we all could sit and talk like that. I'm positive more common ground than differences would be found.

    Gives me hope.