n most days, when she arrives at the Planned Parenthood clinic she directs in Washington, D.C., Dr. Laura Meyers passes through a wall of Operation Rescue protesters. Because the District has no “access zone” protections in place, anti-abortion protesters on Washington’s 16th Street—sometimes as many as 60 people—can and do follow Dr. Meyers along the sidewalk and all the way to the clinic’s front door. Yet in the nine years that she has worked for Planned Parenthood, Meyers has come to understand this daily dose of the American abortion debate playing out at the clinic’s entrance as part of a healthy democracy. “As an American, I support their right to free speech,” she explains.
On religious grounds, however, Meyers has less patience for Operation Rescue’s activities. “As a Christian, it’s frustrating,” she tells me over the phone. Coming of age in a “very devout” Roman Catholic family amidst the Vatican II shifts of the late 1960s, she was deeply informed by the church’s social justice tradition and her “responsibility to live out Jesus’ mandate to care for others.” Yet she says she left the Catholic tradition as “divisive issues such as contraception and abortion and gay relationships took the front burner, rather than caring for others.” As an adult, she became involved in the United Methodist Church, teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, singing in the choir, and serving as president of her church’s United Methodist Women chapter. Her focus, she says, has always been on social justice—looked at from a very broad lens.
To Meyers, the protesters’ Christian tirades against abortion aren’t very Christian at all. “Jesus never talked about abortion,” she says. “But he talked a lot about love. When I look outside my window and see people screaming at women, the lack of compassion is stunning … Sometimes I want to say to them: ‘Go work in a soup kitchen and do something actually useful!’”
On the other hand, Meyers does see the work of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) as very much in line with Jesus’ admonition for compassion, especially for poor children and poor families. “PPFA is 90 percent preventative and education,” she says. “If you care about families and children, your commitment has to be making sure that the men and women who are havin