Losing My Religion – by KyBorn

I knew this was going to happen.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to try to pound you with REM lyrics. In fact, I’m not even a fan. I may get more hateful reactions to that comment than the whole rest of the article. While I don’t hate them, I don’t think they are they bestest, most awesomest, most creative band EVAH!!! Eleventy111!

I’ve flirted around the edges of this discussion in my head and with trusted friends. I know this isn’t a place for anti-choice religious arguments or proselytizing of any kind. It makes sense, which is nice because for a long time there have been so many things that don’t make sense to me. See, when I come to Every Saturday Morning to write an article or comment, there are rules that must be followed. They are clearly spelled out and easy to follow.

There was a time where religion gave me those same guidelines; or maybe not. I was raised in a fairly religious, conservative household. Yep, I had the perfect, traditional family, except maybe my mom worked and women in my family were not doormats. The problem is, the same religion that I saw and still see provide a safe haven for people and encourage many people to contribute to their community has now reached a place I can’t abide.

I have long known that the overwhelming opinion of people who attend my particular branch of Christianity consider themselves “pro-life.”  I could abide this, because to be quite frank, many of them are what I consider “pro-life.”  They participated in Meals on Wheels, offered GED tutoring courses that had nothing to do with stopping an abortion, ran a food pantry and had other charitable programs that had nothing to do with the contents of a woman’s uterus. There were no ranting damnation sermons against abortion during services and if anybody was out protesting or waving fetus porn they weren’t proud of it.

Certainly, I have questioned and disagreed with some of the finer points, or even bigger points, that came along with the beliefs I was raised with. I was the weird middle-school aged brat who read both the Courier-Journal and Newsweek in their entirety at my grandparents’ house after Sunday lunch. I have been pro-choice since Newsweek or some other publication kindly explained to my delicate mind what abortion was, including illustrations. Maybe I was a heartless Jezebel even then. I didn’t understand why people cared so much about things that felt no pain or fear over those who could. You know, like women.

In spite my religious background, I will confess to having always had a bit of what my mother would call a potty mouth. I’m sure it has come out in my writing most of the time. I can fling foul language about with the best of them. My mother would be horrified. We weren’t allowed to say shut-up, dang, crap, fart or frickin’ in the house I grew up in. No, I’m not using those as euphemisms for any of the really bad words. We really weren’t supposed to say those words. Despite that, I found it extremely relaxing to, in the privacy of my room, let many of those really bad words fly after a bad day at school.

So, here I am. Still trying to figure out how to fit religion in with my foul-mouthed, pro-choice, feminist and liberal beliefs. Some of them are easy to integrate. Being kind to others and doing unto them as you would have done unto you? Check. It makes total sense that if we all acted like this the world would be a better place. This isn’t to say that I don’t fail at it, probably daily, but the aspiration to be like this all the time makes sense to me. Some of them are not as easy. Not doing what established religious tradition says we should do and never questioning? Oh yeah, I’m all about that too.

What bothers me is that the same religious text I use as one of my reasons for fighting for reproductive rights is the same text people use to wave fetus porn, say awful things, lie and in general terrorize anybody who disagrees with them. I suppose I could write pages about my opinion that a lot of people are on the sidewalk because it is the cool thing to do among their Wednesday night Ladies’ Group or because the preacher talked about loving your unborn neighbor from the pulpit on Sunday so it is the cause of the week. For many people, it isn’t about religion, or God, or life. It is about running with the cool crowd. These are the people who pray a lot louder and more intently when a possible client walks by. It is more seventh-grade clique thinking than religion.

So where do I fit in all this? I don’t know, and that is the problem. I have rationalized and excused many beliefs in the particular church I belong to. I have never been one to say my church or my religion was the only way to live or the only way to be happy. I thought as long as people were behaving like I imagined Jesus did, overall, that I could find happiness and satisfaction in this church, even if I disagreed with a lot of what other people believed. My thought toward any religion or religious institution has always been that none are perfect, just like nobody is perfect. I know I am far from it.

My tipping point came when at the end of a service they announced that they were holding a fundraiser for a local (to me) crisis pregnancy center. I know my face turned several shades of red from anger and confusion. The person with me told me later she thought my head would explode.

I went home full of righteous anger and a quest to research this particular place. Finding out they were deceptive and liars would make the break easy and simple. But alas, like most of life it wasn’t so easy or simple.

I don’t know anybody who volunteers there and I don’t know of any negative stories from this particular CPC. They are many miles from the nearest abortion clinic and their name clearly tells you that they are a Christian organization and not a health care clinic. They clearly state that they don’t refer for abortions. Hell, their site even calls a fetus a fetus and gives correct information about Plan B, even though they are obviously anti-abortion.

I don’t think that they are any way deceptive about what they do and what their mission is. They don’t offer ultrasounds performed by non-medical volunteers who type “Hi Mommy” on the screen or stalk women if they think they are going to get an abortion. They do say they refer for counseling after abortion, but it is to a licensed, albeit Christian therapist, who has a degree that is not from some 6-week course in “pastoral counseling” or a weekend where people learned how to further guilt women in some sort of “post-abortion” counseling group.

So even though this particular CPC is probably one of the “better” ones, this isn’t good enough for me. They still use the lure of free pregnancy tests to bombard women with their personal beliefs in God and abortion. They don’t ultimately care about helping the woman figure out what is best for her, even if that is having an abortion. The ultimate goal, the reason for existence, is to talk the women out of having an abortion, to take away one of her choices. So while the initial anger faded, the feeling of knowing I can’t in any way, shape or form belong to a group that supports in any way the limiting of choices for peoples’ reproductive health remained firmly. Is it a big thing? No. Are my feelings petty? Possibly, but I also realize that it doesn’t always take a one single, giant event to cause a person to change their beliefs.

What does this have to do with anything? Probably nothing for most people. For me, it makes me wonder about the person I could have become. What if instead of being that person who read everything she could get her hands on and questioned everything, I had become one of those people screeching at women on the sidewalk?

Nobody who knows me will dispute the fact that I am a passionate person. Maybe too passionate. I flung a shoe across my room screaming obscenities after watching a YouTube video of one of those Abolish Human Abortion “counselors” peering over a fence and trying to get video of a funeral home removing the remains of what was likely a much-wanted fetus from a clinic.

Once I decide a topic is important, I can become downright obsessive to the point of being annoying about it. So I guess I wonder how far away I am from those people who feel that religion is calling them to wave fetus porn, yell at clinic doors, straight up lie to women and in all other ways be huge assholes. Sorry, I can’t think of another word to describe these people. When I know I am right and it matters, I often feel the need to convince others. Ask anybody who knows me well. Even if I am not right I am persistent enough to get people to just agree I am right just so I will shut-up. (Sorry Mom, I said a naughty word again.)

I don’t question if I am right about being pro-choice/pro-access. I know, KNOW I am right that women should not be forced to carry unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies. I’ve heard all the arguments and yes, unlike antis I have actually considered that I am wrong. I just know I am not. There is no singular moment in my life when I became pro-choice. I have actually been pro-choice since before I had a term for it.

The problem comes when I try to figure out where I fit into religion. I know there are numerous denominations of Christianity that support a woman’s right to abortion. I am checking them out. Maybe I am “spiritual, not religious.”  In spite of the bad language and criticism of “Christians” I throw around here, the truth is religion has played a strong role in my life. I have been involved in a lot of volunteer work and found a great deal of satisfaction in my religion.

I was never an unquestioning fundy Christian who thought the Earth was 6000 years old and Noah totally hung out with some dinosaurs on the ark. Just the idea of pterodactyls crapping all over the Ark is enough to gross me into being an agnostic. I always thought religion should be a personal, private thing rather than something that one used as an excuse to make hateful laws or to not do a job. I wasn’t however, willing to write off the idea of this groovy guy named Jesus who stood up to the religious establishment as well as came to save souls. And I’m pretty sure mine needs something besides more shoes to fling.

My other problem will come when I start to address this with more devout believers in my life. I know what is coming. It is the same thing that would come from an anti who read this. They are going to ask me why I am mad at God, and then speculate that something really horrible recently happened to me. I am sure many antis would speculate, and secretly take pleasure, from the idea that some traumatic event had come into my life.

Sooooo many religious people think this is a chance to convert you or bring you back into the fold. This is another reason I have begun to question religion. The Jesus of the Bible took no pleasure in other people’s pain. He tried to make it better. At the same time, he never forced anybody to believe, tried to change laws or chased people down to give them his message. He just put it out there and anybody who wanted to believe did. He certainly never talked about abortion and those people who are quoting verses from the New Testament to justify being jerks are taking them totally out of context.

They can rattle on about the little children coming to Jesus all they want. It was always pretty damn clear to me that Jesus was talking about thinking, feeling, and autonomous humans. Otherwise, the Bible would be talking about a bunch of pregnant women standing around getting their bellies touched and fetuses spouting Godly wisdom from within the uterus. I’m sorry, I just can’t say “womb.”  Antis have used it so much the word makes me vomit in my mouth, even though it was probably a better fit.

So what is my point? I guess I don’t have one. I know there is room for many people with many different beliefs under the reproductive rights movement. I wish there was that much room in my particular religion for people like me. There doesn’t seem to be, and so now I have to find some other spiritual home, which isn’t easy. For all those well-meaning or not-so-well-meaning folks out there who think I am just mad at God, I can assure you I am not.

I am mad at people who have used God as an excuse to terrorize women, break the law and try to force everybody else to practice their brand of religion. You have ruined the concept for me, and who knows how many other people. You have certainly wasted time waving signs and terrorizing vulnerable people when you could have been out actually helping people. You have probably ignored numerous women who have quietly gone about the business of terminating a pregnancy they would have preferred to carry to term because you were busy hounding women who wanted nothing more than to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy regardless of all the promises made.

I keep thinking that surely there is a place that I can tolerate and that can tolerate me that will give me the same spiritual satisfaction I used to find in my particular religion. Goodness knows how many women who walk into clinics every day are struggling to deal with the same feelings, probably far more magnified than I am. The ones I really feel sorry for are those herded into “post-abortion counseling,” more accurately described as the world’s biggest guilt trip, trying to find peace with a decision they made. And before any antis are geared up to saying I am admitting that PASS or whatever you have named it this year is real, I am not.

No, no, no I am not!  I do think that some people struggle for years to make peace with their decision to terminate a pregnancy, and maybe some never find it. However, I think there are moments in all of our lives that we struggle to make peace with, and maybe never find it. I think that is the part of the lure of religion, the idea that there is something that can instantly make every hurt and regret all better even though there isn’t an instant cure.

So maybe my issue isn’t so much with my religion, but with the people who lie about what my religion really says. I’m pretty sure there is no verse that say “thou shalt go forth waving graphic, photo-shopped signs and luring women into thy building where thou may lie to them about fetal development in order to scareth them out of terminating a pregnancy.”  Maybe I am worshiping the false god of abortion. Maybe I am possessed by demons. Maybe I have been yearning to worship Moloch all these years. Maybe there is a tyrannical god hovering above who takes pleasure in smiting wayward women with pregnancy as punishment. Maybe the fires of hell are licking at my heels. Maybe the souls of millions of fetuses are hanging out in heaven full of anger ready to tell me off (although that doesn’t sound like heaven for the fetus, does it?)  Maybe, but I doubt it.

Just like maybe I am losing my religion, but I tend to think it is more that my religion lost me a long time ago and I am just now noticing.

 

Do You Know That Woman? ~ by KYBorn

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.

Reflections

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.)

C-Words ~ by KYBorn

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.

Censorship, Privacy and Why Antis Need to Just Shut Up~by KY Born

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:

  1. 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
  2. A recommendation that she return home to her abusive spouse.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

At Ease With Themselves ~ by SharkSandwich

Do you ever come across someone and almost immediately you’re able to ascertain what kind of person they might be? In the case of vile people, the person in question wears such a thin, affected veil that it’s simply not possible to ignore the wolf’s fangs jutting out from underneath the ill-fitting sheep’s wool.

On Saturday, my second day volunteering as an escort, I had the occasion to get acquainted with such an individual. And by “acquainted,” I mean to say I was berated with raving projections of racism and sexism from an older male anti that were completely devoid of irony. Irony, after all, would denote some semblance of humanity and humor, and the man who verbally dug into me may have misplaced the remaining specks of his humanity quite some time ago.

It’s really a surreal experience to stand silently and withstand someone’s verbal abuse. To respond would be to validate it, and I don’t necessarily want to dignify this man with my attention. Simultaneously, though, it’s really goddamn difficult to simply absorb that abuse with complete grace. You practically need SEAL-level Psy Ops defense training to absorb the abuse without so much as flinching (or incredulously smirking, as it were). I am not so flawless in my disposition.

I had typed out a somewhat detailed account of my misguided interactions with “Gone” (as in, that’s where his marbles are), but I’ve already dignified his piggish remarks too much in my own thoughts, so I’m not going to publicize them here. Omitted, though, are Gone’s sexist and racist slobberings, Gone giving me his most spirited Yosemite Sam impression (minus the 50-gallon hat), his fetish for imagining the escorts as puppy-murderers and his smug fixation with calling me a “weasel” – whatever the fuck that means.

Although my interaction with Gone was brief, thankfully a fellow escort gently redirected me, suggesting that I maybe should refrain from responding to Gone because it just encouraged him. My fellow escort was right. Interacting with Gone was like dealing with a tantrum-happy 8-year-old, so I silenced myself for good. Of course, rabbits and pigeons inside of a Skinner box would probably have reached the extinction point of an unreinforced behavior sooner than Gone did, but whatever. Eventually, he left me alone so he could go harass other people.

Later, Gone sought me out again after I had moved to another location, where he resumed his verbal derision. More name-calling, more overtly cartoonish outbursts. It’s as if you could see that he wanted to actually use cuss words at us and shout really disgusting, profane things in our faces. However, him using such language could also run a risk of possibly being perceived by his fellow antis as a gutter-dwelling sinner like us escorts, and he wouldn’t dare do that. Appearances, as I’m quickly learning about antis, always trumps integrity.

Observing Gone – and in disturbingly close proximity – I was reminded of how racists will kind of just clam up whenever they really want to express their prejudices to people in public, but also are terrified of being alienated for being an unforgivable bigot. Instead of taking that risk, they keep the racism to themselves, and most people around them erroneously assume these closeted racists are actually decent people. The racist’s desperate need for social connection at least keeps the racist behavior at bay (for the most part).

(Hell, the way Gone expertly furrows his brow when he’s trying to provoke us with his dumb insults, I got the impression he’d feel right at home among a mob of white racists assaulting civil rights activists 60 years ago. He either rehearses that delivery in the bathroom mirror every morning, or he’s just been this hateful for a long time. Either way, that kind of hate is a well-polished hatred.)

After our escort work wrapped up that morning, I continued to think about Gone and the other antis I witnessed harassing people outside the clinic. Unsurprisingly, the men are almost always the loudest, as is the wont of men. But more than being loud and trying to infringe upon the space of women, it also became apparent to me that they likely enjoy yelling mean-spirited insults at women because this sidewalk is probably one of the few places these antis are guaranteed to not receive any swift retaliation for their misogyny. Because we escorts (ideally) refuse to interact with them, the escorts – along with the patients we escort – thereby become very available outlets for these anti men (and women, too) to openly unleash their misogyny without fear of punishment.

It’s one thing to call a cashier at Target a genocidal whore when you’re vulnerable to immediate public judgment – nobody’s going to put up with that bilious slander, you know? But here at the clinic sidewalk, it’s as if the antis know they’re mostly invulnerable to retaliation, and therefore have no hesitation saying these terrible things that they genuinely do believe.

In fact, I have a hard time believing they actually care about fetuses, children, or even abortion’s alleged health risks to women (despite their transparent doom-sayings to women as they walk into the clinic). I doubt they really even care about divine judgment. Of the few that may actually be protesting for truly religious reasons, they’re only here to save their own asses from the threat of damnation.

These people – and specifically, these men – are only interested in themselves and their shared hatred of women. They may arrive at that destination via different avenues, but the final conclusion is uniform. The antis even appear to delight in being able to no longer conceal their hatred of women. That they can openly use that hate to taunt the escorts outside of the clinic without repercussions must feel like a bonus Christmas morning to them.

For the antis, the sidewalk outside of the clinic becomes a space where they no longer need to bother with the sheep’s disguise so as to pass and be accepted by the public. They know the two consequences keeping their hateful inclinations at bay in the general world – being ostracized from society, physical harm from the immediately offended – have been temporarily removed, so what have they got to lose?

As a result, the sidewalk has become for them a place where they are comfortable being their true selves: not Christians, not conservatives, not voters, and not crusaders.

They’re just really, really mean people who care only about themselves.

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

PSA for EMW Clients

If you see this sign, do not park in this lot

IMG_0001

It is the anti-parking lot.  

And it’s time for Pledge-a-Picketer!

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You know how it works, right? You pledge so much for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts {vests, training costs, and other miscellany} and abortion access.

Make your pledge here.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xbxdKkjOSsfRnLlCBo86dIVqBHtyntmA-GKLW9QT_I4/viewform

 

A Random Act of Kindness

On gray, rainy mornings things tend to go askew. We spend our walks up the sidewalk being careful not to get poked with an antis’ umbrellas, dodging puddles, watching for clients and knowing that it is usually going to be a bit longer out in the weather. Accidents, traffic delays and poor visibility add extra time to the clients drive to downtown.

Inevitably, one or two of the clients will be running late. Extra pressure to find a close parking space and check in for their appointment time adds to the stress of the morning. Toss in a dozen or so protesters with Bibles, prayer beads, pamphlets  and multiple graphic signs to navigate around and things can really crank up the pressure for most clients.

This morning a late-arriving solo client hurriedly pulled into the parking lot of the crisis pregnancy center next door to EMW. She took the nearest open space, got out and fairly dashed down the sidewalk into the EMW without as much as acknowledging escorts or protesters alike.

We always advise parking at one of the paid lots or meters in the area. The privately-owned parking lot behind the CPC does not cost any money, but it is most certainly not free. Escorts are not allowed on their private property to let the clients know this is not the abortion clinic. We feel helpless as we watch clients who upon realizing their error try to leave. The people from the center come out to greet them and manage to loiter in the way; prohibiting access for  them to move their car and leave, while “counseling” them, sometimes to the point of tears. One of the more vocal women has even stood in the way of a client shutting her car door unless they slammed her with the door in the process.

AWC Parking Lot

AWC Parking Lot

In her rush to get parked and into the clinic, this client parked a little too close to the cars along the front of their building. A person from AWC approached the escorts and stated that the car was blocking a staffer’s car and the client had to come out to move it right then. We all felt that this was a two-fold issue. Of course the car might be in the way if the other driver had to leave immediately, but with a tiny bit of maneuvering once the car next to it left they would be able to get out with ease. We thought the other reason was they did not get an opportunity to “counsel” her with their views on what is the right choice for her.

Were we thinking too deep into their ulterior motives maybe?

I went into the clinic waiting room and quietly explained the situation to the client. She looked up with a clipboard full of papers and a pained look on her face and said “I’m already late. I just don’t think I can go back out there and listen to them say those things to me again. Can you please move it if I give you the keys?”  “I will try,” I told her. “They can be very hostile and uncompromising with escorts.”

A quick decision was made to take off my vest and not represent the escorts. I would go as an average person on request of the owner to move their vehicle. Keys in hand, I walked down the sidewalk to the parking lot. At their property line I was met by several staffers from the CPC. I explained the client asked me to please move her car as she was busy filling out paperwork and already running late. A reasonable person would have understood the situation. After all, the goal was to move the car out of the way ASAP. Right?

“No, absolutely not, that would not be a good idea. She must move it,”  I was told. Were they afraid I was going to go on a bumper car style spree and damage other vehicles on the way out of the parking lot? Perhaps key a few doors for the fun of it on the way past?  Were they concerned about the liability of letting someone other than the owner drive the car?

No, of course not. They did not want me to move it because they wanted another chance to talk to the client. They can talk to me all they please. I don’t engage. I don’t care what they have to say. It has no impact on my life or who I am as a person. Their opinions of me matter not one bit.

As I walked back up the sidewalk I talked with the other escorts about how to best prepare her for moving the car with the least amount  of conversation and stress for her. At the same time I was thinking in the back of my mind, what sadistic pleasure do these people get out of harassing people with their tactics?

I went back into the waiting room and explained to her that they would not permit me to move the car for her. They asked that she be the one that moved it. With that, a tall man seated behind us stood up and said that he had overheard the entire conversation and he would move the car for us. He explained the CPC staffers would have nothing to say to him. With that statement, I think I heard the whole waiting room exhale in relief.

She quickly agreed and we gave him the keys. I walked back with him to show him which car it was and where to best park it for her. As we turned the corner, the staffers turned with anticipation only to be surprised as this gentleman purposefully walked over to the car, got in, started it up and left. I could barely suppress a smile as I thought of this man, who did not know either one of us, stepping in with one small gesture that spoke volumes of his compassion for others in times of need.

Thank you sir, whoever you are. Your simple act of moving a stranger’s car meant more than many of us could convey that morning.

What is Harassment?

Escorting has allowed me to see the best and worst of human behavior, often at a dizzying rate.  Some mornings I am thankful for a long quiet drive home. It gives me time to process what I have seen and heard. This allows me to make better choices on how to interact with clients and make sure I am doing what is less stressful and most empowering for them.  Everyone is an individual and it is not a one size fits all approach.  It is always their choice on whether or not they choose to speak with us at all, escorts and antis alike.

One morning I was standing along the curb as a car pulled up. As I approached the car, I could see the client and her companion tense up. I stopped a few feet away and waved.  The window rolled down a few inches and a sharp voice asked “What?” I pointed to my vest and identified myself as a clinic escort and asked if they had an appointment today.  They nodded. I gave a very quick summary, approximately when the doors opened and what to expect from the antis on their way into the clinic. I asked if they would like me to walk with them.  They replied no, and they didn’t want to talk to anybody either.  I assured them if they changed their mind and wanted someone to quietly walk with them just wave for one of the escorts wearing the orange vests over and we would return.

As I turned to stand back at the curb, I nearly collided with one of the male antis rushing over to speak with them . While they were rolling up their window he was loudly stating “I am not a protester. I just want to talk with you about some options you have not considered.”

Not a protester? Alright I thought , this could be interesting. What is he planning on discussing, the pros and cons of metered parking along the street or the day rates of the lots and garages in the area? Yeah right; unlikely.

From my vantage point several spaces down I watched as he circled the car from driver to passenger, speaking at them through closed windows. He was repeating one of the many similar scripts they all have:  free housing, free education, free medical care, open adoptions, loving Christian families waiting for babies.  It kind of reminded me of the drive through Safari when I was a kid. Some of the animals like the giraffes and baboons were fun to watch as they approached your car to peer in on you. Others like the tigers and lions were scary and you were glad for the safety of your car; hoping they lost interest quickly and backed off. I wondered how these people saw the actions of this man.

When the clinic doors opened, I stepped back over to the car and informed the client that the building was now open. I again backed off about fifteen feet or so to give them the space they requested, but close enough to get in stride if they changed their minds. Not the case with “Mr. I Am Not A Protester.” He began to very closely follow them up the sidewalk. By now his words had become a blur to me as he kept at them. Part way up the sidewalk they were joined by a female protester with her pleadings of, “Don’t kill your baby.  You will always be a mother.”

Repeated requests from the client and her companion to the antis went ignored. The “Please leave us alone, Please go away,” turned into, “Get out of my face! Leave me alone!” I made eye contact with the client to see if she wanted me to step in and walk with her to try and give her some space. The look I got back was not of someone needing assistance. It was one of someone needing answers. She looked at me and loudly stated, “Do they EVER listen?” Sadly, I shook my head no.

They made their way down the sidewalk with the mini circus in tow. Only at the property line did they manage to finally get free of their persistent chasers.  A few more words preached at the now closed doors and the antis turned their attention to the next group headed in.

harassment (either harris-meant or huh-rass-meant) n. the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. The purposes may vary, including racial and social prejudice, personal malice, an attempt to force someone to quit a job or grant sexual favors, apply illegal pressure to collect a bill, or merely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious.

It seems like a pretty simple definition to me, but in this country it seems to be tolerated if it is in the name of religion and saving the unborn.

However, with these tactics becoming more public and the growing backlash against the oppressive regulations and laws passed in the last few years, I see it starting to change.  A recent arrest of a protester in Albuquerque,  the removal of the sidewalk blockers in Jackson, MS on December 4, and the protest-free space created by Portland, Maine’s city council give me hope.

I may be just one voice, but I have found others to speak with and we are being heard. From Wendy Davis and the women of Texas, the voters of Albuquerque, New Mexico and the many tireless volunteers who make sure every day women seeking access to abortion services do not have to face these sidewalk bullies alone.  We are 1 in 3. We have a voice. Don’t be afraid to speak up and use it. We can push back against the draconian laws that are forcing women back into the underground network of illegal and unsafe abortions.

Together we can make the difference.

Rethinking Rainy Days

Rainy days are usually a challenge for escorts. There always seem to be a lot of antis who like to come out and carry their umbrellas. We dodge the pointy accessories as much as we can, but it can involve tricky maneuvering.

It was pouring down rain one morning recently. Escorts had on their raincoats, rain pants and ponchos. It was surprising to see D as the only anti there for almost 30 minutes and she was sitting in her car.

We were able to approach three cars without any interference before 715a. Then we got really lucky and the doors to the clinic were opened early. They were opened as a kindness to the clients so they wouldn’t have to wait in the rain. The added bonus was we were able to bring more than half of the clients for the day into the lobby before the other antis showed up with their umbrellas.

There were 11 antis there without much to do since we had been able to do so much escorting before they even got out of their cars. Of course there were the usual speeches from the regulars, but it was actually funny to watch them lower their umbrellas to stand under the overhang. They grouped around under the overhang talking to each other and trying to engage escorts.

Then they would see a client and raise their umbrellas and start off. We just walked out into the rain and met the clients first.

I may have to revise my thinking about rainy days. They are not so bad after all.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {11/11/13}

Escorts hear this a lot, but this morning was such a clear example of what the antis believe about choice I wanted to share.

The antis always come out armed with pamphlets to give to the clients and companions. When you go into the clinic lobby any morning, frequently these pamphlets that were thrust into their hands are scattered on the floor; left behind because they were unwanted.

This morning an escort followed a client inside of the lobby to answer a question. While they were there, the client handed them the pamphlet that had just been shoved towards them as they crossed the property line. Three antis were watching the escort and client from the property line as they talked. They were closely lined up to get a clear vision through the the glass door. D said, “I knew it. Did you see that?”

When the escort came out, they stood at the entrance and ripped the pamphlet up. Trainee (fully trained now) said, “You have just destroyed her opportunity to make a choice. You are not giving her a choice.”

Really? As if the choice wasn’t made and that one pamphlet was the key to making a decision? What about their choice to not have the pamphlet? If the client had wanted to read it, they would have kept it. If they hadn’t made their decision before reaching the sign-in window of the clinic, I’m sure one pamphlet wouldn’t have made up their mind either.

The antis constantly berate escorts about their definition of “choice.” They seem to have a different meaning for the word than we do.