We Are All Emily Letts~by KYBorn

Ah, I know. It was the last thing you wanted to read. Her name is associated with being a great martyr for the pro-choice/pro-access cause, or she is the demon-come-lately to anti-choicers, a creature of the night with no soul, the high priestess of child sacrifice. Heck, I can’t even print most of the threats this woman has received. Even the most “pro-lifey” of all the “pro-lifers” on Jill Stanek’s site can’t help but comment that due to the emotional issue of abortion, death threats are to only be expected. Not sure how you file that under “pro-life,” but we all know the minds of antis are capable of the great mental gymnastics needed to justify horrible behavior in the name of Jesus.

Now, don’t worry. I’m not here to harp on about antis this week. Nor am I here to lecture pro-choicers about how they should respond to Letts’ video. The fact that I appreciate the risk she took doesn’t really have anything to do with it. The fact that, as a horribly private person the idea of having a video made of me during hugely personal moments is something that I can’t imagine. The fact that I would be far too paranoid about disease to have unprotected sex with many partners (and I have had sex with many partners) does not mean she is stupid or a whore or wrong. It means she took I risk I was unwilling to. It means she had a different opinion.

‘Will she ever get to point?’, you ask. Yes. Yes, I usually get there, but today I am going to sooner rather than later. In spite of the many ways I would have handled Emily Letts’ situation differently, I am still Emily Letts. In fact, all women are Emily Letts. Some are older. Some are younger. Some are different races. Some are anti-choice.

I am Emily Letts even though I would never want to make any sort of medical decision public. I am a private person, and the loss of that privacy would be one of the worst things I can imagine. I freak out at the idea of diseases (and this is partly due to my occupation) so that part of my story would be different. Other than that, the same old movie plot is played out over and over and over.

Women need abortion.

Women behave responsibly and need an abortion.

Women behave irresponsibly and need abortion.

A married woman had an irresponsible fling outside of marriage and needs an abortion.

A woman just loses her job and needs an abortion.

A woman needs an abortion because she doesn’t want any children.

A woman already has 5 kids and can’t afford a 6th needs an abortion.

A woman finds out her fetus is so malformed he won’t live 5 minutes, if he is born at all, needs an abortion.

A rape victim needs an abortion.

A woman whose body is worn out from childbirth needs an abortion.

A woman taking teratogens needs an abortion.

Women who are a long past child-bearing years need abortions, because losing the right to have an abortion is the first step down the slippery slope to women’s ability to control their body, to control their medical treatment, to control their own finances, to work their own jobs and to remain autonomous individuals.

When we allow the government to take away even ONE aspect of our bodily autonomy, we are allowing them to get the idea that they have title to other aspects of our private lives and the choices we make as individuals.

So while we all might not make a video about our abortions, or even tell our own abortions stories, or even be old enough or young enough to have an abortion, it doesn’t change the facts that each and every one us is Emily Letts.

 

A black glove

When I was escorting about two weeks ago a black glove was found on the sidewalk, a group of clients had just entered the clinic and at first several escorts turned to each other holding the glove and asking if any of us had lost it. No? I went inside with it to ask this time if any of the clients were missing a black glove, I held it up. No.

When I got back outside I stood in front of the doors and asked once more. Ah, yes, the protestor who is so very rude to me was the owner of the glove, “Are you sure you don’t want to just go ahead and keep it?” she sneered.

I was shocked, was I being rude? Had I inadvertently said something awful to her when offering her the glove? No. “Excuse me? What do you mean?”I said as she put on her gloves and straightened her shoulders, “Well, you know, you’re just gonna get in trouble. No good deed goes unpunished.” she said as she looked at me over her spectacles. First of all, what a terribly rude and cynical thing to say, lady, you’re looking way too much into me just giving you back what you dropped when you were harassing people and trying to hand them a tiny plastic fetus, okay?

Its important to take a breath and realize why I’m there. I’m not there to discuss politics, religion, or how to be a decent human being with protestors, I’m there for the clients. To delve so deep into the meaning of every footfall and side glance of an anti is counterproductive and unhealthy for me. That being said, if it seems to distract the antis from harassing clients even for a few minutes, then I will gladly take their negative comments.

It makes me sad though, that these people believe that evil permeates us to the point wherein common courtesy (aka returning your glove) is something unfathomable for us to do. Once again, calm down, and maybe take this basic situation as a lesson that we are not evil, and perhaps a reality check is necessary?

-Anarchist Bee

Racism and Antis

I remember when I first started escorting a little more than a year ago I was pretty shocked by the protestors, how they verbally assaulted clients made me terribly upset, and over time I’ve been able to ignore their lies. However, one thing that hits me and churns my stomach to this day is racism from the antis. “Honey,” they say  as if they are speaking to some poor, innocent, stupid, girl, “You are assisting with the holocaust of your race. Don’t you know what you’re doing to your people? Why are you here, honey? Why are you doing this? You don’t need to do this.” The HOLOCAUST of my race? There are so many problems with that statement alone! Comparing abortion to the holocaust is disrespectful to those who suffered. Furthermore, so many of the anti’s remarks are based on assumptions, they see a young woman and an older woman they assume its a “girl and her mother” or a young woman and a young man, they ASSUME he is the father. Its just ridiculous, but this assumption that they know my “race” (a meaningless term for me) is highly offensive, due to the color of my skin and my hair they feel as if somehow I’m being tricked as an African American to be on the sidewalk! That I don’t know what these terrible people are doing to MY people, its frustrating. Finally I told the greatest offender, “You know, you’re racist. You don’t know me, you don’t my “race”.”

Her response? “Well you don’t look Chinese to me. I’m not racist, look this is my adopted family.” *she pulls out a picture kept in her papers of a dark skinned family* I laughed so hard. THIS was a really great example of, “I’m not racist I have black friends.” I thought to myself. WELL, the anti next to this woman said exactly that. I laughed at their ignorance. Anyway, now both of them come up to me and stage whisper like high school girls, “She’s the one who said we’re racist, like she even knows what that means!”

The problem to me with assuming anything about “race” is that you are categorizing people, and THAT is problematic. They assume your racial background and treat you accordingly, HOW IS THAT NOT RACIST?

-Anarchist Bee

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.

Road Rally a Success!

A great time was had by all at the Kentucky Road Rally for Reproductive Rights on Saturday, November 2nd. On a beautiful fall day, we had a fantastic turnout and an awesome slate of speakers who fired up the crowd in advance of the 2014 legislative session. Truly, we could not have asked for better weather on a November weekend.
Capitol
Many thanks to all our speakers for their thoughtful words.
Road Rally Speakers
Dawn Cooley, minister at First Unitarian Church in Louisville, spoke about the intersection of faith and reproductive rights, emphasizing that the right-wing evangelicals do not possess the morality of reproductive issues.
DerekAndFrede
Derek Selznick (left), from the ACLU of Kentucky really heated up the crowd as he spoke to his experience lobbying for family-positive legislation in the Capitol, the building on which steps we rallied. F (right) spoke movingly about her abortion experience that was rife with hurdles and complications, problems arising primarily from anti-woman legislation.
ClinicEscortatRally
Michelle Kinsey Bruns joined us, who tweets as @ClinicEscort, driving from Washington, D.C. to be a part of the action. Her words about moving from compassion were a beautiful cap on the day.
Mel
We are thankful to have had media coverage from the Lexington ABC affiliate, WTVQ, and from Kentucky Public Radio, whose story can be followed on the Louisville public radio station or WKYU. It is important that our message reach both legislators and like-minded citizens.
Merch
Specifically, in Kentucky, there is an immediate concern of which to keep abreast. A longtime reproductive rights activist, Kathy Stein, has been appointed to the judiciary. Her vacant seat will be filled in a special election on December 10th. Many of our District 13/Fayette County (Lexington) allies were busy knocking on doors on Saturday, in the run-up to that special election. We are following that race closely, as Stein’s vote was often an important one in blocking anti-family, anti-woman legislation in our State Senate.
PreacherAndHerPulpit

What’s Next

Rally attendees were encouraged to return to their homes and speak out about being supporters of reproductive rights. You can join in the next steps, too!

1. Invite two or three friends for coffee or lunch and chat about an article on reproductive rights. RHRealityCheck.org is a great place to find something to talk about, as is ReproductiveRights.org or ACLU.org/reproductive-freedom.

2. From these two or three friends and you, begin an activist club, where you meet regularly to discuss articles, learn about legislation, and keep up-to-date on what’s happening in court dockets.

3. Find out who your legislator is – on the state level and the national level. How are they voting on issues about reproductive rights? Make sure your voice is heard when they have bills to consider that affect reproductive rights.

4. Keep up-to-date on bills in congress. For Kentucky, specifically, you can see what bills have been prefiled or, once the legislature is in session, what bills have been filed, what’s being heard in committee, what is being voted on, who wrote the bills, who else is sponsoring them – in other words, more information than you ever thought you could learn in one spot. By clicking on different subject headings – Women, Public Health, Children, etc – you can keep yourself informed about what our representatives in Frankfort are doing. Better yet, sign up for BILL WATCH, a service that your tax dollars are subsidizing, so, you know, use it!

5. Get involved with a local group! Find a group near you that is working on reproductive rights. The ACLU of Kentucky has an email list that will send out email blasts about pending legislation, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky is a great resource, too. There are many other groups, like the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Unitarian Univeralist Social Justice Network, and others. Many of them sponsored the rally, so be sure to check out the sponsors’ page on the website to find links to their websites.
Sara
Over the coming days and weeks, the rallly website will have a new tab for “What’s Next,” where this information, and more!, will be available. We will be posting resources to keep you informed, and ways you can link into local groups working for reproductive rights.

Let’s make 2014 the year that Kentucky families get the support they need – in comprehensive sex education, affordable and accessible contraception, access to abortion services, and family support programs – because Kentucky families deserve better!

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {5/27/13}

We watched the car pull into the monthly rental parking lot at 7a. The driver got out carrying a briefcase and purposefully started walking down the sidewalk across the street from the clinic. We continued watching as they crossed the street at the light and then approached the clinic. We joined them close to the clinic doors and guided them to the correct building.

D didn’t notice them until just before they crossed the property line. Her greeting was, “You don’t have to kill your baby today.”

When we were across the property line and close to the doors, I explained to them about when the clinic doors opened, the orange vests and protesters. Then we talked about where they were parked. The monthly rental lot will tow unauthorized cars, so we needed them to move their car to the $3 lot. I offered to walk back to the car and show them where to park and how to pay.

When we reached the car, we stood for a long time talking about what they could expect from the antis. “Will they touch me? Will they stop me? Don’t they have anything better to do? Don’t they have jobs? Why do they come out here to hurt women? ” Some of the questions answered with reassurances the antis would not stop them or touch them, but they would talk to them and try to hand them literature.

A look of apprehension crossed over their face, “Will they say worse things? That lady (meaning D) has already said horrible things to me.” I reassured them we would be there talking to minimize the words of the antis and we would get them in as quickly as possible.

We moved the car successfully to the $3 lot. I reminded them we would come get them when the doors opened and not to roll their windows down to anyone not wearing an orange vest. Before the car was turned off, another anti approached their car. The client handed me the money for parking and shut the car door while the anti was still talking. The client remained in their car while I fed the money for parking into the pay box.

Two escorts walked the client back to the clinic when the doors opened without much interference from the antis, just one anti trailing behind them who gave up after a short distance.

This never makes sense to me. How you can proclaim you “just want to help” and literally terrorize clients? We cannot stop the antis from saying words meant to hurt and shame, but when we have a client so obviously upset with their speech it is distressing to me. I find myself asking the same questions the client did.

Blog for Choice Day 2013

Every year this blog participates in NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day on the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. This year’s theme is “Tell your story about why you’re pro-choice.” This year is memorable because it is the 40th Anniversary of the decision. We are honored to participate again this year.

Since escorts in Louisville are a diverse group of individuals, we wanted to give voice to different viewpoints from everyone wanting to contribute. It has become an interesting collection of different stories.

bfcd-2013

FK

I am French but have lived in the Midwest for 6 years.  I had previously spent time in New York, and the culture shock of being in the U.S. was not really felt there.  Only when I came to Indiana and saw anti-abortion protesters marching on the town square, carrying gory, photo-shopped pictures of aborted fetuses, did I begin to realize the kind of environment in which I was living.

In 2007, while in my 1st year as a graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, I became pregnant and made the choice to have an abortion.  Soon after making that personal decision, I was faced with Indiana laws.  It first hit me when I placed a call to Planned Parenthood and, rather than being scheduled and told how to prepare, I was asked if I wanted to speak to a minister and arrange for an ultrasound, and told that by law I had to wait a minimum of five weeks — long enough for the heart to start beating.  None of it made sense to me; I had already made my decision, after much soul-searching and personal anguish.  I didn’t need help with the decision, nor did I need time to think it over.  I needed medical assistance.

I had also seen the protesters in Bloomington.  Their aggressiveness and ravings were a very real deterrent, particularly since I was feeling so vulnerable.  I had made a very personal decision, and I felt they were trying to make me feel accountable to them for it, to run a gauntlet of shame and guilt just to get to the clinic door — unless you’re lucky enough to have wonderful escorts standing by to help, like the ones here in Louisville.  So, with my very limited finances and the help of friends, I arranged a trip to Chicago, where I was still shown an ultrasound photo but was at least helped without having to clear too many other obstacles.

It was still an ordeal: I opted for mifepristone, or “the pill,” but my uterus never emptied after the misoprostol.  By that time I had returned to Bloomington and began to experience increasing pain.  I needed to visit Chicago again, a task made nearly impossible by blatantly pro-life psychiatric staff in Bloomington who, fearing I was suicidal because of their own preconceptions, locked me in isolation, gave me yet another unnecessary ultrasound, and refused medical treatment, though they were fully aware of my condition and knew that I needed immediate treatment for infection.  Only after friends in Bloomington noticed my absence and threatened legal action was I able to escape the hospital and return to Chicago for a D&C, all the while having missed classes which resulted in my being put on academic probation.

Thinking about this experience still makes me shudder, no less so since in France abortions are now free, and even in 2007, they were cheap and readily available, with no protesters or legal obstacles to cause guilt, stigma, and difficulty.  I don’t mean to glorify my country, but I did take my freedom of choice for granted in France, and only after my ordeal in the U.S. did I realize how dearly I cherish it.  I think also about the gender biases inherent in the whole abortion discussion, and in society in general, about how we glorify the “self-made man,” never leaving room for the self-made woman.  How can there be such a thing when she is required to carry a child, but there is no requirement to support her when she does?

In the end, I feel I was lucky.  Many other women succumb to stigma and pressure from those around them, in spite of their own feelings and misgivings.  I had enough support, and I felt empowered enough, that I was able to take control of my life.  I still plan to have a family, albeit under different, better circumstances, after I have achieved the means and the stability to raise children with all the opportunities they need and deserve.  My life, and my children’s lives, would be much different, had I not had the freedom granted by Roe v. Wade.

Ampelio

Because I believe in democracy.

Kescort

“Pro-Choice”, to me, sounds like “Pro-Gravity.” Self-determination, especially in an arena as personal as parenting, simply IS. Laws can pass, obstacles erected, dogmas cast, social memes evoked. When, if, and how often someone becomes a mother has always, is now, and will forever be, that person’s choice.

I escort at the local clinic, contribute to our local A-Fund, hound my representatives to stop anti-access legislation because safe, unobstructed reproductive health care is healthy and humane. And the State and churches ought to be concentrating their efforts on bigger issues in which their influence may actually bring about some good.

And I am optimistic that this day is coming. Because unsupported beliefs in such things as “one-right-way” fall just as sure as unsupported objects fall to the centre of the Earth.

MMS

There was a confluence of factors that caused me to embrace Choice. Strong women in my family. Vatican II which threw open the doors and windows of the Roman Catholic Church to winds that buffeted the rigid patriarchal dogma and tradition. The righteous, confrontational actions of the Civil Rights heroines and heroes. The writings and speeches of the feminists in the late 60s and early 70s. My partner who supported the evolution of my belief in the absolute right of every woman to determine what happens to her body.

Servalbear

When I first thought about the subject for this year’s Blog for Choice, I started trying to remember when I knew terminating a pregnancy could be an option. It is a subject I have difficulty separating from when I first felt passionately about women’s rights. From my first awareness of the double standard applied to men and women in assessing blame for unwanted pregnancies (woman=slut/bad; man=boys will be boys/couldn’t help themselves) to today, I have constantly reacted with, “It’s not fair.” What is fair is access to reproductive choices for everyone. Only the one with the potential to be pregnant or carrying a pregnancy knows the right decision for them. We need to fight for access to whatever that decision might be..

PG

How could I not be pro-choice?  In 1945 my younger sister was born, and my mother nearly died.  Doctors told her she was not in good enough physical condition to ever have had babies.  But they refused to sterilize her.  What was she to do, a married woman with two young children, terrified she would get pregnant again?   Doctors had no solution for her.  So when abortion was legalized in 1973, I was so glad, and thought it was a whole new world for women and our reproductive issues.  It was good to know my two daughters would have control over their own bodies.   Little did I know that 40 years later we would be fighting to keep these rights for our health and our lives.  We somehow need to make the general public aware of the dangers of women losing their reproductive rights.

FML

I’ve written before here about my reasons – girls I knew in high school, women when I was a young mother.  Yesterday, at an abortion speak-out I heard twenty amazing stories of why women chose to abort a pregnancy.  Each of the stories by itself was a compelling argument for access to abortion.  Combined, it was almost overwhelming.  If I multiply that by all the women who have their own stories, their own compelling reasons,  then it’s clear.  Abortion IS a woman’s decision.  We must keep it legal and safe.

Mississippi

In September 2011, Operation Save America* started their States of Refuge* campaign. The stated goal was “…to establish the first abortion free states since Roe vs. Wade.”* The targeted states were those with only one abortion clinic at the time. This included Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. With help from anti-abortion legislators, they are nearing their goal in Mississippi.

Center for Reproductive Rights has detailed the fight over a TRAP law that might close the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in January 2013.

  • House Bill 1390, which was signed into law on April 16 and partially blocked by a federal judge in July 2012, imposes medically unwarranted requirements that any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.
  • Although all the doctors currently providing abortions to women at the Mississippi clinic are board-certified ob-gyns, the physicians responsible for the lion’s share of the clinic’s patients have not been granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area. In fact, several of the hospitals refused to even process the physicians’ applications, citing their biased policies and practices towards abortion care.
  • To quote several hospitals’ letters refusing to process applications submitted by the physicians at JWHO: “The nature of your proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions; … [and] The nature of your proposed medical practice would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital’s function and business within this community.”
  • In his July 2012 order, U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III allowed the law to take effect, but blocked the state from imposing any criminal or civil penalties on the clinic, its staff, or its physicians for providing services to women while the application process was ongoing. The state Department of Health gave JWHO until January to show that all physicians “associated with” the clinic have admitting privileges at a local hospital. “

This is the ultimate Catch 22 for the providers. Dr.Willie Parker is one of the board-certified ob/gyns who provides abortions at Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He is quoted as saying:

  • “I have dedicated half of my 20-year career to ensuring women have access to the full range of reproductive health care services—because when women get the medical care they need, they thrive,” said Dr. Willie Parker, a board-certified ob-gyn with admitting privileges at local hospitals in both Maryland and Virginia. Dr. Parker currently provides reproductive health care services to women in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Operation Save America* had a lot of help from Mississippi state legislators in bringing the only clinic in Mississippi to the brink of closing. One of them garnered national attention with this statement:

  • State Representative Bubba Carpenter recently told a group of local county Republicans that “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and that “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

Robin Marty has written several articles for RH Reality Check concerning the state of siege in Mississippi. The most recent article included an interview with Dr. Parker who described the anti-abortion protesters in front of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

  • There are episodic periods at other clinics, like the 40 Days, or when people bus in kids, bring in religious youth groups, or have other organized activities where those who don’t normally get the chance to demonstrate their opposition to abortion on a regular basis. But those activists in Mississippi probably feel like they are as close as they have ever been to achieving their goal of shutting down the clinic and making Mississippi an abortion free state. I would say that there is more sense of fervor and sense that victory is just around the corner. In that way, there is a bit more of a targeted effort in Mississippi. But given that there is only one clinic, and people have always been able to target on that one clinic, I think that in other places where there is more than one clinic and people are trying to coordinate activity, in Mississippi there seems to be more of a sense of urgency and a sense of the potential to prevail.
  • The protesters are acting under the impression that the closing of the clinic is a done deal. As it gets closer, they are certainly tracking things. They seem to feel that they need to agitate now to push the law forward and that seems to animate them.

The protesters are getting more aggressive and more vocal as the January deadline nears. Operation Save America* is so sure the clinic is closing, they are calling for its followers to protest abortion and witness this historic first “State of Refuge” on January 22, 2013, the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade. They will be present at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization instead of going to Washington, DC in January.

Where can the clients in Mississippi go if this clinic closes? We know blocking access to abortion does not reduce the need for abortion. If the clinic closes, the clients will face arranging transportation to adjacent states for abortions. They will have to navigate the restrictions and waiting periods in those states. Many will not be able to afford the trip, the time off from work and the financial burdens this closing will impose upon them.

Words fail me. My thoughts are with the staff and physicians trying to provide needed healthcare to clients in the State of Mississippi. It is with immense respect that I follow news of their dedication and continued fight to keep the only abortion clinic in Mississippi open.

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*All links to anti-abortion websites have been omitted purposely. Please use Google or message us separately if you would like a citation for sources.

Words Still Matter

A little over a year ago I wrote an article on this blog titled “Words Matter.” Since we have so many new escorts on the sidewalk, I thought it would be nice to revisit this post.

The article was generally giving tips to new escorts on how to approach and talk to clients. It stressed how we say things and that the words we use when escorting are very important. Some of my words have been adjusted a little bit over time and with experience, but the importance of what words we use remains the same.

We have about 30 seconds to identify ourselves and gain consent to escort. We can completely negate why we are there if we approach a client angry or unsure. We can completely undermine our purpose if we use the wrong words.

If we are seen to be in friendly conversation with the antis right before we approach a client, it makes it harder for them to determine if we are separate groups. ‘If you are friendly with a protester, how can I trust you?’ Conversely, if we are engaged in an argument with the antis before, during or shortly after escorting a client it adds to the stress level for clients, companions and other escorts.

We are all strangers to the clients and companions. We can have the best intentions in the world, but that will evaporate if we do not focus on only the client when we escort. After all, the purpose of our presence is to support and create space for clients to be empowered while going to their doctor’s appointment. The client experience is the goal.

Every escort uses the words they are most comfortable with to talk to clients. They tailor what they say to the client and the situation. There is no script. Flexibility and an awareness of the client are what determine what is said.

There are some things we all use with variations. This isn’t an all-inclusive list of tips, but it does include some key points to keep in mind while escorting. The client will have a lot of things on their minds. We need to make our statements as brief and clear as possible.

Tips for Things to Say-

  • Abortion – This is not a dirty word. One of the reasons we are there is to normalize and de-stigmatize abortion services. We can use the word. Some escorts approach clients and say, “Are you going to the surgery clinic?” or “Are you going to the abortion clinic?” Either question quickly establishes you are there to escort them to the EMW Women’s Surgical Center and not the CPC.
  • Anti-Abortion – This is used to describe A Woman’s Choice and the protesters. “This is an anti-abortion clinic” and “The protesters are anti-abortion.”
  • May I?/Would you like?-We always ask for consent to escort when we approach a client. “May I escort you?” or “Would you like me to walk with you?” or some variation of asking them if they want an escort. This is also used to ask permission for other things during the walk, such as permission to jaywalk or move a particular way.
  • Permission to be rude-As you begin your walk, letting a client know they do not have to answer or talk to antis is important. Most people are naturally polite. ‘This is the only place you can be rude and it is ok. You don’t have to talk to the protesters or take their handouts.’ There is a visible relief from a lot of clients when this is said.
  • Protesters – Describing the antis as protesters is clear to the client. We call them antis, but unless the client is familiar with abortion blogs they will probably need an explanation of what we are talking about when we just use the word antis.

Tips for Things to Avoid Saying-

  • Abortionist-This is what the antis call the physician who will perform an abortion. It is meant to be insulting and it is. Using this term implies the surgeon is not a fully licensed OB/GYN physician and only concentrates on abortions.
  • Fake Clinic-AWC clinic is licensed as a Special Health Clinic by the State of Kentucky. It is a fake clinic because they try to lure clients into AWC to delay or prevent an abortion. Any medical information they gather from a client or tests they run are not covered by HIPAA regulations. They don’t tell the truth about their purpose and misrepresent themselves to clients all of the time. The main reason to not call them a fake clinic is because the antis will argue loudly with you every time you say it. This puts the client in the middle of an engagement between an escort and anti. Technically, they are licensed as a health clinic so they are a real clinic. They are an anti-abortion clinic. This is a description that no anti has argued with when said by an escort. They can’t argue with that fact.
  • Liars/Lies/Lying-This is a hard one to avoid. We hear a lot of lies told by the antis about abortion, the clinic, their clinic and escorts. It is best to avoid responding to them. Again, the client does not know any of us. They don’t know the antis telling them, “These escorts are lying to you.” They don’t know the escorts telling them, “All the protesters are telling you lies.” The client has already done their research about abortion and have made the decision to have one. No matter who says what on the sidewalk, engaging in trying to refute statements made by the antis just adds more chaos.
  • ‘We work for the clinic.’ No, we don’t. We are volunteers who escort clients past protesters to the clinic doors.

When you ask anyone who has been escorting awhile, they can add other tips to these lists. They are by no means all inclusive.

All of the above tips can be boiled down to a few statements:

  • Focus on the clients.
  • Ignore the antis.
  • Keep it as simple as possible without having long explanations.
  • Always tell the truth without exaggerating.
  • Always speak softly and calmly.