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October 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — On Wednesday, September 25 I had the opportunity to interact with a “pro-choice escort” outside an abortion facility on the first day of this year’s 40 Days for Life campaign. The conversation, or lack thereof, was revealing…to say the least. 

Not only did this young, gay man show himself to be a deeply troubled individual, his bizarre behavior laid bare for all to see what one of my LifeSite colleagues called “the complete absurdity and immorality of the homosexual delusion and real enthusiasm liberals have for killing babies.”

The story begins at 11:00 a.m. I had just arrived outside the Heritage Clinic for Women at 320 East Fulton Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Thomas Gordon commits abortions inside the center. Gordon previously had his license suspended by the State of Michigan for not letting them know he had a criminal background. 

About a dozen or so peaceful pro-life protestors were standing on the sidewalk holding up signs and praying when I showed up. Most of them were women over the age of 55. Two young people were also present. They wore pink-colored vests with the words “pro-choice” printed on them. They stood out like a pair of sore thumbs.

I later learned that their names are Aja McCray and Vance Bruder. Pro-lifers believe they are part of an eight to 10 person rotating team of abortion activists paid by the leftist American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to harass pro-lifers. 

Wanting to know if that claim was true, I turned on my video camera and asked them about it. McCray refused to say where she got her vest but denied being paid by the ACLU, which she called “a credible organization” that she has spoken to in the past at street fairs.

When I asked her if stopping the beating heart of an unborn baby is immoral, she said abortion is “a medical procedure” that women have a right to and that only when babies “can breathe on their own” should they be legally protected. 

I informed her that an abortion is not a medical procedure but rather, when unborn babies have their brains sucked out of their skulls, to which she oddly responded, “that’s not how abortion works.” She kept repeating how abortion is a “choice” because it’s “her body.” I didn’t ask Aja at the time, but I wonder if she thinks a boy baby inside a pregnant woman’s body, with its beating heart and male anatomy, really isn’t a distinct being?

Angels of death acting as the devil’s last line of defense against the gift of life

Bruder, on the other hand, was not interested in dialoguing with me. During the entire hour I spent outside the clinic he danced nonstop in an intentionally bothersome and, at times, grotesque manner, often invading the personal space of the otherwise silent protesters. He said he was not disturbing the peace in any way despite singing along with the blaring music coming from his phone. Some of the songs he played had obscene language in them, which he seemed to take pleasure in hearing.

One of the female pro-life protesters told him he was “not very nice” for having given me the middle finger while I recorded his antics. Bruder snapped back at her, shouting, “you’re not very nice, b***h!” He also accused her of “harassing” women. 

Perhaps Bruder was too hypnotized by his music, but the protester he accused of harassment had said nary a word to anyone up to that point. It wasn’t until later in the morning that she calmly attempted to dissuade a young couple pulling into the clinic’s driveway in their car from getting an abortion. She later informed me she was happy she had the chance to save a life.

When I asked Bruder why he was there he simply ignored me and continued what appeared to be a well-rehearsed calisthenics routine. Atonished by his stamina, I asked him if he was there to exercise or to celebrate abortion. When he failed to acknowledge my question, I asked if he was happy that unborn babies are killed inside the clinic. He seemed irritated by that and told me I was attractive and that I could “make a cute gay.” What an honor.

Bruder’s tactic was simple — ignore me until I went away. Unfortunately for him, his silence and downright immature behavior spoke volumes about not just him, but about those who think like him. It shows just how pathetic and sad he and the pro-abortion, social justice warrior crowd really are. Far from being “escorts,” such persons are angels of death acting as the devil’s last line of defense against the gift of life, of which God is the author. As such, it’s not surprising he a) didn’t want to engage with me and b) behaved in the strange way he did. 

During our interaction, I was reminded of something I read in Dom Lorenzo Scupoli’s classic 16th century work The Spiritual Combat. “God gradually withdraws His graces from those who neglect them.” I also thought about what Venerable Louis of Granada wrote in The Sinner’s Guide in 1555. “God withdraws further and further from a sinful soul, in proportion as her vices increase.”

I truly felt sorry for this man, who desperately needs prayers. He seems to have turned his back completely on Jesus at this point in his life. If anything, he is living proof of Romans 1:29. “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind.”

What was perhaps most revealing about my visit to the abortion facility was how viscerally Bruder reacted when the protesters started praying to Mary, the Holy Mother of God. 

When protesters held up a massive image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bruder frantically paced up and down the sidewalk in front of them as if he were possessed. When an elderly woman offered him a rosary, he screamed at her, “b***h don’t give me that! I’ll slam that s*** on the road!” McCray told the woman that Bruder “doesn’t need” another piece of “jewelry.” One protester told me Bruder went “ballistic” when they started praying Haily Mary’s after I had left. 

At the end of the day, those who oppose Christ’s teachings always seem to act with infernal rage whenever Mary is brought into the picture. That was on full display last week. 

Paid to promote abortion?

Protestors at the Grand Rapids abortuary told me that the team of activists Bruder and McCray belong to has been appearing there off and on over the past several years but that their presence has increased over the last couple months. Antifa activists and Satanists used to show outside the clinic as well. “Hostile” was how one protester said they are treated by such persons.

Accusations of harassment seem to be confirmed by a video McCray herself recorded and then posted on her Facebook profile on August 23. In the post, a hysterical woman can be seen screaming, “your mommy should’ve killed you’re ugly a**!” to a woman in her 70s trying to talk to her about choosing life.

When the protester said she would pray for the woman, she exclaimed, “you better [pray for me] because Jesus Christ is the only m*********** keeping me from beatin’ you up!” A delighted McCray can be heard supporting the woman’s outrageous behavior. In her Facebook post, McCray wrote in capital letters, “THIS IS THE ENERGY YOU NEED TO BRING AT BIGOTS.

McCray told me that she has been “threatened” as well. She showed me a snippet of a video of Mark Garner in a confrontation with pro-abortion activists. Garner is an African-American security guard hired by Sidewalk Advocates for Life to patrol the area.

Garner, who owns and operates Absolute Security Group — a Christian-oriented company he started in 2012 that provides a wide range of protection services — told me that the “confrontation” in McCray’s video is misleading.

“I’m here for everyone. I’m really here to protect all voices,” he said. “That video is the only time I ever engaged with Mr. Bruder. I’ve been out here 16 months, and I’ve seen Antifa show up and old ladies being pushed in the street. These people record videos that don’t record the entire act, only the last couple minutes or so. What their video of me doesn’t show is that that man had just hit a 72-year-old woman in her face with his ‘pro-choice’ sign. He completely disrespects the women that come here. So I pursued him aggressively and let him know he is not allowed to do that.”

Garner says his personal information, including his home address, has been posted online by the pro-abortion activists who appear outside the clinic. He claims the ACLU of Michigan tried to open claims against his business and that they threatened to shut him down. “They don’t like that I’m black and pro-life,” he said. “The accusations against me by these people are simply not true.”

A self-identified “person of faith,” Garner told me, “the clinic has contracted the ACLU to provide these, as they call themselves, ‘escorts’ to be down here…that is what a ranking member of the ACLU told me.” Understandably, he said he cannot reveal who the “ranking member” is out of concern for their privacy and safety but that the allegation is “100 percent true.”

Witness to Christ no matter what

Ultimately what my experience outside the 320 East Fulton abortion center taught me is that it’s increasingly the norm for pro-life and pro-family activists to be treated in terrible ways when they stand for truth at places where evil dominates. Just last month I wrote about a group of Christians verbally assaulted as they protested outside a Drag Show that exploited people with Down syndrome.

Satan hates that followers of Christ bring public attention to his evil ways. He tries to do everything he can to discourage more of them from showing up. But he can’t and won’t win. The slings and arrows that come with defending the Gospel in this anti-Christian world are to be expected, and welcomed. “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,” Our Lord once said. Christians should not only pray for those persecuting them but take comfort in knowing God is standing alongside them when they are met with such hostilities for defending His teachings. I know I did.

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Stephen Kokx is a journalist for LifeSiteNews. A former community college instructor, Stephen has written and spoken extensively about Catholic social teaching, politics, and spirituality. He previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago under the late Francis Cardinal George. His essays have appeared in a variety of outlets, including Catholic Family News and He is the author of St. Alphonsus for the 21st Century: A Handbook for Holiness.