It may be uncommon to see a demonstration with protesters and banners in fancy parts of town but it happens, like it did on January 22, 2008 in front of the exclusive Westin Galleria Hotel near Uptown area.
“I have come to the gates of hell to tell you that what’s going on here is evil,” said lawyer Chris Aubert, an educated, eloquent man, a husband and a father. He’s obviously bold to make such a strong statement in front of mostly polished hotel guests, employees and curious pedestrians, who had become witnesses of an "embarrassing disturbance," as described by others inside the building.
The cause of the protest and also the presence of several police officers was that it was the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the historic case of Roe vs. Wade.
Westin Galleria was the venue where Planned Parenthood of Houston held a luncheon to celebrate the controversial judgment with the attendance more than 600 people, including public officials, physicians, PP employees, members and volunteers.
In favor of life
Those denouncing the practice of abortion outside the building amounted to about 50 people loaded with printed banners and handwritten signs that said “Planned parenthood kills babies,” “I regret my abortion,” Abortion is the worst child abuse,” “Pray to end abortions.”
50 year-old Aubert admitted to have collaborated in two abortions when he was younger and inexperienced with two different girlfriends in the 80s, but thinks now as a parent that it was one of his biggest mistakes.
“I always thought that it was the right of a woman to decide what to to do with that speck of tissue until I saw the baby in the ultrasound with my wife at the doctor’s office about ten years ago,” said Aubert. “It was as if God had laid His hand on me and had enlightened me to see what I didn’t before.”
Other protesters who spoke against abortion were Vic and Karen Perez, who had an abortion in the 70s because they didn’t feel ready to care for a baby and it was a decision, they think, put a stain in their married life.
“In Planned parenthood, they call us ‘evidence of anecdote’ -those cases of women who are affected permanently by the experience- but we are just women like my neighbor, my friend or my coworker,” Karen said. “Many people think that abortion is a woman’s right, but we only ask that you listen to those of us who already went through this.”
The Perez’s, as other protesters, formed part of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, a program dedicated to expose the negatives effects of an abortion.
“In 1975, mi wife and I decided to abort our baby because the government had legalized it two years earlier and they assured us that everything would be OK,” Cuban-born Vic said. “But we also did it because we were selfish and considered inconvenient to let live who would have been our children’s oldest sibling.”
Freedom to choose
Inside many people, who enjoyed a succulent lunch served up by Planned Parenthood, shared a different opinion, while addressing the essence of the problem.
State Senator Rodney Ellis attended the event to support his wife who was one of the board members of Planned Parenthood at the time. He had firm but understanding words for those outside.
“I’m a fervent believer of a woman’s right to choose, but I also respect the opposite opinion of pro-life supporters,” Ellis said.
State legislator Jessica Farrar, another attendee, explained Planned Parenthood’s goal is not just to perform abortions, but also to introduce the community to safe sex education and methods of pregnancy and STD prevention, while also helping create a future for babies born in difficult circumstances.
“The ones that suffer the most are the children themselves, more than the parents because they’re born into a situation in which, many times, they’re not wanted, not cared for and often they’re abandoned or abused,” said Farrar, who asserted that some pro-life supporters were not being realistic for considering abstinence the only preventive measure against an unintended pregnancy.
State representative Carol Alvarado (who wasn’t elected for the seat at the time) opined that abortion was a tragic necessity to prevent women’s lack of progress and more poverty, though she said she didn't want it to be like this.
“I wish we didn’t have abortions, I wish we spent more money on education and prevention for girls and boys, so they can truly be aware of the life consequences for the decisions they make,” said Alvarado, who was a PP board member till last year.
This is a translated version of a story that came out two years ago in a local Spanish-language publication by the same writer.