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.

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(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.”

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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:

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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.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – on the Sidewalk

A few of the escorts came up with our very own version of a Christmas carol, really just for fun.   Hope you enjoy our rendition of

The Twelve Days of Christmas – on the Sidewalk:

The lyrics go like this:

On the first day of Christmas, the antis gave to me
~ a prenatal ultrasound freeeeee

On the second day of Christmas, the antis gave to me
~~ 2 Adoptive Parents and a prenatal ultrasound freeee

It goes on, of course, and eventually, you end up with this:

12 Chasers Chasing
11 Prayers Praying
10 Liars a Lying
9 Catholics Parading
8 Cameras Flashing
7 Preachers Screaming
6 Pamphlets Waving
~~~ 5 Rosarieeeees ~~~
4 Lot Lizards
3 Fetus Dolls
2 Adoptive Parents
and a prenatal ultrasound freeee

Most of the things on our list have been mentioned in our blog – many of them repeatedly.  So unless you’re new to the world of escorting, you already know that:

Our antis are always pleading with the clients to come next door for an ulrtasound, adding in pleading tones – it’s freeee.  It is also not accepted by the clinic, and people have said that they’re not always accurate.

The antis promise the clients that there are “people waiting to adopt your baby.”

And some antis carry little plastic fetuses (fetusi??)

“Lot lizards” is what we call the antis who hang out in the parking lot behind the CPC, waiting for clients to park there, in hopes of luring them into their “clinic.”

The rest of it really is self-explanatory, except, maybe, for Catholics Parading.  Every second Saturday of the month, there’s a special mass at a church and afterwards, some of them walk down to the clinic.   Hence the term “Catholics on Parade.”

Happy Holidays!

 

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.