Saturday before Father’s Day 2015

It rained.  Not the whole time, and not a downpour, but it rained steadily.  That cut back on the number of protesters – at least I guess it was the rain that kept some of the regulars at home.

But ~ to make up for that ~ the Sisters for Life came down earlier than usual this year.  Their numbers were down a bit too, but there are enough of  them to block the sidewalk effectively.

From across the street:

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(Image is of a crowd of people facing away from the camera, toward the clinic, stretching three or four car lengths down the sidewalk. Many of them hold umbrellas. You can see a child’s wagon, with an umbrella just above it.  A couple of escorts in orange vests are visible.)

Clients have to make their way through this:

(Video pans on the sidewalk, shows a bunch of people standing as close together as their umbrellas allow.  If you remember Dominic {he wears camouflage clothing, holds a sign, and yells “Murder!  Murder in the First Degree!!”} you can see him from the back.  One woman’s voice can be heard preaching loudly, but I have trouble distinguishing the words.  My best shot at transcribing them: ” …dead.   We’re out here (something) for you… God…taking your heart…out here in the name of Jesus… Thank you, Lord, for you have already done according to your word…)

Or this:

{A few voices singing “How Great is Our God”)

Or even this:

(Female voice, VERY loud:  He gave you WILL, not a woman’s CHOICE but WILL ~ to make the right decision ~ That is to CHOOSE LIFE ~ for your PRE-BORN BABY! Choose life for your pre-born baby! There’s help for you!

It’s an ugly morning.  A few protesters use their umbrellas to “accidentally” poke or hit escorts standing on the property line.  Some clients and companions have to shove their way through the crowd as the protesters yell at them.

I’m walking with a client when one of the chasers steps on the back of her flip flop.  Yes.  The client is walking to her doctor’s appointment at the clinic.  A young woman in a green vest is chasing her, begging her not to ‘kill her baby.’  This chaser gets so close up behind the client that she steps on the client’s flip flop.  Fortunately, the client’s foot comes out of the flop, so she doesn’t end up face down on the ground.  But she has to hop a step or two in the rain back to retrieve her shoe, while the chaser continues to preach and lecture.

It’s ridiculous and outrageous.

We call the police to clear a path to the door.  We’ve called the police out more than once lately.  Two Saturdays in a row, two different white male preachers blasting their words at over 100 decibels, which violates the noise ordinance (and can cause damage to your hearing.)  There is privilege inherent in being able to call the police with an expectation of help (although we’re never quite sure what the response will be.)

Escorts calling the police when it’s a predominantly black church group  is uncomfortable.  It doesn’t make me feel like a good ally.  That’s a whole other aspect to consider, and it takes us a while to decide to call.

The police come just as we’re almost done – the clients are already in.  The officers don’t think they can do much of anything to help – First Amendment, they have a right to be here – and of course that’s true.*  They don’t realize they’ve already helped just by showing up.  Just their presence changes the behavior of the protesters.

An escort who had been standing on the property line with her back to the protesters describes it.   “…you could feel the difference in many small ways that added up to me being able to take a deep breath and wonder why things felt better. The sounds weren’t in my ear, I couldn’t feel body heat anymore, nothing had poked or jostled me for several minutes. I actually didn’t know that that was when the police had arrived until after. I could never even see them, actually. Even just from the sidelines, they changed total chaos into a five-foot gap between me and the protesters.”

I’m glad the police came; glad they are low key.

And I’m a bit disheartened by an officer who, when an escort expresses concern that the protesters might hurt someone, responds, “Emotions run high.  That is the chance you take by being out here.”

As if the sidewalk is a free-for-all zone for the protesters and the escorts.  Sigh. The sidewalk is a sidewalk, the path that clients and companions have to travel to get to their doctor’s office.  It’s not a battleground.  And this is not a battle between us and the protesters.  It’s about the client.

The protesters want to stop the clients from getting an abortion.  We want to support the client’s decision.    The protesters are a distraction from our reason for being there, and when we focus on them, we risk losing sight of the client.

It’s so hard to remember that.  And so important.

We have to deal with the protesters – that’s unavoidable.  We need effective ways to de-escalate the variety of situations they present.  Sometimes we ignore them.  Sometimes we call the police.  But if we let dealing with the antis become our main focus, the client loses, and so do we.

It’s a lot to process, a lot to think about.  And it’s not why I started this post.

I started this post because this Saturday – the day before Father’s Day – was the last of the Spring Pledge-a-Picketer days.  How many protesters were there this week?  That’s the big question.  And the answer is….

Drum-roll, please…. 108 antis

(and 75 umbrellas…)**

Easter was 79, and Mothers’ Day was 100, so that gives us a grand total of 287.

Thanks to all of you who pledged – we’ll have financial results in soon.  In the meantime, here’s what it was like walking from First Street to the clinic this week.

*Blocking the entrance and intimidating clients may be a FACE act* violation, which the local officers aren’t prepared to enforce.  They might even be unaware of the law.

**No, I didn’t count the umbrellas.  I just made that number up – it’s a “seems like” number.  Seems like there were 75 umbrellas…

We Win Again

Only 100 protesters turned up on Saturday before Mother’s Day.  You know the deal – Pledge-a-Picketer, the more anti’s show up, the more money we make from the fundraiser.  It was always a win-win proposition – if lots of protesters show up, good for us, if not so many show up, good for us – and the clients. Here’s the history.

2009 – between 275 and 325 protesters.  (This was the year that inspired the fund-raiser.)

2010 – 255 protesters, 89 escorts

2011 – Closed for Derby Day

2012 – 151 protesters, 40 escorts

2013 – 315 protesters, ? escorts {can’t find the count for this year, sorry.}

2014 – 103 protesters, 60 escorts  {Donna tells the escorts that the numbers are low because they know about the fund-raiser we do so they stay away.  YAY – that’s a win for us too!}

And now ~~ this year ~~ drumroll please ~~ i

100 protesters, 35 escorts

Yep, that’s it.  I know, it’s a little ho-hum.  Here’s what it looked like:

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It was a lovely sea of orange up by the front door.

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Here’s what it sounded like.

Chad, standing on his step stool, preaches to the men:

“Turn back to God and become the man that God intended you to be!   Don’t stand up th~~ Take off your orange vests, men, and pick up your Bible {thumping on the Bible} and read it!  And heed it!  That was God’s intention for you!  That was God’s intent!  He said for us to rule this world – subdue the planet – to control it!!”

Lovely, right?  And this:

Chad says:

No thieves, no covetous, no drunkards, no revilers, no extortionists shall inherit the kingdom of God.  {Leans over and points at me}   Fear God, repent of your sins, and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  {unintelligible} eternal life.

I am not sure which of those types of sinners I am – I mean, possibly all of them, but I don’t know which one he’s accusing me of being.  Baby killer is my usual gig ~ in their view ~ although, for the record I have not actually killed any babies, either pre-born or post.  So I’m a little baffled, but that’s ok.  I don’t want to have a conversation with him about it or anything.

Because we’re doing a Spring Pledge-a-Picketer this year, we still have one more day to go before we tally up on fundraising.  The Saturday before Father’s Day is another special occasion, famous for the parade that comes in from a nearby church.  Lots of singing and excitement – i would kind of like if they would just do it somewhere else.  Here’s what it was like last year:

It’s a gospel song, and mostly says, “Shout for victory, Shout for the Lord.”

So it’s not too late to make your pledge for Pledge-a-Picketer.   So far, we’re are at 179 protesters.  You can pledge here, with either a specific amount per person or by pledging a lump sum for the whole horde of protesters.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1cATk530BlUVRVofUMNaNHU1yo9FvN78ByX-_rHzWbtk/viewform

Three Aspects of Escorting – Part I

Escorting is such a simple activity – walking up the sidewalk with someone on their way to the doctor.  So simple, and so complex.  I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately.

I identify three aspects:

I.  Logistics of Escorting

II.  Escorting as Social Justice

III.  The Psychology of Escorting

The logistics of escorting are played out on the sidewalk.  At the clinic in Louisville, there is no private parking lot, so clients and their companions approach from several directions.  Protesters spread out trying to make sure they have a good position to confront the client  with  fetal porn or yell at them.  Chasers station themselves at various points so they can latch on and begin their litany of cajoling, pleading and commanding as the client walks to the door.

Where there are protesters, there are escorts.  On Saturday, we stand in front of the door, on the corner at First Street, on the corner of Second, in front of the $4.00 lot, down by the AWC lot… Escorts are everywhere.

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But where do we need to be?  Where can we be most effective?  The $6.00 lot is $15 today, let’s not send anyone there, the parking meters are covered, no parking on the street, where should we be?

Those logistical questions arise every week, and every week we feel our way through to the best answers we can find.

These days, I often stand by the $4 lot.  From there, I can see the 2nd Street corner, and if those escorts all end up walking with people, I’ll cross the street to be a presence on that corner.  If someone parks halfway down the block, I can get to that car easily.  That’s so simple it’s almost not Logisitics, right?

Sometimes, I stand by the drop-off zone.  Mostly, I just stay in that space, although from there I can see different parts of the block and move away to walk with someone if it looks like that would be helpful.  And that’s not exactly higher order planning.  None of the individual spots are – no matter where we stand, we pay attention to what’s going on around us, and go where there’s a need.

When it works well ~ when we have enough people where we need them and we’re all watching out for each other ~ then it flows really well and it feels almost magic.  When the timing’s right, and people move in and out of position, and clients are able to walk to the clinic relatively unhindered, it’s like a dance.

Often, someone at the front door coordinates a lot of that.  Serving as a central point for information, the escorts stationed at more distant points can let that person know when they need help.  She, or he, can see a lot of the area and identify some needs, ask people to move to fill empty spaces.  Servalbear does that a lot, and does it well.  She’s a skilled tactician and helps keep the gears in sync, makes sure they’re oiled.

Lately, another escort has started doing logistics at the front door.  She’s learning that there are lots of things to learn about doing it well –  maybe she’ll do a blog post on that sometime!

Logistics are the most direct aspect of escorting, and they impact the client most directly.   The Points of Unity guide the logistics ~ we focus on being client-centered, on not escalating, and so on.  But in that moment, we make decisions based on our own best judgment.  That’s all we can do.  We may critique it later, explore how we could have done it differently, look at other ways to approach it, but in that moment, we respond as best we can.

This is the smallest unit of escorting – one escort, on the sidewalk, in the moment.

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D. P. Serke, a student at one of Kentucky’s Universities, recently wrote a paper about escorts as a “folk group.”  She says:

…{Clinic Escorts’} folklore is evident in countless blogs, message boards, and on the sidewalk. The pro­choice clinic escorts at EMW are a folk group. A folk group is described by Alan Dundes as , “any group of people whatsoever who share at least one common factor…” (Dundes, 1965). This is a broad definition, but is further defined by Dundes when he says that folk groups have common traditions. The clinic escorts share a common cause, a ritual structure for their performance on the sidewalk, including rules and specific language.

This is why we were able to write our own version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  As other groups of clinic escorts connect, we share common cause and language with them too, particularly related to logistics.  Other clinics face different challenges and escorts deal with them in different ways, but we have so much in common.  

So our lone escort on the sidewalk connects with other escorts at her own clinic and that group connects with escorts at other clinics.   Set us down in any city with other escorts and we can trade stories about how we do things, and discover that many of our strategies are similar – and that our protesters are very much alike! 

Logistics are the simplest form of connection between escorts.  Individual escorts, and escorts as a group, are also connected to social justice, or reproductive justice in some ways., which I’ll talk about in my next post.

To All The Escorts ~ Guest Post

This message is for all the wonderful escorts that made my walk into EMW so much easier for me and my companion.

The week prior to my appointment I had overloaded myself with information regarding the procedure I was going to have. By the night before my appointment, I was pretty well de-sensitized to what I was going to go through and so I randomly Googled EMW for which Google auto-completed “EMW reviews” I found an article from Life News*.

After reading that article and remembering Gibb’s Rule #3 “Don’t believe what you’re told–double check,” I went back to my search results and found this WHAS 11 article.

The funny thing is that Life News literally shot themselves in the foot….halfway through the article they named you guys! Every Saturday Morning was right there in caps and it gave me a proverbial lifeline. I had no idea up until about 11pm that I was to encounter protesters, although I had a suspicion that it was a possibility. But once LifeNews name-dropped you guys I immediately Googled you….and then I found the blog.

For over 2 hours I read posts. I read all the way back to the previous August that corresponded to my date with destiny the next day. I read about Ron and Donna and TM and Nurse Betty. and I read about all the escorts most of whom I only know by posting name: ServalBear and fml221 and lisajane13 and anarchist bee. I mentally prepared myself for what I would face in the morning through your blog. I finally fell into a restless sleep and 4 short hours later we were on the road to Louisville.

I–think–I recognized my escort the moment our car turned the corner onto 2nd St. I have no idea what his name is but if he is the same man that Cheryl described in her comment in this post, then the tall older salt-and-pepper haired man who walked me to the doors was an anchor for me. As we walked we discussed the blog and my general good mood, and how people like me must be a real relief for him and other escorts to walk with as we are firm in our decision and recognize the antis for what they are and what they are trying to do. He and I had a good laugh as I called out antis by name asking who was who. He pointed out some of the more outspoken ones and we talked about how ridiculous they all were. My companion walked ahead of us keeping the attention of 2-3 antis so they couldn’t bother us. I only had one younger gentleman and an older lady approach me and try to sway my decision, but I continued conversing with my escort and paid them no mind. We were so deep in discussion that I didn’t even get a chance to give anyone my patented Stink-Eye. You guys are right, the rain does help in keeping the numbers of antis down.

Anyway, I digress, the main reason for this letter is to thank you guys….thank you for existing, thank you to my escort for allowing me to walk with pride instead of shame. I’d also like you all to know that I’m doing well; mentally, emotionally, and physically. I slept really well the night after my appointment and woke up in the morning with minimal soreness after having what some would consider major surgery. When I woke up it was to the discovery that I had regained a lot of energy and strength.

Keep up all the good work!!

 

——————————————————————————–*Our general policy is to omit links to anti-abortion websites. We have made an exception and included the link to Life News for readers to experience the contrast in the information the author found on their Google search.

Shame on the Sidewalk

“You chose to lay down with a man… you chose to open your legs… killing this baby won’t solve your problems…”

“Honey, your relationship will never be the same.  Your life will never be the same.  You’ll always regret this.”

“You’ll always be a mother.  You’ll just be the mother of a dead baby.”

“Be a man!!  Bring her out of there!  Don’t let her kill your baby!”

Shame.  Antis are all about shaming the people who come to the clinic.  In fact, they enjoy it so much that when there aren’t any clients walking up the sidewalk, they look for new outlets.

Yesterday, Donna, standing under her big umbrella, and Nurse Betty, under a more modest one, were whispering and pointing at me ever-so-obviously. Then, “You need to get a bigger raincoat!” they informed me. They had to say it again before I got it – they were calling me fat!

Fortunately, I am no longer actually in middle school, so it only stung for a second before I was amused.

They said it a couple more times, but I guess I didn’t give them the reaction they wanted, because later, Nurse Betty commented, just loudly enough for me to hear “And she counsels people? She doesn’t even take care of herself.”

I just shook my head.  It was easy enough to shrug off their pettiness.

When I shared the story  with some other escorts, I got some great responses.   One of them said:

I always think in my mind, “I may be fat, but you’re ugly. I can always lose weight, but there’s no hope for you!” Then, I smile.

That ugliness can be inner or outer. They were just mean ugly to you.

Another escort commented:

Another example of good christian behavior.

While someone suggested:

Bring a bunch of doughnuts and chew them with your mouth open as you stare at them.

I loved the suggestion that I refer them to the Bible – Matthew Chapter 23, verse 27. Of course, I had to google it. It says:

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity

 

And then someone said this:

I’ll just bet she was a nasty little tattletale whinger on the playground, too, at St. Mary’s Keep Your Legs Crossed School Of The Blessed Insults.

which cracked me up.

All the affirmation and support is fun and feels good, but it’s not why I started talking about this. I was trying to figure out if I could do a blogpost about it without sounding like I was just looking for sympathy or support. Because really ~~

Nurse Betty and Donna sniping at me is not the problem. It’s actually helpful, because it shines a light on who they are.  They’re mean people.

Donna and Nurse Betty are not calling me out on being fat because I’m fat.  They’re calling me out on being fat because they’re mean.  That’s just who they are.  They want me to feel bad.  They want me to feel ashamed of my body and of myself.

And Donna and Nurse Betty aren’t on the sidewalk “counseling” women because they care about women or babies.  They’re on the sidewalk because they’re mean.   The abortion clinic is their best opportunity for socially sanctioned bullying.   They want people to feel ashamed.

I want you to recognize them for the bullies that they are.  That’s why I’m writing this post.   So if you’re ever on the sidewalk – whether you’re a client, a companion, or an escort – you can see through their facade.  You can see their petty meanness.

I was able to shrug them off.  I’d love for everyone to be able to do that too.

 

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.)

Father’s Day 2014

Today, we had 35 escorts (a nice sea of orange!) who escorted clients past 17 Catholic pray-ers, 7 sign-holders from Kentucky Mountain Bible College, 14 Immanuel yellow-vesters (aka Chasers) and, because it is the day before Father’s Day, 115 red-shirted Sisters for Life (SFL) people.  The SFL group arrived about 7:35 and included quite a number of children, from babies to teens.  About 35 Catholics on Parade arrived around 7:45 and stood by the convention center, looking confused by all the activity.

It looked like this, approaching from 2nd Street:

There is no transcript for the video – it’s just a long walk up an empty sidewalk.   To the left, across about 6 lanes, are the group of Catholics on Parade, and then you turn the corner into the crowd of folks, mostly in red shirts, by the door.

Here’s what it looks like coming from First Street:

Again, a long walk up the sidewalk, past some fetal porn, past a few chasers, who are uninterested in an escort doing video, but would be all over you if you were a client, then into the mess.

And here’s some video from when the SFL group first arrived.

In this video they are singing enthusiastically about shouting for God and the Victory.

I can absolutely not imagine walking through that mess to go to the doctor.

But it happens every year.  They get a parade permit and here they come.  This year, they called it a “Walk or Bike for Life”  and charged a fee to enter.   It is their 6th Annual.

In 2009, the first Father’s Day for the blog and the SFL,  (and before my time on the sidewalk) we were not expecting them.  300 protesters showed that year, and the escorts were up to the challenge.  Here are some pictures from that year.  In 2010, Dan shared his thoughts about escorting, and we have more pictures.  In 2011, we did our pledge-a-picketer event on the Saturday before Father’s Day, because the clinic had been closed Mother’s Day weekend.   In 2012, we just have a video of them singing in front of the clinic.  In 2013, we posted video, and I told a story about a little girl who’d gotten caught up in the mess.

And here we are.  2014.  Same story, different year.   Maybe we can work on a buffer zone?  I’d like for 2015 to be different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C-Words ~ by KYBorn

No, not that C-word. I couldn’t resist a chance to say, “Made You Look,” which seemed to be the height of wit when we were all in kindergarten. Yes, I do have a point. Stay with me. I promise I’ll get there.

Last week, when a couple of the escorts asked me to write an article for Every Saturday Morning, I was flattered. Since then, I have had the pleasure of joining a few of them on the sidewalk in Louisville for the morning. I appreciate that they took the time to show me what they, clients and companions experience five days a week. I am still processing some of my first escorting experience but I do plan to write about it at some point. The first time I wrote about antis not understanding what the word “censorship” means. Actually being on the sidewalk really drove home the point that there are a lot of other C-words antis don’t understand the meaning of.

I’m going to skip over the obvious ones. By now, everyone knows that “choice” is the F-dash-dash-dash word, the Queen Mother of all dirty words (to steal a line from the movie “A Christmas Story”) to anti-choice protesters. “Contraception” seems on the way to becoming almost as bad. At best, it is considered a gateway drug to abortion and at worst, it is considered exactly the same as having an abortion.

One fairly new phrase that seems to be creeping into the mix is the line that all women have abortions for “comfort and convenience.”  Antis act as if there is a big box on patient registration forms or on surveys designed to collect health information labeled “comfort and convenience” that all women check. Women have abortions for a variety of reasons that they do not have to share with or justify to anyone. Antis have taken research on reasons women give for having abortions and lumped almost all of them under their new, re-labeled category of comfort and convenience.

As usual, they miss the mark completely. Not having health insurance and not being able to pay for the cost of labor and delivery is not a matter of comfort and convenience. Not being able to keep a roof over your own head, or the heads of existing dependents because you live month to month and can’t take what is going to be a minimum of 6 weeks off work without pay is not a matter of comfort and convenience. Not wanting to be forced to go through the painful process of labor and delivery when you don’t want to or aren’t ready to be a parent is not a matter of comfort and convenience. Going to the gynecologist for a medical procedure is not comfortable, although abortion is not the blood-soaked, pain-filled nightmare antis like to say it is. It is certainly not convenient to drive 4 hours for a simple, outpatient procedure and in some states it is becoming a weeks-long process with clinics closing and mandatory clinic visits for counseling followed by mandated waiting periods.

What got me to thinking about this was actually being on the sidewalk this week. It wasn’t raining when I arrived but it started coming down pretty hard part of the way through the morning. As I was taking off my vest to put on my poncho, one of the antis felt the need to lecture me about worrying about my own comfort while babies were being murdered. I have never been admonished for putting on rain gear, but I guess there is a first time for everything. Of course, this particular anti was standing under both an umbrella and the awning so she was clearly worried about her own comfort. It is easy to dismiss others need for comfort and convenience when it is not your own. I am pretty sure that the anti who sat in her car to talk on the phone for 10 minutes did so because it is inconvenient to replace your cell phone because it got wet. I am also pretty sure the protester in the expensive-looking suit who spent the entire morning standing under the awning of a business down the block  without ever stepping out did so because it would be quite uncomfortable to walk around in wet clothing at work for a couple of hours.

The other C-word antis don’t grasp is “compassion.”  Compassion is what I saw from the escorts. People do not get up early in the morning, week after week, to volunteer to walk with strangers to a medical appointment to try to limit harassment without it. Compassion is not shown by repeating the same lines, like a script in a movie, to every person who walks into a clinic. Compassion is not shown by demanding loudly that complete strangers share their reproductive decisions with you. Compassion is not shown by dismissing the many reasons people choose to have an abortion. Compassion is not shown by vague promises of resources that people don’t want and may not be delivered. Compassion is not shown when women who regret their own abortions come out under the guise of preventing other women from feeling the same thing, only to talk all about themselves and their guilt rather than listening.

Compassion is understanding that every person on that sidewalk has their own story. Compassion is understanding that those stories are deeply personal and do not have to be shared with strangers to justify walking into a doctor’s office. Compassion is understanding that shouting an arsenal of anti-choice talking points through a clinic door does not change the reason people are there. Compassion is understanding that people choose abortion for a variety of reasons that can’t always be solved with a free pregnancy test, a non-diagnostic ultrasound, some diapers and Bible classes. Compassion is understanding that women are people with feelings, dreams, lives and problems rather than simply potential fetus containers.

If you have hung with me this far, I will be brief in saying I have my own C-word for what is happening outside clinics and inside our legislative chambers to restrict people’s rights to make their own decisions about health care. It is crap.

And the Results Are…

Yes, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the results are in – the head count for Pledge-a-Picketer!   Drum roll, please…

Protesters – 103.  

Escorts – 60.

Yes, you read that right.  There were *only* 103 protesters at the clinic on Saturday.  And 60 escorts.  Not even a 2:1 ratio.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it was all fun and games.  We had a relatively new protester preaching at the front door.   She didn’t like it when she realized one of the escorts was videotaping her.  (Thanks to wenches for the video.)

*transcript at the end of post

I have some other video of her, and it made me sad, listening to the things she said to the clients.  She was so sincere about sharing her experience – apparently, she changed her mind about having an abortion, and has been glad of that.   Because of that, she assures the clients that having this baby won’t ruin their life, they’ll still reach their goals.  How does she know?  Because she did. She tells them:

I know your life will turn around because my life turned around. When me and my husband made the decision to keep our child, it was the best decision we ever made in our life. Keep your child today. And to this day, I am still married to the same man. And to this day, we get to experience the love of our child that we did not kill, that we almost killed. Don’t kill your child today. Hear a mother talking to you – don’t kill your child today. It still affects me today – that I almost killed my child. Don’t kill your child today. But I get to kiss my child, I get to hug my child…

It seems so naive to me, the belief that because that worked out for her, it will be the same for everyone.  As if everyone has exactly the same issues she had, the same resources, the same choices.  It seems naive and cruel, cruel in the same way as Andrew telling everyone how excited he was about his unborn baby.   As if the antis can’t quite comprehend that their personal experience is not normative.

Anyhow.

The fundraiser was a great success. We received 30 pledges.  We received pledges from 3 countries (US, Canada, Australia). We received pledges from 8 states in the US (KY, IN, OH, VA, CA, MD, TX, AR)   And despite the poor turnout of protesters, we raised $1,043 so far, but the final total will be more than that as some late pledges come in.  Those funds will be split between escorts and Ky Support Network, an abortion fund acting as a program under Ky Health Justice Network.

We were surprised how (comparatively) few protesters came out.  But we figured a lot of the protesters chose to stay home because of the rain.  {Ok, we may have made some snarky comments about that among ourselves, but I’m not personally judging anybody’s commitment to “saving babies” based on their willingness to stand in the pouring down rain – or lack thereof .}

However, one of the protesters explained it differently to one of the escorts, when he commented on the low turnout.  She said:

“Yes, we planned it that way, so you won’t get as much money,”

to which the escort joyously replied,

“YES! Our plan is working!”

The protester looked a bit crestfallen.  As you can imagine.

But that’s been the point all along – the ultimate win-win for us – and the clients.  If the protesters show up in huge numbers, we make more money for vests and trainings and direct funding for abortion access.  If they don’t show up – well, it’s a victory for the clients who don’t have a to walk a 300 person gauntlet, and yay for us.

It’s always a relief – another Mother’s Day under our belts.  Thanks to the new escorts and occasional escorts who came out for Mother’s Day, thanks to the folks who pledged money, and thanks to everyone who supports the right to a full range of reproductive health services.

*Transcript  of the video:

You wanna take a picture of me? You videotaping? What are you doing? What are you doing? God bless you. God loves you. God loves you and I pray that you never come on this sidewalk again. Because he does not want you to do this. You don’t realize that you’re leading the mothers off to kill their babies to the slaughter. They’re actually taking them down into the basement and they’re actually sucking the baby out of the womb. Out of the womb and throwing the baby in the garbage. The baby is a human being. (turns away.) Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.

 

At Ease With Themselves ~ by SharkSandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PSA for EMW Clients

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

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It is the anti-parking lot.  

And it’s time for Pledge-a-Picketer!

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

Make your pledge here.

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