Fail, Survive, or Thrive

November 07, 2022 @ 12:00am

Protestors or prayer walkers? Who are they and more importantly, why are they here…outside of my clinics? Frequently there are groups of people with anti-abortion signs and the rosary walking up and down the sidewalks near Healthfirst locations. When I started, I did not know what to say or do. Do I just let them be? Do I engage in conversation?

The answer presented itself before I was able to make a calculated decision. On a fall morning at our old office in Wausau, we went into lockdown as there was reports of shots fired and shell casings found in the block near to where we were at. That same morning there were a group of high schoolers from the local Catholic school protesting outside of the building. Being a kind human being, I went out to engage with them.

I let them know the circumstances, that the neighborhood was on lock down. And I encouraged them to leave for their own safety. They responded as many high schoolers would. The attitude of in destruction, that they knew more than me, and that I just did not want them protesting. Contrary to their believes, I was extremely concerned for their safety. And very thankful that an officer than came, told them what I had already told them, and made them leave.

Despite all difference and frustrations, they had caused me, I still had the choice to be a decent human being. And I did just that. A few days later, I received an email from one of their mom’s thanking me and apologizing for their behavior. I took that opportunity to dig deeper, offering to meet for coffee to discuss the reason why they protest our location. Now as many of you know, I do not drink coffee, but I still went and got a smoothie instead.

We sat down and talked. And talked for a long time. I asked for us to settle on agreeing to disagree on the mechanisms of action of birth control. That was met with great resistance because of their religious beliefs. I asked why they did not protest other health systems in the area. I was told because they do not serve or target minors. I then explained confidential reproductive healthcare is legal and provided to minors in all healthcare entities in Wisconsin. There are specific statutes around that, that I will explain another day. I also explained that a majority of our clients are over 18. I do feel I was heard at the meeting, but not necessarily respected.

Over time I have taken the opportunity to have lunch with other groups of protestors and engage in a way to educate and learn. Some groups have been more receptive than others. But facts are in the science. Contraceptives do not cause abortions. Heck the main mechanism of action for hormonal contraceptives is to prevent the release of the egg. If the egg does not release it cannot meet the sperm, and if the egg and sperm do not meet…well I think we all know the rest of the story. What we offer and do at Healthfirst is rooted in science and medicine, facts, and data. Not ideology and philosophy.

These groups go to the extent of renting a billboard across from our building and post things like birth control has risks. Well guess what, walking across the street has (more) risks as well. It shall be interesting when they find out we were a step ahead of them this year, and have the billboard rented during the 40 days of life timeframe when they usually try to blast us.

But as in the choice to fail, survive, or thrive. Healthfirst continues to take the high road and thrive. When it is 90 degrees out and they are protesting with the elderly and young children, we take out a case of water. When they sing and chant with their rosary, we thank them for sending positive thoughts for our organization. As so many times the things we put into the universe as they protest and pray outside of the building have reaped great benefits and successes for us.


About the author: Jessica Scharfenberg
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