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.

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!

More Press

Check this out ~ Access Denied ~  is on the cover of the LEO Weekly.  The LEO is a local newspaper – the Louisville Eccentric Observer.

Joe Sonka, who wrote the article, does a great job exploring and summarizing the state of abortion access in Kentucky.  As one small part of the process, he spent some time on the sidewalk, talking to antis and taking pictures, and had breakfast with us escorts a couple of Saturday mornings.

So I recommend the whole article, but I admit, this is my favorite part:

A woman named Mary — infamous among the regular escorts as the most violent and hateful chaser — shoves her way in between a client and an escort, then feigns indignation, “Give the client some space!” The client shakes her head with a mix of amusement and disgust.

It’s satisfying and fascinating to see our own stories told in print by someone else – and if you’ve read our blog for a while, you’ve already heard some Mary-stories too.

In the meantime, many of us are super busy getting ready for the Kentucky Road Rally for Reproductive Rights.  Only three more weeks until Saturday, November 2nd  when we will roll into Frankfort to rally on the Capitol steps at 1:00 PM.

We invite you to join us – register to attend the rally or make a financial contribution here , like our Facebook page, and or Twitter feed, twitter.com/kyroadrally. Tweet with hashtag #kyr4.

And now I’m off to the clinic for another Saturday morning…

The Not So Cranky Escort

This post is a potpourri of the things that have happened since my last post about not liking the way I feel at the clinic.  A lot has happened.

First, we got this comment, which you can see here in full.  Cheryl writes about what led her to the clinic and what that experience was like.  I’ve shared it in some other venues, but if you haven’t already seen it, it’s well worth reading in full.  It says, in part:

…What I really remember, though, is the clinic escorts that greeted me, one in particular…”

“…And he stands out in my mind simply because I never for a moment thought there could be a short, white haired man, above the age of 50 who believed in my right to choose. Who would want to be up at a stupid early hour, in the cold, fending off protestors. Yet, there he was, a man that reminded me of an old college professor I had, talking to me as he walked me to the door and explained that the doors weren’t open yet, but that they would be soon and that he just didn’t understand how the protestors could behave the way they do…”

“… that escort was so kind and calming. I thought I could do the whole thing alone, but I’m not sure I could have made it through that gauntlet of protestors had he not been there to shield me and quietly lead me to the door. He was perfect and I hope he is still there helping.”

That really gave us all a boost ~ thank you, Cheryl for the powerful reminder of why we’re therel!!

Then I started working on my part as a presenter at this online conference coming up on Saturday, July 20.  It’s a panel of reproductive rights activists ~ from Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia and Ireland ~ including another escort from here. We’ll be debunking the whole post abortion trauma syndrome myth.  We’ll refute the protesters’ claim that, “They always regret it.  Women never get over abortion,” with the actual facts of the matter, including some thoughts on how we can help impact the outcome.

The panel will be presented as part of this free, online conference, FtBConscience. Learn more about it at http://www.ftbcon.org  The conference is all weekend ~ our little part is at 2:00 CST (3:00 EST).  There will be a chat room and time for questions, and we’d be delighted for you all to join us.

Then there’s this ~ Talking to Men Who Are Clinic Escorts, on the RH Reality Check blog ~ featuring two of our very own finest escorts.  It made me proud to know that Dan and Ken are my friends.

Plus ~ as if that weren’t enough going on ~  there was a letter to the editor in our local paper talking about how the people outside the clinic have bad attitudes and look angry and how awful that is.  I thought the letter was about the protesters, and was agreeing with him, but apparently the letter writer was a protester and apparently was talking about us too!

I had to laugh.

Sometimes, the protesters will accuse us of being angry, but then if we smile, they talk about how awful we are, laughing while babies are being murdered.  So the letter kind of cracked me up.  I even wondered if my Cranky Escort post had inspired him.

But here’s the thing.  I may feel angry with the protesters, but I don’t talk to them, and I don’t generally look angry, because that wouldn’t be helpful for the clients.  I typically come across as very calm.  On the other hand:

This one amused me too ~ Ron, talking about us escorts being “blood-suckers” and how they “don’t have to let youall have them,” that they “rescue them.”  I guess he’s talking about the fetuses, but I’m pretty sure he’s wrong, they do have to let people go into the clinic.  I have a lot of video from last week ~ I’ll share more another time ~ but last week it was easy to see how ridiculous it is.

And it still doesn’t matter, whatever he says, it’s just Ron talking his same lines.

More importantly, I remembered that really, it’s ok if I feel angry.  I don’t like it when I feel so angry that it’s hard to let it go, but you know, it’s just natural to feel angry when we watch people saying and doing mean things ~ to me, or to others.

I try to remember that:

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

So part of what made me feel better was taking some action.  The conference coming up is exciting, we did a letter in response to the editorial in the paper ~thanks to Maggie and her writing skills, persistence, and patience.  Trying to do a group letter with escorts is totally like herding cats.

And I’ve got some other stuff going on too, but I’ve also got things in better perspective.  I’m remembering not to fight what I’m feeling, but to let the feelings come and go like waves in the ocean.  It is truly an opportunity to practice finding my zen.

And one last thing ~ I saved this for last because it may be the most important part of this post.

Did a so-called “crisis pregnancy center” lie or mislead you about the services it offered, or give you inaccurate information about your options? Did you go to a CPC and feel that something was just not quite right?

As you may have experienced, CPCs have been known to try to shame, confuse, frighten, and coerce women — who are already facing a difficult decision — not to have an abortion. CPCs hand out anti-abortion material and refuse to tell women about their options. They may force women to watch upsetting videos or slide shows. They even provide false “facts” about the safety, availability, and consequences of abortion and birth control.

By sharing your story, you can play an important role in ensuring that women receive honest, unbiased medical care when they need it the most. We understand how difficult it may be for you to tell your story, but your voice makes a difference. We will contact you for permission before sharing it with press and Members of Congress.

Here’s the link for where to share your story, and here too:

http://action.nwlc.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=17620

This is one more way we can make a real difference.

I Stand with Wendy on the Sidewalk ~ by Skeletor

Were you watching Tuesday night? The Texas Tribune ran a live online video feed of the Texas Senate chamber that nearly 200,000 people all over the nation tuned in to watch (while CNN talked about muffins). Twitter was abuzz with #IStandWithWendy and #SB5.

And then the clock ran out. No vote had been taken. Yet there was an attempt to ramrod a vote through by supporters of the law, a law that would close all but five clinics in Texas.

Problem is, the people were watching. We stood with Wendy from our homes all over the USA while one woman stood in defiance of the zealots, on behalf of the health of women.

When I stand on the sidewalk in my orange vest, I am standing with the women who have made careful consideration of all their options and have chosen abortion. I do not know their whys or wherefores, and it is none of my business. Neither is it the business of the antis who hurl their vitriol during the clients’ walk into the clinic.

Often the antis will shout, “Come next door where you can learn about ALL your choices,” or “The only choice here is death!” or “You were herded in here like cattle!” It never occurs to them, apparently, that these women have already considered all their choices; that they made a rational, well-reasoned decision, and it happens not to be the decision that the antis would have made. To my mind, the antis portray women as thoughtless automatons.

Wendy stood for twelve and a half hours, speaking the entire time. I think I can stand on the Louisville sidewalk for an hour and a half in silence. The way I see it, we are both standing up to the bullies who would denigrate our personhood.

The legislative battles over reproductive rights are far from done, but it was encouraging to see the actions of Sen. Wendy Davis. It was encouraging to hear the chorus of voices raised throughout the Texas capitol in support of Sen. Davis and her efforts. It was encouraging to follow it, moment by moment, on Twitter.

Thrilling though it was, it could have ended very differently. Governor Rick Perry has already called another special session of the Texas legislature to begin on Monday in an effort to push a similar bill through. We must continue to #StandWithWendy in our own states, keeping abreast of legislative actions being taken to restrict the rights of women to live as full, autonomous citizens.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

“Everyone gets 15 minutes of fame.”  Andy Warhol said that, or something like it, back in 1968.  If that’s true, the escorts used up a few minutes of our allotted time this last week.

In case you missed the excitement, there was a post about the Crisis Pregnancy Center next door to the abortion clinic here that went viral.  Seriously.  You can read the post here.  And some of the comments here.

It was kinda cool – getting that much support, hearing all the indignation from the pro-access people out there.  Even though we know that most people support a woman’s right to make her own decision, the protesters tend to believe that most people share their beliefs and support what they’re doing.

Maybe they think that partly because there are generally more protesters on the sidewalk than there are escorts. That gives them the impression that the antis actually outnumber the people who support access to abortion.

Of course, the data doesn’t reflect that.  One in three women has an abortion in her lifetime.  Almost three-fourths of Americans trust her to make that decision.

But it was ~ I admit it ~ kind of fun this week to hear all these people being outraged about the protesters on the sidewalk.

Some people contacted us separately, wanting to take action.  They wanted to stage some kind of intervention to stop the protesters and the Crisis Pregnancy Center from doing what they do.  I imagine they pictured a dramatic confrontation that would put an end to the shaming and harassment, that would stop the deceit and lies on the sidewalk.

And we discouraged them.  Told them “thank you very much, but no, please don’t.”

Crazy, right?

But here’s the thing.   The sidewalk is not where the real battle is.

What happens on the sidewalk ~ and I’m still thinking this through, so hang with me ~ what happens on the sidewalk is like a symbolic representation of what is happening in the rest of the country related to reproductive justice and access to abortion.  What the escorts do is an immediate action that makes a statement.  What we do matters to the individual women coming to the clinic.

But the real battle is in the legislature and the court system.

We don’t need to outnumber the antis at the clinic.  We need to outnumber them at the polls.  We don’t need to intimidate them away from the sidewalk, we need to stop them from intimidating politicians into voting against appropriate health care for women.

We need to spread the truth about abortion and refute their distortions and lies.  {No, abortion is NOT linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.}  We need to demand medically accurate sex education in schools.  We need to demand that our politicians vote for reproductive justice in many different aspects, not just in relation to abortion.

I don’t think most of the 70% of Americans who support abortion access have realized that a powerful minority of fundamental Christians and Catholics are hell-bent on reversing Roe v Wade  ~ and that they’ve made enough progress to feel hopeful about it.  Dramatic moments, like the article on CPC’s going viral, help increase that awareness and move people to want to take action

But the sidewalk isn’t the place to act on that anger, not the right venue for that action.  If some people want to come escort, that’s great and we’ll welcome you.  But escorts follow the points of unity.  And big crowds of people at the clinic, no matter why they’re there, often just add to the intimidation factor for the clients.

So do something else.  Write your legislators.  Vote for people who are pro-access. Spread the word ~ talk about your support for reproductive health rights.

Join Voice of Choice.  Join the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  If you go to this page of our website, there are other suggestions for actions you can take that will make a real difference.  If you want to do something quick and easy and fun, check this out.

I’ll try to add other links to things people can do that will make a real difference from now on.

The people on the sidewalk think they’re doing something important, but really they’re insignificant.  In the greater scheme of things, escorts are only a tiny piece of what needs to happen to keep abortion safe and legal.  You know, I’m not saying what we do isn’t helpful to the individuals who have to walk the gauntlet to the clinic, but the sidewalk isn’t where real change is happening.

So if you get angry about what’s going on at the clinic, support reproductive justice in ways that will eventually eliminate the need for escorts.  Please.

Blog Comments ~ by FML and Servalbear

Ever wonder why your comment doesn’t always post right away? We have a closed system for comments. We try to get to them quickly, but every comment is reviewed before appearing on our site.

We have a Comment Policy in order to have a safe space for readers to interact with our authors. This safe space is important because feelings are strong and tempers flare easily when we write about abortion and other reproductive justice issues.

We’re not alone in this problem. Most blogs about reproductive justice, political and human rights eventually post something about the comments their articles generate. It may be like Shakesville’s “Short Rules: Be nice. Be thoughtful.”  The policies may be long and detailed so there isn’t any doubt as to why a comment is rejected.

In any case, no matter how general or detailed the rules, there are usually people who feel entitled to make comments against the stated policies. Called Internet Trolls, they “…post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

They may be offensive, abusive and threatening. They all come packaged with a sense of entitlement. Their comment is an exception to the rules because they want a voice ~ their voice ~ to be heard, no matter how unwelcome it is.

Trolls can be exhausting.  One of our favorite blogs about violence toward women and rape no longer exists.  The stress of reading these comments was overwhelming for the author. So even if those troll comments aren’t posted, there is a human being who reads them; someone who internalizes the whole venomous scope.

We attract our own trolls. Depending on the article, there can be a lot of them or just a few. Every week ~ just about every single week ~ we get five or six comments from a particular anti.  Every comment from this person gets deleted.

A Huffington Post article April 1st by Colleen Glenney Boggs asks:

  • Must trolls — those posters of negativity and vitriol — be part of the Internet public sphere? Must we accept them, or can we do something to improve Internet culture? How do we banish the trolls without closing off the dialogue that is so vital to our democracy?

No, we don’t have to accept posters of negativity and vitriol. We screen comments and bar the trolls. We do not have to allow them to derail our conversations. We can foster courteous, safe conversations with our readers.

On our blog, comments that go straight to the Trash may be:

  • Anti-abortion, derogatory to groups you don’t derive your personal identity from, personally attacking an author and/or other commenter, or ~

  • If it includes arguments invoking the words Hitler, Holocaust, slavery, eugenics, genocide, Margaret Sanger, abortion mill, murder, deathscort, God, Jesus, sin or Bible.  We are not going to get into the same argument we have had a thousand times before.

Several of us discuss any comments that may be in question. We will make a group decision to publish or delete a comment. We may go back to the commenter and ask them to clarify their comment if we are in doubt.

To sum up:  this is a clinic escort blog.  It is a collective effort with many authors contributing. Sometimes we get things wrong and we encourage conversation and input from our readers to set us straight on facts. We encourage personal stories and interaction between authors and readers.

Trolls are not welcome here.  We are not tired of deleting the comments of our persistent troll, and we’ll continue to delete them ~ well, forever, I guess. It is time well spent.

This blog is written for the readers. This blog is written to raise awareness of the continuing struggle to make reproductive choices accessible to everyone.

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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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First Impressions ~ by Anonymous

I felt pretty comfortable today and as I reflected back on what I heard and saw, the best comparison I can seem to come up with is used-car salesmen and/or pushy shop owners in the cruise ships foreign ports of call.

Car salesmen are trying to sell you an idea/product/service that you have no interest in. They are using repetitive streams of words to overwhelm your senses and put doubt in the choice that you have thought over, researched, and know is the correct one for you at this time. Be it something as simple as XM Radio, alloy wheels and road hazard coverage, or something as personal as the decision to end a pregnancy.

The pushy shop owners comparison is when upon finding out that you are not interested in what they are selling and pass it up, they then attempt to heap words of guilt, shame, regret, etc. on you in an effort to make a sale of something that you don’t want because the sale suits their need, cause, agenda.  Hoping that the stinging words will have an effect on your emotions and override the hard thought you have put into whatever choice you have decided upon. Again, be it Mexican coffee, trinkets, woven blankets or a reproductive decision.

I have had shop owners shout “CHEAP LADY” at me in ports of call as I walked past and would not cave into to going to look at or buy something in their shops.  I have also had used-car salesmen try and talk me out of a standard shift car telling me that they can be too tricky to drive in city traffic, or that as a woman I would be better off with full-coverage roadside protection for my safety.  “Silly them,” I think laughing inwardly. They don’t know me at all.  I don’t buy overpriced junk made in China at tourist traps and I can drive a variety of vehicles, including a stick-shift Dodge dually-diesel pickup,  through city traffic, I see myself having no problem with a 5-speed Honda sedan. My Dad taught me how to change a tire, so covered there too!

The thing that sticks out in my mind as being at the top of my list is, “You have not seen my life through my eyes. DO NOT try to put yourself in MY shoes. Your feet and your views are not a good fit.”    As I remember back when I had an abortion, I am glad the few protesters that I encountered only held up signs and prayed quietly and did not approach me.  If they had, I am sure that I would have been more upset and scared then I already was.  I would have loved to have had someone like the escorts I have met to hold my hand and walk me to the door.

I am glad to have met a like minded, strong group of people like those who come out to escort in Louisville.

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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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