Common Ground

 

On Twitter, there was a discussion about finding “common ground” with anti’s. An anti, who bills himself as a person who “helps pro-lifers be more persuasive and less weird when they communicate with pro-choice people” started this discussion.  

Some of the questions he was asking went along the lines of, “Is it right for boyfriends and parents to pressure women to have abortions?” and, “What do you think about abortion if the unborn has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome?” and, “Would you prefer that there were fewer abortions?”

Of course my response was, anyone who wants an abortion should have safe and legal access to it, period. His response, “Well, its hard to have a conversation about abortion if you start by assuming it should always be available.”

What?

Mr. Pro-Life speaker, you want to have a conversation on limiting abortion access and ultimately ending abortion. I do not.  We have no common ground.  We don’t have to have common ground.  It is OK.

More to the point, here are some pretty big reasons why we will never have common ground.

1. You want to make abortion illegal.  I do not

2. You want to put stipulations on abortion.  I do not.

3. “Counseling” is not a pro-active thing.  If you were really interested in counseling, a client would seek you out and come to you with questions and wanting to talk about options besides abortion.  We all know that isn’t how it goes. You chase clients down the street and shove flyers at them.  You yell at companions and (when applicable) insult their “masculinity” by telling them to “man up” and “bring your woman out of there”.  That isn’t counseling.

4. You want to make “pro-life people less weird”.  That is impossible.  Even if you rounded up all the anti-choice protesters and made them sit through one of your presentations, there would STILL be protesters that don’t listen and do what they want. There would still be protesters that get in people’s faces, stalk, and get physically violent. The harassment and the intimidation would continue, unabated. Therefore, common ground is pointless.

5. Something that may actually help “counselors” do some actual “counseling” on the sidewalk is a buffer zone. A buffer zone may discourage harassing behavior, while still allowing clients TO APPROACH YOU instead of the other way around when they want to talk about options.  That would be real counseling.  I wonder how many “pro-life counselors” would be ok with that type of arrangement?

At the end of this twitter exchange, the pro-lifer said “I’m just saying that on the night that the #abortionchat topic was on common ground, I found a ton of CG with @LouClinicEscort , but he or she couldn’t find one iota of common ground with me :-/”

My response was this “Anti’s like to make themselves victims on the sidewalk, even as they are harassing. But no, you are the victim here”.  Of course, it was all about his feelings.  Even as people that he supports push and yell and scream and don’t listen to constant, “NO, GO AWAY, LEAVE ME ALONE”. Of course, its MY fault that we couldn’t find any “common ground”

I don’t have any common ground with pro-lifers, much like I don’t have any common ground with rapists.  Stop harassing clients. Stop the guilt and shame.  Leave people alone to go to the doctor.  Period. Just go away.

(BTW, if you want to see some of the things we discussed on Twitter, I tweet @LouClinicEscort.  The “pro-life speaker” in this exchange was @JoshBrahm.  Or you can check out the hashtag #abortionchat)

The Adoption Fetish

The fetishization of adoption amongst middle class and upper class conservative christian whites first became apparent to me when I was attending high school. My school was strongly tied to a Southern Baptist church so much so that the head pastor’s children attended my school and his wife taught our bible class (which consisted of watching Veggie Tales((rather juvenile for sophomores in high school, right?))). The pastor and his wife adopted a Chinese baby from an orphanage in which children were abused via ignorance of their basic humans. The child has been left by the road upon her birth and would have most likely lead a terrible life without the rescue of these rich white americans.Why do I know all of this? Because of course,  it isn’t enough to add a member to your family out of love, you have to drive home the financial sacrifice you have made to adopt a hopeless and helpless child coming from an impoverished situation, otherwise your contribution isn’t public….and that isn’t any fun, is it? Following this adoption by the head pastor and the story of salvation of a little Chinese girl there was a rash of trendy adoption of African and Asian children within the church’s upper echelon of wealthy partitioners.  All of the horror stories of these children’s backgrounds were made publicly known, and yet none of us knew anything about the little girls (all of the children adopted were female) themselves. It was creepy, the fad of adoption.

Adoption is wonderful, people shouldn’t be mistreated, its terrible that orphanages like this exist. I agree.  Adopting children then spreading the story of their backgrounds and constantly reminding them of their “otherness” and how wonderful of a savior you and your family are is ALSO awful. That is not an addition to the family, its the addition of an accessory with a neat story, and that saddens me.

So when protestors say there are Christian families who would love to adopt the patient’s child, this often comes to mind. I will say no, not everyone who adopts is like this, not all christians are like this, not all christians who adopt children are like this. But the fact that this even EXISTS is problematic.

Threatening People Isn’t A Great Way To Win Them Over, Ya Know?

The antis on the sidewalk often approach escorts and clients with an attempt to intimidate by way of instilling fear. How? With clients and their companions there are threats of how “you’ll regret this because you’re killing your baby.” . To male companions of the clients, “ You’re not a real man! If you were a *real* man you would take her out of there.” , “you aren’t a real man if you let her do this, you’re a weasel.” The protestors trying oh so hard to instill fear of a loss of gender identity to men unless they physically stop the clients from entering the building. Its just strange that they would use such a tactless approach. I’ve come to feel that the protestors who use this are not there for the clients and to help them, but for personal gratification, otherwise they might become introspective about their methods.

Anyway. The escorts are threatened with jail, this morning two of us were verbally attacked by the same protestor. The protestor attempted to block physically block clients as they crossed the line on the sidewalk marking the area where the protestors couldn’t follow. The escorts did their best to stand in such a way which would keep the protestor from physically contacting or blocking the client at which point this protestor noted that the only way to draw attention to themselves was to feign some sort of physical altercation. The protestor backed up and started howling about how we almost knocked them over!” How dare you!”. The second altercation was quite similar, but instead of simply saying, “ how dare you”, she stood as close to the line as possible (as is her way) and said , “WE have FOUR cameras watching you. I’d hate to see you go to jail for doing this to me….” and on and on and on. My only response to this person has become, “Stop harassing me.”, this particular person is also well known to me for spouting her racism at me every time I’m present.

I’m just confused about what world the antis live in, they’re so amazingly narcissistic.

This morning though there were 14 clients, 10 Antis and 8 escorts. So at least there was a good number of escorts to watch out for each other and to witness the awful behavior of these people.

Edit/ P.S.

This protestor seeks some sort of hierarchy within the escorts, when they feel threatened this A* seeks out a specific escort ( I’ve witnessed this occurrence multiple times over my time of escorting) and tells the escort to control another one of us. There is no leadership here, no hierarchy and for that I am so grateful. Upon informing the A of this however, the A turned this into a weapon against the escort who is nothing if not kind and engaging with us, ” Well, you act like you’re in charge.” sarcastic and biting to be sure. I’m just amused at this pattern this A has when they don’t get a reaction out of the initial escort they’re threatening they approach this particular escort and badger them incessantly.

 

A*=Anti/ Protestor

One Louisvillian’s report from Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice

Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice.  There is a lot to be said for making a point to create a space – a whole conference – for activists, advocates, academics, and service providers to caucus about the challenges they face in their communities around a so many topics. These issues (birth, pregnancy, abortion, HIV, sex, LGBTQIA health, education, economic rights, racism…) face so many attacks, and it is important for those of us working to address these challenges to be able to learn and share with each other. it’s amazing how much there is in common, but surprising to learn how very different things are in other places (and, based on my observations, some things are worse than you can imagine, in a place you probably haven’t thought of…)

So, I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to attend the Take Root conference for a second year in a row, thanks to the support of Louisville’s Reproductive Rights /Justice communities.

In addition to the support I received from our local folks, I was especially honored to be invited to sit on a panel by the Take Root organizers.  The panel I took part in was titled Visions for Our Movement: Service and Practical Support in Red States. I was proud to represent the Kentucky Support Network, and the Louisville Clinic Escorts alongside individuals from Backline, Trust Women in Wichita, Cicada Collective in Texas, the Bay Area Doula Project, and Defending the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi.  It was exciting to stand alongside folks who are also doing client based support work based on the various challenges that are faced by folks in different places.  One of the most unifying (and gratifying) points that was shared by a number of us was the powerful experience of being a space holder, and a story bank of sorts, as we offer an informed ear over a hotline, or a steady hand on the sidewalk, to people who are dealing with stigma, a lack of support, a deficit in resources, and other barriers.  Hearing that point being made by other people, and knowing how large of a piece it plays for me in the work I do was very satisfying.

After my panel, there was a followup session with breakout activities where small groups from different places collaborated on various topics.  I was excited to brainstorm with a range of folks about ways to move the conversation away from just abortion in order to cultivate a unified movement towards justice across lines of difference.   We talked about how important intersectionality is in this work.  How it is vital for reproductive rights advocates to ally themselves with folks working on voter rights, HIV advocacy, LBGT health, economic human rights, mental health, on and on… so that we are able to stand together as we fight, because it is impossible to separate the various aspects of a whole person’s complex identity.  We cannot expect people to forget that their skin is brown, or their kids are hungry, or that they need access to healthcare, because we also want them to lobby for voter rights, just like we can’t expect a transman to ignore the importance of pap smears while trying to adopt a child with their partner who is up against the fact they have a non violent marijuana charge from ten years ago on their record… for example.

On top of the two sessions about practical support, I attended two other workshops.  One entitled HIV, Self Determination, and Cultural Safety explored the challenges faced by people in various circumstances and we heard from panelists doing work on a national level through various orgs, and on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi.  A major takeaway from that discussion was that HIV is not the problem for lots of folks that are positive.  The problem lies in a lack of access to care, and in systems that are constructed to continually oppress people who are already facing a lack of resources.

The next session I attended a presentation called We’re here! We’re queer! We’re sober!: Assessing Ourselves and Our Environment.  This presentation focused on intentional sobriety, or intentional use of substances, as a way to foster conversations about safety, stigma, and the reasons why we are taught to suppress our desires, and trained to feel like we need substances in order to be comfortable in intimate settings. We also talked about the problematic nature of a culture that is built on buying and consuming substances as a way to feel like we can come together in spaces that are supposed to be “safer” spaces to be ourselves in.

Outside of workshops, I was delighted to see faces, familiar and new, as we exchanged cards and smiles on the way to lunch or in the halls between sessions. The highlights for me included hearing from Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women during her keynote address where she spoke of people being denied bodily autonomy and other human rights for the simple reason that they were pregnant.  Her speech included the stories of people who were not just being denied abortion access.  She spoke of a woman who was threatened with arrest to comply with a doctor’s wish to perform a medically unnecessary cesarean procedure, and told us about multiple people who were jailed in an attempt to prevent them from having abortions including one woman who was sent to jail from a hospital without examination, where she died of an ectopic pregnancy.

The conference was closed out with an incredible closing plenary by Deon Haywood of Women with a Vision who gave us a picture of what is going on in New Orleans where there is a staggeringly disproportionate number of women (especially black women and black trans women) who are being prosecuted for sex work and “crimes against nature” (such as anal sex, and oral sex). As a result, these women are being placed on the national sex offender registry which carries countless repercussions on their entire lives, including but not limited to their rights to raise their children, and also the ability to find a job.

I am very thankful to be part of such a supportive community here in KY that allowed me to access such an amazing and inspiring broader community so I can learn and continue to strengthen the work I do.  Here’s hoping I can go back next year.

here are a few links for more projects that I was fortunate to make connections to this time around:

Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center

http://colorlatina.org/

http://www.1in3campaign.org/en/

Indy Feminists

http://prochoiceohio.org/

http://www.ircrc.org/

http://www.womendonors.org/

Road Rally a Success!

A great time was had by all at the Kentucky Road Rally for Reproductive Rights on Saturday, November 2nd. On a beautiful fall day, we had a fantastic turnout and an awesome slate of speakers who fired up the crowd in advance of the 2014 legislative session. Truly, we could not have asked for better weather on a November weekend.
Capitol
Many thanks to all our speakers for their thoughtful words.
Road Rally Speakers
Dawn Cooley, minister at First Unitarian Church in Louisville, spoke about the intersection of faith and reproductive rights, emphasizing that the right-wing evangelicals do not possess the morality of reproductive issues.
DerekAndFrede
Derek Selznick (left), from the ACLU of Kentucky really heated up the crowd as he spoke to his experience lobbying for family-positive legislation in the Capitol, the building on which steps we rallied. F (right) spoke movingly about her abortion experience that was rife with hurdles and complications, problems arising primarily from anti-woman legislation.
ClinicEscortatRally
Michelle Kinsey Bruns joined us, who tweets as @ClinicEscort, driving from Washington, D.C. to be a part of the action. Her words about moving from compassion were a beautiful cap on the day.
Mel
We are thankful to have had media coverage from the Lexington ABC affiliate, WTVQ, and from Kentucky Public Radio, whose story can be followed on the Louisville public radio station or WKYU. It is important that our message reach both legislators and like-minded citizens.
Merch
Specifically, in Kentucky, there is an immediate concern of which to keep abreast. A longtime reproductive rights activist, Kathy Stein, has been appointed to the judiciary. Her vacant seat will be filled in a special election on December 10th. Many of our District 13/Fayette County (Lexington) allies were busy knocking on doors on Saturday, in the run-up to that special election. We are following that race closely, as Stein’s vote was often an important one in blocking anti-family, anti-woman legislation in our State Senate.
PreacherAndHerPulpit

What’s Next

Rally attendees were encouraged to return to their homes and speak out about being supporters of reproductive rights. You can join in the next steps, too!

1. Invite two or three friends for coffee or lunch and chat about an article on reproductive rights. RHRealityCheck.org is a great place to find something to talk about, as is ReproductiveRights.org or ACLU.org/reproductive-freedom.

2. From these two or three friends and you, begin an activist club, where you meet regularly to discuss articles, learn about legislation, and keep up-to-date on what’s happening in court dockets.

3. Find out who your legislator is – on the state level and the national level. How are they voting on issues about reproductive rights? Make sure your voice is heard when they have bills to consider that affect reproductive rights.

4. Keep up-to-date on bills in congress. For Kentucky, specifically, you can see what bills have been prefiled or, once the legislature is in session, what bills have been filed, what’s being heard in committee, what is being voted on, who wrote the bills, who else is sponsoring them – in other words, more information than you ever thought you could learn in one spot. By clicking on different subject headings – Women, Public Health, Children, etc – you can keep yourself informed about what our representatives in Frankfort are doing. Better yet, sign up for BILL WATCH, a service that your tax dollars are subsidizing, so, you know, use it!

5. Get involved with a local group! Find a group near you that is working on reproductive rights. The ACLU of Kentucky has an email list that will send out email blasts about pending legislation, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky is a great resource, too. There are many other groups, like the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Unitarian Univeralist Social Justice Network, and others. Many of them sponsored the rally, so be sure to check out the sponsors’ page on the website to find links to their websites.
Sara
Over the coming days and weeks, the rallly website will have a new tab for “What’s Next,” where this information, and more!, will be available. We will be posting resources to keep you informed, and ways you can link into local groups working for reproductive rights.

Let’s make 2014 the year that Kentucky families get the support they need – in comprehensive sex education, affordable and accessible contraception, access to abortion services, and family support programs – because Kentucky families deserve better!

The Last Abortion Clinic

We have been enjoying a great clinic escort blog. It is written by the clinic escorts at Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Mississippi. It is titled “The Last Abortion Clinic” and tells the daily stories of supporting clients in the presence of not only local protesters, but some sent by Operation Rescue. Some of us are hoping to meet these escorts in person at their rally on August 17. The people in Mississippi are fighting back!

The States of Refuge Campaign* started January 2012 by Operation Rescue targeted five states with only one abortion clinic. (Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) Their goal is to have a state with no abortion clinics. They are close to their goal in Mississippi by convincing legislators to pass a TRAP law concerning admitting privileges for the physicians who perform abortions. There is a court order blocking the enforcement of the law, but the Jackson clinic is due in court again soon.

Every day we seem to read about proposed legislation to restrict abortion; pending closings of health clinics that don’t even perform abortions as collateral damage from laws written to “make women safe.”  Two clinics closed in Virginia this month.. The current laws in Texas have a prediction of 37 out of 42 clinics closing if the courts uphold them. The last abortion clinic in Green Bay, WI closed this month. This list could be a long list if I included everything from this year.

What happens when abortion restrictions make it difficult for people to end a pregnancy? Dr. John J. Sciarra offers this opinion in the Chicago Tribune:

  • “No law that has ever been passed and no law that ever will be passed can prevent a determined woman from trying to end an unwanted pregnancy. Society and hospitals must accept their role in keeping women safe in that process.

Where can these determined women turn when they seek abortion help? What do minors do who live in a state without easy access to abortion and difficult judicial by-pass laws? When the cost of an abortion is out of reach for so many, how will they be able to add transportation to another state, lodging, time off work, and childcare to the amounts they were already struggling to find?

They are already turning to unsafe purchases of abortion medications from online sources or flea market vendors, because “Only people with money go to clinics.” Do it yourself abortions will be more common, with the dangers of permanent injury or death Dr. Jen Gunter spells out graphically in her article “Anatomy of a Coat Hanger Abortion.”

Are we going to have to devise our own counseling services network to transport clients from state to state to get clients to the closest open abortion clinic; working like the Jane Network but focusing on transportation to a safe, legal abortionist? In 2008, one-third of US patients had to travel more than 25 miles for abortion services. Now they have to travel further and 87% of US counties do not have an abortion provider. How many miles is to the nearest abortion clinic if the one near you closed?

I fear as women become more desperate to end a pregnancy in the face of rising restrictions and obstacles, they will  turn to self-administered drugs without understanding their instructions or the risks,  like what happened in IN this month. Worse, they may turn to an illegal abortionist because they are less expensive, closer and accessible.

The way it was before Roe vs Wade has been romanticized in books and movies, like “Dirty Dancing” and “Cider House Rules.” There was nothing heart-warming about that time. It was a scary time for an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. Women had their plans for their future derailed, died or were permanently injured and they will be again if this trend isn’t reversed.

We can never go back.

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*All links to anti-abortion websites have been omitted purposely. Please use Google or message us separately if you would like a citation for sources.

Sidewalk Snippet~by Skeletor {07/29/13}

It was a small group one morning, not many antis and not many escorts. A couple of clients had already pulled into the pay lot, though the clinic doors weren’t yet open, when one client came walking up by herself. There were so few antis that she snuck onto the property with no fuss. I was able to let her know the situation pretty easily, without too many people shouting at her from across the property line. She thanked me and then buried her face in her phone and I stepped back to the property line. This is a common defense mechanism of clients who wait at the door before the clinic opens – and a smart one, I would add. Bring headphones too.

D stepped up beside me at the property line and began talking to the client in her “I’m just a sweet old lady” voice that she invokes at the beginning of many confrontations. The client was going to have none of it and, after repeated requests to stop talking to her, the client wheeled on D and started giving her a piece of her mind. The other escort and I weren’t sure whether to step in and try to distract the client to de-escalate, or to let her go. After all, we really wanted to give her a fist bump and a couple of “Hell yeahs!”

As the conversation/debate/verbal brawl continued, D dropped the little old lady act, as she is often want to do, and took on her very comfortable tone of disapproval and reproach. The client was really giving D a piece of her mind, but it was so carefully thought out and calmly worded that D quickly became flustered. D and the other antis are used to being able to bully clients into dumbfoundedness, but this client had just turned the tables.

In the middle of this tete-a-tete, the clinic doors were unlocked. The other escort and I kept trying to find a moment to interrupt to let the client know she could go on in. When we did catch her eye and motioned to her that she could go in, she finished her thought to D and stormed into the clinic. D was left stunned and, now, she was the one who was dumbfounded.

So many times, the bullying tactics of the antis cause such distress that clients retreat inward. It was pure gold to see a client call out an anti – any anti – but this anti, in particular, for their hypocrisy and shameful behavior.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {3/18/13}

There are times a client and/or companion is so empowered they instantly gain my admiration.

The companion got out of the car first. E was hovering right behind me ready to start shaming. I was able to explain the vests and offer to escort them before he began his spiel. E handed the companion some literature. When I explained he was a protester, they handed it right back to him.

The companion and I escorted the client down the sidewalk. We were in a line: E, companion, client and me. E started with “Women regret their abortions. Don’t lead her into this place.” The companion waved dismissively at him and said, “Oh, I know all about abortion. I have had 10 already.” There was a pause then E leaned over towards the client and said “You don’t have to go into that place.” The client turned to me and said, “I am not listening to him.” I replied that was best.

We walked to the clinic entrance with E talking the whole time, but nobody was paying any attention to him.

It was great to witness these two completely ignoring the words meant to hurt and shame them. They are just words. The antis don’t know anything about the clients and why they made the decision for abortion. I felt privileged to witness this calm confidence.

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REMINDER:  Kentucky Support Network’s 2013 Bowl-a-Thon is April 19

There are many ways to get involved:

    • Captain a team, set a fundraising goal, and recruit 4-6 other bowlers to work together to meet that goal
    • Join or donate to an existing team
    • Show your support by attending the event
    • Share this information with your friends, family, coworkers, and networks via email, Facebook, Twitter, other social media, or good old-fashioned word of mouth!

However you choose to get involved, know that your support is invaluable in helping people from all walks of life realize their reproductive rights!

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.
Use this form to make your pledge:

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Sidewalk Snippet ~ {2/18/13}

The morning was cold, snowy and the roads and sidewalk were slick. There were fewer antis than we normally see, but there were so many empowered clients I don’t think it would have made any difference.

Fully half of the clients arriving declined our offers to walk with them. With smiles and kind words, they told us “We’ve got this” and “They won’t bother me.” We had several clients thank us for being there, but they just walked past the antis like they were not there; ignoring all the things they were saying.

I thought about Kescort this morning. He recently requested we post stories about the number of clients who are confident and move past the antis with ease. This morning was custom made for his request.

My First Day Escorting ~ by Anonymous

The morning was cold and dark and I was nervous. My partner had been escorting for a few weeks by this time so I had heard some stories, learned some names and I hoped that would help calm me. Then we parked and I saw the number of protesters lining the sidewalk and I knew calm was too much to hope for.

I don’t do well in confrontation, my heart races and I feel shaky and I shut down a bit, so I was very relieved to learn that all I had to do was stand and open the door for clients. I thought I could handle that easily; then a street preacher mounted his box. He was speaking at the top of his voice about god and judgment and the blood of the innocent.

It seemed to agitate people. The protesters started moving around and whispering to each other, the prayer line started chanting ‘Hail Mary’s’ and my heart started racing. In a way the cold helped me because I could hide behind my hat and gloves and scarf, but goodness he was loud and I honestly wasn’t sure this was something I could do.

Then I recognized the preacher’s voice and I stole a glance at him to confirm (I was working really hard not to look at anybody before that). This was the same man who preached and protested at the Zombie Walk for at least the past two years because, I guess next to homosexuals and abortion god hates zombies most. . . or maybe he loves them and hates our mockery of them, I really don’t know the logic. I found his presence at the Zombie Walk ridiculous and that gave me the space to think of his presence on the sidewalk in the same light. I laughed a bit, and with that the anxiety seemed to wash away.

I reluctantly admit I had fun that day. Once I opened my eyes to the absurdity of the preacher I saw it everywhere. The preaching, the dubious “facts”, the pleas that sounded a lot like insults. How could anyone say these things and expect to be taken seriously? Expect to change someone’s mind? Expect to be called on for counsel? It was like the protesters were performing a farce just for me.

When we left to meet everyone for breakfast I was practically giddy, until I heard how horrible the day was for others. Since I was only manning the door I was sheltered from the physical and emotional bullying tactics faced when you walk with a client. I had dealt with this for one single morning, while these wonderful people had been slogging through the muck for months and years. I left breakfast feeling selfish and shallow. How could I find humor when people were hurting?

It took me some days and a few more mornings escorting to realize my reaction was alright. I know my stressful, horrible days are coming. I think that’s inevitable when you do something like this. I’m only human.

Each escort has to find their way to cope on the sidewalk and I’m very lucky that I found out early that my love of the absurd and my sarcastic inner voice are going to help me. They are what I will fall back on when the morning seems especially dark.