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.

On McCullen ~ By Huxley

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.)

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.)

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.

Waiting for McCullen v Coakley ~ Co-Authored by Oubli

We write about the antis all of the time on our blog. We photograph them, take videos of them and recite things they say to clients. The post this week by fml got a lot of comments and views, which is always very appreciated. We love active discussions with our readers.

The videos in the article of Reboot captured the atmosphere of the sidewalk perfectly. It is chaos. It is full of people shoving and shouting to harass and shame clients going for a legal medical procedure. I have said many times, that if you were going to a dentist’s office and protesters showed up to demonstrate they were against fillings because they thought they were a communication device to the devil, those protesters would not be tolerated by the community. But because the medical procedure being accessed at EMW is abortion, it is tolerated by society as being the antis’ right to free speech. Just another political demonstration of their views.

It is not a harmless demonstration. It is not a way to help anyone. The Report of the  APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion* “found that the greater the number of antiabortion picketers and the more aggressive the picketing that women encountered when entering an abortion clinic (as coded by observers), and the more the women reported feeling upset by the demonstrators, the more depressed affect they reported right after their abortion.” In other words, the antis outside the clinic cause more harm to the patient than the actual procedure. States and individual cities have recognized the harm and potential for violence by enacting buffer and/or bubble zone laws to separate the antis from close proximity to patients, escorts, staff and the clinics themselves.

Frequently, we are asked in comments about why we don’t have a buffer zone. We would love one, but there has never been a political climate in Louisville to be able to get the votes for implementing a buffer zone here. There are several reasons why this is our reality. We have studied the risks and benefits of launching a campaign to give the citizens of Louisville and residents of Kentucky a safety zone around the abortion clinics in the state, but for now we are waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of McCullen v Coakley. This will be decided during their current session. This case could overturn all existing buffer laws; a frightening prospect.

Oubli is a valued reader, a frequent commenter and has authored articles on our blog. Oubli sent this information and the additional resource information below, to emphasize  the importance of this case to all of the existing and proposed buffer zones in the United States.

We need to keep an eye on McCullen v. Coakley because it will determine the constitutionality of clinic buffer zones.

This clinic is the flash point for the case.**

Planned Parenthood's clinic in Boston, MA. The yellow line on the sidewalk and street marks the 35-feet buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Boston, MA. The yellow line on the sidewalk and street marks the 35-feet buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood's Springfield, MA clinic has white arcs painted on the street to represent the buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood’s Springfield, MA clinic has white arcs painted on the street to represent the buffer zone.

I think that buffer zones do not violate free speech. My analogy would be the equally distasteful but protected freedom of speech right to protest military funerals. Yes, they can protest but as long as their protest was far enough away from the grievers as to not cause distress.

I would really like to pause for a minute and ask you to scroll back up to the photos with their lovely white and yellow lines.

We desperately need this type of space at our clinic. Go back and watch the videos from Wednesday’s post, Saturday on the Sidewalk. On the first video, those white tennis shoes you see were worn by me. In the second video you can see how much shoving, pushing and up close and personal Reboot was to the escorts and the client. Personally, I would prefer to not be as up close and personal with someone screaming in my face. Any escort who has been on the sidewalk in Louisville one time would vote instantly for any buffer zone we could get. The current situation has a high potential for violence and does nothing except cause harm to the clients and their companions.

In the meantime, we wait for the decision in this case that could turn back the clock 20 years or pave the way to a safer experience for all abortion clinics around the country.

Borrowing a slogan from the Kentucky Road Rally for Reproductive Rights: “Kentucky families deserve better!”

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*American Psychological Association (APA) study. pg 84

Additional reading:

**Mike Blog: Law in Plain English McCullen v. Coakley (photographs source)

Policy Mic: McCullen v Coakley is Heading to the Supreme Court Again

Alliance Alert, Law Review: Balancing Public Safety and Freedom of Speech Outside Reproductive Healthcare Facilities-McCullen v Coakley

Cooperative Research: Profile: Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

National Abortion Federation: Legal Remedies to Address Clinic Violence and Harassment. A Handbook for NAF Members.(Pdf)

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REMINDER:
We are standing up for reproductive rights on November 2. Are you coming with us? Can you contribute $5 or more to help make it happen?

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/KyRoadRally

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/158610191007342/

Website: http://kyroadrally.org/

What Is a Picture Worth?

I was taking pictures again last week. It wasn’t a “big” week, nothing special about it.   But I’m tired of my own words ~ I’ve been blogging about being an escort and the walk up the sidewalk for a long time now.  I’m tired of talking about it, I want to show you.  I want you to take the walk with us.

This is a video of the gauntlet – it’s not a great video, but better than nothing. The person in the green vest is a protester.  They are walking up the way you would come if you were coming to the clinic.   One day soon, I’ll videotape it from that perspective, but today we have this:

(My videos tend to be shaky – I apologize for that.  Well, and they’re not great videos.)

So you can hear them saying the rosary, and in the background, you can hear one of the preachers.  I think it’s actually Andrew, who’s not officially “a preacher” for our purposes because he doesn’t take a turn on the step stool that serves as their soapbox.  But he preaches for sure – to the escorts as much as the clients, I think.

If you were coming up through the gauntlet, you’d start way down at the end of the block and come all the way up, and then the clinic is on your left.  As you walk up, you’d be facing this:

IMG_1965

Right before you get to these folks, you would turn left.

Now, in the video, on the left as you get close to the clinic doors, you see this group of men, lined up on the curb.  Here they are, and Mary on the end with the big green bag over her arm, the orange vests of escorts standing in the street:

IMG_1969

If you decided to avoid the gauntlet by getting dropped off at the door, right there is the only space where there isn’t a car parked.   It’s not the official Saturday “drop off” spot, because there was a car in the drop-off space last week, but if the car hadn’t been there, they would have filled that area too.

As you get out of your car, they look like this:

IMG_1985

But the escorts are to the side of them.   We hold some space there so we can move to let you come through that gap, or we’ll ask them to step aside so you can get through.

As you come through the gap, the signs greet you:

IMG_1973Of course none of this is actually impassible.  They aren’t locking arms so you have to fight your way through.  They’re just trying to intimidate and shame you.

Fortunately, just because they’re selling that crap does not mean you have to buy it.  They don’t know you, or your situation.  You can walk around them, you can ignore them, you can tell them to get out of your way.

Personally, I want a buffer zone – both a fixed one and a floating one.  I want the protesters to have to stay 100 feet away from the clinic, and 10 feet away from a client.

I don’t think that’s asking too much.

Access and Dangers of Clinic Protestors ~ by Oubli

This is a guest post submitted by Oubli. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know her from her comments on our posts and a past article she wrote.   She does lots of work in reproductive justice, and we appreciate her support.

Articles by Eric Veronikis, The Patriot News, captured all of our attentions. The first article included concerns about implementing a buffer zone, like this:

‎”This type of buffer-zone legislation normally is upheld in court so long as it is applied to everyone, including abortion-rights protesters, said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.”

All of the quotes below are from the second linked article by Eric Veronikis..

Access and the Dangers of Clinic Protestors ~ by Oubli

Clinic Access WIN in Pennsylvania!

The Harrisburg City Council unanimously approved legislation preventing protesters from being within 20 feet of entrances of abortion clinics and other reproductive health care medical facilities. 

Council is charged with protecting access to health care for all without passing judgment, Councilwoman Sandra Reid said.

“This governing body has no legislative power to tell anyone what to do with their body,” Reid said. “We’re just here to assure that those persons seeking medical care can get there without being detained or harassed.”

Planned Parenthood offers an array of services and too many people assume that women visiting the clinic are going there for abortions, Councilwoman Susan Brown-Wilson said.

Everyone has the right to enter a health care facility without being interrogated, Brown-Wilson said.

“Women have a right to choose for themselves. And people really don’t know what [women] are going there for. They assume that everyone is going there for abortions and that’s not true,” she said. “Planned Parenthood isn’t just about abortion, it’s also about health care and providing other medical services.”

Rev. Susie Stanley of Mechanicsburg applauded council for adopting the buffer zone bill.

Stanley, who said her daughter escorts patients to abortion clinics in other cities to help get them there safely, Stanley said the argument for free speech doesn’t give anyone the right to harass and intimidate others.

“Sometimes free speech can turn into intimidation, harassment and sadly that is what we see sometimes at these health centers,” Stanley said.

Protesters who violate the buffer-zone bill will be fined $50 for the first offense. A second offense within five years would bring a $150 fine. A third offense within five years would carry a fine of $300 fine. A fourth and subsequent offenses would have fines of no less than $300 and could include up to 30 days in jail.

What do you guys think of the fines for violating the buffer zone? Fair, impractical or too lenient?

Celebrations ~ and the Worst Law Yet

For those of us who’ve been following the conservative efforts to eliminate access to abortion and worrying about a Romney presidency, last night was a huge relief.

Obama won.  Todd {legitimate rape doesn’t result in pregnancy} Akin lost.  Richard {rape pregnancy is a gift from God} Murdoch lost.   YAY!!

I’m hoping that more people are aware of the risk of losing reproductive health rights because of the publicity those guys  got.  Maybe we can begin to really push back against some of the laws restricting access.  But it may take us years to make up for what we’ve already lost.

I saw an article this morning that really distressed me.  I thought I was fairly knowledgable about the various assaults on reproductive rights, but this is a new one for me.  Appparently, the law passed in Ohio in 2004, and has been recently reviewed by a panel on the state appeals court.  It was upheld.  Planned Parenthood in Ohio is requesting an appeal by the full court.

According to the article:

The law says that mifepristone may be administered only in the same exact dosage approved by the Food and Drug Administration a dozen years ago, and its use is restricted to the first 49 days of pregnancy.

Medical knowledge has advanced significantly since then, and the F.D.A.-approved regimen is now outdated. By mandating a protocol that is no longer medically supportable, Ohio’s law leaves women who might safely opt for a medication abortion between 49 and 63 days of pregnancy with only a surgical option. Women who choose a medication abortion earlier in the first trimester are forced to consume three times more medication than needed, increasing the risk of side effects.

Incredibly, the panel found that the law did not violate women’s constitutional right to privacy or bodily integrity.

I am just stunned.

We know that legislatures will enact laws requiring medical procedures that aren’t necessary.  But this one requires medical treatment that is contra-indicated.  That can actually cause harm.

How can that be right?  How can doctors and the AMA allow that to happen?

Seriously.  How can anyone think it’s ok to mandate the wrong medical treatment????

Ok.  Rant’s over.

Obama won.  Akin and Murdoch lost.   Obama won…  It could be much worse.

On the Fourth of July

After escorting last Saturday, we went to breakfast, as we usually do.  We were talking about things that happened that day on the sidewalk.  I was listening, paying particular attention to anything that sounded like it could be fodder for the blog.

Suddenly, I thought, “I’m tired of it.”  I’m tired of the protesters.  Tired of listening to the preachers.  Tired of watching the chasers race up the sidewalk with us, tired of them spouting their arrogant, misinformed routines.

Every week, I get stirred up emotionally, and have to talk myself back down.  Remind myself that protesters are people too.  That they have a legal right to be there.

I have to let go of the moments that would haunt me.  The woman in the parking lot shaking, almost in tears.  “I didn’t know it would be like this,” she says.  “Are they here every day?  What will they do to me?”

Interesting, isn’t it?  That the protesters think they will make her rethink her decision ~ instead, she’s not thinking about the abortion at all, she’s focused on running the gauntlet of protesters.  They have actually distracted her from thinking about the procedure.

Interesting, but I don’t want to think about any of it anymore.  I’m just tired of it.

Right about then, while I’m sitting at breakfast thinking that, Servalbear starts talking about the legal battle in Pennsylvania, where they just succeeded in getting a buffer zone outside the clinic.  They started with a bunch of petitions and just kept pushing til it passed.

“You know,” Servalbear says, “I’m thinking we could try that here.  I know they say it can’t be done here, but I don’t think we’ve tried lately.  What have we got to lose?  I think we should give it a shot.”

“YES!” I say, suddenly inspired and energized.  I can picture the protesters, standing on the other side of the street.  Not up in people’s faces.  Not chasing them to the door.  Out of stalking range.

It’s a pretty picture.

“Let’s do it!” I say.  “I’ll blog about it Wednesday, get the ball rolling, so to speak.”

So here I am.  There’s the ball.

I have a beginning to-do list, lots of ideas, plenty of enthusiasm and 35 other things going on in my life right now {just like everyone else.}  Do you think it’s time to give this a shot?  Interested in working on it with us?

If you are, leave a comment, or email us.  I’ll be emailing some people who might be allies, but please don’t wait to hear from me if you want to join the party.  You are invited.

Day 1 – Roe vs Wade – The Marches – by fml and servalbear

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The 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade – the decision on abortion rights by the United States Supreme Court –  is January 22.  This week, we will publish a series of articles on different issues surrounding the decision.
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 Back alley abortions and women trying to abort on their own had been a fact of life for a very long time.   Roe v Wade didn’t start the controversy about abortion, but it brought it into the realm of politics.
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  • Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the United States into pro-choice and pro-life camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
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There will be many articles written today and this week concerning the decision. “On The Issues Magazine” has devoted its Winter 2012 issue to the subject of abortion. Read it here.
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There will be marches in support of the right to choose abortion. There will be counter-marches by anti-abortion groups. The first marches began shortly after the decision.
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  • Abortion – Roe v. Wade linked control of reproductive rights to a woman’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to privacy.  To social conservatives, this upset gender roles and traditional patriarchy, and was considered an attack on “the right of a husband to protect the life of the child he fathered in his wife’s womb.”  Read more here.

The annual marches in Washington, DC are considered a “Festival and Special Event” by About.com.  Listed between “Home and Remodeling Show” and “Bethesda Chevy Chase Restaurant Week,” the information about the rallies includes directions to the Supreme Court and the National Mall. Tourists can view the expected 250,000 or more demonstrators for both sides as part of their visit to Washington.

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Washington 30 Year Anniversary March

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We worry a little that listing this in a guide about Washington might trivialize the importance of the decision.   Might make the struggle to protect the right to abortion under all circumstances without stigmatization seem like a festival for fun. If it adds to the crowds lending their voice for the rights of women, it helps.  If it becomes a spectacle, an event for entertainment, it doesn’t help.

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This anniversary is historically the most important step forward for women’s bodily autonomy . There is so much work still to do.

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Reminiscence by fml:

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I’ve never participated in a march in support of abortion.  But I was 16 when Roe v Wade passed, and I can remember how exciting a time it was.

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The year before that, six of the young women in my junior year of high school had left school because they were pregnant.  Back then, the only legal choice was to have the baby.  You could get married, or you could put it up for adoption.  Very few people chose to raise the child alone.

I knew of six girls in my class who got pregnant that year.  There may have been others who managed to get a “back-alley” abortion, or whose parents had the means to take them out of state for a legal abortion.

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Some of the girls I knew got married, child brides at 15, some of them didn’t.   Most of them, I never saw again.  And of course, I don’t know what any of them would have chosen back in those days.

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But when Roe v Wade passed the next year, we knew it opened doors that had been nearly closed up until then.
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Reminiscence by servalbear:
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Roe vs Wade was decided when I was 23. Even though birth control pills were available in the early 1960s, there were state laws prohibiting the distribution until a Supreme Court ruling in 1965 stated that these laws violated the “right to marital privacy.” (Griswold vs Connecticut). That made it possible for married couples to obtain prescriptions for birth control pills without restrictions.

It wasn’t until 1972 that unmarried couples were included in this right. (Eisenstadt vs Baird) I was also 23 when that decision came down from the Supreme Court. Some states still have restrictive laws for the distribution of birth control to unmarried minors.

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In real-life terms, that means:  For all of my teenage years, the only birth control available for most single women was abstinence, rhythm method, douches or condoms.

Needless to say, these were not 100% effective. There were a lot of unplanned teenage pregnancies. The only options were drop out of school to raise the baby, put the baby up for adoption or go to a back alley abortionist.

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I joined NOW and marched in support of Roe vs Wade and the equal rights amendment for women. To witness firsthand the number of young lives derailed by unplanned pregnancies made me a lifelong advocate of bodily autonomy and a feminist.

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The decision in Roe vs Wade was a cause for celebration. We can never go back to the way it was before. Over 50% of the population in America are women. We need the right to make the reproductive choices best for our individual lives.

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Abortion Support in Kentucky is celebrating Roe vs Wade with their donation drive towards efforts to make abortion and reproductive healthcare more accessible in Kentucky. Please visit their website and contribute whatever you can.

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