The Weakest Links: Life Chain 2021

Since the closure of the Essential Health Clinic in town a couple years ago, I admit my pro-choice activities have been a bit sparse. Then again, so have the local antiabortion activities and even more so since Pastor Faust moved out of state after being booted from his congregation last year. Aside from Brian’s family making the rounds at a nearby Planned Parenthood every Tuesday (as he is unable to picket due to a restraining order), a couple of random antiabortion opinion pieces, a non-local crisis pregnancy center advertising in our newspaper and high school sports posters, their activity has been sporadic at best.  

One thing they’re still being consistent with is holding their annual Life Chain on the bridge, which occurs on the first Sunday in October every year.

I haven’t counter protested the event since 2018.

In 2019, I decided to take a break for the sake of my then-declining mental health.

In 2020, I was out of town at the time and wouldn’t have attended anyways because of Covid. They supposedly held it, but there wasn’t any photographic evidence to show for it.

This year I was apprehensive about going because of the on-going pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the Life Chain has had a rule about spacing people to maximize the chain and every year the protesters largely ignore that particular direction. I doubted the pandemic’s six foot recommendation for social distancing would make them consider following this rule as I’ve seen some of those same protesters come to my workplace refusing to take any basic Covid precautions. Brian in particular has been quite vocal about his anti-vax, anti-mask, Covid-conspiracy stance on his public Facebook page —even after his wife caught Covid and it was bad enough that she had to be put on a respirator for several days –and is currently and horribly advising that anyone with Covid take livestock medication to treat it. My presence at the Life Chain always results in being confronted by a couple protesters who were rubbed the wrong way and I ultimately decided I wasn’t ready to find myself face-to-face with someone who might have not taken Covid seriously for the past 18 months. But for old time’s sake I went to check out the last ten minutes or so of the Life Chain from across the street while listening to Otep’s “Generation Doom” album.

Brian, living up to his nickname of “The Dicktator” by being so zealously antiabortion that he makes casual antiabortion supporters look almost pro-choice, decided that he and a “few genuine brethren” were going to have their own little vigil the hour before the Life Chain was supposed to start on the bridge. Yet, when my husband and I had driven by the spot he was supposed to be at about fifteen minutes after the time he posted, The Dicktator and his supposed Christian posse was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t there when we passed by again about half an hour later on our way to lunch. He wasn’t at the Life Chain when I checked the last little bit of it after lunch, either. Funny how he went on a Facebook rant criticizing the local Wisconsin Right to Life chapter for essentially not being hardcore enough in their antiabortion pursuits and he doesn’t even show up the vigil that he planned.

Taken when everyone was leaving and both signs were on the same side of the bridge.

There was one man about Faust’s age that looked like he was in charge of the vigil holding the biggest sign I had ever seen at this function. “Pro-Life The radical idea that babies are people.” There was a large WRTL sign on the other side of the bridge that read “Abortion stops a beating heart”.

I counted about 47 people and usually this bridge vigil brings in about 55-60 people at least. I noted there were fewer children this year, possibly because Brian didn’t drag along his kids and the two other boys this year.

As usual, this particular Life Chain location cannot follow the principles that’s apparently been in place since its inception in 1987.

  • “At least half of your signs should be ‘Abortion Kills Children’.”: Just like previous years, half of their signs weren’t this AKC sign.
  • “Spacing is Key. Maximize your Life Chain. Space your participants up to 100 feet apart. Only 53 people will over a full mile”:  A couple years ago, we figured out that only ten people were needed to cover one side of the bridge. The chain on the left side of the bridge was actually following this rule for the most part as there were about 10 or so people evenly spaced across the entire length of the bridge. The right side, however, didn’t extend to the other side of the bridge despite having 30 people because they were crowded together.
  • “Promote this to be a true ‘prayer chain,’ free of frivolity, idle chatter, and interaction with motorists.”: Like every year I’ve witnessed this Life Chain, most of the participants were standing in pairs or small groups and engaging in conversation with one another.
  • “The publicized Life Chain time period is 2:00-3:30 in each time zone, but each Coordinator may adjust the time to meet local needs. Please hold a 90-minute Chain if at all possible.”: According to the group’s Facebook events, they have never held a 90-minute Life Chain. If there’s one thing that Brian is actually right on it’s that a lot of local antiabortion supporters put in an hour in October and then are inactive the rest of the year.  

Once the clock struck 3pm, having put in their protesting hour for the year, they dispersed like cockroaches in the light. Some probably went to the park afterwards for the refreshments. I went home as I didn’t see any point in watching a bunch of antiabortion supporters stand around a punch bowl while they patted themselves on the back like proud peacocks even though their event was weak by Life Chain standards and general standards.

Their impact was so unexceptional that the chain barely made the local paper the following week. It’s a small town so practically anything out of the ordinary makes the paper and usually in the first two pages if its not sports related. This is what the paper had to say about the event next to a tiny photo on page 5 where the only adults visible were appear to be cisgender men:

“Jackson County families came together to form a Life Chain on the Black River bridge Sunday Oct. 3 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. as other chains formed throughout the United States. Participants prayed to end abortion, to encourage adoption and to offer hope and help to mothers and fathers so they can welcome their unborn babies.”

I think the photo an antiabortion supporter submitted of me in 2017 to go alongside a scathing opinion piece about the “rude, crude, and offensive” sign I was holding at that year’s Life Chain was much bigger than the entirety of this mention of this year’s Life Chain.

As I think of this whole affair, I am reminded of a lyric from an Otep song I was listening to while casually watching the Chain from afar:

“Strength in numbers

Counting you like sheep

Makes me wonder

Why you’re all so weak?

Feeding frenzy: the gnashing of the teeth

If there’s strength in numbers

Why are you so weak?”  

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