Helping One Person At A Time

We have been posting this week about the vandalism at the clinic in Louisville. The outpouring of supporting comments has been so uplifting. Many of the comments we have received have been “How can I help?”

Kentucky Support Network (KSN) is a practical support group based in Louisville that serves all the residents in Kentucky. They are an all-volunteer group who support people seeking abortion in Kentucky. Their volunteers include escorts and individuals from other groups who support reproductive justice. KSN is having a donation drive where you can help one person at a time to access abortion care.

Here’s the information. Please consider donating.

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled to see a doctor?
Ky Map

Many of us don’t have to go far to get medical attention. Because of policies that restrict and stigmatize safe, legal abortion care, however, Kentuckians who need abortions often have to travel hundreds of miles to see a doctor who will work with them. These folks aren’t strangers: they’re our neighbors, sisters, relatives, friends. This holiday season, you can make a difference in their lives with one simple action.

Kentucky Support Network is a network of volunteers who support people seeking abortion with financial assistance, transportation, interpretation, and more. Visit our website to find out about our organization.

There are so many barriers for Kentucky residents who choose to end an unplanned or non-viable pregnancy through abortion:

  • By law, Medicaid and private insurance plans cannot cover abortion in almost all circumstances, so most patients pay for their abortion care out of pocket. This cost ranges from $650 to $2,000.
  • Most people seeking abortion already have children, so must find childcare for the time they are at the clinic. They must also take time off work or school, find and pay for lodging if their procedure lasts more than a day, and find an interpreter to accompany them if they do not speak English.
  • There are only two abortion clinics in Kentucky. 74% of women in Kentucky have no readily available access to abortion, and must travel to get it. (Guttmacher Institute)

Here’s where you can help one person at a time. KSN will give gas cards for those patients making the trips themselves. This is one less expense they have to raise in the process of accessing healthcare. Kroger stores across the state of Kentucky sell gas. Kroger also sells gift cards to use for purchasing fuel as well as groceries. You can purchase a gift card for $25.00 from Kroger. If you use your Kroger Plus card when you purchase the gift card, you will receive points for the purchase. When you make your purchase between November 19 and December 8, Kroger will give you four times the gas points with every gift card purchased. You receive a gift by helping one person at a time!

How do you get these gift cards to KSN? There will be collection boxes set up at the following locations:

Smokey’s Bean, 1212 S 4th Street, Louisville

Louisville Game Shop, 925 Baxter Ave, Louisville

Modern Cult Records, 1036 Bardstown Rd., Louisville

Don’t have time in the holiday season to drop off a card? Kroger sells their gift cards online and for a small fee will mail them directly to KSN. Our mailing address is: Kentucky Support Network, PO Box 4761, Louisville, KY 40204.

How easy is that? You help one person. You receive a gift. You can do this all from a computer any time of the day that’s convenient for you.

Thank you from the volunteers at KSN.



The Nicest Escort Ever

Walt wouldn’t have wanted me to write this post.  If I could tell him I was going to write a blog post in his memory, I think he would have looked uncomfortable – the same look he got when I complimented him or told him how much we appreciated him.  He would have shook his head, “no,” and said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that.”   Walt was the most modest and unassuming person I’ve known.

But I think he would have approved of this post in the end, or at least agreed to let me do it, if I explained it was really for us.  If I told him that we just wanted to share a few memories and publicly say good-bye, I think he would have given in and told me we could do it.

From his fellow escorts:

I still can’t believe it is true I can’t get my head around the idea that such a caring person is gone so suddenly,maybe next Saturday I’ll see him walking down the side walk then I’ll know I was dreaming.

~~ AI

Walt was a true gentle man and an example of civility


Class act that guy. Chatted with him a few weeks ago. Never mentioned he was sick. Talked about his daughters. Hoping his family is doing ok.


I remember him always smiling, always full of cheerful good mornings. And the cheerful good mornings were to the escorts and protesters alike. Nodding good morning and smiling, with his hat off and pressed against his chest as he passed through the prayer line. Class act indeed!


I already miss him & his always smiling face.


Way too bad. The last thing I heard him say was a suggestion to do what seems right, to which I made a flip reply. But that was clearly more important than I realized at the time, spoken as it was by a man who was out on the street engaged in his activism only a couple of weeks before his death. That’s practically dying with your boots on. Rest in power, Walter.


That corner will always be “Walter’s corner” to me.


Walter was the nicest person I have ever met. Full stop. He always had a smile, a warm greeting and a kind word for everyone he met. He will be missed in my life and in the escort community.


It just won’t be the same without Walter’s big bright smile warming up that strip of 2nd street.


Walter was a quiet, gracious person, friendly to everyone. He seemed to like to be in quiet surroundings, but was willing to endure the harsh cacophony often demonstrated on the sidewalk on Saturday mornings, to stand up for women and their rights. He would stand on ‘his’ corner all morning, smiling at anyone who came by and making encouraging comments to clients and companions.

Sometimes I would stand with him when it was calm on the corner, and we would chat a little, and then just spend time being quiet. He told me once he appreciated my quiet presence, and that meant a lot to me. I will certainly miss him, and will always remember his smiling face.


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RIP Walter…


The Things We Carry, by Penny

TW:  Violence, rape

On the sidewalk, the “antis” look at us, escorts as well as clients, and based on our ages, the vehicles we drive or don’t drive, the clothes we wear, the overheard snippets of friendly conversation, they’ll tailor the harassment to what they believe is the greatest effect.

“Does your mother know you’re here – you may be an outcast!”

“That’s what a real baby is supposed to look like.”

“You are not young, nearing the end of your life – repent now!” and memorably,

“Go home and put some decent clothes on!”

We immediately think through all the counter-arguments, the snappy retorts, the “you-don’t-know-me’s,” and sometimes a client or companion will voice them. Mostly we hope to avoid the added annoyance of them learning our names. I can’t help but cringe when this happens, because any acknowledgement feeds the antis. But it’s hard. It’s so hard not to respond, and I understand the temptation. We’re good at what we do, but we’re not robots. We all have reasons for being there, unique experiences we carry up and down the sidewalk.

I carry the memory of Catholic school in the first grade, when getting regularly pinched and shoved by a boy was considered normal, even adorable behavior. “He just likes you.” “Boys will be boys.” When I finally bit the hand that assaulted me, I was scolded by the nuns for my “unladylike” behavior and had a note sent home to my parents.

I carry the endless lectures from puberty onward that “men only want one thing – that’s how they all are, they can’t help it, and so you have to protect yourself.” Internalizing this meant that in order to receive any affection from men, I needed to reduce myself to my body. It meant I accepted as a given that my mind was irrelevant in any romantic entanglements. It took me almost the rest of my life to unlearn this.

I carry the heavy months I spent as a sex worker, and knowing that this would be the peak of my earning power. That society valued me most on my back. That if I got raped, beaten, robbed, there was no one to safely turn to – again, my body was the only valuable thing, but I still had little control over what happened to it. But hey, at least I could pay my bills.

I carry the boyfriend who “rescued” me, who convinced me that no one else but him could possibly love me after sex work. Who asked me to marry him. Who threw a full can of beer at my head in the middle of a party while everyone else shrugged. Who I eventually married because who else could want me now? I felt I must deserve the abuse after my past.

I carry the day I went alone to a Planned Parenthood for an abortion, one I had in secret for fear of what would happen if he found out. One I had to drive halfway across the state twice in two days to obtain. The impotent rage of fighting my way through protestors, with no escorts to assist me. This choice allowed me the time to gain the skills I needed to survive in the nine-to-five world, and without it I don’t know where I’d be. I never once doubted my decision, and don’t to this day, but I do wish that I’d been brave enough then to confide in a friend, and that I’d had escorts to run me through the gamut of shaming.

I carry the time a few years later when my husband began to hit me in earnest, holding our six-month-old baby hostage because “no one is going to give you custody, you’re a whore.” When I called the police one awful night, they talked me out of pressing charges. I was obviously just overreacting, hysterical. I didn’t want to invite CPS into my life, did I? I locked myself into my child’s carefully decorated nursery and silently cried all night.

I carry the last exhausting month of our marriage three years later, when I was trying to leave and he used the threat of further traumatizing my son to get away with raping me. More than once.

* * *

It’s a little past two years since I filed for divorce and never looked back, and it hasn’t always been easy, but I came out the other side knowing this for sure – autonomy is worth fighting for. My story is mild compared to a heartbreakingly large number of people. We need to draw a hard line here, because raising girls to believe that they are only their bodies – as blow up dolls, incubators, or punching bags – is dangerous. I want better for myself. I need better for myself and my child and I am willing to accept nothing less. No one, man or woman, should ever have to suffer living with less.

These are the things I carry with me every morning on the sidewalk, though the antis would never assume it. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. The shame and intimidation tactics are achingly familiar to me. They want to grind you down, make you docile. I lovingly carry my weight to the clinic because we need to hold the line against those who would trap us in our own bodies; against those who would determine our worth for us; against those who would use shame to control us.

If I see you on the sidewalk, client, companion, or escort, I hope you’ll hold your head high. Because it matters, and if you’re out there in spite of all they throw your way, I am proud of you. Make any choice you want, as long as it’s yours. Stay brave, stay free, and may your pack be light.

Sidekick Training, by Lou

On my first Saturday on the sidewalk I had prepared myself for the barrage of hate that would be spewed my way. I practiced steeling myself against the antis’ words. I had long since lost the religion of my childhood, which made it easier to ignore their religious hatred. I was determined to not allow it to get to me in such a way that I would lose it on the sidewalk. I knew that arguing with these people would be a waste of my time and effort.

I was paired with a fellow escort to shadow for the morning and we stood side by side holding the property line. She told me what the antis might do or say and that my goal was to hold the property line so that they could not cross it and prevent clients from getting to the door. As everyone began taking their places, like a show was about to begin, one of the AHA guys came over and stood in between myself and the escort I was shadowing. He was holding one of his giant signs and had a smug look on his face as if he had just beat me at a game of poker. My first thought was, “Oh crap! I need to stand next to her because I don’t know what I’m doing!” Then I felt that just standing next to this guy meant that I was somehow validating what he was doing. It felt gross. I wished he would just move and take his hate somewhere else.

I turned to my right and peered down the sidewalk. Catholics praying with their rosaries, more enthusiastic Catholics holding up signs, two frail looking ladies with looks of worry on their faces as if they had lost a beloved pet. And then I looked across the sidewalk at what was directly in front of me. Signs 3-feet high with bloody fetuses and tiny body parts; one sign said something to the effect of what Hitler did was legal; one sign denouncing atheism was particularly strange because I wasn’t sure what atheism had to do with all of this. Then again, I’m not sure what Hitler has to do with all of this either.

When the guy from AHA turned on his speaker and started preaching to whoever was listening, the environment became like that of a circus, or actually kind of like walking up and down the rows of vendors at the fair where people desperately hawk their wares. I imagine him selling one of those contraptions that cuts your vegetables into noodles.

I spent much of the morning wondering how I would know who was a client and who was a pedestrian or a protester joining their group. When the first client was escorted through the neon orange wall of escorts and on to the door of the clinic, I knew right away that there would be no mistaking who was a client and who was not. They all had the same look of panic drawn across their faces. Most of them had companions alongside of them shielding them from the freak show. One of them could not handle the protesters and had to go for a walk with an escort before the clinic opened. Several of them had earbuds in to drown out the hideous noise. Most of them were rushed through, kind of like celebrities only instead of camera flashes, there were flashes of “Murder!” “Don’t kill your baby!” “Murder in the first degree!” “Let me adopt your baby!” I’ll never forget the first woman who walked through with her head held high as if this shit didn’t bother her at all.

So I had steeled myself against the hate that I would hear and see and most of it just flew on by my head without a thought. What I didn’t expect was how I would feel when I saw the women running through the gauntlet. The looks on their faces. The panic when they finally reached the door only to discover that the clinic hadn’t opened yet. They were shielded by companions and hunched over, even the ones who held their heads high with earbuds in their ears pulled on the door with desperation. The AHA guys would swarm the door whenever someone couldn’t get in. The big bald one used his loudspeaker even though he was 3 feet away from his target. He blared some garbage about God and Jesus, dead babies and “change your mind.” The door finally opens, the women rush inside, and the antis go back to their places on the sidewalk.

I know the antis like to think of themselves as heroes, somehow saving babies. I think most of us know who the real heroes are. The real heroes are the women who brave that mess just to take care of their very own bodies. The real heroes are the doctors on the other side of that door. And we escorts, we are the badass sidekicks.

Theater of the Absurd: 9-19-15

I don’t usually escort on weekdays.  When I do, it seems quiet and calm compared to Saturdays.   I have time to chat, and time for random observations.  For example, you may have seen this on billboards:

IMG_5173It’s a baby -maybe a 6 month old – smiling, and the text reads:



The sign is leaning against the fire hydrant, one of the handy devices the city has placed on the sidewalk in front of the clinic to showcase the antis signs.  (The sign on the other side of the hydrant says, “THE KILLING PLACE,” a helpful marker for people having trouble finding the clinic.)

But the “I could smile” sign confuses me.  Because I’m pretty sure that after babies are born, they don’t really smile.  I mean, they make that little Mona Lisa smile sometimes and we say, “Oh!  Look!  She’s smiling!”  And then somebody else says, “No, I think that’s gas.  They say that’s just gas – I don’t think they can smile yet.”

When a baby gets to be about 4 months old, they start smiling like they really mean it, and we’re all thrilled and say, “Oh, look!  Look at that smile!!  Oh!!” and no one disagrees, and our hearts all melt a little bit.

So I don’t understand this pre-born smiling thing.  Is it that little Mona Lisa smile?  Because that one really doesn’t mean anything.  Or is it the big “I’m so happy to see you” smile?  If that’s the one, then I want to know what happens to it once they’re actually born.  Why do they not smile again for months?  Do they miss the womb?  Feel disappointed about their life?   Very strange.

Interestingly, the sign was made by a company based here in Louisville – a non-profit started by people at a local church.  Now I’m wondering if the billboards are sold nationally, or if other cities have their own sign makers.  And are all the billboards the same? Surely we’re not the only place to have billboards proclaiming:



7 months BEFORE I was born I had FINGERPRINTS!

The billboards are real bright, like the picture I posted, mostly blue and yellow, with splashes of red.  Do youall have the same ones where you live?  And do they come from the same company?

These are the kinds of things I ponder on a weekday morning at the clinic.  Here’s the other thing that caught my eye.

IMG_5174Yep, it’s one of the AHA fetal porn signs with a DIY handle on the back.  I’ve been watching the AHA guys handle the signs as if they were shields and wondering how they did it so handily.  Now we know – a yardstick and a little packing tape is all you need to make an effective “enarmes,”.  If they attach some leather straps, they can sling it over a shoulder as they come and go.  That would be downright swashbuckling.

Finally, I bring you this video from a Saturday. A couple of clients and their companions arrived early and were treated to Story Time by Dominic. I guess it’s better than listening to him yell, “Murder!  Murder in the first degree!!”  So this kinder, gentler Dominic starts off saying that he’s Japanese American.

We were put in internment camps, just because of our race.  It didn’t matter if our parents were born here, or that I was born here.  My parents and grandparents were put in internment camps just because of their race.  And again – the Supreme Court said, “It’s ok.”

Donna (comes up behind him):    Honey, you are already a mom.

D:  Think about that, Brother.  Think about that Supreme Court that has made just more tragic mistakes.  This is just another mistake.

Yep, darn Supreme Court, if they hadn’t made abortion legal, no one would have one.

You might have thought I was going to write about Planned Parenthood and the continuing efforts to defund them, or how these ludicrous efforts are inciting more push back from people who might not have paid attention otherwise, or how some states are passing more restrictive laws while other states are having their restrictive laws overturned, or any of the other substantive challenges facing us.  But no.  The sidewalk is a form of the Theater of the Absurd, so:

“There is no action or plot. Very little happens because nothing meaningful can happen.”

The action on the sidewalk doesn’t meet all the criteria for Theater of the Absurd, all the time, but it comes close.  More about that another time…

What’s New on the Sidewalk?

Not much is new, really – although there’s often a surprise or two on a Saturday. This week, we had Catholics on parade, and the Archbishop was there – so they had a police motorcade – and they brought the Knights of Columbus. Someone thought they were from the Renaissance Faire, but no.


(Ten or twelve people walking down the street, the one in front carries a painting of a woman, probably representing Mary, behind her are three Knights, older men in tricorn hats with feathers, white or red capes, black suits.  At their sides, they are wearing swords.  Behind them is the Archbishop in black pants and shirt, with the touch of white clergy collar.  Behind them is a young man, casually dressed, and a few other people.  The front of a police car is visible on the far right.)

I am not trying to be snarky about the Knights but they do look a little medieval, right? And the swords might be a bit over the top. Yes, swords – see the silverish things hanging down beside them? Swords. Grown men. Broad daylight. In front of the abortion clinic.

The official mission statement for the Knights of Columbus says:

The Kentucky State Council is dedicated to growing the Order throughout the state of Kentucky to further the vision of our founder, Fr. Michael J. McGivney and the Evangelization of our Catholic Faith. The Order was founded on the principle of Charity, specifically to care for the widow and orphan of a Brother Knight. Later the principles of Unity and Fraternity, as well as Patriotism were added. The everyday actions of the State and local councils are a means for Knights to live the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. It is through the implementation of programs that exemplify these principles that the Kentucky State Council will continue to grow the Order. The State Council will lead by example and through both action and dialogue inspire its members into action.

They are not, as far as I can tell, joined by the Knights of Peter Claver which, according to Wikipedia:

“…the largest and oldest continually existent predominantly African-American Catholic fraternal organization was founded more than 100 years ago. It was formed to provide opportunities for Catholic Action to men of color to be actively involved in their faith by living the Gospel message. The Knights of Peter Claver membership now includes the entire family and offers opportunities to engage in a variety of church and community service projects and support various charitable appeals.”


But the Knights are in fine fettle, standing across the street from the abortion clinic.  I hope those swords have a dull point, like epees, but I’m not close enough to tell.  Actually that is not my thumb in the pictures here either.

(Two images, each of a man standing at attention, holding a sword up over his right shoulder.  They are wearing black hats with huge white feathers, and black suits.  The one on the left appears to be elderly and is wearing glasses and a red cape, while the one on the right is wearing a white cape and has a white mustache.) 

In other news , the ongoing conflict between our regular Catholics and the AHA people (Abolish Human Abortion) flares up today.   The Catholics, who create the gauntlet of people lining the sidewalk, mostly just say the rosary.  AHA  folks bring their microphones and preach the whole time – loudly.  Makes it difficult for the Catholics to hear themselves pray – so today, we hear a sudden blast from a referee whistle, and a lot of yelling at the preacher.  But it is just a momentary disruption and no blows are exchanged.

As I’m crossing the street with a client, one of the AHA guys joins us.  He’s wearing a microphone and actually starts broadcasting at the client as we cross the street.  That’s a first for me, and I’m sure for her too.  Doesn’t seem like you would need amplification if you’re standing right next to someone.  I’m hoping he’s not going to make a habit of it – it just seems like a new level of rude.

But lots of things are the same.  They still hang their signs on the fire hydrant – I guess they think the police just meant they couldn’t do it that one day.  Dominic still yells, “Murder – Murder in the first degree!”  Donna still gives her little hand wave, motioning for the clients to come out of the clinic.

So much happening there, it’s such a circus, and seems like such a big deal.  And then I read Ky Born’s story about her abortion experience and I’m reminded that the walk up the sidewalk is a tiny part of the “getting an abortion” process.   All this chaos is one tiny part.  That’s a good perspective to hold on to.

The Good Abortion – Part III – By KyBorn

{Part I is here; Part II is here…}

Back in the lobby,  the young man insisting his broke girlfriend have a baby they can’t feed is slouched and pouting in his chair; crossed arms, splayed leg and lower lip stuck out like a  toddler not getting dessert. I am ready to get lost in my murder mystery again when they call me back for counselling.

I don’t pay much attention. My goal is to correctly respond to this woman’s questions so I can finally get an abortion. I don’t want to get into the rape. I didn’t want to say anything that might hint I don’t want an abortion. I certainly don’t want to be sent home “to think about it.”

Then  back to the lobby for medications.  The nurse gives me 800 milligram Ibuprofen and asks me if I’m sure I don’t want the Valium most of the other women are taking.  I briefly wish I could have one of the mysterious happy pills, but even Valium isn’t worth spilling the beans to someone so I can have a companion.  With regret, I say no again.

The antis have predicted the procedure room will be filthy, with dried blood on the walls and tables, with jars of dead fetuses placed haphazardly on various counter surfaces, with unsterile instruments laying on a bedside table.  They will tell you the doctor is mean, rough, covered in blood and won’t tell you his name. He might even rape you, or slap you if you scream out in pain too loudly, because oh yes, there will be pain.

The nurse calls me back to the actual procedure room.  The table is not crusted in blood.  It has stirrups that you put your thighs in and slide down to the end of the table, instead of stirrups for your ankles like at the OB/GYN.  I am barely situated when another assistant knocks and asks if it is OK if she comes in. She’s carrying surgical instruments that have clearly just come from the autoclave. I can tell because the tape on the outside has the diagonal black stripes.

As she is laying out the surgical instruments, there is another knock on the door asking if they can come in. I say yes, hoping they will start and finish soon.  I am dreading the pain.  I feel like I did a few years earlier when I had an infected wisdom tooth.  I wanted it out so bad because it hurt, but had to take antibiotics for 10 days. I spent the whole 10 days excited to have the tooth out, but nervous about the procedure. I feel exactly that same way on the table.

There is now a doctor and another nurse in the room. She gives me a stress ball to squeeze and offers to hold my hand. I take her offer and she wraps both her hands around mine. The doctor asks if I’m sure I want to do this and I quickly say yes. I am so ready for this to be over.

The doctor tells me what he’s going to do.  Having Lidocaine shot into your cervix is about as pleasant as having it shot into your gums.  The nurse says they will explain everything as they go, and I appreciate that, but still keep trying to raise my head to see what’s going on.

I get a glimpse of the cannula.  Why do antis have these morbid fantasies about a dull suction instrument- there’s no way it could perforate a uterus, intestines and rectum.

The nurse explains that the suction machine can be loud and I may start to feel cramping, especially near the end. I am to tell her if it gets unbearable. I feel no pain when the doctor inserts the cannula. As the suction machine began running, I start to feel slight cramping in my uterus like I have with my menstrual cycle. It gradually becomes worse until it feels like the worst cramps I have ever had. Just as I tell the nurse I don’t think I can stand it and nearly squeeze her hand off, she tells me it will be over in five seconds. And it is. I don’t feel anything when they remove the cannula. The nurse tells me I can lay there as long as I want, but when I feel like it I can go to the bathroom and get dressed.

I am expecting to be bleeding profusely, after reading one too many an anti-choice site.  That stuff crawls up in your brain without you even noticing.  Another thing they swear is that after an abortion you will see baby parts floating in canisters. So I wander over to the covered canisters and peek at my products of conception. I am amazed at how much blood and tissue of mine it took to support a microscopic thing that looks like a jalepeno pepper. There are no hands, feet, ribs, head or any other identifiable body parts floating in the canister.

Pregnant, I had felt like a character in a B-grade horror movies –  knocked unconscious, placed in a coffin – still awake as the evil-doer is shoveling dirt on top of my coffin – listening as each pile of dirt marks less time I have to live. I felt that way the entire four weeks waiting for surgery and now – just as I’m gasping my last breath – the movie hero finally shows up and yanks open the casket.

I feel nothing but relief.

In recovery, I feel a little guilty for not feeling guilty.  The young woman who had been fighting with her boyfriend has found a temporary bravado and is swearing she’s leaving his ass. They give me my RhoGAM shot and discharge me with antibiotics and home-care instructions, along with a date for a follow-up exam.

I smile as I walk out to my car. I am so relieved there no protesters.  I had read about how they mob your car as you enter the parking lot. I was afraid of being filmed and somebody I knew seeing the film. When I was dealing with the rape, someone screaming, waving signs, encircling me with their friend, and calling me a murderer and whore, might have broken me.

As it is, I leave smiling with relief. I smile for the next 40 miles.  In the middle of nowhere, I realize I’m hungry.  It had been so long since I had been hungry and suddenly I was.  I drive-through at a McDonald’s at a tiny town off the interstate. Four cheeseburgers, a large order of fries and a large soda. I sit in the parking lot, eating cheeseburgers as fast as possible, and the tears finally come.

They aren’t abortion regret tears. They are tears of relief at being able to close this chapter of my life.  Sitting in my car, alternating wiping my face and stuffing more food in it, I’m sure people think I’m crazy.  It is the first time I have eaten in four weeks that I don’t puke at least part of it up.

Planned Parenthood was the only non-judgmental place I found that would perform an abortion.  I know antis hate the idea that anyone can have a good abortion experience.  But having an abortion saved my life.  Without it I wouldn’t be the person I am now.  Planned Parenthood saved my life.

The Good Abortion- Part I – by KyBorn

It is several years ago and I am living in my first apartment, a tiny starter place with three rooms and worn carpet .  I stare at the wallpaper – brown with white vines and blue roses – as I wait for the timer to go off.   The test is on my kitchen counter.

I wait, knowing I’m pregnant.   I can tell myself my period is late because of the stress of the rape and stalking; that I was never regular anyway.  But a few mornings puking when I see my co-workers eating breakfast and I know I need one of those dollar store pregnancy kits.  Will it be good news?  Or send my life spiraling off into chaos?

And the answer is –  two lines.  Two lines that will change – possibly ruin – my life.

I sit up all night crying and hyperventilating in panic.  I want to be done with thinking about the rape, not have a reminder in my uterus growing bigger by the day.  There are only two options when it comes to pregnancy – abortion or giving birth.   A person cannot “adopt” an unwanted embryo out of my uterus.  For me, abortion is the only option.

In the small town where I grew up, people don’t talk about “those sorts of things.”  There are girls in high school who are quietly spirited out of town for a few days; they return with strict instructions to pretend nothing happened. There are rumors, but nobody speaks out about having an abortion.

I live in a larger city now, and have known women who had abortions, but I hadn’t asked where they went. My OB/GYN has refused to discuss long-acting contraceptives with me because she’s sure I will want children, but I think she’s still my best choice.  Surely she can refer me to a doctor who provides abortion care.

Wrong.  I call at 8:00 AM.  The receptionist, her high-pitched voice entirely too cheerful for that time of morning, asks how she can help.  I don’t want to waste time explaining  why I want an abortion – I don’t feel like I owe people explanations.  I tell her I need a referral for abortion.  I can hear her breathing on the other end of the phone.   You would have thought I told her I wanted to build a rocket so I could go to the moon to fight the purple scorpions who had come from Uranus.   After a long pause, in a decidedly less cheerful voice, she says, “WE don’t do that here, and we don’t refer patients for THAT.”

I just hang up.

I need to find one of those Planned Parenthood places I’ve heard about.  We don’t have one in my city, but luckily, in the age of the internet, I can find contact information for the one in Big City,  in another state over 70 miles away.

I call.  Another too cheerful receptionist asks how she can help.  Again, I skip the long story and tell her I want an abortion.

This time, there is no ominous silence.  She chatters along, asking questions,  explaining that I will have to talk to the scheduler to make an appointment.  She asks me if I’m sure I’m pregnant.  I want to say, “No, not at all. I just get abortions for shit and giggles every so often,” and throw the phone.  But she’s just doing her job and being a jerk is not going to help me get an abortion.

She transfers me to the scheduler, who asks questions and explains the process.  I need proof of blood type, or they can check before the procedure, so they can administer Rho-Gam if mine is negative. They’ll check my iron level that day too. I’ll watch a film and talk to a counsellor.   Insurance does not cover abortion, she explains, and tells me the cost. Luckily, I have that amount without having to skip rent.  At least the stress of scraping together money isn’t heaped on me as it is so many other women.

And I have my appointment.

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:


(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:


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


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.