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:

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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:

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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:

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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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Boundaries

Our world is filled with boundaries. They seem to be something we humans are particularly fond of. We have divided the globe into geographical and political regions, defined their perimeters, named them, claimed ownership of them, and defended them to our deaths. We put up fences around our yards to define our space, limit our children and pets, protect our belongings, and keep strangers out. We obviously put a lot of effort into clearly delineating that which is yours and that which is mine.

We set, maintain, and respect our boundaries for very good reasons. Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  You may not know the poem, but the concept is well-known and easy to understand. Our boundaries allow us to practice our own personal idea of freedom as long as it doesn’t harm or infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others. Knowing our boundaries keeps the peace in this crowded world and allows us to pursue our own personal happiness within them.

The boundaries which I find most intriguing are those we have learned from our social interactions. From the time we become aware of ourselves and others in our first year of life we begin to learn and establish our behavioral boundaries. Through trial and error we learn what gains us favor among our families and peers and what gets us into trouble. We learn which subjects not to discuss publicly, how far to stand from the person we’re talking with, and how loudly we can speak in various environments. We learn not to touch people we don’t know, and when we do touch people, we know what kind of touching is appropriate. The list goes on and on. While most of these boundaries can be simply described as “good manners,” at their core, they are built upon respect, for both self and others–respect for the boundaries between courtesy and offense. We “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

By their simple nature, we can naturally expect unpleasant things to happen when boundaries are crossed. By extreme example, people who crossed the Berlin Wall were shot on sight. Similarly, intruders on private property can be arrested. On the social level, we see children who sass their parents or wander out of the yard get punished, and rowdy patrons ejected from the premises. Scolding another mother’s child will likely result in your own scolding, and questioning the integrity of a friend may find you minus a friend.

Living within our physical and social boundaries allows for a generally peaceful life, but some of us choose to occasionally dwell right on the edge of boundaries. I’m speaking, of course, about those of us who escort and protest at Louisville’s abortion clinic. Life at the very edge of boundaries can be precarious. Your every word and movement is carefully watched and scrutinized by your opponent who is ready to defend their territory at the first hint of a border crossing. Any participant on the front lines of this raging cultural war over abortion will attest to the truth of this. Cross words and threats are exchanged for the tiniest of infractions of the physical, social, and philosophical boundaries we are all there to defend, and any hope of maintaining any kind of peace and order relies entirely on respect for those boundaries.

Most abortion clinics in this country are able to establish solid and obvious boundaries between their clients and those who would oppose their choice with fenced, private lots, parking garages, and the like. Some cities have stepped up and defined boundaries between clients and protesters, maintaining a physical distance between them with bubble laws or buffer zones. But at Louisville’s abortion clinic, no such thing exists. The opposing participants mingle.

The boundaries between protesters and clients, and the escorts who walk with the clients, are defined by nothing more than the “good manners” of the participants. Even the one, single, obviously defined, physical boundary–the indentation on the sidewalk which supposedly marks the boundary between clinic property and the public sidewalk–is subject to the practice of good manners as it cannot physically bar anyone from crossing it. So, in reality, our boundaries are defined by our morals, our principles, and our self-control–basically, those behavioral boundaries we’ve been learning since we were toddlers. Luckily, the majority of the participants at the clinic know these boundaries well enough, and are able to avoid the more drastic forms of violence and aggression. But, we are not good neighbors. There are gaps in our fences. There are boundaries that protesters fail to acknowledge, and breach routinely.

There are two boundaries which, for escorts, basically define our presence at the clinic. The first is personal space, that comfort zone we each establish in the physical space around our bodies and claim as our own. I briefly mentioned this previously in noting how most of us know how far to stand from the people we’re talking to. The boundary of this comfort zone fluctuates based on things like who is approaching, where the encounter is occurring, and who else is present, or one’s current state of mind, current activity, the other’s motivation, and so on. The other boundary, personal privacy, is a social boundary which fluctuates similarly to personal space. We are willing to share and discuss our personal matters with others based on the same who, what, where, when, and why criteria. Crossing either of these boundaries steals away a person’s comfort. It can make them defensive, even fearful, but always raises their stress level. Crossing this boundary by mistake is regretful, but doing it purposely is an attack on human dignity.

These are the two boundaries that clinic protesters, or as they like to call themselves, “sidewalk counselors,” cross continually as they approach complete strangers (the clinic clients), walk shoulder-to-shoulder with them, and discourse on subjects like the client’s sex life, the state of their reproductive organs, mate selection, life choices, and many other intimate subjects one simply doesn’t discuss with strangers. I always marvel at how these otherwise decent people who were raised in the same culture as the rest of us, completely lose their sense of good manners and acceptable social behavior, and present their opinions so rudely. Don’t they understand that putting people in defense mode cancels out their message?

If you read the previous blog entry entitled “Trespassing and Invasion,” you’re familiar with the story of Stephanie, the protester who recently found herself on the wrong side of the clinic property line. She crossed a boundary that is acknowledged and generally respected by protesters. She argued, she lost, she was physically coerced to the proper side of the boundary and peace was restored. Her disrespect for this boundary and her willingness to cross it are duly noted. Defending the property line boundary is important, but her infraction was minor when compared to the continual assaults she and the rest of the protesters inflict upon the women who have come to the clinic for private medical attention that is none of anyone else’s business. This is the reason we escort: to uphold women’s dignity as they seek essential medical care. This is the boundary we defend. Approach this boundary and we will watch you like a hawk. Cross it and we will do all we can to neutralize your threat, while taking care to stay within the boundaries of good manners.

Written by Dan

Trespassing and Invasion

I was back at the clinic this morning after quite some time away – time off was very good. It gave me a chance to just not have that racket in my head for a while. I had the opportunity to see the clinic for the first time in a while, with semi-fresh eyes, and to notice some things that come to seem very normal after seeing them happen so regularly.

I hadn’t engaged with any protesters at all until about 8:00. And then Stephanie happened. You may remember Stephanie – she used to be one of the jackass chasers in the orange vests. Now she is a jackass in a yellow vest. Andy wrote a FABULOUS response to an e-mail she sent. You can read that conversation here: http://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/dear-stephanie/

Particularly striking, to me, is this part:

“Your faith in god does not change the fact that you are in that moment no different from a rapist. To be clear I am simply making an analogy: person A says no to a certain type of interaction, person B does not accept those boundaries and forces themselves upon person A.”

That piece focuses mainly on the emotional trespassing done by protesters, and it is very eloquent, so I will simply second what that post says. We have also discussed many times on this blog the physical trespassing that happens – pushing into clients, pushing INFANTS into a client’s path, shoving handfuls of literature at clients and into their purses and bags… And of course, there’s trespassing onto clinic property.

This morning I had been walking in with a few client/escort groups, and after one I turned around to see that Stephanie had followed us onto the property line. WELL onto the property line, several feet in from both directions – this wasn’t toes over the line, this was trespassing onto private property very intentionally.

I was pissed. I told her to move, that she was trespassing, that she was on private property… She told me that it wasn’t MY property (well duh…) and that I had no authority to tell her to move. I will be the first to tell you that I cannot control what Stephanie does. No matter how thoughtless, rude, cruel, ignorant, etc. her actions and words may be, I have no control over them and cannot make her stop. But I can call people out for doing fucked up things. We ended up very close to each other, me yelling at her to get the fuck off of clinic property and what the fuck was she thinking, her yelling that I had no authority to tell her what to do and that it wasn’t my property… Finally I turned around and backed her off of the property.

I could write a lot about about how weird it is to get as worked up as I did, about how little sense it makes to trespass onto clinic property and then act like it’s totally ok… But it basically boils down to how shocking it is to see these ridiculous things happen after taking some time off, and how insolent and childish it is to trespass onto clinic property and act like you can do no wrong.

Let’s get real. What happened was not ok.

I am in no way saying that I handled things in the best possible way. But, the threat of having a protester invade a safe space for clients and escorts got to me. I got defensive and protective, because the one place where I should be able to count on having my own personal space was invaded. The space where clients should finally feel secure before their steps through the clinic door was invaded. The space that used to be patrolled by police officers that knew what they were doing (who’s mere presence would have almost certainly stopped these things from happening) was momentarily no longer a safe zone, and that is not acceptable.

While I am surprised by how upset I got, how aggressive I felt, I am not sorry for yelling or moving Stephanie off of clinic property. I hope to not get to that place again, to be able to control my feelings when my buttons are pushed like that, but I an not apologetic for my actions. Part of escorting is maintaining safe spaces, and when those spaces are invaded, I don’t think I can sit back and watch that happen without doing anything.

I cooled down at the corner and talked with another escort. As it got to be time to head home, we walked towards the clinic doors and passed Stephanie, who, making no eye contact with me, told us to have a nice day. How sweet.

Update: Stephanie commented to say I’m lying about most everything in this post.

Shout out to Stephanie: you still owe the escorts an apology. I don’t know how you remember things, but my account is from very shortly after this all happened. While I know human memory can be altered (I listened to a podcast about it just last night), I am not a liar, and I stand by what I have said here. You are allowed to have your version of the “truth” but it does not change the basic facts of what happened. Whether or not you honestly think you “accidentally” trespassed onto private property, we both know that you WERE on private property. We both know that you did not move when you realized what had happened. You still have some apologizing to do.

Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief

I’m in a lot of psychology classes in college (and I love those classes, which is why I’m a psych major). For instance, taking social psychology led me to have a brand spankin new insight into escorting and the mentality that people get when they do things like go to the clinic and harass people.

Taking Adult Development led me to thinking about the 5 stages of grief proposed by Kubler-Ross (here at the end of the semester we’ve been talking about death and dying – a jolly way to kick off the holiday season). It came up at clinic, and I’ve been thinking about it since.

The five stages are:

Denial – I think in the case of the clinic, this is manifested in how some folks don’t think it’s a problem, choose to look the other way, or pretend that reproductive healthcare is doing just fine these days. But once people get past that denial they sometimes start to escort when they do recognize that a problem exists and that they can do something about it.

Anger – I see this a lot at the clinic (on both sides). I think escorts deal with anger in many different ways, but it definitely shows up. It’s interesting how people who seem incredibly calm and patient can lose it. I see myself lose my cool sometimes, because I get hot headed and upset and frustrated, and I think that I have grown a lot from trying to handle anger and learned about myself in the context of anger.

Bargaining – Sometimes we escorts try and reason with protesters. I think that sometimes we convince ourselves that conversation will work. Sometimes actual bargaining does go on – but the deals aren’t often seen though, just proposed. And maybe in some way showing the protesters that we are human, by having pleasant conversations with them, we are trying to bargain – if I’m human to you and don’t yell and swear at you, will you calm down too?

Depression – This is a tough one. It seems so overwhelming sometimes, to continue escorting. Or to escort on days when not many other escorts show up, to have your buttons pushed, or to see strangers cry because they’re being harassed. It’s hard not to feel helpless and insignificant. It is an awful feeling, thinking that we’re up against a brick wall – that the government isn’t going to change things for the better, that the police aren’t going to save the day and enforce laws, that the clinic won’t even work with us. It gets depressing. But I try to stay positive and look on the bright side, and recognize that what we do might mean the world to someone walking into the clinic. No, we might not get a bubble law on the books here in the great state of Kentucky, but to one person who walks in the clinic, we might be really helpful and give them the support they need. And that gives me a little bit of hope.

Acceptance – I guess that acceptance comes through a little bit in what I was saying about depression. We have to accept that what we do DOES make a difference, and that even though it might seem insignificant sometimes, it might mean the world to a client or their support person. And it is important to take a stand for what we believe in, to not let bullies run things, and to get people thinking and talking about important stuff (or hell, even the unimportant stuff – you just have to start thinking and talking about SOMEthing).

The thing about these 5 stages, at the clinic and in other situations, is that people experience them differently – in different orders, in different ways, and some people don’t experience certain stages at all. I think that I cycle through the stages over and over again – I go from feeling angry to depressed to acceptance and back around again as new things come up and as I change and learn.

I can get very college-student-ey about this stuff, and definitely tend to take things that I’m learning about and apply them to different areas of my life. But that’s one way that I deal with the things going on for me – it helps me sort through everything happening.

It helps me to get thoughts out – they stop swirling around in my brain so much. That’s part of why  I love this blog and our wonderful clinic escorts. I love the conversations we have over breakfast, at the clinic, on the internet. I love the community that has formed, where I can verbalize stuff like this!

Because it’s late and I get goofy when it’s late, and because the Golden Girls have always helped me get through my sad days, this one goes out to all of the amazing escorts out there:

P.S. In case you were wondering, the Golden Girls were pro-choice – they even filmed a pro-choice ad in 1989 for Florida Voice for Choice while a columnist came to Florida to speak against abortion, right before the Florida governor began sessions to consider abortion restrictions. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find the ad on youtube.) They are the greatest, in my book.