AS I WALKED toward the entrance of the Planned Parenthood health center on Commonwealth Avenue this week, a small group of protesters lightly pounced. One woman offered me a rose. Another gave me some literature with Bible verses and pictures of a fetus at various stages of development. “There’s good reading in there,” she said. Another prayed with rosary beads. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but everyone was polite. And everyone stayed outside a bright yellow half-circle painted on the ground.
I was struck by the contrast to the common scene outside the health center in past decades, when antiabortion zealots screamed, chanted, blocked the doors, grabbed at women trying to enter, and photographed license plates. It was a time when women’s health centers offering abortions were routinely bombed, burned, or doused with butyric acid. When staffers received letters purporting to contain anthrax. When John Salvi shot and killed two women and injured five others at two women’s health centers in Brookline.