Like a Morality Play

There’s a property line on the sidewalk in front of EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Traditionally, the protesters don’t cross it.  But lately, the antis have enjoyed mocking this boundary.  They get as close to the line as possible, put their toes across it, and one morning…

IMG_0083 …the anti in the snazzy camoflauge wear maneuvered himself in-between the two escorts right on the line.   With his sign. IMG_0084 Yes, his arm is over the property line.  Yes, he’s almost touching the escort, with his arm, with his sign, and with his body.  And yes, he’s smirking.   He thinks he’s “won” something here.  Well, and he likes the attention of having his picture taken.  Yes, I’m sorry I gave him that pleasure.

But the picture illustrates my point.  Like a morality play, the action in front of the clinic often seems like an allegorical acting-out of the theoretical battle between “good” and “evil.”  A symbolic representation of the conflict between belief systems, it’s played out in dramatic postures, with repetitive scripts, and proscribed roles.

Protesters are convinced they’re the good guys.  They care about the pre-born, “the most helpless and vulnerable among us.”    Protesters want to stop women from having abortions, for their own good, because they really care about them.  They know that escorts don’t care, that we’re evil people who want to kill babies.  And hurt puppies.

Escorts know that we’re the good guys.  We love babies and puppies, and we care about the already-born.   Escorts want all options family planning and a full range of reproductive health care.  Escorts believe in equality and self-determination, while protesters are evil people who want to oppress, shame, and subjugate women.

Right?

Well, no.  No, of course that’s not completely fact-based.  But when I’m on the sidewalk, it’s easy to see it that way.   I fiercely oppose some of the values and beliefs that the protesters represent.   They push us toward a world without birth control or access to abortion, a culture where a women’s worth is inextricably tied to giving birth, and where an embryo is worth more than an already-born woman’s life.   I believe those ideas are dangerous and damaging to us all.

But on the corner of 2nd and Market at 7 a.m., the antis are there mostly for symbolic reasons.   Think about this.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 99% of women who have experienced sexual intercourse have used at least one form of birth control.  Some of those people are on the sidewalk protesting.   The data indicates that one in three women has an abortion in her lifetime – and some of those women are on the sidewalk, holding signs, yelling, chasing, and shaming others.

I used to think this was the most amazingly pure hypocrisy I’d ever seen.  But maybe it’s just the difference between their “real life” and the virtues they’re touting ~ um, representing ~ on the sidewalk.  Do you see what I mean?  I’m not saying they don’t believe what they’re saying – I think they do, in theory.  But in real life ~ well, people need birth control and sometimes they need abortions.  That doesn’t have anything to do with showing up to protest at the clinic.

Ok, yes, that is hypocrisy.  By definition, it is.  But before I start to throw stones at them (figuratively) consider this.   Few of us live up to our own standards all the time.   I believe that climate change is a real problem and that we need to use our resources more wisely.  And I still drive my car everywhere and get my groceries in plastic bags.  I know, I know that’s bad, and yes, I do feel guilty.  But I could still go to some protest against a big corporate polluter and feel virtuous about it.

Trying to escort in a way that adheres to my values is hard too, and I don’t always do it as well as I want to.  When I started escorting, six years ago, I imagined I would be able to stay calm and centered all the time.  Wrong.  300 mornings of watching the protesters preach, scold, shame, harass and harangue the clients has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect.

Figuring out how to do what we do on the sidewalk, without being terrible hypocrites ourselves, is the most interesting part of escorting, for me,  The challenge is different for every escort, and different clinics approach it differently, and it’s all fascinating.  I’ll talk about that more in my next post.

In the meantime, I want to make a personal pledge:  I pledge to donate $5 to fund abortion access every time a protester reminds me that I publicly said on here that I “don’t always live up to my own standards.”   Another $5 if they mention my environmentally-unfriendly flaws.    That’s right – $5 every time they mention either one.   I’m creating win-wins every chance I get…

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The Saturdays before Easter, before Mother’s Day, and before Father’s Day are big days for protesters.  You can help raise funds for escorts and for abortion access by pledging a small amount per picketer, or by pledging a lump sum for the horde of antis who come out to harass and intimidate women seeking legal medical care on those days. We count the protesters each day, but on Pledge-a-Picketer days, it gives us great glee to know that each number ticked off means more money raised to support the very thing they are there to obstruct. We’ll be posting updates after each big day with the total number of antis, as well as any new sidewalk stories that emerge. This form will be included in our posts from now through Father’s Day, but don’t wait til the last minute, pledge now: Pledge-a-Picketer Pledge Form

This is the clinic the Saturday before Mother’s Day in 2009.

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What They Said…

Our newest fund raiser – Antis Say the Darnedest Things – ended Saturday.  Remember?  Some of us pledged money for every time a specific protester said a specific thing, only we couldn’t publish which ones we were tracking ’cause then they might quit saying that thing.  Well, here’s what they said.

Donna:

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(Picture shows Donna in a light blue coat, arms folded across her chest, disapproving look on her face, saying YOUR RELATIONSHIP WILL NEVER BE THE SAME}

And Dominic:

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{Dominic is in his camoflauge gear and holding his “Before I formed you in the womb….” sign. He says: MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.}

Keep in mind that Donna is at the clinic every, single day.  Dominic is generally only there on Saturday.  So how many times did they say their thing?

Donna –  Your relationship will never be the same – 21 times

Dominic – Murder in the First Degree – 29 times

Amazing.

We are still tabulating results for the pledges, but I understand that Donna has raised $208 for us all by herself.  Funds will be used for a variety of needs – winter supplies like salt for the sidewalk or hand and foot warmers; breakfasts for escort trainings, help with parking expenses and other miscellaneous needs.  Often, we share the funds with one of our sister organizations who provide hands on support for abortion access.

I’ll let you know what the total is for Dominic when I know.  Thanks to him and Donna for helping us, albeit unintentionally, as we support people seeking access to abortion, .

In the meantime, the first results are in from our Springtime Pledge-a-Picketer fundraiser.  You know, once upon a time (um, last year) we just did this fundraiser for the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  We used to have hundreds of protesters show up – really, hundreds.  But the last few years, the turn-out for that Saturday has been kind of pitiful.  Last year, they had a huge turn-out for the Saturday before Easter, and sometimes they show up in droves for the Saturday before Father’s Day.

So we began to wonder if they were purposely staying away because we do the fund-raiser.  Seriously.  It seemed like the other days got bigger and Mother’s Day kept shrinking.  So this year we decided to combine them all.   That way, if rain or sleet or hail  – or the knowledge that abortion access is improved by their presence – keeps them away from one big day, we’ll catch them on another one.  So – drum roll please – on the Saturday before Easter there were  ~~ 79 protesters.

Yeah.  That’s it.  A weak turnout.  Maybe they’ll have a better showing on May 9th.  I won’t say I hope so – if they don’t show, of course that’s good for us too, and even better for the client.  What a terrific win-win.

Finally – I have to say this here so I don’t say it on the sidewalk.  This is really to Donna:

“Your relationship will never be the same???  What are you thinking?   Do you think their relationship will be the same if they go ahead and have this baby???   Cause I’m pretty sure that’s gonna be a HUGE frigging change!!  What are you thinking?”

Oh, that’s right, she’s not.

Ok, whew, I feel better now that I’ve said it.  Thanks.

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And it’s not too late to pledge for Pledge-a-Picketer.   You know how it works – you can pledge a certain amount per protester, or just pledge a set amount regardless.  Here’s the link to make a pledge.

Pledge-a-Picketer

In Case You Thought…

In case you thought that things had changed, here on the sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic in Louisville, Ky, I want to assure you, it is still the same.  Mostly the same protesters. New ones come and go, but Donna and Nurse Betty, Mary, and Ponytail Guy, to name a few, are always with us.   They stand by the door, saying the same things they always say.

Angela shows up late, and sometimes we have a preacher screaming at us all, sometimes we don’t,   Catholics on Parade still make an appearance every second Saturday, even when the construction in the area gets in the way.

The chasers are still there.  Andrew and his crew don their neon green vests and circle up for a quick prep talk and prayer.   The circle dissolves as they fly off in pairs, like wasps, busy, busy, buzzing around to harras and intimidate the women coming to the doctor.

Rain or shine, there they are.  Umbrellas up long after the rain has stopped.

Same ole, same ole.   Oh, wait,  no, this is new.

Not the old guys socializing on the prayer line, but the sign the woman is holding with the fetus skeleton.  Here’s a close up:

Somebody said it looks like a logo for a Death metal band, right?   But even new signage isn’t really new.

AHA – not American Humanist Association, not American Heart Association, not American Home-brewers Association, but the Abolish Human Abortion folks are relatively new.  Some of our old protesters have joined up with them, and that’s unfortunate, because they’re a new kind of mean.  Unlike the “pro-life” folks, they don’t even pretend to care about the people who need abortions.  They don’t think anyone should have an abortion, ever, under any circumstances, no not rape or incest or to save the mother’s life, thank you very much.

The AHA folks are quick to condemn the pro-life group as not asking for enough, being willing to compromise.  So that can be fun interesting to watch.

And – this is exciting – the world of escorting has changed.  Back in 2009, when I wrote my first post for this blog, I felt relatively isolated.  As if we were the only clinic going through this.  We weren’t, of course, and I kind of knew that, but I felt like we were fighting a lone battle to get people to realize what was going on in front of our clinic.

That’s not the case anymore.  More clinics have escorts, and escorts are connecting with each other to provide support, and we’re talking about it.   Just today, I found this wonderful article, which is a response to a letter purportedly written by someone who used to work in an abortion clinic, and I watched this short documentary about the protesters outside the clinic in Allentown, Pa.

http://youtu.be/pC-NiTJ3YAU

I think of escorting as the front lines of the battle for reproductive rights.  Like a morality play it stands.  Each side believing they represent the virtues, while “the other side” is the vices.

To be continued….

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Don’t forget our pledge-a–picketer fundraiser – click here to pledge:

Pledge-a-Picketer

Pledge-a-Picketer Annual Fundraiser 2015

It’s that time of the year!

Our annual pledge-a-picketer fundraiser has launched! And this year, there’s a little twist.

The day before Mother’s Day is one of the most-attended days of the year for antis, and in 2010, we decided to turn that discouraging mob into a real asset and launched Pledge-a-Picketer.

It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge a given amount for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts (vests, training costs, and other miscellany) and abortion access.

And now for the twist:

The other two big days for protesters are Easter and Father’s Day. This year, we’ve decided to do an extended Pledge-a-Picketer by including these two days in our tally for a Spring Pledge-a-Picketer.

You can help raise funds for abortion access by pledging a small amount per picketer, or by pledging a lump sum for the horde of antis who come out to harass and intimidate women seeking legal medical care.

We count the protesters each day, but on Pledge-a-Picketer days, it gives us great glee to know that each number ticked off means more money raised to support the very thing they are there to obstruct.

Also, if you have ever thought about escorting, or if you escort on the big days, like Mother’s Day, mark your calendar. Be sure to check out the Points of Unity, and keep your eyes peeled for our next training in anticipation of getting new escorts up to speed.

It’s time for Pledge-a-Picketer.

Easter: April 5, 2015

Mother’s Day: May 10, 2015

Father’s Day: June 21, 2015

We’ll be posting updates after each big day with the total number of antis, as well as any new sidewalk stories that emerge.

This form will be included in our posts from now through Father’s Day, but don’t wait to til the last minute, pledge now:
Pledge-a-Picketer Pledge Form

Antis Say the Darndest Things~ by fml

Most of you already know that protesters on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic say the same things over and over. And over. You probably already know that to call their words “counseling” stretches the imagination beyond breaking point.

If you follow this blog, you may remember Escort Bingo – if not, you can refresh your memory here. You may even have a personal favorite in the repetitive lines that the protesters use. I have a bunch of favorites, but here are a few:

“Just take 5 minutes to get a free ultrasound. What’s the harm in that?”

“We only want to help.”

“God is watching you.”

“Why don’t you go to a real doctor?”

“They don’t care about you. They only care about your money.”

“Come next door where we care about you.”

So the other day, a couple of escorts started a little game. One of them pledged a quarter for every time Anti XYZ says a particular line. Another escort pledged a dime for every time Anti ABC says one of their favorite lines. Then – who knows where these ideas come from?- some escort says, “We should make this a fundraiser!”

So now it is. It’s our pre-Easter, just-for-fun, antis-say-the-darndest-things fundraiser. We’re not expecting to make a lot of money – the Bowl-a-Thon is coming soon, and then we’ll be working on Pledge-a-Picketer. We’re not trying to wear anyone out with excessive fundraising. This is just for fun.

We want the antis to know we are doing this fundraiser, but we don’t want them to know which antis and which phrases we are tracking. If they don’t know, the only way they can keep us from raising funds is they all have to stop saying anything. It’s a total win-win scenario for us.

We already have escorts lined up to track the things they say. If you want to play – to pledge a certain amount for every time XYZ says that thing they say, or ABC says their rudest admonition, email us for details. You can find us at everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

We’ll let you know the tally and winning phrase after Easter.

What’s The Point?~by KY Born

I don’t even escort.

We luckily don’t need them at the two clinics in the city I live in and the next closest clinics are over 3 hours away from me. We have antis, but they are pretty well contained by a fence and actually mostly just pray. At one of them where the CPC is in the building next door, they run up and down the fence screaming crap like, “This might be your last chance to be a mother.”  They write down license plates and film, but I don’t think they post on the Internet. I’m probably on some anti film being played in church as an example of a demon-possessed “abortion-minded mother,” when all I was doing was taking a friend to the clinic.

One of the men commented, in addition to the motherhood comment, that if I could afford that car I could afford a baby. I was already pissed off because they shoved their “information” under my windshield wiper since I had to slow down because they were in the drive entrance. Since everybody was still waiting in line outside, I went over to the fence to let the dude know that I hoped I never got pregnant again (I wasn’t the one pregnant) because I didn’t want to have to come back to get an abortion and listen to him yapping again. Oh, and I used a lot of profanity. Manly man jumped back from the fence as if I was going to be able to walk ten feet, scale a six-foot fence in three seconds and somehow do him bodily harm. So much for manly men and doing anything to save babies.

I don’t know how people do it week after week, day after day. I don’t know how they deal with being called nasty names in the name of religion. I don’t know how they stand to walk past the signs all the time without laughing. I don’t know how they deal with seeing patients reacting with terror at people who claim to be helping them. I admire them, but I don’t know how they do it.

Sometimes I think “I couldn’t do that every day,” and then I think of the patients. I think of the patients I used to work with at a very difficult job that most people can’t handle. Their stories haunt me. I know the stories told to escorts haunt them. I think about the patients, not abortion patients but patients with horrible stories and medical issues, and how I dealt with that. That makes me think I can escort but I’m glad our two clinics don’t need them for now.

Of course, we may not have any clinics in the next year. This is the negative me talking. This is the part of me that says, “What’s the point?”

I wonder if we are all just tilting at windmills. Are we fighting an imaginary battle that is already lost and we just don’t know it? Has the fate of reproductive rights in this country already been decided by a bunch of old white men, a few loud women who never worried about paying the light bill, women who made bad medical decisions for themselves, and people who drag their many small children and brainwashed teens to stand outside clinics?

It feels that way, and then I remember that we are not tilting at windmills at all. We are fighting a real battle that is still going on. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The right of a woman to privacy when making medical decisions was decided before I was born. For years, I took it for granted. I remember the occasional talk of those “rescues” before the FACE Act. They seemed like something off-kilter that only happened in far-away places. Places I thought I would never go. Places I thought I would never need.

That was back when they were called protesters and liked it. That was back before the Internet gave them a free platform to spew their hate, so that it seems like there are only a handful of pro-choice people who huddle in little groups while the country is filled with anti-choice people. Of course after FACE, which they do still violate, they call themselves “counselors” and “abolitionists,” even though they are mostly doing the same old thing. Stalking, fear, guilt, shame, stigma, violation of privacy, lies and outright threats, both physical and more subtle, like threatening to tell somebody’s boss or mother, still abound.

There seem to be so many of them even though there aren’t. It’s like standing outside the closed door of the toddler room at a daycare on a bad day. You are sure there are 1000 small people in there all crying, screaming and trying to make the most noise to get the attention of one harried person. Then you open the door and find that there are only four or five of them. I think antis are those toddlers, just seeing who can scream the loudest and get the most attention. Sometimes they even fight over who has the best toys.

This is quite funny to read about or see, but it is unlikely funny to the patient who has to wade through the sea of fetus porn and baby murder signs. It doesn’t matter to the patient who has to walk through the gauntlet of people who recite their prayers the loudest for the patients walking by before they get back to the regular gossip. It doesn’t matter to the patients who lose all privacy as nosy people film them, take pictures of their license plates or car, or even tell their stories using real names without permission. To top it off, they post all of this on the Internet for the world to see. Right to privacy, my ass.

It is violated every day, just like entirely too many women and men are physically violated only to be dismissed as either making it up because of bitter break-ups or profit, or blamed for dressing the wrong way, having the wrong sexual orientation, going the wrong place or drinking the wrong thing. If you are lucky, and you are the right kind of victim you may be believed, but even if you get pregnant against your will it is a beautiful “gift from God,” so you can just suck it up while your body is violated daily for the next nine months.

That is part of the point. My rights, your rights and everybody’s rights are being violated by people who want to legislate who we marry, if we marry, when we have sex, if we have sex, if we use birth control, what kind of birth control we use, what kind of sex is legal, how we plan our families, what is a family and how we handle the results of trauma.

I could go on, but that is the point.

We must fight back. We must be louder. Not when the patients are around of course. They don’t need extra chaos. I know some of you reading are exhausted, and you are thinking “but I already help by escorting, what else you want me to do, bossy woman?” If you are just plain burnt out, or over-extended, or doing all you can, I am not talking to you.

I am talking to anybody who has the time and energy, or who can gather up what is left of it, to fight these battles that are seemingly endless.

I am asking you to raise your voices. I’m not in any way saying we should become the screaming toddlers the antis are, but I am saying it is time that everybody who is pro-choice or pro-access raise their voices in other ways, calmly but still louder than the few screaming toddlers in the room who need to be hushed by the teachers.

I don’t think antis need to be hushed by censorship as that would be a violation of their constitutional rights. OK, I admit I fantasize about laws that hush them completely, but I know that this isn’t legal. In fact, that would make me a lot like the antis to want to control their speech.

What I do think is that pro-choice and pro-access people need to let their voices be heard. This can happen in many ways. Write, call or email your elected officials about reproductive rights, even if you think it won’t help. Vote, even when it seems pointless. Protest bad laws, if you are so inclined. Organize groups that support reproductive rights. Write on blogs. Complain to social media outlets that are used to stalk and violate the privacy of patients by individuals and groups. Talk about your own experiences as escorts or patients. Encourage patients who are interested to pursue legal action against those who have violated their rights and have the information they need on hand.

Now I can already see you thinking I’m a hypocrite because I am telling you all to raise your voices while I type behind an alias. I do this for several reasons and I’ll flat out say that some of them are practical, like not wanting it to impact my career prospects. Most of it is the strong emotional need for my own privacy and to protect the privacy of my family and friends. While I don’t think anti harassment would bother me beyond tolerance, I refuse to let my family and friends be drug into my fights, as we all know antis are more than willing to do this.

So maybe I am hypocrite, but I am doing my best. It is why I write for this blog. It is why I finally told my rape and abortion story by putting it on virtual paper and posting here. When I write, I hope people who read not just my stories about reproductive issues, but everybody else who puts it out there understand they aren’t alone. I know finding this blog made me know I wasn’t alone in knowing we had major problems with reproductive rights in this country, so when I was asked to write here it was one of the ways of raising my voice.

So when I think that there is no point in continuing this fight, I remember that scared young woman who went alone for her abortion. That was me. I remember the families who have had their privacy violated in order to bury their family members while vocal antis gleefully crowed about their death, or mourn the death of a fetus incompatible with life, but not the life lost months before. I remember the woman who was followed to her hotel and had to face protesters who had posters with her name on it. I remember the antis who scream and lie both virtually and in real life at patients who think, feel, love, cry, hurt and who have hopes, dreams and problems that aren’t solved by a pack of diapers and supplies that are only given to those who attend Bible classes, plus empty promises of housing or money. I remember the people I will never know or see who go through hell to access legal health care. I remember the people who can’t scrape together the money or take time off work so they, at their own peril, try to terminate the pregnancy by themselves even though it risks their lives and health. I remember the young faces of the supposedly pro-life generation forced on the sidewalk by parents and schools with their signs and realize that some day a portion of them will need access to the very health care they hold signs up against.

I know if you are reading this you are tired. Probably tired of listening to me ramble on. Probably tired of being told to do more than you already are. Tired of this fight that shouldn’t be happening in the Land of the Free in 2015. Maybe you are even feeling that this fight is pointless. Maybe you feel it a little or maybe you feel it a lot. Maybe you are like me, and have to turn off the TV, put down a magazine or click off an article or post because you are overwhelmed by the steady stream of anti-choice messages, anti-choice spew not backed by science and plain out flat lies told by antis about weeping women overwhelmed by guilt, infertility, breast cancer and trauma of a pregnancy termination that occurred in a blood-soaked room after she was forced to abort by those evil, money-hungry doctors.

I know I am. I also know that if I give up the fight, I can’t complain because I stood by and let my Constitutional rights to a private medical procedure be stripped away by people who are basically trying to be voyeurs into the lives and bedrooms of strangers. I know the more of us who refuse to stand for this kind of violation, who speak out on a lot of fronts, both now and in the future, will have a great impact on the direction reproductive rights take in this country.

When I started this rant I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. I know I wanted to express how those who are silent need to speak up and encourage and thank those who do far more than me. I wanted to find a reason for myself to continue to be involved in this fight when there are so many things that are more fun to do. I found it here, and am feeling a bit renewed in my urge to do more, to speak louder and over the small band of loud antis, whose volume make them seem much more numerous than they are really.

We are losing our rights to a small, loud minority and it has to stop.

That is the point.

Rape, Abortion and “Frozen” -by KY Born (TW for Rape, Stalking, Violence)

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DESCRIPTIONS OF RAPE, STALKING AND VIOLENCE. PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF IT WILL BE UPSETTING FOR YOU.

First, let me just say this right up front: I am madly in love with the movie “Frozen”, especially the song “Let It Go.”  What does this have to do with abortion, you may ask? Anybody who has read any of my posts knows that I tend to meander and take a long time to get to the point. This is going to be one of those times. If you have something better to do, or just think I’m overreacting, then I would suggest you move on. If not, well here it is. The whole story. The rape, the abortion and the reason I am letting go to tell it on this blog.

Before antis or anybody else goes, “What?’, and says “OMG! YOU AREN’T PRO-CHOICE BECAUSE YOU ONLY ADVOCATE FOR ABORTION IN CASES OF RAPE!!”, please chill out and read the rest. I am telling my story only. Everyone else’s story is their own and I don’t care why those women in the lobby with me, or women in lobbies in clinics all over the country are there. It is none of my business.

Back to “Frozen” now. I always adored Elsa. I loved how she felt like she had this secret she had to keep, this image she had to portray and the joy she felt at not having to do this anymore. This is what I’m feeling now, so when I listen to “Let It Go” I’m certainly not referring to the power to freeze stuff, but I am referring to the ability to stop trying to be the person people expect me to be and hiding something that was not my fault like some shameful secret. You see, Elsa did not ask to be born with her powers any more than I asked to be raped and become pregnant.

So while this movie has nothing to do with rape or abortion, the idea of having to keep secrets, be perfect and be ashamed of things not your fault you can’t cope with rings long and loud with me.

I won’t bore you with the entire song, just most of it. While I have posted a trigger warning at the beginning, I will say again that if you are a rape victim who is triggered you may want to skip this post because I am letting it all go.

So when I listen to this song, I hear Elsa sing “the wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.”  She isn’t talking about what I was thinking years ago right after it happened and my “legitimate rape” got me knocked up, but she has the same feelings and thoughts. Do I tell? Do I ask for help? Do I report this rape? How will this change the way people think of me because I had a few consensual sexual encounters with this man? Will my father kill him? So I do what good girls do, I keep it all inside. Our justice system, while improving, is not particularly kind to rape victims. Everyone has a right to a good defense. I just wasn’t in a position to have my entire private life shoved out in a public trial, so I didn’t report.

Elsa sings “don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel.” I know exactly what this animated character is feeling. I wore a turtleneck to work to cover up the bruises on my neck. I never told anybody about the nights I sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot weeping for an hour. I was afraid to get out of my car because my rapist was still stalking me. I lived in the same apartment for three more years because I refused to be defeated. Smart? Probably not, but I am a stubborn creature and in spite of the stalking it was my way of fighting back.

After what seemed like 100 years of night terrors, they finally stopped. I got therapy. It helped, to some degree to let part of it go. So it is true that “it’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small and the fear that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”  I’m not afraid to go out by myself at night. I’m not afraid to be home alone at night. I’m not afraid to go to Kroger at 3 AM because I have insomnia and know it will be empty. I let the fear go. I don’t have to fake it anymore. The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all. OK. Mostly they don’t.

Now let’s skip ahead. I have so much more I could say about rape and stalking, but that is for another time. Even though only one can’t get pregnant by “legitimate rape” because our women’s bodies shut the whole thing down, I did. I don’t have regular periods, but I knew it within two weeks because I puked morning, noon and night. Every single time I puked I relived the rape.

I knew what I was going to do immediately. Abortion. Even though I had family support and it is likely my rapist/stalker would have married me and would have wanted the child, my decision was made. I told no one. The nearest clinic was over an hour away in another state. I immediately called Planned Parenthood and scheduled an abortion that couldn’t be done for 4 more weeks because this particular clinic did not offer medication abortion yet. I didn’t even know my blood type so I had to make an extra trip. Luckily, I was a workaholic with a huge pile of PTO time.

Once I had made the trip to the clinic for blood typing, there was another hurdle. I needed someone to drive me after the procedure even though I was only having local anesthesia. I realized I could pay a homeless man to sign for me as my driver, because of my decision to tell no one who knew me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always been pro-choice, but when you are a sheltered girl from small-town Kentucky who moves to a slightly bigger town to go to college and then stays there, but has to go to the Big City get “that thing” done, it is still scary.

I still blamed myself for opening the door the night he banged on it for 15 minutes thinking I didn’t want to disturb my neighbors. I had to be a good girl. I had to not disturb anybody with my personal problems. I opened the door hoping he would be quiet. Oh, he got quiet and so did I. It is hard to scream when a man twice your size has his hand around your throat. I blamed myself for years. I have finally stopped. I finally let it go.

The end of my story comes with the abortion. I’ll spare you the details of knowing I was pregnant. Why I took the test? I’m still not sure. My periods are and have always been irregular unless I was on hormonal birth control, which gave me pregnancy symptoms. Keep in mind before you decide against any form of hormonal birth control, I am a rare special snowflake when it comes to medication side effects. Mostly, women go about their daily lives with no problems. Sigh. Envy.

Anyway, I being the good girl who kept her two consensual sexual partners a secret, as well as her rape, also kept her fear of being pregnant a secret. However, you can bet your ass the day my erratic period SHOULD usually but didn’t appear I ran down to the store and got a pregnancy test. That faint pink line that changed my life. I went to get more tests. All faint pink lines. That and puking hit reality home. There was nothing to do but make that appointment. The decision was actually made before I ever took the test.

So here I am, letting it go.

I’ll tell you there were about 12 of us in the waiting room. One woman was teary. A few were stoic. A few leaned on the man with them. Why were they there? None of my business. To tell the truth, I wasn’t feeling very chatty. I kept my nose in a book, eagerly awaiting my name to be called for a procedure I had heard was awful, terrible and painful with no anesthesia. I felt alone, but somehow my aloneness gave me power. I knew when this was over I could “walk away and slam the door.”

Me, being me, had made sure to be the first to check in and the first up at bat. I’m not sure how I managed to walk down that hall, undress or get in the stirrups. I suppose we all do what we have to do. One of the things I had to do for myself, not because the law mandated it, was see the ultrasound. Don’t listen to what the antis tell you. The clinic WILL let you see your ultrasound if you ask. Seeing my own little sea monkey in there actually gave me peace of mind.

I won’t say the procedure was something I would do for shits and giggles. I will say it was over in about five minutes and I received excellent care with no complications at all. I don’t know where my homeless faux driver went, but after a few minutes in recovery I went to my car to begin the drive home. Think what you want of me, but halfway home I realized I was hungry. I pulled off the exit midway home and ate four cheeseburgers and a large order of fries from the McDonald’s drive-through on the way home.

No puking. It was my first step to letting go.

I’ll be honest, I still have trouble reading these antis who say giving birth to a rape baby “heals” the woman. Maybe it does for some women. It wouldn’t have for me. Honestly, those four weeks waiting were horrid not because I knew I was on abortion countdown, but because I knew the spawn of that man was inside me. If any lurking antis have a comment about “death penalty for crimes of the father”, all I can say is shove it. There was no baby. There was a woman who desperately needed an abortion. There was a woman who had night terrors. There was a woman who held elderly patients’ hands as they died and worked with abused children long after this happened.

If that abortion hadn’t happened, that woman would not be here. If I had to walk through an awful gauntlet it would have broken me into pieces. I would not be the woman who has helped more people than CPCs, abortion protesters and blowhards like Jill Stanek, Lila Rose and the whole of AHA.

I have helped more people than they ever will. I don’t care what they think of me or if I pop up on their Google alerts. They are profiting from abortion as well and they are the hypocrites and the Pharisees Jesus preached about. They pray and preach loudly, but make money off the same industry they condemn. If it should cease to exist, so would their livelihood. Hypocrites, every one. Praying loudly on street corners or the modern version, the internet, so everyone can see how pious and merciful they are. Yup, we “pro-aborts” read the Bible as well and I still consider myself a Christian. A Jesus Christian. Not the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus anti so-called Christian protesters worship, but the dude who said to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” I doubt Jill Stanek, Lila Rose or the vast network of “groups not a group” AHA who seem to be making big money off of their opposition to abortion are what Christianity is about.

So here I am. Letting it go. If you are a rape victim, I’m sorry if I triggered you. If you are not a rape victim, don’t take this as a sign that I think abortion is only acceptable in those cases.

You know when abortion is acceptable? When the woman gestating the pregnancy decides she doesn’t want to be pregnant. Period. End of story. This is just my story and every woman who goes down that sidewalk has another story that is none of my business.

I once read an anti-post that said a woman claimed she didn’t think about the rape but remembered the abortion every day. She needs therapy. I can tell you the year, day, hour and minute I was raped. I couldn’t tell you the day I had an abortion. I didn’t need a widdle-bitty baby to cuddle and heal me. I needed an abortion.

So here I am. Letting it go.

I had an abortion. I didn’t check the “rape/incest” box because I didn’t want it to flag any need for further discussion of the issue. I made an appointment for an abortion and I was going to get one.

I don’t regret it nor do the hundreds of lives I have made better. That could never have happened if I had been broken into pieces by “peaceful sidewalk counseling.”

I didn’t need a baby. I didn’t need a non-medical ultrasound. I didn’t need to report this to the police to validate my experience. I didn’t need others to tell me what to do.

What did I need?

To let it go.

There are a lot of women and girls with more and less traumatic experiences who need to let it go on their terms. If they come to you, don’t judge. It isn’t your journey.

But this? This grammatically incorrect post is me letting go. If you are a woman who is feeling guilt about rape and/or abortion I encourage you to join me in letting it go. It took me three months to write this post but for the first time in many years I feel free.

So should every rape victim and every person who has an abortion.

 

 

Three Aspects of Escorting – Part I

Escorting is such a simple activity – walking up the sidewalk with someone on their way to the doctor.  So simple, and so complex.  I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately.

I identify three aspects:

I.  Logistics of Escorting

II.  Escorting as Social Justice

III.  The Psychology of Escorting

The logistics of escorting are played out on the sidewalk.  At the clinic in Louisville, there is no private parking lot, so clients and their companions approach from several directions.  Protesters spread out trying to make sure they have a good position to confront the client  with  fetal porn or yell at them.  Chasers station themselves at various points so they can latch on and begin their litany of cajoling, pleading and commanding as the client walks to the door.

Where there are protesters, there are escorts.  On Saturday, we stand in front of the door, on the corner at First Street, on the corner of Second, in front of the $4.00 lot, down by the AWC lot… Escorts are everywhere.

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But where do we need to be?  Where can we be most effective?  The $6.00 lot is $15 today, let’s not send anyone there, the parking meters are covered, no parking on the street, where should we be?

Those logistical questions arise every week, and every week we feel our way through to the best answers we can find.

These days, I often stand by the $4 lot.  From there, I can see the 2nd Street corner, and if those escorts all end up walking with people, I’ll cross the street to be a presence on that corner.  If someone parks halfway down the block, I can get to that car easily.  That’s so simple it’s almost not Logisitics, right?

Sometimes, I stand by the drop-off zone.  Mostly, I just stay in that space, although from there I can see different parts of the block and move away to walk with someone if it looks like that would be helpful.  And that’s not exactly higher order planning.  None of the individual spots are – no matter where we stand, we pay attention to what’s going on around us, and go where there’s a need.

When it works well ~ when we have enough people where we need them and we’re all watching out for each other ~ then it flows really well and it feels almost magic.  When the timing’s right, and people move in and out of position, and clients are able to walk to the clinic relatively unhindered, it’s like a dance.

Often, someone at the front door coordinates a lot of that.  Serving as a central point for information, the escorts stationed at more distant points can let that person know when they need help.  She, or he, can see a lot of the area and identify some needs, ask people to move to fill empty spaces.  Servalbear does that a lot, and does it well.  She’s a skilled tactician and helps keep the gears in sync, makes sure they’re oiled.

Lately, another escort has started doing logistics at the front door.  She’s learning that there are lots of things to learn about doing it well –  maybe she’ll do a blog post on that sometime!

Logistics are the most direct aspect of escorting, and they impact the client most directly.   The Points of Unity guide the logistics ~ we focus on being client-centered, on not escalating, and so on.  But in that moment, we make decisions based on our own best judgment.  That’s all we can do.  We may critique it later, explore how we could have done it differently, look at other ways to approach it, but in that moment, we respond as best we can.

This is the smallest unit of escorting – one escort, on the sidewalk, in the moment.

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D. P. Serke, a student at one of Kentucky’s Universities, recently wrote a paper about escorts as a “folk group.”  She says:

…{Clinic Escorts’} folklore is evident in countless blogs, message boards, and on the sidewalk. The pro­choice clinic escorts at EMW are a folk group. A folk group is described by Alan Dundes as , “any group of people whatsoever who share at least one common factor…” (Dundes, 1965). This is a broad definition, but is further defined by Dundes when he says that folk groups have common traditions. The clinic escorts share a common cause, a ritual structure for their performance on the sidewalk, including rules and specific language.

This is why we were able to write our own version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  As other groups of clinic escorts connect, we share common cause and language with them too, particularly related to logistics.  Other clinics face different challenges and escorts deal with them in different ways, but we have so much in common.  

So our lone escort on the sidewalk connects with other escorts at her own clinic and that group connects with escorts at other clinics.   Set us down in any city with other escorts and we can trade stories about how we do things, and discover that many of our strategies are similar – and that our protesters are very much alike! 

Logistics are the simplest form of connection between escorts.  Individual escorts, and escorts as a group, are also connected to social justice, or reproductive justice in some ways., which I’ll talk about in my next post.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – on the Sidewalk

A few of the escorts came up with our very own version of a Christmas carol, really just for fun.   Hope you enjoy our rendition of

The Twelve Days of Christmas – on the Sidewalk:

The lyrics go like this:

On the first day of Christmas, the antis gave to me
~ a prenatal ultrasound freeeeee

On the second day of Christmas, the antis gave to me
~~ 2 Adoptive Parents and a prenatal ultrasound freeee

It goes on, of course, and eventually, you end up with this:

12 Chasers Chasing
11 Prayers Praying
10 Liars a Lying
9 Catholics Parading
8 Cameras Flashing
7 Preachers Screaming
6 Pamphlets Waving
~~~ 5 Rosarieeeees ~~~
4 Lot Lizards
3 Fetus Dolls
2 Adoptive Parents
and a prenatal ultrasound freeee

Most of the things on our list have been mentioned in our blog – many of them repeatedly.  So unless you’re new to the world of escorting, you already know that:

Our antis are always pleading with the clients to come next door for an ulrtasound, adding in pleading tones – it’s freeee.  It is also not accepted by the clinic, and people have said that they’re not always accurate.

The antis promise the clients that there are “people waiting to adopt your baby.”

And some antis carry little plastic fetuses (fetusi??)

“Lot lizards” is what we call the antis who hang out in the parking lot behind the CPC, waiting for clients to park there, in hopes of luring them into their “clinic.”

The rest of it really is self-explanatory, except, maybe, for Catholics Parading.  Every second Saturday of the month, there’s a special mass at a church and afterwards, some of them walk down to the clinic.   Hence the term “Catholics on Parade.”

Happy Holidays!

 

All Kinds of Great Stuff

It’s an auction!

Ok, it’s really a silent auction, online, of course.  It’s a fundraiser for KRCRC – Kentucky’s state affiliate of the national Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith alliance of mainstream religious organizations dedicated to ensuring access to reproductive health care and achieving reproductive justice.

As an escort, I’m happy to support their goals, and I particularly appreciate KRCRC for lots of reasons. They help fund the breakfasts we offer at our trainings.  They help fund our vests.  Some of them come out to escort.

More importantly, KRCRC reminds me that lots of religious people support access to abortion.  KRCRC provides training for pastoral counselors who offer full options counseling to people with unintended pregnancy.  And they’re working hard to keep reproductive health care available.

So check out the auction – here.

Bid on some amazing items –

"Crow After Roe" Autographed Book by Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo

“Crow After Roe” Autographed Book by Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo

 One hour flight for two  in a Cessna

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Chocolate Lovers Basket

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 Sterling Silver Tree of Life Pendant

Or even a $100 MC giftcard OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check it out – bid on something you want.  Support reproductive rights.

AND

As if that weren’t enough great stuff for anyone, let me just add this – Kevin Gibson, from Insider Louisville, brings us a series of three articles about the EMW clinic, featuring protesters and escorts that we all know.  Here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III.  Enjoy.