I am back home today in Seattle-ish after a very nice three-week vacation in my home state of Wisconsin. We had lots of fun adventures, of course, with plenty of relax time and frozen custard. But one small moment has stuck with me, and not in a good way. I had to make a quick choice, and it left me with more than a little cognitive dissonance. That, in the end, is not really a bad thing; events that prod one to think deeply about actions, beliefs, and values offer opportunities to solidify your thinking and check that your brain and heart are working in tandem.

The small town where my mom lives in Wisconsin is like so many there now: a once-thriving agricultural town now utterly gutted by the recession and the presence of the small-business killer Wal-Mart. I can remember walking downtown there as a child with my mom and grandma, stopping often on the sidewalk to say hello to people my grandma knew, chatting with the shop owners, the feeling of Mayberry-like vibrancy and warmth. Now, there are almost no pedestrians, and there is a chill to the gazes from the few remaining shop owners, no cheery greetings offered. The only signs of life are at a few sketchy bars and outside a garish tattoo parlor. Semi-truck traffic barrels through the town, rumbling and idling at the single 4-point stop light. It is depressing.

On a cloudy and warm afternoon a few days ago, my 85-yr.-old mom, my 9-yr.-old daughter, and I decided to visit a couple of thrift/antique shops in the downtown, something we all enjoy and a good chance to put a few dollars into the local businesses trying to make a go of it. On the way to one of the shops, I glanced up from the sidewalk to look up to a storefront window at a hot pink sign that caught my attention. I was both surprised and very pleased to read on it "I Stand With Planned Parenthood," and realized that this town was fortunate enough to have a small clinic there, open two days a week. Planned Parenthood, for thousands of low-income women, is the only affordable source of any kind of medical care they can access, from cancer screenings to reproductive services to general health care.

The second after I read the sign, I read another, propped on the sidewalk next to the entrance: "Say hello to your baby!" it said, with the inevitable in-utero fetus photograph. Sitting next to the sign were three elderly people sitting in chairs. Oh, great, I thought, even this little place has self-righteous clinic protestors. And right there was where I had to instantly figure out how I wanted to react to this, for in my value system there is no room for bullies, and that's really what those old folks are.

My instinct was to stop cold, enter the clinic, and ask if I could make a donation and buy the entire staff lunch and flowers, and I nearly did it. My other instinct was to suggest to the chair-sitters that their time could be far better and less-hypocritically spent by volunteering to spend time attending to the needs of the millions of already-born children and women who are in desperate need of compassion and care. But I acted on neither urge, and felt very unsettled and unhappy for it. I knew that I would have upset my mother, who is sympathetic to the "pro-life" cause, less for the political ideals than what she would see as a lack of public good manners. I knew that while I wanted to set an example of action to my daughter, I did not want her to be in any way made uncomfortable seeing her grandma uncomfortable with me. So in those few seconds, I had to choose, and I chose to "suck it up" and walk past the clinic and the protesters, ignoring it all.

So that day I chose to keep family harmony intact by not calling out a trio of white-haired rocking chair bullies, but today I chose to make a donation to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. My cognitive dissonance isn't completely resolved, but I feel good about helping out an organization I believe in, in a state that has suffered particularly via the targeted efforts of Gov. Scott Walker and the far-right's agenda to restrict the rights of women. Please join me in donating if you can.

Statement from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, 2012