A Study in Sidewalk Counseling

Before I started escorting, I always viewed the word “counseling” in a positive light. The advice of a knowledgeable expert to assist in coping with life events is positive. Counseling to me implies an impartial, truthful examination of facts from someone with training to help.

Now, I always have a negative reaction as soon as I hear the word “counseling” because I think of the antis and their sidewalk counseling. Like so many terms, they were purposeful in their choice to describe their actions. They have taken a positive word and changed its meaning, like “choice” was made to mean something negative when they use the word. Instead of a positive outcome for the clients and companions “counseled” by the antis on the sidewalk, there is a heaping on of incorrect information, shame, blame and judgment. If any of the clients do not take their advice, the antis turn from gentle words to ones meant to hurt.

Sometimes escorts just watch and listen. We are able to pick up a lot of details without interfering with a client’s actions or decision. There are times it is hard to stand by passively, but when action would only add to the chaos surrounding a client, we wait for a signal they need our assistance. We do not interfere when clients or companions want to talk to the antis. Firm belief in every person’s right to make their own decisions helps us to be witnesses instead of participants.

There was a morning last month escorts were witnesses. The sidewalk drama played out before us for almost 30 minutes. It was a study in how “sidewalk counselors” work.

This story started with the client and a companion pulling to the curb around 715a. We approached and said our normal statements about going to the abortion clinic and explained our orange vests. The reaction from the companion was not friendly, but they listened and decided to park in the $3 parking lot. We let them know we would come get them when the doors opened.

Around 730a a companion parked in the AWC lot. An escort asked if this young man was looking for someone going to the EMW clinic. He answered yes and stopped to talk to the four AWC staff in their parking lot to greet him. An escort overheard part of their conversation and apparently the client and he were in AWC until 5p the day before. He hurried to the entrance of EMW saying, “She’s in there.” All four of the AWC staff followed him.

At the same time, escorts were walking the client and her companion to the door of the clinic. They met at the door. The young man grabbed the client’s arm and tried to hold her back from entering. The companion who had come with the client, pulled her other arm and got her into the clinic door. The young man followed them into the sign-in area. The entire time the four AWC staff were standing at the property line saying, “You don’t have to go in there. Your mother can’t make you do this. Come out and talk to us.”

After a short time, the young man came back to the AWC staff standing at the property line. All four of them were talking to him. “Pull her out of there. What they are doing is illegal. It is illegal to coerce someone into killing their baby. Go tell her they are breaking the law.” He went back into the clinic.

This was repeated four times with variations in the words, but the meaning was the same. The escorts watching were treated to “You say you are pro-choice, but you are only pro-death,” comments when they were waiting for him to come back out.  The last time he came back out, the clients had already gone back for counseling by the EMW staff. During all of this, the EMW staff allowed him to talk to the client and escorts didn’t interfere with his entrances and exits from the building.

The staff of AWC know, or should know, the trained staff of EMW counsels each individual client to make sure they aren’t being forced into their decision. They will turn clients away if they are not sure or if there are questions about coercion.

This morning will always be engraved by two snapshots in my mind of the people involved. The first is of the client pulling away from the young man, tears in her eyes and repeating, “No. I want to do this.” The second is of the young man, head down and shoulders slumped, facing the sidewalk counselors as they walked away from him saying, “You didn’t try hard enough.”

We need to call them something other than “counselors.”

First Impressions ~ by Anonymous

I felt pretty comfortable today and as I reflected back on what I heard and saw, the best comparison I can seem to come up with is used-car salesmen and/or pushy shop owners in the cruise ships foreign ports of call.

Car salesmen are trying to sell you an idea/product/service that you have no interest in. They are using repetitive streams of words to overwhelm your senses and put doubt in the choice that you have thought over, researched, and know is the correct one for you at this time. Be it something as simple as XM Radio, alloy wheels and road hazard coverage, or something as personal as the decision to end a pregnancy.

The pushy shop owners comparison is when upon finding out that you are not interested in what they are selling and pass it up, they then attempt to heap words of guilt, shame, regret, etc. on you in an effort to make a sale of something that you don’t want because the sale suits their need, cause, agenda.  Hoping that the stinging words will have an effect on your emotions and override the hard thought you have put into whatever choice you have decided upon. Again, be it Mexican coffee, trinkets, woven blankets or a reproductive decision.

I have had shop owners shout “CHEAP LADY” at me in ports of call as I walked past and would not cave into to going to look at or buy something in their shops.  I have also had used-car salesmen try and talk me out of a standard shift car telling me that they can be too tricky to drive in city traffic, or that as a woman I would be better off with full-coverage roadside protection for my safety.  “Silly them,” I think laughing inwardly. They don’t know me at all.  I don’t buy overpriced junk made in China at tourist traps and I can drive a variety of vehicles, including a stick-shift Dodge dually-diesel pickup,  through city traffic, I see myself having no problem with a 5-speed Honda sedan. My Dad taught me how to change a tire, so covered there too!

The thing that sticks out in my mind as being at the top of my list is, “You have not seen my life through my eyes. DO NOT try to put yourself in MY shoes. Your feet and your views are not a good fit.”    As I remember back when I had an abortion, I am glad the few protesters that I encountered only held up signs and prayed quietly and did not approach me.  If they had, I am sure that I would have been more upset and scared then I already was.  I would have loved to have had someone like the escorts I have met to hold my hand and walk me to the door.

I am glad to have met a like minded, strong group of people like those who come out to escort in Louisville.

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 

 

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First Time Escort – by Tom

My wife has been a clinic escort for over a year. She has helped with new escort training several times, and she discusses with me her experiences as a clinic escort, telling me how various “regulars” among the anti-abortion crowd act and react and how escorts, clients, and client companions manage themselves in what can be a tense environment.

In our discussions, I find that my first reactions to envisioned scenarios are sometimes good, and sometimes not so effective, in light of the primary mission in the Points of Unity the escorts agree to follow: It’s not about escalating. It’s not even about me, or any escort or anti-abortion protester. It’s about providing the space for clients to follow their decision through, with the underlying assumption being that clients have considered their options well enough to make their own decision. The hows and whys of their decision, just like the decision itself, is their own business, to be shared only with people they trust.

Of course, this also means that to focus on the clients, there is no time or space to judge the protesters. They have their own reasons for being there, most often based in their religious belief systems. That I do not share the specifics of their belief hierarchy is irrelevant. They are still people. As discussed later this morning, if calamity were to strike, I would do what I could to help them.

But I digress. Often. You’ve been warned.

I know myself well enough to realize that I would have to be VERY careful if I were to volunteer on the sidewalk. I am too ready to escalate in general. Even so, I have wanted to be there, to see first-hand the intensity, the individuals I hear of by nickname and actions only, and to help.

So, this morning, I went. It’s Easter weekend, a time crucial to the central belief of many Christians, so it was expected that there would be extra and extra-loud anti-abortionists on hand. As it turns out, the call went out via many electronic avenues, and we had students from the University of Louisville Medical School, other college students, and many other folks come out to wear orange vests. I don’t know how many orange vests were in use—one count was in the upper forties, and more people came afterward. I’ve seen posts claiming that sixty or more escorts were on hand—a reality commented upon by a couple of the anti-abortionists, who may or may not have cared that I heard them claiming to each other that our huge turnout was an indication of our concern over the power of their message. Delusions abound.

With all that extra staffing, we had the luxury of posting several volunteers across the entryway to the clinic. We were a moveable wall—tasked with keeping antis from blocking access to the clinic building, moving out of the way when clients and client companions arrived.

It was pretty easy duty, really. Stand there and let the preachers preach, let the antis spew their religious silliness. At times, move aside to allow passage by clients, client companions, and an occasional escort.

Yes, I was more than once reminded of scenes in movies in which drill instructors yell at recruits during boot camp, with the recruits required to stand at attention and all but ignore the verbal abuse. Some of the antis even tried to shame us, speaking derisively of our humanness, calling us names, telling us that their god was going to punish us for our wicked evil abetting of the abortion mill. And then in the next breath telling us that if we confess to their god, and ask forgiveness, we could enter heaven after all. Such hypocrisy. Such ludicrousness.

A couple years ago, I read the book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture, by Darrel W. Ray. The base premise of the book is that an apt metaphor for religion is found in the study of virology. Others have used the expression “thought virus” to describe other applications of the analogy, and I find the expression apt. The idea is that once a thought virus gets into one’s head, it’s exceedingly difficult for a thought counter to the original to take root. It’s hard for someone indoctrinated in religion to see an atheistic viewpoint as even being an acceptable alternative to belief in his or her god. Scripture makes use of this, even without formally recognizing it, when it has passages that demonize those of us who don’t believe.

Of course, it could be viewed in reverse: Those of us who have been “inoculated” against the virus don’t get absorbed into it. Speaking from personal experience, I simply find the reliance on the religious person’s god to be speaking of some imaginary friend, like Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. It’s hard for me to imagine believing in what seems horrendously illogical to me. The hubris in saying that no matter what our sins, the Christian God will forgive if we but ask is astonishing to me. That some sidewalk preacher dares to condemn me to his version of hell, not having any idea who I am or what I do is an insult. It’s meant to bother me.

But, because I have the secret weapon of knowledge of the concept of thought viruses, I am able to let his vitriol go on by me. I am able to focus on keeping my place, keeping my awareness on my surroundings so that I can alert my colleagues that clients are coming our way and that we need to be ready to make room for them to pass into the building.

A couple hours after things settled down, after the group breakfast, after some errand-running with another escort to collect her bicycle, and after starting to type out my thoughts, I realized that the antis were giving me a lot of power over themselves. Because I was able to let their words go by me without effect, they got angrier and more strident in their word choices.By giving me this power, they in effect empowered me to be a better volunteer, and do a better job for the clients and their companions.

I say this because one in particular spent some time in front of a group of us, deriding us, mocking us, telling us we must have been “real men” to stand up to a woman haranguing clients in front of an “abortion mill.” He went on and on, talking about how he imagined us being really proud that we were abetting the killing of babies and all the guilt-trip words he added to that. We mostly ignored him, until he called us weasels. One of our group piped up with “Can I be an otter instead?” which prompted me to chime in with “I’ll be a ferret! People treat pet ferrets quite well!” The guy walked away, disgusted that he couldn’t upset us. He came back a couple times, trying again to shame us, without success. He gave us the power to disgust him with our indifference to his snide remarks. Again and again.

Other of their ilk preached for a bit at us, or more accurately, at each other for my amusement, then moved on to preach at other vaguely-human forms wearing orange vests or clients or anyone who would listen.

A snippet, because I enjoyed seeing it happen: At one point, a fellow escort was standing beside me, and one of the more vocal preachers was haranguing people who had walked into the building. Because the preacher’s words were having less than the desired effect, he focused his attention on my fellow escort, who was at times smirking at the lunacy of the vitriol. “You mock me! You dare to mock me as I speak the word of God! You dare to mock me!” the preacher shouted.

The escort’s response? Indifference, in the main. An occasional chuckle. He removed his glasses to clean the spittle from them, put there by the preacher as he shouted his anger at having a less-than-desired effect on the escort’s mien. My fellow escort and I chuckled to each other soon after the preacher’s departure.

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REMINDER: If you are interested in escorting, don’t forget the training on Saturday, April 13th at 9A.  Training is not required, but it’s helpful. Please see our Trainings for Escorts page or email us for additional information

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

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Little Lies

I want to start by stating the obvious: there are wide divisions between antis and escorts in our beliefs. Escorts believe in a person’s choice for abortion. Antis believe no one should choose abortion ever. Escorts believe in not making judgments about people they meet at the clinic. Antis judge everyone on the sidewalk. Escorts believe in telling the truth to clients and companions. Antis lie about almost everything in order to coerce clients into their CPC.

This story may seem frivolous or petty. I admit I think it is on one level. It does point out the wide gulf between  the escorts and antis on even small, everyday situations.

There were only two escorts to begin this day and about 9 protesters. When we got out of our cars as the first clients arrived, the other escort started to the $3 lot and I talked to a client at the curb. While walking to a second car pulling to the curb, I saw a glove on the sidewalk. Not knowing who of the many people on the sidewalk it belonged to, I carefully draped it on the rim of a wrought iron cage for a trash receptacle near where I found it; about 30 feet from the clinic door. It was in plain sight there and would not get dirty. I saw D stand directly in front of the cage for the trash receptacle for a full minute, looking down at the spot where I had placed the glove, before moving to one of the cars I had just spoken to.

The first clients had been approached and more escorts showed up when the first escort told me they had lost their glove. Delighted I had found it, I told her what I had done with it. When we checked, the glove was gone. It wasn’t in the trash. It was just gone.

I told the escort I had seen D look at the glove and suggested maybe she picked it up. The escort asked D if she found a glove. The answer was, “No, I didn’t see a glove.” About 5 minutes later, the glove turned up. It was draped on top of the fire hydrant directly in front of the clinic doors.

I cannot prove D placed it there since I didn’t see her do it, but proximity to both sites the glove was draped seem to circumstantially indicate she saw it, picked it up, and then placed it somewhere else we were sure to see.

Lying seems to be so automatic with D that even a simple non-confrontational question is met with a lie, even when the truth would not cause any controversy. “Yes, I saw a glove on the trash container,” or “Yes, I found a glove. Is this yours?” No real need to get in a long discussion with an escort, but her first response was to just lie.

I thought of all the times when we have found things dropped by antis on the sidewalk and made an effort to return it to them. We have even given D hand warmers she has dropped.

What motivates someone to tell lies about little things? Is it justified because we are “evil deathscorts”? Is there any way we could believe D on any comment she makes? I confess, if she told me the sky was blue, I would look up to verify it.

Escorts are not saints. We come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse personalities. What we do have in common is that we are people trying to do the best we can to make a space for clients to go to the doctor. We have our Points of Unity to guide us and try to follow them. One of the points is about being honest and transparent.

I wonder if we could get the antis to agree on Points of Unity for their sidewalk protests. Honesty, transparency, de-escalating? Yes, I know I am dreaming.

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You too can be an escort!!

Come to the training Saturday, April 13!!

9 a.m. ~ breakfast and good times.

Training is not required, but it’s helpful. Please see our Trainings for Escorts page or email us for additional information.

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 

 

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Just There to “Help Women?”

This is a video i took last Saturday.

 

Up til now, I’ve been hesitant about posting some of these videos.  I don’t particularly want the protesters to post videos of us on their websites, so  I’ve been a bit careful here.  But if we want to push for a buffer zone or a bubble law, then I think people need to see the unvarnished version of Days on the Sidewalk.

The men featured in this brief clip are well-known to us – Tim and Ron.  I’ve decided to use the names that we know them by ~ I don’t actually know if those are their given names, or just ones we’ve used to identify them.  For some time now, Servalbear and I had been using initials for the protesters, but that’s kind of pointless too.  Whether I call him “R” or Ron, his actions are the same.  However, I won’t publish both first and last names, even if I know them.

The clip starts with Tim yelling at the clinic windows, as the antis so often do, promising the clients the moon if they’ll come out.  Scholarships to UL, places to live, the job they’ve always wanted.  I would be more impressed with that if I hadn’t heard that the benefits only last as long as the pregnancy, and that once the baby’s born, they disappear into thin air, rather like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.

Than we move to Ron, who’s right in front of the clinic door.  A member of the clinic staff is standing in the doorway.  You can’t see her, but he’s talking to her and a couple of escorts. Ron is the one who thought we should give him some of our ginger snaps a couple of weeks ago.  The person he addresses as “Weasel” is one of our escorts.  Tim joins him to help harass the clinic staff person.

While I was watching them, I kept thinking, “And they claim to be here to ‘help women?’   This is an odd way to do it.”  There are no women being helped in this video…  In fact, all of the clients are already in for the morning, and they can barely hear people yelling at the window.

And of course, while i’m videoing them, some of the antis are videoing me. Sigh.  That’s fine.  I can live with that.

VAWA versus NASCAR

We collectively breathed a sigh of relief after the election. Barack Obama won another term. A record number of women were elected to Congress in both houses. It still isn’t 50% of the representatives, but progress was made. Maybe we can relax and the War on Women will be a historic footnote.

You might  think the forward motion and election returns would diminish the anti-women rhetoric and some positive changes in human and reproductive rights would move forward. You might think that, but you would be incorrect. The first bill introduced to the 113th Congress was presented by Michelle Bachmann. It was a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act; even though similar bills have been voted on and defeated 33 times by the 112th Congress.  I for one, do not hold a lot of hope for forward motion in these issues this year.

The 112th Congress left unfinished business. They were too busy fighting over the Fiscal Cliff deals to consider the bills for relief funding for Hurricane Sandy victims or the Violence Against Women Act.

There have been really a lot of articles written since April about the VAWA. The bi-partisan revised act passed by the Senate in April was written to include LGBT, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans. The revision was too controversial for House Republicans. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor described the revisions as “issues that divide us,” and the House revised the bill to exclude those groups of people. And then it languished; pushed aside for other issues.

The VAWA expired on January 1, 2013 for the first time since 1994 when it was first enacted. People for the American Way simply state:

  • Now the new Congress will have to start the process of reauthorizing VAWA all over again. Until they do, women across the country will be left without the safety net that VAWA provides.

What has funding the VAWA actually done since 1994? The National Network to End Domestic Violence has a detailed breakdown on their website about what the funding has covered. It covers multiple services to victims, training for detection and prevention, prosecution, transitional housing, childcare, and workplace response training. This statement particularly caught my attention:

  • Programs are reporting significant increases in requests for help including crisis calls to hotlines, relocation assistance, counseling, shelter beds, legal services, transitional housing and childcare.  The National Census of Domestic Violence Services found that on one day in 2010, over 70,500 adults and children in America received support and services from local domestic violence programs.  Yet, on that same day, over 9,500 requests for services went unmet because of a lack of resources.  Every day, shelters and service providers must turn away victims and families in danger.  When victims take the difficult step to reach out for help, many are in life-threatening situations and must be able to find immediate safety and support.  Given the dangerous and potentially lethal nature of these crimes, we cannot afford to neglect victims.  Federal funding is now more essential than ever to ensure that programs across the country can keep the lights on, answer crisis calls, and provide essential services for victims fleeing violence.

As of today there is no official funding for those services, but some funding will continue through appropriations. There will be no funding available for improvements or the expanded coverage of LGBT, Native Americans and undocument immigrants. The 70,500 calls placed in 2010 could go unanswered in 2013.

Do we really need VAWA and those services? One article I read argued there would be coverage by other laws in existence, such as assault, murder, or kidnapping. However, since the VAWA has been enacted in 1994 (pdf) there has been a reduction of violence by 63% and an increase in reporting by 51% for women and 37% for men. The act is directly responsible for these changes.

  • VAWA has been the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in this country.”-Debbie Segal, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence

One article on the history and impact of the VAWA is by Abigail Collazo published on January 3, 2013. It is thorough and she states about the refusal to vote on the act:

  • “And like the rest of society, the House of Representatives chose to not provide additional help and support to female survivors of violence for one reason – they don’t recognize it as a real problem.”

There has been no truce declared in the War on Women. If anything, the war has been expanded to include other groups.

What about the groups that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor feels are too divisive to include in the act? Doesn’t everyone deserve the right to protections from domestic violence? Who decides which person is “deserving” and which is not? Eric Cantor? Tea Party Republicans?

The Atlantic offers this idea for the failure to vote on the Senate version of the VAWA.

  • They may not realize that American Indian women are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime as the general population, but less likely to find an attorney willing to take their sexual assault case. They could be unaware that incidents of LGBT intimate partner violence increased by 18 percent in 2011, and people of color within that group were nearly four times as likely to experience physical violence.

While they did not have time to consider the VAWA, the 112th Congress was able to insert tax loopholes for favored corporations inside the Fiscal Cliff bill. One in particular caught my eye:

  • One of the more unusual tax benefits in the fiscal cliff legislation is a longstanding carve-out for racetracks used by NASCAR.
  • Supporters in Congress and industry groups have argued that the tax break is necessary to “maintain the current standard expected by our competitors and fans.” According to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the so-called NASCAR loophole will cost taxpayers $46 million this year and an additional $95 million through 2017.

How many calls and services could enactment of VAWA provide with the accelerated depreciation given to NASCAR? What about the other corporate perks placed in the Fiscal Cliff bill at the behest of lobbyists? Saving lives is not a priority with the current members of Congress.

My thoughts keep going to the thousands of unanswered calls and victims with no place to turn for help. We need to demand better from our government. I encourage you to sign petitions, call your congressional representatives and make our voices heard.

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REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

Little Choices

Escorts try to follow our Points of Unity every time we are on the sidewalk. We aren’t perfect so sometimes we follow them imperfectly, but we always try.

FML has been writing thorough articles to break down what the Points of Unity really mean in practice. I have been thinking a lot about the explanations for the first two.

  • Escort must gain consent from every client every time.
  • On a concrete level, this means that every time I approach a car with a client in it, I say something like, “Hi, I’m a volunteer with the clinic.  Would you like us to walk with you?”
  • Escorts are present to support people and create space for them to be empowered while accessing reproductive healthcare.
  • Whatever we say, with our physical presence, and with our words, we create space that helps put distance between them and the protesters.
  • And the point of putting space there, the point of putting space between the client and the protesters, is not to protect, to rescue, or to defend.  The point of putting space is so the clients themselves can be empowered.

The first one of gaining consent to talk and walk with a client is an easy one to always get right. It becomes part of the first things we say when we greet clients. When we are told, “No,” we walk away.

The second point is a little trickier for me. Our presence on the sidewalk creates space, but we try to find the words to say that empower a client. How do you empower clients in just a few minutes walking on the sidewalk past antis wanting to distract?  In my opinion, it starts with little choices.

‘Where do we park?’ is met with two choices. ‘You can park here at the meter or across the street in the public parking lot. You can decide which you prefer.’ We follow up with details of cost and time.

‘The clinic isn’t open yet, but you can wait by the door or you can wait in your car and we will come get you when it is open.’

When we are walking across the street from the public lot, ‘Would you mind if we jaywalk across the street or would you prefer to cross at the light?’

When we are walking clients from the covered parking lot, ‘We can go two ways. We can cut through these buildings or walk around on the sidewalk.’

‘Will protesters hurt or touch me?’ This is always answered, ‘No,’ but then we give the client the choice to talk to antis or not. ‘They will talk to you and try to hand you literature. You can talk to them if you like or you can just ignore them.’

You will notice my examples all contain two choices. More choices become confusing in a stressful situation. If we gave clients five choices, they wouldn’t be thinking about the antis as much but they also would have too much information to process in a short period of time. This can add to their stress and confusion instead of empowering them.

Every little choice adds to the empowerment of the client. It is their appointment with the clinic and they are deciding the details of the visit. It is surprising, or not, how these little decisions will add to the client’s confidence. They add space and empowerment for them.

At the same time we are giving the client these little choices, we shouldn’t be asking them questions all of the time we are interacting. Smiling and talking about neutral subjects are a way to create space for the client. I have been known to talk about traffic, weather, sidewalk conditions, road construction, movies, how much I would like a cup of coffee, city events scheduled for the day, or anything interesting we see on the sidewalk as we walk to the clinic.

Like the article says, “The point of putting space is so the clients themselves can be empowered.”

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {07/02/12}

Have we mentioned it is never a good idea to engage with antis? At least 1,000 times? Even if it doesn’t have anything to do with abortion? It never is. I’m constantly reminded of this non-engagement fact.

We were standing by the clinic entrance and the antis were lining up on the property line. One of the men who regularly comes out on Saturday took his position right beside me.

He pointed to another man walking the sidewalk and started telling me about his friend who was stung by a bee right beside his eye. They were cleaning out around some bee hives and the man was stung while he was mowing around the hive. I commented, “That’s sounds really painful.” “Yes, it is. I’ve been stung before too. You know, it is only the female bees that sting?” This last was said with a laugh.

He liked his joke so well, he started repeating it to all of the antis standing on the property line. The other antis “got” the joke and laughed along with him.

The point of the joke? Females=bad. Sigh. This thought even carries over to the insect world.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {6/25/12}

The car pulled to the curb after the doors of the clinic had opened.  I approached the client and companion to ask if they wanted us to escort them.

The client said they just wanted to sit there a minute and talk, saying, “We may have a change of heart and want to talk to the other clinic.” I let them know that was fine and pointed out the AWC building before walking away.

This scenario happens in slightly different ways occasionally. Clients will tell us, ‘We want to just sit here and talk for awhile.’ They tell us when they are ready to walk to the clinic or they may talk to the staff of AWC.

We do not interfere in these conversations with antis. We back away until they indicate they want to talk to us again.

Escorts do not try to influence a client’s decision. We always accept a “No.” We always respect their judgment about what is the best choice for them.

I think this is the primary difference between escorts and protesters. The antis never to seem to back off and give clients the space and time they need sometimes.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {6/18/12}

Some clients are so powerful and sure in their decision to choose an abortion.

The client arrived a little early at the drop off zone. We advised them the clinic door would be open in about 5 minutes and they could stand by the door, but the antis would talk to them. The response was, “I don’t care about them. They won’t bother me.”

As predicted, as soon as the client stood by the door they started. When the antis wouldn’t listen to the client’s, “Don’t talk to me. I know what I am doing,” an exchange of words was started. The client moved close to the property line and faced the anti yelling things at her.

Anti: We just want to help you.
Client: You don’t know me and you want to tell me what to do with my body?
Anti: There are loving families who would adopt your baby.
Client: So you want me to carry this pregnancy and then give the baby to you? I don’t think so.
Anti: You would rather kill the baby?
Client: It’s not a baby. It is a fetus. It’s just a clump of cells.
Anti: You will still be a mother, just a mother of a dead baby.

The exchange ended with the client saying, “You aren’t listening to me. Don’t talk to me any more.” The client then turned away and walked close to the clinic doors. Shortly after the doors opened and the client was able to enter the clinic.

Empowered clients are beautiful to watch in action.