On Wednesday, while driving home after escorting, I was thinking about how smoothly things had gone on the sidewalk. When I turned from a busy road to a side street, there were ambulances and police cars at an accident near the expressway on-ramp. Cars were flowing the other way, part of the early morning, rush-hour traffic.
Then I saw a lady standing on the curb to my left. She seemed to be a walker or jogger, waiting for the traffic to clear so she could cross the street. I slowed, then stopped, to give her a chance to cross. The traffic was still flowing the other way in the lane between us. Waiting to cross, she was standing in the grass at the curb’s edge. Then I noticed she was holding a brown plastic Kroger bag in each hand. I thought she was out picking up dog poop from her neighborhood. As a kind driver stopped in the other lane, the lady walked out onto the street.
Suddenly, she stopped and squatted down in the road. Surprised, I looked over and saw a tiny, gold and brown Yorkshire Terrier, lying there, motionless. With a sharp in breath, I stared at the miniature collar and the long leash, looping and curving across the pavement like blue, longhand penmanship. The lady scooped up the silky, limp body with the Kroger bags, stood up, and smiled a thank you to the waiting drivers, walking back to the grassy curb. The blue leash trailed strangely behind, upside down, the leash handle dancing along the ground.
Stunned and aware of the impatient drivers lined up behind me, I drove on. A few blocks later, it dawned on me the dog might be injured, but still alive, needing a vet or an animal hospital. Did she have a way to take it there? As I u-turned the car and drove back, I felt sad and guilty for having driven off without asking if she needed assistance, or a ride, or comfort. But I couldn’t find the lady with the little Yorkie. I couldn’t even tell where they had been. I turned back out onto the main road. The ambulance and police were still at the accident on the other side of the road.
Tears in my eyes, I drove on. To me, this was an opportunity for me to be at the right place at the right time, to be of service to another person, and I had only seen the top layer of what might be needed. Yeah, I should have stopped and asked. Yeah, consciousness is about staying aware and paying attention. Yeah, death is part of life and life is part of death.
What, you might be wondering, does any of this have to do with escorting? One of our regular antichoice protesters, Ron, is fond of shouting loudly at the clinic entrance, “Bring out the buckets of dead babies!!! I wanna see the buckets of dead babies! What do you DO with all those buckets of dead babies?!?? All you people care about are trees. What do you do for fun after you leave here, deathscorts? Huh? Do you go kill puppies and kittens for fun? Huh? Is that what makes you happy? Buckets of dead babies and buckets of dead puppies and dead kittens…”
While standing at the corner of 1st and Market Streets, sometimes – - just sometimes – - Fear tells me that any car, stopping for a red light or purring past us downtown, could be an anti-choice extremist. Any one of us could be shot, just standing on the street, because we are wearing the orange vest of a pro-choice clinic escort. To quiet Fear, I quietly whisper, “I fear none, for I love all. The purpose of my life is to help, love and serve others.”
Quietly saying this to myself banishes Fear. It soothes and steadies my spirit. Again, I am just standing there, in the now, not doing anything, feeling calm and aware, just paying attention.
Why am I sharing this story here about a tiny brown Yorkshire terrier and a protester who says ugly things about “babies” and “dogs” and “kittens” and “deathscorts?” Why does my mind even imagine someone showing up with a gun and shooting me or one of my beloved escort friends in cold blood?
It is because we know with the increasingly radical, right-wing extremists, there have been bombs, murders, and hate campaigns which pretend to be “Christian.” Abortion doctors have been murdered. Abortion clinics have been vandalized, bombed, picketed. Abortion doctors, staff, and clinic escorts have been publicly “outed” on WANTED posters and flyers. Those flyers have been distributed online, given to the targeted person’s neighbors, and even their children’s schools. When outing someone, the person’s name, address and other personal information is often included. Escorts have been fired from their jobs within Catholic systems, after the antis called and wrote to the employers. Protesters are pushing abortion porn into the hands of our children as they go into or out of their schools. Anti-abortion laws are chipping away, bit by bit, shutting down clinics, making it incredibly more complicated, difficult and expensive than ever for a woman to get an abortion.
It’s not like you see picketers, or bombers, or vandals at other medical clinics. When did you have to shove your way through a crowd of protesters to get your tooth filled or to get your annual physical? I didn’t think so.
What part of this is American? I ask you, how is this part of living in the “greatest nation on Earth?” How is this still the Land of the Free? This is not the America I was raised to know, love and take pride in. Where is law enforcement? Where is the local mayor? Where are the rights of normal American citizens? Where is the outraged citizenry needed to stand up to these thugs, these bullies, these domestic terrorists?
Yes, we need buffer zones. Maybe not two miles away, as they have for the protesters at the national Presidential conventions, but even a safety zone extending 20 feet away from the door would be better than nothing. The in-your-face harassment, intimidation, and interference (all violations of the FACE Act), and the illegal threatening and intimidation of the abortion clinic providers and their staff, both at the clinics and in their private lives, have been endured for too long. These illegal activities by the “Forced Birthers” must be prosecuted and stopped.
It is worrying, perplexing, irritating, confusing, infuriating and wearying to see this in our society, in our culture, in our community, and on the sidewalk. Never, ever, ever give up. Trust Women. Respect Choice. (End of rant.)