Why I’m Pro-Choice, by AJ

When my husband and I had children we always agreed to be open and honest with our kids. When we ended up having two daughters, my husband informed me that “those talks” were all mine. I’ve always been pretty open about women’s rights and at an early age they had probably heard me rant and rave about things they probably shouldn’t have but looking back on it, I’m so glad they did.

They’re 8 and 10 now and about one year ago they asked me what an abortion was. At first, I didn’t want to tell them anything. I didn’t want to tell them the process of an abortion. They’d never understand. They’d get the wrong idea about what it is because they’re kids. There’s no way they could really process that information. Then I thought back and no one in my family talked to me about periods, pregnancy or birth control early. l wasn’t going to be that mom. I told them about abortion in a very age appropriate way, but the most important part I wanted to make sure they understood was that it was their choice. As I explained to them about the process and asked them if someone else wanted to have an abortion what would you say? They were very sure in their answer, “It’s their choice.” Maybe they just said that because I was pushing that the choice is theirs to make or because they truly felt that it was their choice, but I was pretty sure I got my point across.

Fast forward to one day in January,  the night before my first morning as a clinic escort. We had talked about it all week long because they could tell that I was nervous about it. We talked about what an escort does and how they are there to support the woman. How their job is to walk with the woman and her friends or family from their vehicle to the building because they would be harassed. We discussed the protestors and how they were out there with signs with huge photos of dead fetuses and yelling at the women while they were walking into the clinic. My youngest daughter has always been the one to soak up the most information from me. I put them to bed that night, gave kisses, and kiss fives (kiss your hand, then high five) and tucked them in; business as usual. I went downstairs to go to bed myself and I’m lying there for about 10 minutes and in comes my youngest. She hands me a letter and it said,

Dear Mom,

I hope you can help a lot of women tomorrow(sic).

I’ll miss you and I love you a lot.

Love,

 

Then about 10 minutes later she comes back downstairs and she says, “Oh good, you’re still awake,” and she hands me a picture that she has drawn. As I’m looking at the picture, I’m at a loss for words and I ask her to explain it to me. She tells me that I’m at the top with a lady who isn’t sure about her decision, another helper with a lady who is very scared. I asked her what she afraid of. She told me that she was scared of the protesters. She said that she didn’t draw the protesters because they were not important because they weren’t there to help. I was overwhelmed at her understanding of it all.

 

I made sure that I brought those papers with me on Saturday morning because I knew I had plenty of second thoughts about going. I had seen the protesters from the street so many times before but I had no idea how it would affect me up close. When I approached the clinic from 3rd street, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and tear up. When I got into the parking lot, I almost threw up, but then I remembered the papers in my pocket and remembered that the reason I’m here is to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure my daughters have access to proper healthcare and rights to their own bodies. As their mother, I owe them that.

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What Does Desperation Look Like? ~ guest post by Heather M

The recent headline cases of women who have miscarried or resorted to self-abortion attempts to end an unwanted pregnancy (Purvi Patel , Kenlissa Jones and Anna Yocca) have had many people saying ” How could they?” Some from an anti-abortion stance that seems to value the life of a fetus over the woman carrying it. Others from a perspective of the fact that abortion is still legal and has been legal nationwide since 1973, Why would anyone take such risks when they could just go to a doctor?

Easy. Legal does not mean accessible, or affordable.

This is my story and I am going to smash some stereotypes many associate with a self-abortion attempt. First, I am a white, US-born female, raised in a middle class Catholic family with two parents present. I was raised in the North Eastern US. I finished high school. I was living on my own and supporting myself with a full-time job. I was in a committed relationship and was using birth control the month I became pregnant.

The year was 1990. I was 20 years old. I was working with racehorses as a caretender, a job with long hours (sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week), tons of responsibility and a great deal of personal satisfaction. I was making my bills every month, rent,  utilities, but did not have much money left over for anything else. To make a big or unexpected purchase I either put it off or worked nights in addition to my regular job, as hard and long as I could, to earn what was needed.

Sometime in early March of that year my period was late and I had been sick and struggling under my work demands. After waiting a few more long scary days, I went and bought three different brands of home pregnancy tests from three different stores. I wanted to make sure I did not get an error due to a bad test.

I read the directions over and over as I did not want to waste one by using it wrong. As I took them, one after another showed a positive result: two dots, two lines, a pink window. All horrifying results to me. I did everything right. How did this happen to me? I used the Today sponge and spermicide. I went out and bought another two tests and took them again the next morning; same results. No denying it now. That’s why I had been feeling so sick

I knew immediately that I did not want to be pregnant. I was not going to be having a baby in the fall of that year. Somehow I was going to figure this out. I had already made my decision when I had used birth control and this was like an invader in my own body; alien like and causing me to be physically ill, draining me and robbing me of my ability to provide for myself.

I was living in a state that had multiple clinics available. I picked up the phonebook and started dialing trying to figure out how much an abortion was going to cost, how far I would have to drive and how hard I was going to have to work to raise the money. Then get the procedure done without missing any time from work or I would be fired. I had found two clinics that were about 40 miles away but the procedure cost $400  cash or credit card. I did not have a credit card so I figured up how many weeks working days and  nights it would take me to save the money. Five weeks was my estimate. After that I may be too far along for those clinics and the price, distance and difficulty would rise.

In the meantime I had a plan. One of the racehorse mares I was taking care of was on a medicine to suppress her heat cycles. Without it she was impossible to manage let alone train and race. I had been instructed to let one of the men in the barn dose her everyday as it was dangerous for women to come in contact with that drug. I went to work that morning and quietly read and reread the cautions and warnings in big bold letters on the packaging. MAY CAUSE MISCARRIAGE!  WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE DO NOT HANDLE WITHOUT GLOVES AND USE EXTREME CAUTION NOT TO COME IN CONTACT WITH IT.

I began quietly taking some of the horse’s medication every day hoping to induce a miscarriage that the label warned in big bold letters about. I weighed about 155 lbs and was making sure I took enough for a 1500 lb horse. This I hoped would work. In the meantime, always planning that if the medicine failed I was going to go ahead with the abortion.

I worked for almost four weeks my usual sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week and started taking night work at the racetracks three nights a week to earn extra money quickly. Those days became 20 to 22 hour marathon work stints two and sometimes three days in a row. Sick with morning sickness. Sick with taking medicine for equines in doses over a dozen times what I weighed. Sick from lack of sleep. Still I kept on. I was not under any circumstances going to remain pregnant one minute longer than I had to. Whatever came first, the miscarriage or enough money saved for the abortion I was going to keep working towards it.

Finally, the end of the first weeK of April I  had saved the $400. I called to set up my appointment. I wanted the latest one available in the day as soon as I possibly could. Why you ask did I not want one first thing in the morning?  Because I had to work. I set up for as late as I could one morning. I was told don’t eat anything after midnight. That morning I was at the barn by 330 am so I could rush through my work by mid-morning and I paid one of my coworkers to take care of my afternoon responsibilities. I told them I had an emergency that came up. I did not confide in anyone except my boyfriend, and even then I did not tell him I was trying to induce a miscarriage.  He was fully supportive, but as cash strapped as I was. He helped some, but my pride and my sense of responsibility kept me from asking for more than I knew he could give.

At the appointment I was given forms to fill out, everything was explained in detail and I was asked repeatedly if this was something I really wanted to do. I could take another few days and think it over now that I had been given information about the procedure. “NO,” I fairly screamed, ‘for a month I have been saving and working like mad to gather the money together. I would have had it done four weeks ago if I could have afforded it!!”

With everything that I had put my body trying to rid myself of this unwanted invader that had taken over my life in such a drastic way, the abortion itself was almost anticlimactic. The thing that stands out the most was the warm thick socks they put on my feet. They said the metal stirrups were cold and the walk to the recovery room was on cold tile and they did not want me to feel chilled. I felt cared for and like I could for the first time in weeks let someone else worry for me. A few hours later I was ready to go and called my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The next morning at 7 am I was back at work, moving a bit slow and taking care to not let cramps keep me from being able to get my work done. it was the first time in over six weeks I had not wanted to throw up everytime I wheeled a full wheelbarrow out to dump it. I clung to the horses to steady myself every now and then, but by now they had become accustomed to it. I had been horribly sick for weeks, but not letting on to anyone human at least.

So, almost 26 years later why am I now telling this story?  Because those women are me: every last one of them. Pregnant and not wanting to be. Desperate and willing to try anything to rid our bodies of this unwanted entity. I was fortunate that I lived in a state with access to multiple clinics. I was able to get an appointment within days of calling. I had the ability to eventually earn the money needed for the abortion, even if at  great personal cost of health to myself. I am one of the thousands of women who will try to self-abort. Some succeed and no one will ever know. Others finally save up enough somehow for an abortion. Others yet are like the cases in Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee where things go very wrong for them.

I was lucky. But make no mistake, I would have been desperate enough to do anything even if it meant I died as a result. Do I have any regrets? Only one. That I did not speak up sooner so many others would know they are not alone. I understand. I am you  You are not alone.

 

 

Bathtub Abortions ~ by KYBorn

Bathtub Abortions-by KY Born

I told Servalbear I was going to wait until I calmed down, but I’m not calming down so I’m writing this anyway. It is too close to the person who could have been me. It is too close to where I live part of the year. It is too close to a state being allowed to regulate a woman’s body. It is too close to the fact that women in “red” states have to cough up their own money for an abortion.

I don’t know why this woman got in the bathtub and used a coat hanger to try to end a pregnancy. I don’t care. She was not obligated to be a life support system for anybody. When the fetus was born alive, and thus became an infant, she clearly did no harm since the premature infant arrived at the hospital alive. Sure. The infant will have life-long problems. Most fetuses who become infants at 24 weeks born in hospitals don’t even survive.

Here is what I do know. I had the money and the knowledge to terminate a pregnancy legally and medically safe. Here is what I also know. If I had not had the money and knowledge of resources, I would have done anything to end that unwanted pregnancy.

I wouldn’t have waited so long to start the process. I would have tried medications first, even if they held the risk of death. I would have stopped eating and taken every herb known to man to induce an abortion.

If that didn’t work I would have been the woman in the bathtub. I would have killed myself before bearing that child. If that meant risking or even causing my own death at 20 or more weeks gestation, I would have done it.

So stop. Stop meddling in women’s medical decisions. Let us decide if we want to be mothers (and no, we are not mothers of dead babies if we choose abortion).  Get rid of the Hyde Amendment. Get rid of making abortion anything but what is: a medical procedure. Get rid of assholes who make gauntlets of people “praying for babies” and harassing people outside clinics.

Have your pro-life “clinics.”  Stay inside them and let people come to you instead of trying to lie to lure them to you. If you have to lie to get people in your joint, you don’t have much to say anyway.

Regardless, if all you “pro-lifers” don’t want any more incidents like this then follow my advice. You can pray for those aborted “babies” at home or in your church. You don’t need to make a public display of it for everyone else to hear it.

Bottom line is this woman hurt herself, her own body, but nobody cares about that. They care about a fetus that became a premature infant. What’s next? Shall we charge women who give birth early with involuntary manslaughter?  Why not?  Her uterus expelled a fetus before it was ready?

Ick. I just can’t say any more than make it easier for a woman who wants to end a pregnancy earlier possible.

Most of all, this should never have been a legal issue. It was a medical issue. Period. Shame on the doctors and hospital who even alerted law enforcement to this event. Shame on this community who elected Scott Des Jarlais, a man who was hunky dory with his own wife’s two abortions, and pressured one of his mistresses to abort on while recording the conversation on tape. (He taped the conversation himself, whether she was pregnant, aborted or gave birth is none of anybody’s business but hers).

Mostly, shame on the state of Tennessee. You and the assholes you voted into office caused this, not the poor, desperate woman in the bathtub you have shoved in jail. You and your version of high moral standards you impose on all of us are the cause of this and you bear the shame, and any criminal responsibility. So lock the legislature and governor in jail.

Let this woman go. She did no harm to anyone but herself.

Shame on you all. Everyone who holds up a gross sign. Everyone who blocks clinic entrances. Everyone who follows women for blocks. Everyone who films women entering clinics. Everyone who forces their literature on them. Everyone who misleads them into “crisis pregnancy centers.”  Everyone who votes for people who think a woman has no right to decline to be life support for another not yet human being.

Shame on you all.

You belong in that cell, not her.

How Scared Should I Be?

I’ve been thinking about fear lately.  People who offer any kind of abortion care do that ~ we contemplate the danger, weigh the risk, and decide how willing we are to continue providing care based on our personal logarithm for safety.

The shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado shifts the balance.    The vandalism at EMW clinic here in Louisville shifts it a bit more.  We all have to recalculate.  Some of us do it quickly, others may struggle.  But we haven’t lost escorts – in fact, many new people are volunteering.  Clearly, we won’t be scared off.

So I’ve been thinking about fear, and talking about it with other people who provide abortion care.  As a therapist, I believe that when we are anxious or afraid, we are usually overestimating the risk of the danger and underestimating our ability to deal with it.  I ponder how that applies.

I know there are different types of fear.   We can fear for our physical safety or  fear for our emotional safety.  Those dangers can be realistic or not, but we each have our own tipping point for what’s safe and what isn’t.

If you’re afraid of flying, you may be afraid the plane will crash and you’ll die.  Or you may be afraid that you’ll have a panic attack on the plane and (obviously) not be able to get off the plane and that will be horrible.  The actual risk of either of those things happening aren’t what determines whether or not you fly – a whole range of other factors influence it.

It’s the same with escorting.  We can be afraid that some rabid anti with nothing to lose will detonate a bomb or drive by and start shooting.  We can be afraid that our family and friends who are anti-choice will reject us.  But regardless of the actual danger, escorts typically have deeply held beliefs that lead them to choose to take the risk.

I’m not usually a worrier.  This, however, gives me pause:  The Abortion Vigilante Worksheet.  Created by American Right to Life (not to be confused with the National Right to Life group that we’re all familiar with) the worksheet is a masterpiece of double talk.

American RTL publishes this worksheet to help Christians think through the issue of vigilantism regarding the intentional killing of abortionists. Our directors and leaders at the summit which launched our organization (including the director of Operation Rescue National/OSA, the Rev. Flip Benham) have spent months incarcerated in jails for peaceful civil disobedience by blocking abortion clinic entrances and in defense of Christian liberties.

Disclosure: Prior to using this worksheet, ARTL would like the reader to know our own position:
1) Governments have the authority to use lethal force in more circumstances than do civilians.
2) The Bible’s escalation of force principle prohibits civilian use of lethal force if less force could suffice.
3) Civilians may use lethal force defending innocent life against threats of imminent harm.

If true, these principles do not prohibit the use of civil disobedience to prevent abortions. This worksheet, however, concludes that those who kill, advocate, or even defend the intentional killing of abortionists are morally wrong. Some of those who defend such killings complain that others are unwilling to seriously address their position. To any such, this challenge goes out: take the time and courage to answer these questions, and then email your answers and contact information to…

It seems to me that they’re saying, “Yes, it could be morally justified to kill an abortion provider, no, we’re not saying we think that, but there sure is an argument for it, and maybe you think it’s ok.”

It ends on a similar note, which I won’t bother quoting.

In-between, along with a zillion supposedly logical, ethical questions which supposedly will help you think through the ethical dilemma of whether or not it’s ok to kill abortion providers, is this chart:

Note: The following table presents the casualties of actual known U.S. abortion vigilantes:

Anti-Abortion Violence (non-regulatory)

Perpetrator -Date- City -Victims -Death or Injury -Their Title or Role
Scott Roeder 5/31/09 Wichita, KS George Tiller Death Abortionist

Paul J. Hill 7/29/04 Pensacola, FL John Bayard Britton Death Abortionist
” ” ” ” ” ” James H. Barrett Death Bodyguard, clinic ‘escort’
” ” ” ” ” ” June Barrett Shot twice Clinic ‘escort’

James Kopp 10/23/98 Amherst, NY Barnett Slepian Death Abortionist

Eric Robert Rudolph 1/29/98 Birmingham, AL Robert Sanderson Death Security guard, off-duty cop
” ” ” ” ” ” Emily Lyons Critically injured Clinic nurse

John Salvi 12/30/94 Brookline, MA Shannon Lowney Death Clinic receptionist
” ” ” ” ” ” Leanne Nichols Death Clinic receptionist
” ” ” ” ” ” Anjana Agrawal Shot twice, bullet by heart Clinic ‘counselor’
” ” ” ” ” ” Antonio Hernandez Collapsed lung, more Accompanied wife to clinic
” ” ” ” ” ” Brian Murray Bullet tore up insides Accompanied friend to clinic
” ” ” ” ” ” Jane Sauer Shot twice Clinic bookkeeper
” ” ” ” ” ” Richard J. Seron Shot arm, shoulder, hand Security guard

Rachelle Shannon 8/19/93 Wichita, KS George Tiller Shot in both arms Abortionist

Michael Griffin 3/10/93 Pensacola, FL David Gunn Death Abortionist

Dec. 1, 2015 Update: As results of the criminal investigation become public, and the motive of the mentally-ill pothead Robert Lewis Dear, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood murderer, is known, we will update the above chart if need be.

That chills me!!  This chart, the Colorado shooting, and the vandalism at my own clinic (with limited concern or action from the police) hit my tipping point.  I have to re-examiine my own logarithm for physical safety.

How scared is reasonable?  How high is the risk – realistically?  Ok, I have a lot better chance of dying in a car wreck than getting killed by an anti at the clinic, but this feels scarier.  What is that about?

Is it the malevolence?  If I die in a car wreck, it’s an accident.  If someone targets me and kills me because I’m an escort, it is intentional and personal.  That does feel different.

Is it because I’m choosing to do this thing that puts me at risk?  I couldn’t really survive without getting in a car, but I choose to escort.  Does that make it easier to “blame the victim?” Maybe.  Maybe that makes it feel different, but I totally reject that.  Choosing to support reproductive health isn’t punishable by death.

So how scared should I be?  I have no idea.  Mostly, I am not scared.  Mostly, I like to remind people that if I get killed on the sidewalk, I expect to become a martyr and for the escorts to at least get a buffer zone out of it.  Taking time to think it through just increases my appreciation for all the providers of abortion care ~ doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, receptionists, medical assistants, and escorts ~ who won’t let fear stop them either.

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To support abortion access in Kentucky

What Happened to Compassion?~ by KyBorn

I was originally writing this a few hours after leaving my physician’s office. Going to a specialist is never fun, even one you like and respect. Even one who listens to you and works with your body, that seems to have an unbearable bad reaction to almost every medication in a class of medication you must take to avoid ending up back in the hospital. Even though my doctor had moved to a new office, another kind man who turned out to be the doctor next door walked me to the office, opened the door and told me have a nice day. My first thought was what a difference it was from the gauntlet women in my home state have to walk through just to get medical care. Medical care that even though it was a different kind than mine, was just as vital.

All I had to do was whip out a new insurance card and I was ushered back to the office. Not that it does any good for those seeking an abortion in my former home state. Those who make the laws have determined abortion is evil and that those good people who pay into an insurance pool, or pay taxe, must not have their blessed tax dollars sullied by the evils of abortion. There is no equality, no compassion and no thought of the women that they see as just a shell for a fetus

Yes, I do have a point. What inspired this particular rant was that as I waiting in my doctor’s office, where they apologize if you sit for five minutes past your appointment time, I was looking at an article about a woman who was clearly an inmate in jail scrubs, wearing a waist chain and handcuffs, being shuffled, head down, into a Planned Parenthood by two uniformed officers.

And then it hit me. Hard. My privilege. My private and uninterrupted walk down a short sidewalk to my doctor’s office with nobody telling me I was going to hell.

There I sat irritated about internet access on my phone and some woman was being shuffled into a Planned Parenthood, in full jail regalia while being filmed by some anti-choice asshole who couldn’t give a flip about her or why she was there. I’m also 99% sure that it never occurred to them that it was none of their business.

For whatever reason she was there, this nameless woman, shuffling head down in a jail uniform will forever be stuck in my mind when I compare it with the short, peaceful walk made without interference to my own doctor. The other thing that will forever be stuck in my mind is that our places could just as easily be switched. In spite of the pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps rhetoric spewed by antis, this just isn’t the case. Certainly, people pull themselves out of bad circumstances. Some people are just born lucky or end up with better opportunities.

This case really made me think hard about the woman being shuffled into a medical appointment. More personally, I thought about who have I become, when my first worry is the phone and internet coverage in my specialist’s office and not the women who have to fight a battle just to get legal health care?

Mostly, it makes me wonder what happened to compassion in this country. When did we become a nation where it is okay to film a woman in already bad circumstances going into her doctor’s appointment?  She deserved the same privacy and dignity that I had, but people seemed more worried about snapping her picture than giving her space, dignity and healthcare.

Given the latest round of anti-violence in Colorado Springs, this seems trivial on a certain level. (Disclaimer: I wrote this article before Colorado Springs and had to revise and edit afterwards due to some other commitments.)

Surely though, surely, our country hasn’t become a place so devoid of compassion that all women can’t get healthcare with privacy and dignity…..and oh yeah, without being afraid of being killed.

 

Gift Bags

We have a wide variety of protesters yelling at patients and companions entering the clinic. Every morning the clinic is open they line up to pray, yell, preach, or shove pamphlets into cars and the hands of people who just want to get to their appointment. If you’ve read any of our articles on this blog, you know them. You’ve seen them in action on our videos. You’ve heard their voices when we record them.

Saturday mornings are particularly chaotic. We will normally have 70-100 protesters harassing and bullying. As the holiday season gets closer, we will have more protesters showing up to heap condemnation on people. We’re already hearing, “This time next year you could have presents under the tree for this baby.” We are already seeing more chaos this past Saturday.They seem to be trying to out-perform each other in many ways. Who can yell the loudest? Who can block an escort? Who can delay the patient long enough to shove pamphlets in their hands? Who can make the one comment that will make the patient or their companion react with tears or anger? They push and shove each other, milling around the entrance, carrying their fetal porn signs as blocking weapons. Each one appears to want to make a “score” for Christmas.

When I am asked by people we are escorting, “Are they going to be here when we leave?” I always tell them, “Most of them leave right after the escorts do. There may be one or two here when you leave, but just walk past them.” We know there is the possibility of antis being present when they leave, especially during the 40 Days for Life campaigns, but there isn’t the great numbers of people we see in the mornings.

Every Saturday afternoon there are at least two antis handing out gift bags to departing patients. They are present on other days, but Saturdays you can always count on them to be present. They watch the doors of the clinic from the property line and rush to give their gift bags. It’s always extended with the comment, “We know you have had a hard day. We just wanted to give you this gift.”

This Saturday I was giving a ride to a patient when the surgery was finished. We walked out and the two present-bearing antis ran to us. One of them blocked my car door so the patient couldn’t get in until they took the bag. They asked them, “Is there a snack in there?” Since they said “Yes” they took the bag. As we got into the car, the other anti ran up to another patient leaving and forced the bag into their hands. Running up to strangers, pushing, blocking and forcing gift bags on them. It’s what the holiday season is all about, isn’t it?

When we got into my car, I asked the patient if I could remove the anti-abortion literature from the bag before they looked into it. I said, “You don’t really need to read these do you?” They replied, “No, I’m just hungry.” Pamphlet and book were removed and I handed the bag back to them. The bag contained an airplane-sized bag of pretzels, a full bottle of Olay body wash and a nylon mesh body wash scrubber. No doubt the body wash and scrubber were to symbolize washing the sin away? The pretzels were consumed and the other things taken home.

I think this bothered me so much because as the patient went into the clinic in the morning, they displayed so much confidence and shared with me before we left the clinic how relieved they were to have this over. For them to have to endure one more round of harassment going home just made me mad.

What were the pamphlet and book?

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Two Ways to Live – the choice we all face, Pocket Edition. This is a 16-page pamphlet that says a lot of things, but it summarizes the two ways to live are “Our Way” rejecting God or “God’s new way” by submitting to Jesus.

The Holy Bible New Testament- This is self-explanatory except for the handwritten inscription inside the cover.

“We know that today has been difficult. There may come a time when you experience sorrow, regret and guilt over what took place today and at that time, you may wonder if there is a safe place you could turn to for help and support, A Woman’s Choice Resource Center is that place where you can find hope and healing. Please give them a call at (phone number edited out). They would love to listen to your story and speak with you further. Remember you are valuable and loved! “

First of all, they didn’t listen to their story as they entered the clinic. They just shouted the same things they shout at everyone else. Why would they want to listen after the abortion unless it is to further heap shame on them?

Second, there are some really great organizations listed on our Reproductive Services page who do listen and counsel. They are trained counselors instead of staff and volunteers wanting to push a religious agenda like at A Woman’s Choice.

For any future patients at EMW, please be aware the pretzels are good, the body wash is handy, but just pitch the literature.

 

The Morning after Robert Dear was allowed to surrender alive.

This past Saturday was the first time in over 16 years of escort that I had to send “safe” texts to loved ones after I left the clinic.

Clinic escorts are accustomed to dealing with scary people. Some of the most frightening people I have encountered in my 16 years as an escort have been white men. Some seem more stable than others. Some seem more sober than others. 12295325_10153631366470399_7791018100278684395_n

It will never cease to amaze me how entitled these men feel to forcing their beliefs and morals onto complete strangers who are doing what they know is best for themselves and their loved ones. I have often guessed that some of the people who come to protest at our clinic aren’t there out of compassion for life, or as a way to care for pregnant people or their potential offspring. I think some of them come out because the sidewalk protests are a place where it is socially acceptable to bully people. The ways that they use their bodies, their massive signs, and their words, with or without amplifiers to shame and intimidate others is praised by their peers in this space. it is bullying at it’s best, and domestic terrorism at worst.

This past Friday (the day after thanksgiving, when many clinics were closed for the holiday and many americans were acting some type of way in the name of capitalism) we were reminded of what can happen when entitled and potentially unstable people decide to take action against what they have been convinced is wrong, even if it has no actual bearing on them – whatsoever. In the aftermath we are seeing anti choicers react in various ways. Some are openly praising the attack. some are trying to wash their hands of any remote responsibility. I demand accountability. Unfortunately, I will have to be very patient. Robin Marty explains better than I can about how even the sidewalk prayers need to hold themselves and each other accountable for the Robert Dears and the Scott Roeders of the world, for they are not going away, they’re getting inspired.

It is still unclear what exact message Dear wanted to send with his actions. Survivors of Dear’s murderous hissy fit have stated he said “no more baby parts” so we can infer that he was acting against PP while drawing inspiration from the widely disproven “sting” videos that were released earlier this year. One thing we can be sure of is that Dear wasn’t doing this out of a logically driven compassion for life (as his supporters may wish to believe) since he clearly aimed to cause great harm with his actions, and ultimately killed three people and injured nine others. His victims included an officer of the law who was doing his job, plus two civilians, both People of Color. Both accustomed to life without the privileges afforded Dear and most clinic protesters (who *if* they recognize their white privilege, almost certainly think they deserve it.) It was Dear’s white privilege that allowed him to surrender alive, even after killing an officer and two innocent bystanders. I saw someone make a comment about whether the police bought Dear a fast food treat on the way to jail, referencing the greasy kudos Dylann Roof was given after his Charleston SC shooting spree. My stomach churned knowing that this is the reality of this day and age.

These rather unpleasant thoughts are part of our day to day reality now. These are the facts that we cannot ignore while we are on the sidewalk, creating and holding space for people. We can’t forget that our own clinic has been under attack very recently. We must consider our own safety in addition to that of everyone on the sidewalk. Above all that we know we cannot let these bullies prevail. so, what can be done? That is a great question, and one that is being asked in and of escort and other access groups constantly right now. The answers are varied and unclear, but one thing we know we have to do is use our voices and demand accountability. Share this post, and the ones linked herein. Encourage others to speak up. It is our duty to change the narrative that it’s socially acceptable for white men to tell people how to lead their lives – lest they end them for us.

Helping One Person At A Time

We have been posting this week about the vandalism at the clinic in Louisville. The outpouring of supporting comments has been so uplifting. Many of the comments we have received have been “How can I help?”

Kentucky Support Network (KSN) is a practical support group based in Louisville that serves all the residents in Kentucky. They are an all-volunteer group who support people seeking abortion in Kentucky. Their volunteers include escorts and individuals from other groups who support reproductive justice. KSN is having a donation drive where you can help one person at a time to access abortion care.

Here’s the information. Please consider donating.

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled to see a doctor?
Ky Map

Many of us don’t have to go far to get medical attention. Because of policies that restrict and stigmatize safe, legal abortion care, however, Kentuckians who need abortions often have to travel hundreds of miles to see a doctor who will work with them. These folks aren’t strangers: they’re our neighbors, sisters, relatives, friends. This holiday season, you can make a difference in their lives with one simple action.

Kentucky Support Network is a network of volunteers who support people seeking abortion with financial assistance, transportation, interpretation, and more. Visit our website to find out about our organization.

There are so many barriers for Kentucky residents who choose to end an unplanned or non-viable pregnancy through abortion:

  • By law, Medicaid and private insurance plans cannot cover abortion in almost all circumstances, so most patients pay for their abortion care out of pocket. This cost ranges from $650 to $2,000.
  • Most people seeking abortion already have children, so must find childcare for the time they are at the clinic. They must also take time off work or school, find and pay for lodging if their procedure lasts more than a day, and find an interpreter to accompany them if they do not speak English.
  • There are only two abortion clinics in Kentucky. 74% of women in Kentucky have no readily available access to abortion, and must travel to get it. (Guttmacher Institute)

Here’s where you can help one person at a time. KSN will give gas cards for those patients making the trips themselves. This is one less expense they have to raise in the process of accessing healthcare. Kroger stores across the state of Kentucky sell gas. Kroger also sells gift cards to use for purchasing fuel as well as groceries. You can purchase a gift card for $25.00 from Kroger. If you use your Kroger Plus card when you purchase the gift card, you will receive points for the purchase. When you make your purchase between November 19 and December 8, Kroger will give you four times the gas points with every gift card purchased. You receive a gift by helping one person at a time!

How do you get these gift cards to KSN? There will be collection boxes set up at the following locations:

Smokey’s Bean, 1212 S 4th Street, Louisville

Louisville Game Shop, 925 Baxter Ave, Louisville

Modern Cult Records, 1036 Bardstown Rd., Louisville

Don’t have time in the holiday season to drop off a card? Kroger sells their gift cards online and for a small fee will mail them directly to KSN. Our mailing address is: Kentucky Support Network, PO Box 4761, Louisville, KY 40204.

How easy is that? You help one person. You receive a gift. You can do this all from a computer any time of the day that’s convenient for you.

Thank you from the volunteers at KSN.

 

 

Escorts double down in the face of clinic property destruction

This past week, the clinic we escort at suffered it’s second act of property destruction within a three week span. People have used words including ‘insanity’ and ‘domestic terrorism’ when reacting to what happened. The pic below was taken by an escort on Thursday morning. More details about this and the previous attack (also resulting in a broken window) can be found in this article.

broken glass door

Now, as you might imagine, while police, clinic staff, and whatever additional parties have been filling out papers and watching surveillance footage, those of us on the sidewalk are going through our own reactions and feelings about this. Destruction of this property does not directly affect escorts. It’s not our window to replace. It’s not even our bosses’ window, as we are all volunteers and are only loosely connected to this clinic. That said, the indirect impact on escorts could possibly be more tangible than what the clinic staff has dealt with.

Five days a week, escorts stand toe-to-toe (often literally) with the people who encourage and enable this kind of extreme aggression to grow and thrive. We hold space and absorb hateful remarks day after day. We have been assaulted, and had our buttons pushed too many times to count. Escorts often harden themselves to the awful things that are spewed at us, but we can’t help but hear what is said, and we are often triggered by the terrible things that are said to clients and escorts: slut shaming, racism, low jabs about people’s physical features, bringing up personal details about people’s children, or lost loved ones. Remarks obviously meant to hurt us from people claiming to be there out of a love for life (and presumably people…)  It is bullying. We know this.

The bullies who come to protest – to exercise their freedom of speech – come for many reasons. Many come for reasons rooted in some sort of morals they’ve been taught. Some come from a place of misdirected compassion. There are those who are truly peaceful and simply pray. As far as I am concerned, none of it is ok. The reason why not is clearly demonstrated by the photo above. As long as people are kneeling and praying, and showing up to make their statement that they believe what someone else is doing with their body and life is wrong, to me they are enabling these broken windows. I think that people who drag their young children out in the cold to stand on a sidewalk and shame others are contributing to a culture that encourages rocks through clinic windows. We know from history that it doesn’t stop at bricks. (Search Drs. David Gunn and George Tiller, plus clinic bombings, etc.)

Sometimes it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of such a sick and widespread culture, but as justice advocates we are never alone and we are powerful too.

The escort who snapped the photo of the broken door also talked about how on that very windy morning little pieces of glass kept clinking on the ground as the clients entered the clinic. I was not there that morning, but to me it sounds a little eerie, and maybe stressful. I was glad to hear that the glass was replaced that day, and even more pleased to read the encouraging quotes from the clinic director in the article linked above.

Something like violence at a nearby abortion clinic isn’t something to be taken lightly, and for those of us there regularly, it won’t be easily forgotten.

This week the impact on those who occupy both ‘sides’ on the sidewalk has been strong. Someone described the protesters there this Saturday as possibly giddy (sick, huh?) As escorts we create and hold space because we think sidewalk bullying is wrong. After such an incident, I think we all feel especially convicted to hold that space a little differently now; deeper, perhaps.

So, when I say we are doubling down in the face of these attacks, i guess you could picture a number of things. It’s got nothing to do with triple-meat sandwiches, despite us being in Kentucky. It’s got more to do with practicing what we already do pretty damn well, but maybe through a cracked lens, if you will.

Things we will continue to NOT do:

  • Bring signs that add to visual clutter/chaos for clients and really carry messages more for the protesters, which might escalate tension. Signs are also often used to block and shove, and none of that is part of escorting.
  • Swarm clients and obstruct the sidewalk the way protesters do.
  • Start campaigns to recruit more escorts. We are constantly training new escorts and engaging interested people, but we don’t need to recruit. The protesters, legislators and media do that for us.

Things we will continue to practice (possibly with a little more depth now):

  • Gain consent from every client before walking and talking with them.
  • Keep de-escalation in mind at all times.
  • Hold space as best we are able.
  • Make client experiences our main focus. We are not there for antis.
  • Limit engagement with protesters, because to do otherwise might justify their presence in their minds. (This is by far the hardest, and is almost impossible to practice all the time, but when we do the result is remarkable. Also, not all escorts practice non-engagement the same way, and that’s ok too)

Of course we will keep doing lots of other things too, like adapting to changes as they come our way and doing our best to not make assumptions about folks we see on the sidewalk. Most importantly, just like the clinic staff has promised, we will keep showing up.

The Nicest Escort Ever

Walt wouldn’t have wanted me to write this post.  If I could tell him I was going to write a blog post in his memory, I think he would have looked uncomfortable – the same look he got when I complimented him or told him how much we appreciated him.  He would have shook his head, “no,” and said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that.”   Walt was the most modest and unassuming person I’ve known.

But I think he would have approved of this post in the end, or at least agreed to let me do it, if I explained it was really for us.  If I told him that we just wanted to share a few memories and publicly say good-bye, I think he would have given in and told me we could do it.

From his fellow escorts:

I still can’t believe it is true I can’t get my head around the idea that such a caring person is gone so suddenly,maybe next Saturday I’ll see him walking down the side walk then I’ll know I was dreaming.

~~ AI

Walt was a true gentle man and an example of civility

~~RS

Class act that guy. Chatted with him a few weeks ago. Never mentioned he was sick. Talked about his daughters. Hoping his family is doing ok.

~~JR

I remember him always smiling, always full of cheerful good mornings. And the cheerful good mornings were to the escorts and protesters alike. Nodding good morning and smiling, with his hat off and pressed against his chest as he passed through the prayer line. Class act indeed!

~~KS

I already miss him & his always smiling face.

~~JT

Way too bad. The last thing I heard him say was a suggestion to do what seems right, to which I made a flip reply. But that was clearly more important than I realized at the time, spoken as it was by a man who was out on the street engaged in his activism only a couple of weeks before his death. That’s practically dying with your boots on. Rest in power, Walter.

~~AD

That corner will always be “Walter’s corner” to me.

~~CB

Walter was the nicest person I have ever met. Full stop. He always had a smile, a warm greeting and a kind word for everyone he met. He will be missed in my life and in the escort community.

~~PC

It just won’t be the same without Walter’s big bright smile warming up that strip of 2nd street.

~~MS

Walter was a quiet, gracious person, friendly to everyone. He seemed to like to be in quiet surroundings, but was willing to endure the harsh cacophony often demonstrated on the sidewalk on Saturday mornings, to stand up for women and their rights. He would stand on ‘his’ corner all morning, smiling at anyone who came by and making encouraging comments to clients and companions.

Sometimes I would stand with him when it was calm on the corner, and we would chat a little, and then just spend time being quiet. He told me once he appreciated my quiet presence, and that meant a lot to me. I will certainly miss him, and will always remember his smiling face.

~~PG

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RIP Walter…

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