In a parallel way, the antis and the escorts exist on the sidewalks across the nation, side by side, divided only by a thin line of law and human decency.
Ed shouldered into me earlier that morning and cut in front of me, edging me back and away from the client. The client turned to Ed and said, “And NOW you’re getting in my personal space! Why don’t you just go away? I already told you, No!! I don’t want your brochure. I don’t want to talk to you or hear what you have to say. Now, go away!”
No surprise that Ed didn’t go away or stop, until he stopped at the property line. His highly polished, brown dress shoes sparkled in the morning light. When I told Ed to stop shoving me, to stop pushing me, he said, “You’re the one who’s doing the pushing.” As always, the anti believes his self-martyrdom mythology and will not admit to constantly doing wrong shit.
As I stood on the sidewalk, I heard a deep British voice behind me say, “What you people are doing here is wonderful. Simply wonderful! Marvelous! Thank you so much for doing this. And I really do mean that.”
Turning around, I saw a helmeted bicyclist. A young, handsome, bearded bicyclist with a luscious British accent. What’s not to smile about? So, I smiled.
“Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt what you were doing.”
“That’s all right,” I replied. “Thank you for your kind words.”
“I cannot understand what those people are doing here,” he continued, nodding toward the cluster of antis who stood at the property line, a few feet from the door to the clinic. Old women and men, saying and doing horrible things. Words and actions which would land them in jail if they pulled that crap anywhere else in town.
“I mean,” he went on, shaking his head, “What those people are doing here is truly evil!! They are evil, evil people, terrorizing the people coming here to see the doctor. Complete strangers on a public city street. They are horrible. Can’t they see that? How could they not understand that?”
“I do not know,” I agreed. “We just do what we can, to get people through the mess.”
“Well, I’m going to ask them,” he declared, wheeling toward the entrance.
“May I ask you people a question? Just why are you here? What are you doing here? Don’t any of you people have a job? Yes, a J-O-B; that’s a job, where you go each day, and work for money. Why are you here, terrorizing people? You there! Don’t you have a job to go to?”
The short, older anti with bobbed black hair and glasses, held up her laminated abortion porn poster. The one she had been holding up, facing the glass entrance doors, hoping someone inside the lobby would look out, be stricken by conscience, and stumble out in a flood of shame and guilt, preferably in tears, begging the antis to help them rethink their choice.
The anti woman answered the bicyclist, “I worked for fifty years. I did have a job. Now, I’m retired.”
“Then why don’t you go home, and BE retired? Go home. Enjoy your retirement. No, really! Why don’t you just go on home and be a retired person? Why not do something else good with your life?” the bicyclist asked, truly amazed and curious.
“Don’t you people see that what you are doing here, terrorizing people, is evil? It is. It’s truly evil. Why don’t you just all go home and mind your own business? This is none of your business. None of it. Surely you can see that.”
I walked back to my post on the corner, smiling. We always enjoy the positive comments we hear from the morning people just passing by, on their way to work or to a morning appointment.
A long debate ensued between the Bicyclist Man and the antis. So engrossed were they in their argument, they meandered away from the clinic entrance, standing a few feet away, at the curb. In fact, the antis completely missed a heckling opportunity, as our escort C smoothly walked clients and companions past them and through the door.
What I hope to say here is this: We must reclaim the moral ground. We must call upon the support of our nation. We must realize and remember that the majority of people understand and support reproductive autonomy and freedom and choice. People who are informed do not want to backslide to back alley abortions, coat hangers, and women dying from botched illegal abortions.
Thank you, Mr. Bicyclist, for supporting choice.
Gentle Reader: Thank you for lending us your listening, moral, spiritual, verbal, electoral, financial, intellectual and/or physical support. You truly make a difference and we appreciate your support and encouragement!
So, the Supreme Court has just ruled that antis have a right to engage in activities that would otherwise be harassment. I’m not thrilled, but life goes on.There are so many things I wonder these days. I wonder how the Supreme Court can’t tell the difference between harassment or stalking and free speech. I wonder how our country can still remain so backward while most of the world wants to march forward. I wonder how people can’t see that the debate over abortion doesn’t happen on the sidewalk in front of a clinic. It happens in courts, governments, families and in the minds of women who choose abortion.
I have so many questions I want to ask antis who “counsel” outside clinics but could never do so without causing further chaos for the patient, who is my main concern. I do have many different questions though, after both escorting and taking friends for appointments.
The main one I always wanted to ask is where I got the title for this post.
Do you know that woman? I doubt it. If you knew her you wouldn’t have to stand on a certain street to discern her reproductive choices. She would have told you what they were if she wanted you to know.
Do you know she is both a rape victim and a survivor of childhood molestation? Of course not, to you she is nothing but a fetus container. The fact that she still screams every night from night terrors doesn’t matter to you anyway. Do you know the person who raped her was an intimate partner that she would have trusted with her life until a week ago? Of course you don’t. You are on a mission to save the embryo. It doesn’t matter what she says.
Did you know her name is Jeanna? Did you know she was 8 when her mama committed suicide?
I know her. That’s why I am at the clinic with her.
Did you know she has already been to your CPC before? She was the one who left crying and humiliated because she asked for help with a baby bed. What she got was a lecture and a few coupons.
Did you know I had to buy her child that baby bed because she had no money or help? She has just gotten on her feet after that one. How do you propose she pay for the embryo she carries now?
It must be nice to wrap yourself in that blanket of righteousness when you spend a few hours at your local CPC, while totally denying the real facts and the real, live, living, feeling, breathing women who come to you and you have no real answers.
I guess “just have the baby” and some stuff about Jesus is supposed to make problems about rent, bills that are 2 months late, a car that just had the engine blow and not having a paid maternity leave make it all better.
Did you know she wept on the phone for an hour when that second line showed up? Remarkably, it did not take an hour and a guilt trip to get her results at home. They were no less accurate.
Do you know about her medical history? No, and it is unlikely you care. She is not allowed to get care for herself now that she is a sacred fetus container. She should empty all concerns about making a life, living her dreams or even paying the rent next month in the category of “unimportant things that were never meant to happen.”
Do you know that by having six or more men surround her screaming about her decision makes her flashback to the rape? In case number one, she told a man no and he used her body in a way she didn’t want that got her pregnant. To go see a doctor, she has told a group of men who encircled her and wanted to stop her ability to walk into a clinic to go away. They won’t go away either. They are using her in a way that makes them feel superior by supposedly saving babies.
Do you know that surrounding this fragile woman, calling her a murderer and invading her space called up horrible memories she would rather forget? Of course not, you are all about saving “babies” and the woman is to be used as a vehicle towards this goal; willing or not.
Did you know that the car you used your preteen children to block wasn’t hers? It was mine. When you screamed at her that if she could afford a car like that she could afford another baby, it showed so much ignorance. Her only, unattractive old car won’t even start now.
Did you know that we drove around the block at least 3 times because you compassionate “sidewalk counselors” scared her beyond belief? She doesn’t want to talk to you before you even approach her. She didn’t want your counsel or literature.
Do you know that the decision was already made before she came to the clinic? I know, because I was there on the long, long night she looked up every possible option including abortion regret, adoption regret and motherhood regret on my internet because she couldn’t afford her own.
Do you know she ran faster than ever that day to get away from you compassionate and loving sidewalk counselors? Probably not. There was a ring of them following her and the rest were on to the next big thing.
Do you know we talked about this right on into the morning before we walked in the clinic? I am not even a terribly close friend, but she came to me because I wouldn’t judge or pressure her to do anything. I’m sure you see me here, with the dark circles under my eyes, praying I don’t flop to the pavement having a seizure from lack of sleep. You seem more concerned about my non-existent embryo and the type of car I drive than me.
Did you know when you were yelling at me, the woman you are yelling at to take responsibility and get 5 gazillion jobs to support a baby isn’t even pregnant? Nope. I wish you would have remembered that just because a woman goes into a doctor’s office doesn’t mean she is pregnant.
Do you know she wept in my arms for over 2 hours last night? She was mostly over the decision to terminate the pregnancy. She was more concerned that she wouldn’t be able to withstand the protestors.
Did you know all the “literature” that you mailed to my house did no damage or changed no minds? I doubt it. You clearly got it illegally from writing down my license plate. I’m not messing with filing charges because my husband knew and supported where I was, so the “dead baby” via US mail could be explained. How did you know that the license plates didn’t belong to a woman abused, whose husband would have killed her if she had a baby or an abortion, who just needed a little time to get out? You didn’t. You just didn’t care.
Do you wonder why people felt threatened enough to want a small zone around their clinic where nobody could stalk, harass or threaten them? Put away your photo-shopped images and actually talk to women if that is what you want.
Go away when she tells you that she doesn’t want to talk to you.
Life is simple when everything is black and white or good and evil. That is a safe place we go to when we are children, or a place we stay as adults because we are too afraid to look at anything beyond our own safe little world.
So I will go ahead and answer my own question. The protestors don’t know her or me; whoever that her or me may be. They just know that they know best, even though they don’t know a dang thing about her. They also know that there is nothing easier to love than an embryo that will have no impact on their lives and will be out of their sphere of influence in less than 30 seconds.
Maybe, just maybe, people lining the sidewalks should leave the decision up to women, rather than CPCs, legislatures and random strangers. How can people who have never met a person think they can solve all the problems in their life in 7 seconds?
That is a question I can’t answer and neither can anti-choice protestors.
The Supreme Court just handed down its decision in McCullen v. Coakely. It’s not pretty, but it could be worse. For now the concept of the buffer zone survives, although the 35 foot buffer zone adopted by the state of Massachusetts has been struck down. It’s not a total loss, and it is at least encouraging that the unanimous opinion speaks favorably of various other approaches states can take to address congestion and violence in front of abortion clinics.
Of course, it’s less than encouraging how little the court seems to hear states when they say “these things don’t work, though.” And that’s if you’ve got a state that gives a damn in the first place. That’s not what I want to talk about, though. I’m too angry. I’m angry that the opinion is unquestioningly and simperingly sympathetic to the protestors.
You can read the entirety of the opinion if you wish; I can’t recommend that
you do. For now, go ahead and skip ahead to page 19 of the opinion.* Beneath the “A” is where the court addresses the real meat of the matter: has the buffer zone placed a burden on the free speech activities of these sweet little grandmotherly types?
Yes, indeed it has! And the examples cited in the opinion all come from the protesters themselves. Who would know better, and report more accurately? “The burdens on petitioners’ speech have clearly taken their toll. Although McCullen claims that she has persuaded about 8o women not to terminate their pregnancies since the 2007 amendment… she also says that she reaches “far fewer people” than she did before the amendment.” So, the amendment has resulted in far fewer women being “reached,” has it? And “reached” by what definition? We know that the antis sometimes scare clients off, sometimes cause them to reschedule, sometimes even get them into the CPC – hell, maybe they actually have convinced some clients not to get the procedure. But I’m not sure that’s “reaching” people as a strictly factual matter, you know? And I’m also not sure self-reporting from the antis is all that great.
The court is, though. They cite another anti: “She estimated having about 100 successful interactions over the years before the 2007 amendment, but not a single one since.” Again, I think most escorts know that antis have a pretty wonky sense of “success,” and I’m still pretty skeptical of… well, of anything that comes out of an anti’s mouth, quite frankly. But hey, here’s another anti quoted in the court’s opinion: “…[O]nly one woman out of 100 will make the effort to walk across [the street] to speak with [her].” So we’re clear: the court says the buffer zone has placed a substantial burden on protesters, because they are having a “lower success” rate. We’re all clear on that? OK!
The court goes on to describe the difficulty of placing literature “near their hands,” an issue on which McCullen is quoted earlier in the opinion: “For example, in uncontradicted testimony, McCullen explained that she often cannot distinguish patients from passerby outside the Boston clinic.” The buffer zone, you see, reduces the length that a client must walk while subject to these interactions, dramatically lessening that precious window of time in which antis must decide whether a given woman walking down the street is headed to the book store, the taco stand, or the abortion clinic.
In the days to come, there will be plenty of in-depth, intelligent legal analysis, which I look forward to reading. But clients trying to get in the abortion clinic do not have the luxury of considering only the legal complexities at play. Clients trying to access abortion are doing so in a world where, overwhelmingly, men believes themselves to be utterly entitled to the time, personal space, and bodies of women as a class. And within that cultural milieu, seeing the same thing spelled out by the court, this unanimous opinion that the First Amendment rights of the antis are violated when they don’t get to know precisely what a woman walking down the street is up to, when they are obliged to “raise their voices,” when good gawd, maybe women do not want to walk across the street to talk to them… well, that’s not a message that really needed repeating, now was it?
This decision handed down today does not exist in a legal vacuum; the law of the land is not supportive of women’s bodily autonomy in general. And it does not exist in a social vacuum: the message of this vulgar opinion is one women are used to hearing every damn day: you belong not to yourself, but to others. When you walk down the sidewalk on Market between 1st and 2nd while female, the antis swarm you. They assume you are there for an abortion. They do not take no for an answer from passerby any more than they do from clients. They will shove literature in clients’ faces no matter how many times they are told no.
And now they have a unanimous ruling from the highest court in the land that does not merely strike down buffer zones, but does so in language that glowingly affirms every last ugly bit of entitlement and lack of respect for consent that I have seen out on the sidewalk. Nice.
* (I’m using the PDF of the slip opinion available on the court’s website.)
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.)
By the time this is published, this may very well be a moot point. As I am writing this, most reproductive justice advocates and anti-abortion activists have their eyes eagerly focused on a Supreme Court decision regarding buffer zones around reproductive health centers that provide abortion. Right now, those that exist are mostly local along with a few statewide buffer zones or bubbles. I think we can and should do better. I’m going to stay positive and presume the Supreme Court will see through the paper-thin veil that has been thrown in front of gory signs, roving bands of stalking, yelling fanatics and screaming, screaming everywhere. In spite of Scalia’s simpering and having the poster child being a “plump grandmother” who only wants to lovingly “counsel” these poor wayward girls, most images of antis outside a clinic are anything but.
So, hopefully the time has come to push our federal government to do something about the threats, harassment and stalking that happen every day outside doctors’ offices in America. We need a federal law standard for several reasons:
- Access to medical care should not be based on geographic area. We are, after all, citizens of the United States of America and should be guaranteed the same safety and rights throughout our country, regardless of which state we live in. We all know that most of the South is not exactly progressive or pro-active when it comes to protecting a woman’s right to make her decisions regarding pregnancy. A national standard is key.
- Antis don’t like to play by the rules. We have rules, both formal and informal, written and unwritten, about how we are expected to behave in society. While it varies over time and in different cultures, these expectations generally keep us from getting all Lord of the Flies when we have to be together in a small space. When I was out eating alone a month or so ago, I had the pleasure of being approached 6 or 7 times by the same gentleman (Hi Floyd) who tried to insist on buying me a drink, sitting at my table, getting my phone number even after I politely said no, I’m married, I’m trying to work and please go away. Finally, after time number 7, when he stood by my table lecturing me about how disappointed he was that I didn’t let him buy my drink, I lost my temper and told him to go away with many 4-letter words in the same sentence. Antis are the Floyds of the sidewalk. The only difference is nobody would disapprove of me getting angry when a man kept trying to insert himself in my space after being told “no” politely. If I was a woman on the sidewalk trying to get to the clinic, not only would Floyd’s behavior have been celebrated and encouraged, but it would also be filmed. Then, some extremist from Abolish Human Abortion would put it up on YouTube labeled Pro-Abort Violence and clinic harassers the world over could cluck their tongue about how persecuted they are. A buffer or bubble zone would give women space and hopefully the opportunity to lose some of the stalkers who have surrounded her and refuse to take no for an answer. We need a very specific, nationwide law that is enforced the same way in all fifty states.
- It’s not safe for anybody right now. What makes me think of this is the time I took my friend to clinic that fortunately had a fenced in lot. As I went to pull into the lot, two antis continued to walk aimlessly back and forth across the parking lot entrance, forcing three or four cars to slam on breaks as traffic backed up in a fairly busy street. They were supposedly just “crossing” in front on their way to the other side of the sidewalk but they took about 5 minutes to cross. What they were doing was causing traffic to stop so their preteen children could run in front of cars and shove packets of literature under the windshield wipers of the car, thus blocking the driver’s view. A five foot buffer around driveways would stop this completely while still allowing protesters to do their thing. If anybody actually wants the literature, they are free to park and go get it without forcing people to drive with part of the windshield blocked. In some locations, small children are left to play near busy roads or used as props to be thrust in the faces of unwilling women. Antis can continue to guilt, shame, yell, scream, wave their fetus porn and in general be huge jerks from 50 feet away. If women want to talk to them, (and why would they), the women can talk to them. The fetus porn will not be right in anybody’s face and the children will hopefully not be drug out as props when they can’t be shoved directly under the noses of women trying to visit their OB/GYN.
I’m pretty sure most antis stopped reading when I said that they should support a federal buffer zone as well. I wasn’t just poking them with my title, I actually have several reasons why they should support a federal buffer zone as well.
- Having a consistent standard nationwide benefits everybody. I know some of you antis are mobile. You shouldn’t have to learn new laws from clinic to clinic or state to state. If there is one, nationwide federal law, you can use time you would have spent researching buffer zone laws lying to women in CPCs.
- It would protect you from any violence aimed at clinic escorts or employees. There seems to be a theme running through the anti communities that many are concerned about having to take a bullet or some similar garbage for a clinic employee or escort when some wronged man who was not allowed to force his partner to give birth. or when some woman, so overcome with anger and grief because volunteers and medical professionals provided her with the health care she needed. will come back with guns blazing. Now, I think this is mostly garbage for a number of reasons. This has happened exactly never. When bullets fly outside an abortion clinic, they are coming from the gun of an anti-choicer. Also, these people haul their small children down to the front of these clinics where they claim deadly violence could erupt any second. I would call this child neglect or abuse. So please, if you really and truly believe a gun battle is about to begin, call CPS to remove the children of these parents who think that is an appropriate place for small children. But, if antis must persist with this silly myth then at least they should feel safer behind their buffer zones because it will be obvious who the evil “pro-aborts” are when all those people suffering abortion regret come to kill us.
- Antis might, just might, actually be able to counsel somebody rather than screaming, shouting and intimidating. I would think that antis would know by now that all their big, photoshopped fetus porn, even though it looks like B-grade horror movie fake blood is scary to most people, as is having to walk a gauntlet. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to want to stop and talk to you in the midst of the tunnel of terror you guys form in front of clinics. In fact, women are far more likely to run away from you into the clinic. Maybe if you had buffer zones, sat up tables and actually allowed women to come and talk to you there, they would feel like they had a little privacy and be a few feet away from screaming preachers waving fetus porn. On that note, you are probably also going to stop trying to herd women into your anti-choice clinics if you want to talk to them. They have made their own bed of deceit, lies, violations of privacy, stalking and broken promises that many women are naturally going to avoid them (and they should). If somebody is an anti-abortion protester who really is interested in talking to people on the sidewalk then they should want the chaos of fetus porn and trying to herd women off the sidewalk into a CPC far, far away.
Look, I get the argument that freedom of speech is a precious and protected right. I agree. We certainly don’t want to become a nation where people are afraid to voice unpopular opinions. I don’t think antis need to be confined to free speech zones like protesters were during the Bush II era. Well, I do think antis want us to become a nation where pro-choice people are silenced by law or by threats, but that’s another argument. That aside, we constantly balance the rights of freedom of speech against the right of everybody else to go about their life. I am not allowed to stand in the middle of the road and sing “My Old Kentucky Home” at top volume at 2 AM. I can’t write things that are clearly libelous or say things that are slanderous. I am not allowed to tell others about the private medical information of patients because it violates HIPAA. I can’t stand on the lawn of my friend’s cheating ex-husband and yell at him to stop screwing around and pay his child support.
Just as important as somebody else’s right to tell me I am a lying baby-murdering violent whore pro-abort bound for hell is, is my right to walk away from them and tell them to leave me alone. Freedom of speech also means that private citizens have reasonable freedom from unwanted speech, unwanted attention and unwanted physical contact on public streets. Usually, this is accomplished by walking on down the street from a stationary zealot screaming about the end of the world or women out whoring. However, when the zealots become mobile and follow you, or obstruct your right to move about as you please, we have a problem. When we start patting the Floyds of the world on the back instead of calling them out for being jerks, we have a problem. Actually, the Floyds of the world and their supporters have a problem and they are making more problems for all the rest of us.
None of what we are doing is working. FACE was a good law for stopping those stupid “rescue” people who chained themselves to clinics. They moved away from that nonsense to a more insidious plan of scaring women away. We in the pro-choice/pro-access camp do what we can by serving as escorts, writing our politicians, voting, giving money to abortion funds and taking friends or strangers to the clinic.
On the flipside of this, none of this garbage is working for the anti-choice crew either. Women are running away from them instead of to them. They have to lie and mislead women to even get them to darken the door of their Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Numbers of abortions are down but I don’t think anybody has shown a link between fetus porn, sidewalk bullies and unconstitutional legislation in lowering the number of abortions. I’m sure there a few good-hearted people out there who really do just want to talk to women they think are making a mistake and want to encourage them to choose another path, or people who want to kneel and pray quietly. These are the people who should be screaming, yes screaming, for buffer zones because they are the only thing to cut down the chaos, screaming, crying, stalking, pushing and harassing that currently goes on.
The Floyds of the world need to understand the word “no” and if they don’t, the law needs to make them understand the word “no.” And for the record, I don’t believe some random anti-choicer would so much as take a nap for me, much less a bullet.
Good grief. For the safety and sanity of us all, please give us a federal buffer zone.
Yesterday on the sidewalk I was given a stern talking to by one of the protesters. I hadn’t said anything to her, I was standing in my usual spot by the entrance. She enjoys singling me out and telling me all about how ‘our race’ must be ‘preserved’ which is a disturbing thing to say on so many levels. I do not believe in the preservation of my ‘race’. Cultures are important, cultural history and racial history is all very important to me, but you can’t use the same rhetoric that horrible bigots use and endear me to your cause…
The thing about this woman is that she will wax poetic about racial issues and genocide and the ‘holocaust’ for our race for quite some time, its boring, its strange, its difficult not to laugh in her face.
Anyway this protestor finally leaves me alone and a few minutes later two other escorts and I are talking and something is said by this protestor off to our left which just strikes all of us as such an intensely ridiculous thing to say. As an escort I deeply believe in deescalation and normalization. In general I believe in deescalation. When I commented to the other escorts around me in a quiet voice about what this protestor said I didn’t think about deescalation, I certainly didn’t believe the protestor could hear me, I wasn’t trying to goad anybody. Maybe she heard me, maybe she didn’t, this person in particular any time she hears me laugh assumes it has to do with her and will weave her thoughts about escorts “mocking” her into her spiel being shouted at the glass doors, this is the first time it really did have anything to do with her. I laugh often and easily, I’m very expressive, almost effusive and its problematic when people are so self centered. So I’m dealing with guilt. Then the question of should I even feel guilty? How can I change? should I change? I don’t even think I can, does that mean I shouldn’t be an escort since some of the ridiculous things people say just catches me so off guard that I physically can not stop myself from some sort of facial expression?
As I mentioned earlier I laugh often and easily, in the slow periods during which I’m standing next to someone a funny story is generally brought up by one of us, I think thats humor is a pretty natural part of human interaction. And as I’ve said, its not meant to antagonize anybody, but it does.
Today, we had 35 escorts (a nice sea of orange!) who escorted clients past 17 Catholic pray-ers, 7 sign-holders from Kentucky Mountain Bible College, 14 Immanuel yellow-vesters (aka Chasers) and, because it is the day before Father’s Day, 115 red-shirted Sisters for Life (SFL) people. The SFL group arrived about 7:35 and included quite a number of children, from babies to teens. About 35 Catholics on Parade arrived around 7:45 and stood by the convention center, looking confused by all the activity.
It looked like this, approaching from 2nd Street:
There is no transcript for the video – it’s just a long walk up an empty sidewalk. To the left, across about 6 lanes, are the group of Catholics on Parade, and then you turn the corner into the crowd of folks, mostly in red shirts, by the door.
Here’s what it looks like coming from First Street:
Again, a long walk up the sidewalk, past some fetal porn, past a few chasers, who are uninterested in an escort doing video, but would be all over you if you were a client, then into the mess.
And here’s some video from when the SFL group first arrived.
In this video they are singing enthusiastically about shouting for God and the Victory.
I can absolutely not imagine walking through that mess to go to the doctor.
But it happens every year. They get a parade permit and here they come. This year, they called it a “Walk or Bike for Life” and charged a fee to enter. It is their 6th Annual.
In 2009, the first Father’s Day for the blog and the SFL, (and before my time on the sidewalk) we were not expecting them. 300 protesters showed that year, and the escorts were up to the challenge. Here are some pictures from that year. In 2010, Dan shared his thoughts about escorting, and we have more pictures. In 2011, we did our pledge-a-picketer event on the Saturday before Father’s Day, because the clinic had been closed Mother’s Day weekend. In 2012, we just have a video of them singing in front of the clinic. In 2013, we posted video, and I told a story about a little girl who’d gotten caught up in the mess.
And here we are. 2014. Same story, different year. Maybe we can work on a buffer zone? I’d like for 2015 to be different.
Ah, I know. It was the last thing you wanted to read. Her name is associated with being a great martyr for the pro-choice/pro-access cause, or she is the demon-come-lately to anti-choicers, a creature of the night with no soul, the high priestess of child sacrifice. Heck, I can’t even print most of the threats this woman has received. Even the most “pro-lifey” of all the “pro-lifers” on Jill Stanek’s site can’t help but comment that due to the emotional issue of abortion, death threats are to only be expected. Not sure how you file that under “pro-life,” but we all know the minds of antis are capable of the great mental gymnastics needed to justify horrible behavior in the name of Jesus.
Now, don’t worry. I’m not here to harp on about antis this week. Nor am I here to lecture pro-choicers about how they should respond to Letts’ video. The fact that I appreciate the risk she took doesn’t really have anything to do with it. The fact that, as a horribly private person the idea of having a video made of me during hugely personal moments is something that I can’t imagine. The fact that I would be far too paranoid about disease to have unprotected sex with many partners (and I have had sex with many partners) does not mean she is stupid or a whore or wrong. It means she took I risk I was unwilling to. It means she had a different opinion.
‘Will she ever get to point?’, you ask. Yes. Yes, I usually get there, but today I am going to sooner rather than later. In spite of the many ways I would have handled Emily Letts’ situation differently, I am still Emily Letts. In fact, all women are Emily Letts. Some are older. Some are younger. Some are different races. Some are anti-choice.
I am Emily Letts even though I would never want to make any sort of medical decision public. I am a private person, and the loss of that privacy would be one of the worst things I can imagine. I freak out at the idea of diseases (and this is partly due to my occupation) so that part of my story would be different. Other than that, the same old movie plot is played out over and over and over.
Women need abortion.
Women behave responsibly and need an abortion.
Women behave irresponsibly and need abortion.
A married woman had an irresponsible fling outside of marriage and needs an abortion.
A woman just loses her job and needs an abortion.
A woman needs an abortion because she doesn’t want any children.
A woman already has 5 kids and can’t afford a 6th needs an abortion.
A woman finds out her fetus is so malformed he won’t live 5 minutes, if he is born at all, needs an abortion.
A rape victim needs an abortion.
A woman whose body is worn out from childbirth needs an abortion.
A woman taking teratogens needs an abortion.
Women who are a long past child-bearing years need abortions, because losing the right to have an abortion is the first step down the slippery slope to women’s ability to control their body, to control their medical treatment, to control their own finances, to work their own jobs and to remain autonomous individuals.
When we allow the government to take away even ONE aspect of our bodily autonomy, we are allowing them to get the idea that they have title to other aspects of our private lives and the choices we make as individuals.
So while we all might not make a video about our abortions, or even tell our own abortions stories, or even be old enough or young enough to have an abortion, it doesn’t change the facts that each and every one us is Emily Letts.
No, not that C-word. I couldn’t resist a chance to say, “Made You Look,” which seemed to be the height of wit when we were all in kindergarten. Yes, I do have a point. Stay with me. I promise I’ll get there.
Last week, when a couple of the escorts asked me to write an article for Every Saturday Morning, I was flattered. Since then, I have had the pleasure of joining a few of them on the sidewalk in Louisville for the morning. I appreciate that they took the time to show me what they, clients and companions experience five days a week. I am still processing some of my first escorting experience but I do plan to write about it at some point. The first time I wrote about antis not understanding what the word “censorship” means. Actually being on the sidewalk really drove home the point that there are a lot of other C-words antis don’t understand the meaning of.
I’m going to skip over the obvious ones. By now, everyone knows that “choice” is the F-dash-dash-dash word, the Queen Mother of all dirty words (to steal a line from the movie “A Christmas Story”) to anti-choice protesters. “Contraception” seems on the way to becoming almost as bad. At best, it is considered a gateway drug to abortion and at worst, it is considered exactly the same as having an abortion.
One fairly new phrase that seems to be creeping into the mix is the line that all women have abortions for “comfort and convenience.” Antis act as if there is a big box on patient registration forms or on surveys designed to collect health information labeled “comfort and convenience” that all women check. Women have abortions for a variety of reasons that they do not have to share with or justify to anyone. Antis have taken research on reasons women give for having abortions and lumped almost all of them under their new, re-labeled category of comfort and convenience.
As usual, they miss the mark completely. Not having health insurance and not being able to pay for the cost of labor and delivery is not a matter of comfort and convenience. Not being able to keep a roof over your own head, or the heads of existing dependents because you live month to month and can’t take what is going to be a minimum of 6 weeks off work without pay is not a matter of comfort and convenience. Not wanting to be forced to go through the painful process of labor and delivery when you don’t want to or aren’t ready to be a parent is not a matter of comfort and convenience. Going to the gynecologist for a medical procedure is not comfortable, although abortion is not the blood-soaked, pain-filled nightmare antis like to say it is. It is certainly not convenient to drive 4 hours for a simple, outpatient procedure and in some states it is becoming a weeks-long process with clinics closing and mandatory clinic visits for counseling followed by mandated waiting periods.
What got me to thinking about this was actually being on the sidewalk this week. It wasn’t raining when I arrived but it started coming down pretty hard part of the way through the morning. As I was taking off my vest to put on my poncho, one of the antis felt the need to lecture me about worrying about my own comfort while babies were being murdered. I have never been admonished for putting on rain gear, but I guess there is a first time for everything. Of course, this particular anti was standing under both an umbrella and the awning so she was clearly worried about her own comfort. It is easy to dismiss others need for comfort and convenience when it is not your own. I am pretty sure that the anti who sat in her car to talk on the phone for 10 minutes did so because it is inconvenient to replace your cell phone because it got wet. I am also pretty sure the protester in the expensive-looking suit who spent the entire morning standing under the awning of a business down the block without ever stepping out did so because it would be quite uncomfortable to walk around in wet clothing at work for a couple of hours.
The other C-word antis don’t grasp is “compassion.” Compassion is what I saw from the escorts. People do not get up early in the morning, week after week, to volunteer to walk with strangers to a medical appointment to try to limit harassment without it. Compassion is not shown by repeating the same lines, like a script in a movie, to every person who walks into a clinic. Compassion is not shown by demanding loudly that complete strangers share their reproductive decisions with you. Compassion is not shown by dismissing the many reasons people choose to have an abortion. Compassion is not shown by vague promises of resources that people don’t want and may not be delivered. Compassion is not shown when women who regret their own abortions come out under the guise of preventing other women from feeling the same thing, only to talk all about themselves and their guilt rather than listening.
Compassion is understanding that every person on that sidewalk has their own story. Compassion is understanding that those stories are deeply personal and do not have to be shared with strangers to justify walking into a doctor’s office. Compassion is understanding that shouting an arsenal of anti-choice talking points through a clinic door does not change the reason people are there. Compassion is understanding that people choose abortion for a variety of reasons that can’t always be solved with a free pregnancy test, a non-diagnostic ultrasound, some diapers and Bible classes. Compassion is understanding that women are people with feelings, dreams, lives and problems rather than simply potential fetus containers.
If you have hung with me this far, I will be brief in saying I have my own C-word for what is happening outside clinics and inside our legislative chambers to restrict people’s rights to make their own decisions about health care. It is crap.
There are undoubtedly times in all of our lives where we have just been so wrong, after talking long and loud about a position, where the only thing we can do upon realizing the error of our ways is to stop talking. I have been in this position more than once and am always embarrassed once I realize I have basically made a huge horse’s behind of myself. Perhaps the only thing more humiliating than realizing that it was time to shut up would be everyone else realizing that it was time for me to shut up, but myself being too blind or stupid to notice it myself. Ever.
Due to travel delays and bad weather, I have had ample time to surf the internet. Sure enough, reading about antis never fails to provide a mixture of amusement and rage. Of course, Google was abuzz with wounded antis last week because Google chose to remove ads from CPCs that lie about services they provide. As an aside, I noticed many antis lying that Google was taking away all their ads, cries of censorship, freedom of speech being yanked and Nazis abounded along with discussions over whether or not Jesus would continue to Google or if he would switch to Bing. Instead of being embarrassed that these Christian Centers have lied so much a search engine is having to take action, they just continue to rattle on about the injustice of it all. Antis, it is time to shut-up.
I get particularly upset at these CPCs because I know for a fact they do lie, having sat in the lobby while a friend who fled an abusive relationship that very morning swallowed her pride and went to ask them for help with supplies for her infant. She worked very hard, but when her spouse mostly emptied one account and she had to come up with deposits for shelter and utilities, there was not much left over. In fact, I think there was about $2 left. She was referred to the CPC by her small church who helped to fund them. She left her old vehicle with its half tank of gas and everything she now owned back at her new apartment and off we went in my car across town to the CPC who told her that of course, they could help. They just needed her to come in to confirm some details and fill out some paperwork. Here is what she got:
- Told her friend (me) was not allowed to go back with her through the screening process for the sake of “privacy” even though she told them she wanted me there
- A recommendation that she return home to her abusive spouse.
- Admonishments to repent of her “sin”. She isn’t sure what sin they were referring to but at this point she didn’t want to encourage further chatter.
- Pressure to take a “free pregnancy test” even though she had no reason to suspect she was pregnant. I’m not sure where they got this idea but she had explained to them both over the phone and in person that she was seeking help for her infant and was not worried about pregnancy.
They didn’t offer a dang thing, not so much as a pack of diapers. Some of her pro-choice friends went out and bought her baby supplies and furniture to get her through. We were happy to do this and she would have greatly appreciated the CPC just saying over the phone that they couldn’t help her right now.
Looking back, I suppose the “counselor” was too busy going down her check list and declaring my non-pregnant friend abortion vulnerable that she didn’t have time to listen. I don’t know what this particular CPC did as it was over 60 miles away from the nearest abortion clinic, aside from trying to lure women in for their “free” pregnancy test and lecture. I do know they harassed my friend for two weeks on her cell number and work number to come in for the pregnancy test that she didn’t need or want. Despite their claim to “love them both,” they spent more time loving her imaginary embryo and not caring a bit about a real live woman and a real live born infant. This is another reason it is time for antis to just shut up.
Later in the week I made the mistake of clicking through a well-known anti site that claimed to have an article about women being freed from sex addiction (I’m paraphrasing here). The article itself was fairly routine and spouted the usual far-right approaches to any undesirable behavior. Whatever, it’s their site.
Where things just got utterly disgusting were the comments where one of them somehow jacked the conversation to be about Ariel Castro and the three victims who were kidnapped and held for 10 years. She claims to have some sort of connection by marriage to somebody who somehow knows one of the three victims. She then proceeds to post this supposedly insider information about all three of these women, even though they seem to have kept a fairly low profile since they were freed. This poster may just be a nutty liar or she may be an asshole who is violating a victim’s privacy to get attention. Most pro-choicers recognize that antis don’t understand the concept of privacy. Now if these women want to share this information, that is up to them. They deserve all the support possible. What they don’t deserve is some random internet person pimping out their story for attention. Gross.
This story, of course, has nothing to do with sex addiction and it also has nothing to do with abortion. Pro-choicers are very much against any sort of forced reproduction or termination. Pro-choicers can clearly see a difference between a safe, legal procedure performed with the consent of the patient and women imprisoned, raped, forced to birth a child or forced to miscarry due to physical abuse. Antis can’t seem to grasp the difference between these two and aren’t interested in learning. This is why antis need to shut up.
The last thing I noticed about antis this week is their need to turn Floyd Mayweather into a hero. Really? Anti-choicers are rallying around a man convicted of domestic violence several times over and arrested more times than that, with several different women involved. I keep wondering why there seems to be no legal penalty for stealing this woman’s medical records, if they are in fact hers. I don’t even know if this woman was actually pregnant, because it is none of my business. The shame and outrage shouldn’t be about whether or not a woman had an abortion, it should be about the fact that her PRIVATE medical records were taken against her will and published online by an ex-fiance who can’t seem to get over her. Even if they were “his babies,” those were her medical records and none of his business. Celebrating the abusive actions of a known abuser is not exactly showing how much you care about real, existing women.
So please antis, take a hint, and just shut up.