At Ease With Themselves ~ by SharkSandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PSA for EMW Clients

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

IMG_0001

It is the anti-parking lot.  

And it’s time for Pledge-a-Picketer!

dsc01053

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

 

PSA – & Pledge Time!!

If you have an appointment at EMW, do NOT park in this lot.

IMG_0001If you have an appointment at EMW, do NOT park in this lot.

If you can’t see the picture, the sign says:

EMW PATIENTS

WILL NOT BE TOWED

IF YOU OBTAIN

A PARKING PERMIT

AT THE FRONT DESK

ENTER THROUGH

GLASS DOOR ON THE LEFT.

DON’T DO IT!!

The glass door is the entrance to the fake clinic, the “we-are-too-a-clinic” the “we care about you, all our services are free” clinic, the “let-us-do-a-free- ultrasound (that can’t be used for anything) while we preach at you” clinic.   That clinic.

Yes, it’s misleading.  Deceptive.  Manipulative.  But they deal in lies anyhow.  They will say, “Lies?  There’s no lies there.”  And that’s true.  It’s just deceptive. I don’t think it’s illegal.

Yes, I think they’re doing it in hopes of making people miss their doctor’s appointment.  They will say they’re not.  It doesn’t matter – t don’t think we can do anything about it.  But we’ve already had one person who saw “EMW PATIENTS” and went in thinking it was EMW.

So I’m telling you – the people who read here.  Feel free to spread the word.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I usually like for posts to be up a few days before we post a new one, but this I wanted the parking lot warning to go up quickly.  But if you haven’t already read Eeyore’s terrific post about the antis lying by the numbers, please click here to read it now.  Go ahead,.  I’lll wait…

Because – since I’ve already started this post, I’ll do this too -

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR!!

Yes, Mother’s Day is coming – which means the Saturday before Mother’s Day is also almost here.  Time for our Fifth Annual Escort Fund-Raiser -

Pledge-a-Picketer.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year. Antis come from near and far to shame, blame and humiliate clients going to their doctor appointments for an abortion.  Tons of protesters.  Hundreds of them.  Literally – over 300 one year.

So we take all those lemons and – yeah, I know, stupid cliche – but we do it – we make lemonade.  We started pledge-a-picketer so that the more of them that show up, the better it is for us.

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.

It is a lovely moment, when most of the protesters have arrived and we get to walk down the line counting. It baffles and annoys them, but it’s the one time that we can enjoy there being plenty of them.

Here’s the link to make your pledge:

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

{I know, it’s supposed to be embedded – feel free to edit and fix it, or message me how to do it…}

Take home messages:

~~ Make sure you don’t miss Eeyore’s recent post.

~~ Don’t get tricked into parking in the antis parking lot.

~~ Make your donation for pledge-a-picketer now.

~~ And stay tuned for our next post.

 

 

 

 

Back on the Sidewalk Again

I’d been gone for three Saturdays in a row, so I was (almost) glad to be back on the sidewalk.  I had missed my escort friends, and the satisfying sense of doing some good work.

I had not missed this:

IMG_3301

It’s hard to see (it was dark) but you may notice that the uterus holding that fetus is apparently free-floating.  I didn’t know they could do that, I thought they had to be inside a woman, but perhaps I was wrong?  After all, we are just hosts for the fetus, right?

Host:  2.  An animal or plant on or in which a parasite or commensal organism lives.

Commensal organism:  1.  A symbiotic relationship between two organisms of different species in which one derives some benefit while the other is unaffected.

Parasite:  1. an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.

Sigh… it really creeps me out.

Then I look across the street and see this:

IMG_3303Yes, that’s the Kentucky Bible College, coming on down to share their gospel music (almost on key today) and their fetal-porn signs.  Here they are, at the end of the morning:

IMG_3306And here:

IMG_3305Fetal porn at its best/worst.  They are facing the window of the clinic waiting room, right by the property line.  See how their feet line up behind that one row?  The guy whose feet are just a tad in front of the others felt compelled a couple of times to hold his sign over the line – petty bullish*t.

The blogger we know as Eeyore comments that:

The bible schoolers seem to have decided that if a companion has their arm around a client or helps them to the clinic door it is coercion and the client is being forced to get the abortion. One kept saying “If you’re so alright with what you’re doing why won’t you look at my poster, why are you hiding?” I found that to be rather arrogant, like every eye on the sidewalk should focus on him or it’s a sign of their guilt. No, maybe people just don’t care about you or what you have to say.

The “why are you hiding” guy is REALLY loud.  In fact, the Bible-schoolers dominate the sidewalk by the door, leaving our regulars, like Donna, relatively quiet.  Well, with some exceptions.  For example, Ron (the one who read my mother’s obit to me) is always active. Eeyore says:

Ron gave me and couple of other escorts “a stern talking to about how we’re so negative all the time, why don’t we try to be positive and uplifting.” He had to pause a moment to tell a woman she was a murderer and going to hell.

Then there were some new green-vested-chasers (sounds like a bird, doesn’t it?) but they were quieter than the old hands and not quite as obnoxious.  Some protesters had questions -

“How much do you get paid to do this? How much is your soul worth?”

That one makes me laugh, since you couldn’t pay me to do this, I would only do it for free.  As for my soul – I’m earning points for heaven, showing compassion and care for the clients at the clinic, don’t ya think?  So whether I believe in God and heaven and hell or not, I’m not worried about it.

The question of the day, however, was “What if…?”

What if your mother had aborted you?

Do you have children?  What if you had aborted your children?

Hmmmm – thinking, thinking, thinking – oh!  I know the answer – me, me, call on me!

If my mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t be here to worry about it!  And the sun would still rise and set, the world would still be spinning on its axis, and that would be ok.

If I had aborted my children – um, they wouldn’t be my children.  My life would be different, the sun would still rise and set, the world would still be spinning on its axis, and that would be ok.

That just seems silly to me, you know?   Do they think I’m suddenly going to have a revelation and say, “OMG!  That could have been ME????  Or MY CHILDREN????  THAT would have been a tragedy- so NO one should EVER have an abortion, because (if everything were different,) it could have been ME or MY children?”

Good grief.

Backwards-walker likes to point out that if my mother had showed up on the sidewalk at the clinic, he would have argued with her to save me just as strenuously as he does everyone else.  That makes me smile.

Um, am I supposed to be grateful that he wouldn’t have wanted my mother to abort me?  Or impressed that he’s so “Christian” he would want even (evil, baby-killing) me to be born?  Oh, but wait – he wouldn’t have known it was “me,” so – nope, that doesn’t even make sense.

Oh, that’s right – it doesn’t have to make sense…

Yep, it was good to be back.  Most of the nonsense rolled off me today.  The antis were glad to see me back (not) but they did notice – I heard Ponytail Guy mutter something about “Satan’s Little Helper is back,” which is about as warm and fuzzy as you can expect a protester to get.

At the end of the day, I noticed this sign, also from AHA (Abolish Human Abortion)

IMG_3304

And I thought, yes.  So true.  I could have mentally added some sarcastic comments, but I’ll let you make up your own…

I thought I was going to blog about some other stuff today.  I could have talked about how it seems like things are heating up on the sidewalk.  I could have talked about the Right to Life convention that’s coming in June, or the 40 Days for Life thing that starts next week.   I could have promoted the National Bowl-a-Thon fund-raiser that’s coming up in April, and encouraged you to start a team or make a donation.  But really, I think just talking about my first day back was quite enough…

A Random Act of Kindness

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

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

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

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

AWC Parking Lot

AWC Parking Lot

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

Were we thinking too deep into their ulterior motives maybe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buffer Zone Laws

I’m sure you already know the Supreme Court is debating whether or not buffer zone laws are legal for abortion clinics, or if they violate the First Amendment.  I’m a bit disheartened and already tired of reading about it ~ tired of worrying about it.

I am afraid we’re going to lose this one.

Not that it makes any difference, here in Louisville.  We don’t have a buffer zone , and absolutely no expectation of getting one.  So my level of frustration and anger about the way this is going may be inordinately high.

It’s frustrating that the media acts like the protesters are just a few elderly women, gently “counseling” the clients as they pass by.  Maybe that’s what it’s like in Massachusetts.    In Louisville, we don’t just have a couple of “harmless old ladies.”  In Louisville, even our “old ladies” aren’t particularly harmless – they can be mean, nasty and physically aggressive.  The rest of our protesters are the poster children for “Reasons to have Buffer Zones.”

350-reasons-why

If the buffer zone law is overturned, think about how much louder, more verbally aggressive, and more obnoxious our protesters may become.  I know, that’s  hard to imagine, but it could happen.  And they’ll be cocky about it.  You know they will.

Sigh…

But that’s not what really gets me.  What really gets me is that IT’S NOT FAIR!  People SHOULD NOT have to put up with being harassed and being intimidated on the way to the doctor.  It’s WRONG!!  They should feel safe – and be safe!  The court is SUPPOSED to PROTECT people!!

{I think I mentally stomp my foot a couple of times while I’m thinking that, which is about as close to a tantrum as I get.  In real life, I might throw in the F-word too. Supposed to FRIGGING protect people!!}

Then this annoyingly reasonable voice in my head says, “Right, it’s not fair, life’s not fair, the fair comes in August, blah, blah, blah.”   That same voice says, “It would be nice if the court were able to protect people, and keep them from being harassed and intimidated, but that may not happen.  If it doesn’t – if they overturn the buffer zone laws, what can we do to push back?”

Sigh.  Ok, if I have to be reasonable… here’s what we do.

We keep working on the laws.  We keep fighting the injustices that are introduced in the legislature over and over.  We keep finding ways to support people who need abortions, financially, by helping with transportation and interpreters and childcare.  We keep speaking out to reduce stigma.

But on the sidewalk (where it’s going to be a delightful 19 degrees tomorrow morning) how do we stay focused, how do we continue to be ok, no matter what happens?  What do we offer the clients ~ the ones who pull their hoods up, the ones who cry, the ones who laugh, and the ones who yell at the protesters as we walk with them?

Sigh…

We do the same thing we’ve been doing; we offer the same thing we’ve been offering.  A calm, supportive presence.

It doesn’t matter what they do.  It doesn’t matter if there are buffer zones or not, it doesn’t matter if the protesters are meaner, uglier and nastier than they’ve ever been before.  All we have to do is be there.

All we have to do is hold space for the clients to be empowered as they walk to the clinic.  To work to de-escalate situations.  To stay calm, purposeful and focused.    Just like we try to do every week.

I’ll carry those words tomorrow like a mantra.  Hold space for the client to be empowered… De-escalate situations… Stay calm, purposeful and focused…  It won’t be easy, but I can do that.

Consider Adoption?

A friend of mine who has adopted two children posted this on Facebook recently:

It is amazing what complete strangers will ask/infer/question/etc. I always answer for my kids ears (never for the stranger), but I sometimes have fun with replies when they are out of earshot.

Some of my favorites:
- Does he speak English? Me, puzzled look, “ummm…he’s a baby”
- Do they know they were adopted? Me, puzzled look, “ummmm???” (note a theme?)
- Does he look like his father? Me: “More like the FedEx Man” (FedEx delivered the adoption paperwork…and kiddo was out of earshot). She gave me a nasty look, but maybe she has since stopped questioning strangers about their family makeup? You’re welcome. LOL
- Random woman: Are they really brothers?

- Me: “They sure are!”

- Random woman: No, really…are they REALLY brothers?

- Me: “Yep!”

- Random woman: I mean, are they from the same family?

- Me: “Yes, we just live one street over.”

Since she was not going to stop, I finally said something about how my kids’ stories are theirs to tell and I like to honor their privacy.

And two of my favorites…
-How much did he COST?
- Why didn’t his mother want him?
(I have to channel Gandhi, King, Dorothy Day and more when I get these).

I read it, and laughed, of course.  Good grief, the things people say!  I admired the way my friend protects her children from as much of the ridiculousness as she can.

But it made me think about that one couple that used to come to the clinic.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know the one I mean.  The couple that used to bring their babies to the clinic.  They were chasers, and they’d strap the babies on – one for each of them – facing forward, so the people heading for the clinic couldn’t miss seeing them.

Cute babies, both of them, with big brown eyes that always looked a bit worried.  I guess the babies were four or five months old when they started bringing them and I bet they were over a year old when they quit coming.

You can see the video here if you want to.  But essentially the man would say.

“My son was abandoned on the side of the road the day after he was born, by his mother, to die.  And what youall are going in here to do is the same thing, you’re bringing a child to die.  And there’s families that would be willing to adopt this child

And the woman would say:

I know you might be having a hard time right now, but there’s options, you wouldn’t have to raise this child, there would be a family that would love the child.  I love my adopted child no less than I love my own…

They said those same things over and over, and I cringed every time the Dad talked about his son being abandoned by his mother to die.  Maybe it was true – or maybe the mother died giving birth – or maybe some agency made it up to garner sympathy.  I cringed because he was saying it in front of the child, and I would imagine those words, repeated over and over, seeping into that child’s heart.

I cringed every time the mother said she loved her adopted child no less than *her own.*  I’m sure she did, but watching her daughter listen to her, and knowing this mother thought in terms of her biological children being *her own,* made me sad.

I’m so glad they don’t come anymore – it’s been years now.  I hope they realized that it was harmful for their children, and I hope those children are growing up healthy and happy.  But you can see how my friend’s post on Facebook made me think of them, her concern was such a vivid contrast to the parents using their babies like props at the clinic.

If you listen to the protesters, you might think that lots of people change their minds and choose adoption.  Actually, the percentage of unintended pregnancies that end with adoption is one percent.  Not one percent of people who consider abortion, not one percent of people who make an appointment at the clinic.  One percent of all unintended pregnancies end in adoption.*

Seems unlikely that any of our antis who offer to “adopt your child myself” are going to get any takers, doesn’t it?

I’m not against adoption, you know.  It’s not so much like the old days, when I was in high school, and pregnant girls dropped out and “went away.”  That was fairly awful.  These days, I think there is less stigma and shame, and the prevalence of open adoptions or partially open adoptions make it a bit different proposition.  But most of the people coming to the clinic have already considered their options and made a decision.  Tormenting them at the last minute is just not helpful.

Someone accused me recently of showing “utter hatred…for anyone who stands in opposition to your opinion.”   I had to think about that – I had to check myself.  Are they right? Do I hate the protesters?

And I realized – no.  I don’t hate them.

Not Donna, not Nurse Betty, or Ron.  Not Screaming Preacher or the guy that always walks backwards in front of clients.  Not Andrew – whose wife has had the baby, which is understandably exciting for them.   (And I’d be real happy for them, if he’d quit telling the clients that they can be as happy with their baby as he and his wife are with theirs if they just walk out now.)   But I don’t hate him, or the anti-evolution preacher, or the one that used to be gay.  I don’t hate any of them.

I hate that they’re at the clinic.

I hate lots of the things they say and do.  But once they’re gone – if they quit coming down to torment the clients and companions – I won’t have any bad feelings about them at all.  Like the couple with the adopted children – I wish them well, and want only good things for them and their children.  Even  if I am one of those evil, baby-killing, Satan’s helper, Deathscorts…

~~ fml221 ~~

* Between 38-50% of all pregnancies are unintended.

P.S.  As my first commenter, Sara, points out, I have ignored the ethical issues with adoption that continues to exist, so I’m adding a link to this excellent article by RH Reality Check about the problem and some effort at solutions.  http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2010/06/22/adoption-abortioncommon-ground-mistake/

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.

It’s Not Free

I’ve been watching the outrage about the recently passed law in Michigan that would require a special rider for insurance to cover abortion.  I’m delighted to see people getting upset about it and pushing back.  I wonder how many of us  know that we’ve had that same law in Kentucky since 1978.

That’s right.

In Kentucky, insurance policies cannot cover abortion unless the woman’s life is endangered.  Abortion can only be covered through a special rider, but there’s no provision in the law saying that companies have to offer that.  I have no idea if they do or not.

So every client who comes up the sidewalk at the clinic has already had to find the money to cover the cost of the abortion.  Some of the antis on the sidewalk like to taunt the male companions – “Be a man, stand up for your child, don’t pay for her to have an abortion!!”

That line creates an image in my mind ~  there’s a villain ~ you know, with a mustache, like in the old “tied to the railroad track” movies – holding the money over his head, just out of reach of the heroine.  “No,” he’s saying, “I won’t pay for it,” while she ~ the damsel in distress ~ pleads with him for help.   A silly image, but it flashes through my mind every time I hear them hit that patriarchal note.

“Don’t PAY for them to take your baby’s life,” Angela screams.  Emphasis on “pay” as if that makes it worse, or has some special significance.    Maybe they think it does.

After all, “Come next door,” they say, “Where we care about you.  Where it’s all free.”

“It’s free.”  As if the people coming to the clinic are just shopping around for options ~ “Oh, wait – there’s a bargain over here – forget this abortion!  Let me go access some bible study and get some diapers instead!!  It’s all free!”

Good grief.

Of course, sometimes, the clients have trouble scraping together the funds for an abortion.  That can mean she’s further along in the pregnancy before she can pay for it, and it might mean she needs a more complicated procedure.  Which makes it more expensive.   It’s just one of the barriers to access in Kentucky, but it’s a big one.

There are a couple of organizations in Kentucky that help with funding for abortions.  If you’re interested in making a donation to them, feel free to email us.  We’d be glad to help set that up.*   If you can’t donate funds, there are lots of other ways to provide support – aside from escorting, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Email us for information on that too.

If you can’t offer support directly, that’s ok.  You can still help .  Lots of people are stepping up to tell the story of their abortion, which helps reduce the stigma.   We can all help by voicing our support for people who have abortions.  The more of us who openly say we’re pro-access, the less stigma there will be, and the more power our pro-choice politicians have. That will help them support access in the legislature.  So do what you can where you can ~ and maybe someday all insurance policies will cover abortion.  Even in Kentucky.

(* NOTE:  This is not an official fundraising effort – I just thought it was appropriate here.)

Polarities

When Servalbear and I decided to go on hiatus, I was a bit concerned that I’d get used to not posting and have trouble starting back.  Sure enough, inertia sets in and the days fly by and then it starts to seem like I should come back with a great post and that gets harder to think of and more time goes by… and finally, I just had to sit down and write something.

So here I am.  Breaking the ice.

We’ve been talking about doing some new things with the blog – adding some new voices more regularly, hearing from some old-timers, adding some different types of features, and exploring new aspects of supporting access to reproductive health.  I’m excited about the possibilities, but a lot of that is still in the planning stages – in the meantime, I’m back.

I’ve been thinking about polarities ~ I often do in conjunction with being on the sidewalk, but I was at a workshop this week, and it gave me new food for thought.  We were talking about trauma, and healing from trauma.  The presenter was saying that when people – or systems – resort to polarities, it’s a sign that the person – or the system – is overwhelmed by trauma.

Now I’ve taken that statement out of context, and so it may not make as much sense to you as it did to me at the time.  But I thought about our culture and how polarized we are in so many ways – whether it’s race or abortion or poverty or ~ so many things.  And it made me think about a funny story from the sidewalk that happened a few weeks ago.  See what you think about this.

I was down at the corner of First and Market, it was early, and there were a couple of cars with clients already there.  I’d talked to one of them them, someone else had talked to another, and I was moving back towards the corner.   One of the chaser/protesters was ranting about how they were going to regret this, that they’d never be ok again, that it would be so harmful to them… and on and on…

Then suddenly, he says to me “That’s right, you’re a therapist, aren’t you?  That’s right, you are!!  You’re some kind of psychiatrist or something.  So I guess the more of these women that go in there and get harmed, that’s just more business for you, isn’t it?  The more they hurt, the better for you.   Is that what you’re doing down here, just getting more business for yourself?”

I was so taken aback, I had to laugh ~ I had never considered the possibility that being an escort could be a form of ambulance chasing, right?

Of course, I didn’t say anything back ~ what could I possibly say to that?  Well, except, no, I’m not a psychiatrist, I would like to set that straight, but I just laughed and shook my head, no, I’m not actually down there drumming up business.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea that he might really think that’s really what I’m trying to do.

Good grief.

I don’t think I can connect all the dots in my head here, but ~ I think we are a traumatized culture.  We are confronted with perceived threat after perceived threat, over and over and over, until our ability to absorb and process them is overwhelmed.

I think the protesters are emotionally threatening to clients with their “in your face” chasing and yelling. I guess the protesters feel threatened by their own belief that little innocent babies are being slaughtered.  They think people are traumatized by abortion, and I think the idea of not being able to access needed healthcare is a bit traumatic.  (Not to imply that perceived threats and trauma are the same thing.)

But the polarities exist to protect us from having to think in shades of gray.  If I am an evil woman ~ if I can be demonized as someone who wants to see women hurt because all I care about is money ~ then that protester is justified in his own actions. And…

…yeah, I don’t know where this goes, except I always have this sense, this feeling, that then they burn some witches.

My commitment ~ my stance ~ is that we need to push back against the things the protesters do.  We need to expose the things they do, because otherwise people can’t know what’s going on.

And I will try not to demonize them.  I will step up and speak out and not be afraid to expose the things they say and do, but I’ll work against what they’re doing, not who they are.

Yeah, it’s a fine line.  I invite you to try to walk it with me.

Rethinking Rainy Days

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

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

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

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

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

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