This week’s record for one day was SIXTY THREE protesters gathered on 5/16.
We understand that there are only recommendations, and not enforceable laws, calling for a minimum of 6 feet between any two people who do not live together. We get that LMPD can’t force the protesters to wear masks, or give others space.
These facts make a perfect storm when combined with the complete lack of regard for public safety that the protesters have always shown us with their actions.
This week, the congestion caused someone riding a scooter to crash.
In 2019, a protester was hospitalized after an encounter with someone leaving the clinic.
Pre-COVID19 escorts would regularly ask patients or companions to leave their weapons in their vehicles.
Now, everyone is under heightened stress, and there are no escorts to deescalate everpresent tensions. How many injuries will it take before action is taken?
The sidewalk won’t become safer unless two things happen:
Louisville Metro Council takes action by passing a new law creating a safety zone in front of the entrance.
LMPD needs to actually enforce the laws, including the existing noise ordinance, a safety zone, and the full range of blocking, assaults, and trespasses that happen regularly.
Indeed, if they continue to do nothing, we can be sure that more people will be harmed because of the protesters. Please continue contact your Council member and ask them to support a safety zone!
As many Kentuckians carefully weigh how and when it may be safe to resume certain activities, the protesters remain consistent in their lack of consideration for the health and safety of themselves or others. Escorts observing from vehicles this week continued to see a variety of behaviors that go against the state, federal, and CDC recommendations. This week, the owners of EMW spoke out, encouraging Louisville Metro Council to bring back the safety zone that was in place following a blockade by extremists, which took place three years ago on Mother’s day weekend, a time known for large protests.
The inaction of Louisville Metro Council, and LMPD has become all but laughable, as they take turns passing around the responsibility to enforce public safety standards. Meanwhile, people still need to go to the clinic. To help further document the problem, the clinic and Metro Council have asked that people report the gatherings to 311 using any of these options:
Report on the metro 311 App
Submit a report at: https://louisvilleky.gov/government/metro311
Here are just a few of the scenes captured by observing escorts this week:
Four weeks in, and anti-choice clinic harassers continue to congregate in groups larger than ten outside of the clinic. Our observers are still documenting antis talking directly into the faces of patients and companions and engaging in physical blocking. While masks are in use by one of the several groups present, it is unusual to see them being used correctly with any consistency; groups of yellow-vested antis frequently stand in groups to talk with one another with masks down on their chins.
With the first phase of a gradual reopening imminent, it is clear that we won’t see anything done about the congregating issue. We are hopeful about the push for mandatory masks while in public starting May 11th.
Week three proceeded much the same as the previous weeks, with antis failing to practice social distancing or wear masks. However, this week did have one serious bright point: the hiring of two security guards by EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Both security guards are dressed in black, wearing gloves, masks, and white hats to help identify them to clients.
Wednesday – 8 antis
The tactics of the antis each day of each week have remained consistent, making it impossible for patients to enter the clinic while observing social distancing recommendations. Every day that these people continue to disregard recommendations from public health professionals, they put others at risk. They put themselves and their families at risk, they put patients and everyone they come into contact at risk, they put people they might encounter while shopping at risk – and they do not care. Abortion access advocates have been saying this for a a long time, but hopefully it is abundantly clear to everyone now – these people should never again be referred to as “pro life.”
This week, as last week, volunteers alone in their vehicles were stationed in the area surrounding the clinic in order to document the behavior of protesting antis. The antis’ presence and tactics have not been much changed by the pandemic locking down much of everyday life. While most non-essential workers in Kentucky are staying safe at home, limiting trips, and refraining from congregating with people outside of the household, the anti-choice protesters continue harassing patients. The antis belong to a certain subset of person who believes that being asked to act in the interest of others is the greatest imaginable affront to their personal liberty. When you combine that with a penchant for willful scientific ignorance, you get the perfect storm that is our antis.
Tuesday, April 14 – 19 antis
As we saw last week, antis ignored social distancing and continued chatting among themselves and confronting patients entering the clinic. One family even brought their infant along to the protest and allowed other antis to get far too close to the child. Masks were worn only by a few, and not always correctly. While city and state governments have addressed churches and crowded parks filled with those who refuse to comply, still no action has been taken outside of EMW to protect patients and the general public.
As most are well aware, “protests” were held Wednesday night outside of Governor Beshear’s nightly address to the Commonwealth. Scare quotes are appropriate in this instance for the same reason that they are appropriate when describing the anti-abortion presence outside of clinics: the point was not political speech directed against leadership. The point was for one group of people to strike fear into the hearts of their fellow citizens, to discourage them and break them down. Such rallies have been and are being held throughout the country.
That there was overlap between the group at the capital Wednesday and people we see on the sidewalk came as no surprise to us. The organizer of the incident Wednesday has been spreading false information about the clinic and its practices in order to drum up faux outrage. Fortunately, you are welcome to donate to EMW in her honor.
For now, abortion remains legal in Kentucky. Antis remain on the sidewalk putting themselves and everyone else at risk, and escorts remain in our vehicles, documenting.
One week ago today Louisville’s Clinic Escorts announced that we were choosing to suspend our presence on the sidewalk in order to do our part to flatten the curve in Kentucky and the surrounding region. What we did not do was abandon our watch over the clinic. This week, individual volunteers stationed in vehicles have been present each morning to count the number of antis still defying CDC recommendations by showing up at the clinic, interacting directly with one another, and invading clients’ physical space despite this pandemic. Very few antis wear masks and, when they do, don’t always wear them properly even when continuing to approach clients. Since pregnancy lowers an individual’s immune response, and the full effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy are not yet known, this is particularly alarming.
We made the ask for antis still arriving at the clinic to take basic precautions. On our final Saturday, one anti informed others as he was leaving that he was on his way to a birthday party. Another was heard bragging that her church was still open – despite the outbreak in Hopkins County that has been tied to a church revival. So it came as little surprise to the volunteers watching this week that our worst fears about the antis’ continued presence and behavior on the sidewalk were confirmed. Below are the numbers and images from each day.
You’ll notice right away that Tuesday and Saturday are the worst days, as has long been the case. There is a regular Catholic presence throughout the week and, while the 40 Days for Life campaign has been called off due to COVID-19, some still remain, funded in part by the Archdiocese of Louisville. Tuesdays are the days that Reformation Church travels the 30 miles from their base in Shelbyville into Louisville to preach on amplifiers, film themselves and clients, and physically block clients as they attempt to enter. The weekend always sees large numbers, but this Saturday was special – Sovereign King Church of southern Indiana declined to postpones one of their semi-regular “rallies” at the clinic. These “rallies” can vary in size, and typically involve multiple people with amplification, multiple people filming, large signs, and frequent instances of physical contact. Last Saturday saw police intervention after one member of this group was seen repeatedly jumping in clients’ paths as they attempted to go around him. There was no distance at all.
The Saturday before Easter is traditionally one of the big three days for protesters at the clinic, and were glad to not see 200 or 300 as has been the case under these circumstances. Still, numbers were high and there was no social distancing – antis were close to one another on the sidewalk and many have plans to hold services tomorrow. Watchers saw innumerable occasions of antis “swarming” patients, obstructing their movement down the sidewalk with large groups of people, getting to close, and speaking directly at their faces, typically with no mask. It was noteworthy that Immanuel Baptist Speak for the Unborn antis had masks – unfortunately, some were removing them in order to speak more clearly to people.
It is our hope that the new order requiring 14 day quarantines for people who choose to participate in mass gatherings will help alleviate this situation. With escorts no longer physically present on the sidewalk, this should be relatively easy for authorities to accomplish, at least with regard to antis who reside in Kentucky. Watching this morning as antis placed clients in danger, blocked them, misdirected and confused them was difficult, and we’re looking forward to the day we can put on our orange vests and get back out there. The sooner everyone joins in to help flatten the curve, the sooner that happens. We’re in this together, Kentucky.
Louisville’s Clinic Escorts have always been client focused. For that reason, we are halting our presence on the sidewalk effective immediately.
We have made every effort to comply with best practices to reduce the spread of Covid-19 as they have evolved. First, we halted our shuttling service. Then, we spaced escorts farther apart, wore masks while escorting, and encouraged escorts to move away from antis invading physical space. This is no longer sufficient.
Going forward, four volunteers per day will be stationed in their separate vehicles to monitor antis’ behavior toward patients accessing care, social distancing, and various violations of the law. They will record and report issues as necessary to the clinic.
As this public health crisis has progressed, we have witnessed innumerable instances of antis not only failing to observe social distancing and other best practices, but actively deriding those who do so. Our presence and example has not impacted this trend. It is our hope that by stepping back from the sidewalk, we expose patients to fewer people while also making it easier for public officials to end congregating outside of the clinic altogether. With public gatherings being prevented elsewhere in the city, there is no reason for this not to happen. Abortion remains essential healthcare, as it cannot be readily rescheduled, and the last thing we want is Kentuckians traveling to neighboring states to access care. We can make it safer by clearing the sidewalk entirely.
To antis if you are reading this: please stay home. Anyone can be asymptomatic but contagious. Pray from home. Call your representatives. If you still come to the clinic, wear masks and do not get closer than six feet to one another or patients and their companions. Please, help Kentucky flatten the curve. We will still be watching.
Currently, things are “not great”. Covid19 is here and most of us are trying to get through the days, keep our families safe, and just…live. A big part of the whole “living” thing these days has been social distancing. According to The Cleveland Clinic staying “6 feet apart when possible” is the guideline which we are attempting, as humans getting through this, to accomplish.
This….doesn’t happen at EMW.
Antis, be it based on a “sincerely held belief system or something else” (ahem *bullying* ahem) will not go along with the concept of social distancing as is suggested by, well, everyone. They never have. They invade the person space of clients and escorts. The antis will stand directly in front of an escorts face (we have been turning our backs to them, but who knows if this is effective). Antis push and block clients and escorts trying to access the clinic property.
The concept of personal space has always been lost on antis, but now when it is SO important that it be recognized and followed, their stubbornness and refusal to accept societal norms of safety are harmful and malicious.
Thankfully, there is a relief in site. And it is a relief that will still allow patients and escorts to hear the screaming and the loud speaker. It will still allow patients and escorts to see the signs of bloody fetus’s that line the sidewalk. It will continue to allow ALL of these free speech things to happen on a public sidewalk, there will simply be….some social distancing in the form of a Safety Zone.
The Louisville Safety Zone has been in the works since March 2016 (a year before OSA blocked the doors of EMW and a federal judge instituted a temporary buffer zone) The temporary buffer zone made in July 2017 gave a 10 foot rounded zone between the entrance of the clinic and where the protesters gather. Ten feet is basically between the drop off zone and the door. Ten feet is normal and, according to health experts at this time, necessary.
So support The Louisville Safety Zone. Now more than ever clients need that space to access healthcare safely and without these “pro-life” protesters risking the lives of everyone around them with their closeness, blocking, and touching.
(apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez).
They were repeatedly defiant of common courtesy and boundaries that are clearly marked and indicated. Painted boundary lines and closing in on personal space, leaning in inches from clients while shaming them were seen. Even when asked repeatedly to back off, get out of their face and don’t block forward progress.
The clinic was open 10 days for this fundraiser. Here are the results:
- 37 times a foot was over the property line. That’s a 185 toes!
- 5 people stepped over the line on 5 different days.
- One protester put toes over the line 21 times!
We thank all of the protesters for raising funds for abortion access.
We will be sending you the total due for your pledges, whether you pledged by the toe, the person or the day. Let’s get those piggys in the bank!