The Flip Side

This blog is not de-escalating.  I know that.  I don’t think it helps normalize or de-stigmatize abortion either.

Sometimes, I feel bad about that.

Recently, I posted pictures showing protesters with the “dead baby” signage, all crowded around in front of the clinic.  I was pleased with the piece.  I thought it conveyed the intensity of the scene pretty well.  That was what I wanted.

I want people to know how awful-horrible-terrible it is out there.  I want everyone to know how extreme the antis are, how they try to intimidate, shame, and harass clients on their way to the clinic.  I want people to be so outraged that even reasonable people in churches discourage their members from spending time creating shame.  So outraged that they rally to help pass legislation creating a buffer zone.

But the night before I posted the pictures, we’d gotten an email from someone who was a bit freaked out about the idea of having to walk through the protesters to get to their doctor’s appointment.  That happens pretty regularly.

That’s when I feel a little bit bad about the blog.  I want to say to the client, “Oh, yeah, the blog tells people how awful the situation outside the clinic is, but you don’t have to worry too much about it. It’s not that big a deal.”

And in a way, that’s true too.

The things that happen outside the clinic are fairly horrible, awful, bad.  And really ~~~~

~~~~  Here is where I get stuck.  Right here.  This is the article I keep trying to write, and I keep getting stuck right about here.

i want to talk to each client and each companion, not as a group, but individually.  And I don’t want to sound like I’m telling anyone what to feel or not to feel on the walk to the clinic doors.

I want to say:

Whatever you feel is exactly the right thing to feel.  The clinic feels scary and intimidating to some people.  But the facts of the matter are that no one gets physically hurt on the way to our clinic.  No clients get beaten up, shot, kidnapped, or injured.

Protesters may crowd around you, but they don’t usually touch you.   They want to stop you, but they’re not here to physically harm you.

The walk to the clinic is, as Kescort used to say often, a lot like going through a haunted house.  Protesters pop up and say things, and it can feel scary, but they don’t actually do anything to you.

And the things they say – good grief.  They don’t know you.  They don’t know why you’re there, and they don’t care.  They have their own agenda, their own routines, and they’re gonna run through them no matter what.  Whatever you say, they have a pre-set response about why you’re wrong – like a tape recorder.  They can’t really even hear you.

I see clients wide-eyed and terrified, and I want to say, “Don’t – don’t let them scare you like that.  No, it’s not pleasant, yes, it would be better if they weren’t here.  But they’re just bullies.  When they distress people, upset them ~ they’re glad. If you start crying, they’re gonna swarm like sharks.  They see that as weakness, see it as an opportunity to talk you out of your decision.”

I want to say, “If you don’t want an abortion, if this isn’t the right decision for you, then don’t do it, of course.  I’m here to support your right to decide, not to tell you what to do.  But it is your decision, and it is not about them.”

They really only have as much power as you give them.  You don’t have to give them any.

That’s what I want to say.

~~~~~  And now ~~  having said all that to the clients and companions ~~~~

I have to turn the message back on myself.

Sigh.

I have to figure out if I can give the protesters less power, if – and how – I can let them bother me less.   I’ll let you know what I figure out.

********************************************

REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

14 thoughts on “The Flip Side

  1. The “haunted house” analogy occurred to me a few weeks ago.

    Having served as both an escort and a haunted house employee, it struck me how similar the protesters were to haunted house employees. Before 7 am, they’re all “Hey, how are you? I tried that restaurant; did you see ‘Lincoln’ yet? etc”; when clients arrive, it’s time to start yelling “boo”.

    It is much weirder but somewhat less threatening when you are there for that changeover; I wish more people could witness it. (To clarify, I do not really wish more people could see the protesters go into protester mode; I wish that there was no one there to bother women going to the doctor in the first place. However, being that there are currently people there to bother women going to the doctor, I wish more people could see the switch from ‘person’ to ‘performer’.)

    • Hi, Triviacleric,

      How cool, that the same analogy occurred to you! It really is very much like that, and sometimes when I’m coming up the sidewalk, I actually see them that way, like cardboard pop-ups. Weird.

      And you’re right about the change-over! Yes, if people could see that, it might feel less threatening.

      Thanks so much for reading, and for commenting!

  2. First, let me thank you and your fellow escorts for the work that you do. I’ve been reading this blog for a while and have so much respect for you all.

    This post reminded me of my thought process when I had an appointment at Planned Parenthood a few years ago, and I was nervous about facing the protestors and what they might say/do. Then I realized: These people have no power over me, they have no say in my medical decisions, and yet they think they should, it infuriates them that they cannot tell me what to do! All they can do is harass women, and hope that they can hurt them emotionally. “That’s disgusting”, I thought to myself, “but they can’t really DO anything to me”, and then I wasn’t nervous at all walking into the clinic.

    I absolutely love the “haunted house” analogy. Once you know that chainsaw isn’t real…

    • Hi, Kirvan,

      Thanks so much for reading the blog and commenting – and for the kind words!

      Yes, once someone realizes that the protesters act the way they do because they don’t have the power to stop you, it can become easier to protect oneself emotionally. Of course that means we have to work extra hard politically to keep them from getting the power to actually stop people from getting abortions.

      Kescort will be so pleased that his analogy is appreciated!

      Thanks again.

      • Good point about politics – it is certainly terrifying what people like that can do when they do get power over others.

      • Yes.

        Case in point, a judge in Texas just denied an injunction to prevent them from excluding Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program. That makes me sad and angry.

      • I DO love that the haunted house analogy is somewhat universal. But credit where due, it was T that originated it. I use it all the time, but it was his mindlovechold.

      • Thanks for clarifying that,Kescort – I’ll have to apologize to T. :-) it is a great analogy.

  3. “This blog is not de-escalating. I know that. I don’t think it helps normalize or de-stigmatize abortion either.”

    I would disagree with that. I think you do an excellent job of showing that abortion does not deserve the attention or the stigma it gets. This blog does a great job of showing exactly why these people shouldn’t be there by putting things in the big picture.

    I agree the blog is not de-escalating, but I think we all know that de-escalating is exactly what the Anti’s hope for from us so they overwhelm and destroy what’s left of our rights. They don’t WANT peace or common ground.

    I love the analogy of the haunted house. It’s kind of comforting. Keep telling the clients and companions that. Make them little more than the freakshow staging they are.

    • Thank you for the support, Longtail, and I hope the blog does normalize and destigmatize what is an abnormal and stigmatizing situation. Servalbear and I had this conversation after I showed her the draft of the article, and I talked about it with another long term escort, actually one of the “wenches.”

      I agree with what you’re saying – about “showing that abortion does not deserve the attention or the stigma it gets.” and Servalbear made the same argument – and I agree to a point. But if you’re someone who needs an abortion, and you come to the blog, you’re probably not going to walk away thinking this is like any other trip to the doctor.

      Of course that’s because of the protesters, not because of the blog, but the point of the blog is typically not to help clients feel comfortable, or to de-escalate – as you point out too. I don’t usually feel bad about that – just occasionally.

      I told Servalbear, this is actually a post in itself, the point and counter-point of what the blog does and doesn’t do, so thanks for weighing in.

      And I’m glad you liked Kescort’s analogy – he’ll be so pleased!

      Thanks again for all the support. We really appreciate it.

  4. The blog bares witness, as well. That’s worthy in and of itself, just to bare witness. This is what happened, what is happening, what human beings are putting other human beings through.

    • Hi, Flamewriting,

      Thank you for the perspective. Yes, the blog does bear witness and that can be a powerful thing. I don’t usually feel bad about it – and thanks for the support!

  5. well said. I perhaps it is harder for you because you see it every time you go and escort, on a weekly basis. For some, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that gives it a fear-factor as well…Honestly, just helping that *one* time a year ago left a lasting impression on me. What you do is important work. Hard work, emotionally. And I applaud you, all of you, for the diligence and strength you show your clients week after week, or day after day.

    Kirsty

    • Thanks for the support Kirsty. Yes, in a way it probably is harder, but also easier since we don’t have the medical appointment to deal with to! For sure, we have lots of opportunity to practice managing the feelings!

      Thanks for commenting.

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