Scream

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There were nearly 100 protestors on the sidewalk outside EMW. There were the Catholics praying in parallel lines at the entrance. There were the Immanuel Baptist Church “sidewalk counselors” who wear green safety vests in order to look like volunteers with the clinic. There was the Kentucky Mountain Bible College bus that unloaded a dozen students and faculty members along with dozens of graphic fetus signs. There was an international film crew. There were two anti-choice film crews, one of which was live-streaming patients’ faces as they entered the clinic. There was KY OSA (who use the name P82). There was the sound system they used to preach at 100db for an hour and a half. There were their children they use to hold graphic signs with a doctor’s photo, block the sidewalk, and scream at patients. There was chaos.

This is the gauntlet that every patient of EMW has to walk through to seek safe, legal healthcare. It could be any morning because protestors in those numbers happen frequently.

An escort let us know that an extremely scared patient would soon be pulling up to the drop-off zone. Several of us gathered to meet them. From where we stood, the patient would need to walk only 15 feet to reach the clinic doors, but those are the loudest, most chaotic, and violent 15 feet patients face. When the patient stepped out of the passenger side door, face completely wrapped in a scarf or shirt, the companion wrapped an arm around them to guide them behind the escorts. A street preacher tried to block us from entering the sidewalk using his body and a 4’x 3’ sign. I put my body against his sign to create space for the patient.

Halfway through this 15 foot gauntlet, the patient started screaming. No words; just full-throated terror. The scarf muffled the cry somewhat, but the pain and fright were unmistakable.

I’ve never heard anything like that in my life. I’ve never heard a cry of someone in that much pain. It completely shook me.

And the kicker? The city could help. That 15-foot gauntlet is where a federal judge placed a temporary safety zone last summer when OSA held it’s national convention. The Louisville Metro Council needs to install a permanent safety zone in that space. It would give patients a small amount of space they could walk without being physically harassed.

There is not currently a safety zone proposal working through the Metro Council. What does exist is a resolution put forth by GOP Council members Engel, Kramer, and Parker to support HB 103, a fetal ultrasound bill currently in the Kentucky legislature. This bill would force doctors to perform an ultrasound and provide a written description of the results. Engel, Kramer, Parker, and any Metro Council member who votes with them support extending the harassment of patients on the sidewalk into the clinic.

The Council meets on February 27 to vote on this resolution. Call or write your council member today to oppose the resolution in support of HB 103. Additionally, you can attend the meeting on the 27 in person. Wear orange or pink to show your support for abortion access.

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Sidewalk Snippet 2/15/18

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This morning at the clinic we had a German-based documentary crew complete with camera.28171035_1807159309317514_1145647224_o

To those journalists, and anyone else putting their “reporting” over the experience of patients and their companions:

Our Media Policy states that escorts will not do interviews on sidewalk. Our focus is the clients not your documentary.

We asked that you not film people going to the doctor. Your response was “we will blur the faces”.

You do not see it through a client’s eyes. They turn the corner to walk down the street and mobbed by protesters trying to hand them pamphlets, steer them into the CPC and they see you with a big camera.

It’s frightening to many clients to see this, and the promise to blur faces is not comforting to someone whose family and neighbors will recognize them by their shoes (regardless of who your intended audience is).

But I guess let no ethics or compassion get in the way of dramatic journalism.

Doctor, Patient……and Politician

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Once again, our socially conservative state and local government are testing to see what sticks to the wall regarding how patients and doctors interact and how reproductive medical care is delivered in the state of Kentucky.

Currently Kentucky is in the midst of yet another attempt by politicians to legislate how doctors talk to their patients.
According to Guttmacher (https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/counseling-and-waiting-periods-abortion), in Kentucky, people wanting to obtain an abortion are given counseling as well as offered materials about abortion. People are given specific descriptions of the procedure as well as the gestational age of the fetus. Doctors currently use an ultrasound to determine these facts.
Politicans say that this is not enough information for a patient, and that they want to force doctors to show the patient the ultrasound (they can close their eyes if they don’t want to see it) and force a patient to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus (they can close their ears with their fingers if they don’t want to hear it.) And yes, that is written into the language of the bill (Link Here http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/18RS/HB103/bill.pdf)
Not only does this insert a politician into the relationship between a doctor and a patient, it is also the worst kind of paternalism. Patients know what they are doing when they access abortion care. Doctors currently make them aware of the details of the procedure and aftercare, and they still want the procedure. The purpose of this bill is to shame the patients about their own medical choices and force doctors to do non-medically necessary procedures on a patient.
In an attempt to bolster this bill, three Louisville City Councilpersons have put forth a resolution that Louisville Metro Council will support HB 103 with a rubber stamp. So not only do they want to include the Kentucky State Legislature in a doctor/patient relationship, they want to include Louisville Metro Council in it as well. The Louisville Metro Council is going to be voting on this rubber stamp February 15, 2018.
This bill is wholly inappropriate and under-minds patients and medically trained professions that as a baseline want their patients informed and confident. This bill does nothing to that end.
Please call your Louisville Metro Council Person and voice your opinion on this resolution

Sidewalk Snippet, 1/20/2018

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This time of year can be rough at the clinic. Escorts show up at odd, non-escorting hours to shovel snow and spread salt at the clinic entrance and as much of the sidewalk as we can manage. We clutch cups of coffee, stamp our feet, and go through countless hand and toe warmers while on the sidewalk for anywhere from one to two hours, oftentimes standing still. But if it’s cold, it’s also generally quieter – antis don’t want to be out in it any more than anybody else does.

Today warmed up a bit compared to our most recent Saturdays, though, and we unfortunately had plenty of energetic antis.

Our local extremist group had a number of copies of the “Lesser Magistrate Doctrine” with them, attempting to persuade members of LMPD to accept them.

The large standing speakers were rolled out, significantly obstructing a portion of the sidewalk when combined with the chairs, strollers, and large signs brought by the antis, and reached in excess of 100 decibels at various times throughout the morning…

… Which was enough to bring one guest staying at Aloft hotel, more than a block away, over to complain to both LMPD and the antis about the noise having woken her early. She wasn’t too happy.

Follow-Up: Dan Johnson and the Abolition of Abortion in KY Act

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It’s only been 2 months since State Representative Dan Johnson pre-filed the Abolition of  Abortion in KY Act. We wrote about it here.

Just this morning, a 5-part investigative series on Dan Johnson’s past criminality and many outrageous claims was posted at http://longcon.kycir.org. (Content warning: sexual assault). As it happens, the “Pope” of Heart of Fire Church has a 30 year criminal record (including alleged sexual abuse, arson, and illegal liquor sales) and a history of unverifiable, fantastical claims, up to and including the raising of the dead. Johnson’s outrageous claims include setting up a makeshift morgue at Ground Zero on 9/11 since he just happened to be visiting NYC at the time.

On October 28, 2017, Operation Save America figure and head of Apologia Studios, Jeff Durbin, visited Louisville. While in town, Durbin conducted at least 2 separate interviews with Johnson. One interview was outside EMW Women’s Surgical Center and the other was a sit-down interview filmed in a different location. Durbin introduced Johnson on Next Week, his “late night” interview show saying, “He’s bold, he knows the truth, and he knows how we need to go about ending abortion in the states.”
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During the interview, Durbin brings up 9/11. “There’s a 9/11 everyday” and Johnson concurs. Johnson then uses his “first responder” status to justify ending safe, legal abortion:

“Of course being there when all that happened, I watched that happen. I was the chaplain. I did last rites and blessings for everyone out of the towers. And the thing that I live with, and this is the realness… And through the aftermath and the months following…” (Johnson begins tearing up) “…they would use tarps and they would gather up pieces of bodies and parts and what was literally like mush. Most of that had been shoveled up. In these tarps maybe 10, 15, could be 20 people. Pieces and parts of mush. I believe there’s some things that are so so horrid, that humans should never see it. And what was sometimes just floating around in the bottom of the tarp, with big fireman carrying out of what was now known as Ground Zero—this is what I thought about then and there—this is abortion. And you could see hands and fingers, sometimes breasts, parts of bodies, faces in this muck, if you will, of human carnage. Mothers and fathers should never have to see that. I have children, like that young girl. But you know what, maybe there’s a mother out there listening. Maybe there’s a father who knows there’s a child coming. We think about the terrorist attack and we think about horrible bin Laden and the terrorists who brought this about. However you view that, but would you do that to your child?”05E848AA-DE74-4A29-8369-900A152349DC

In a different section of this interview, Johnson says, “This generation is the generation that’s saying why. We’re about to uncover a lot of things that have been covered up for a long time. The reasons for it had to do with people’s own self-interest…” Johnson was talking about an end to abortion, but he may as well have been speaking about his hidden, sordid past. It’s been a long time coming, but Johnson’s status as a controversial lawmaker has dragged his past malfeasance into the light.

 

Sidewalk Snippet 12/07/17

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Typically, I would avoid writing about the rare incidents which involve violating the Louisville Clinic Escorts’ Points of Unity. Maintaining non-engagement is important to our mission of assisting patients seeking healthcare, but I violated that this morning. I seldom break our strict non-engagement policy, but today I was just pushed too far and had to say something to our antis. Our non-engagement policy exists for very good reasons. Our antis want to escalate situations in order to prove that escorts are violent, loud, and evil. Non-engagement de-escalates the situation on the sidewalk, making a calmer environment for patients.

Near the conclusion of our escorting shift this morning, a homeless man walked up to the clinic in order to ask our antis for any money they could spare. I was standing on clinic property about 10 feet away when one of our antis pointed to me and said I was the guy the homeless man needed to speak to. The homeless man approached me and I told him I was sorry but that I didn’t have any money on me. He looked confused and walked back to the antis. The anti once again pointed him to me and I repeated that I did not have any money.

Watching our antis make a sick sport of some of our city’s most vulnerable citizens was too much for me to tolerate. I walked up to this and anti calmly stated that the way they treat homeless people is excessively cruel. This anti said something attempting to rebuff me (I can’t remember his exact words…I was too furious to concentrate). I repeated that they’re excessively cruel, then I walked back to my spot on the property line.

The homeless man once again asked for money from the antis and he was directed to me again. This time, he was angry and confused. He yelled at me that he had a black belt in karate and that he would kick my ass. He then walked away. As I left the sidewalk this morning, this anti yelled after me “Bring some money next time!” I turned to reply but thought better of it and continued walking to my car.

Since I began escorting, I’ve been screamed at, called names, and suffered multiple assaults, but I’m typically able to maintain our non-engagement policy. The main anti in this story is one of the elderly Catholics who protests multiple times a week. He likes to think of himself as my bully. He questions my manhood and has called me “Rocket Man,” a reference to Trump’s insult of Kim Jong Un and a reference to my mixed-race parentage. Those I can weather, but I just couldn’t let his cruelty slide this morning. Do not let the “sweet grandfather/mother” appearance of the elderly antis fool you. We’ve written before about our antis using homeless people as proxies to verbally or physically assault escorts. This morning was just the latest example.

 

BOLD the Future!

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This week, All* Above All, The National Network of Abortion Funds, member funds like Kentucky Health Justice Network, and others are creating spaces for conversations and action planning all around North America. #BOLDtheFuture is this year’s campaign to raise awareness about the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is the federal law which has, for 42 years, defined abortion as the ONLY medical procedure for which medicaid recipients cannot access aid, thus requiring Abortion Funds to make up the difference.

Through these spaces and conversations we make a commitment to be boldly unapologetic in demanding and working for Reproductive Justice. Part of our commitment is to #BeBoldEndHyde through a political strategy to eliminate the amendment. Hyde is not permanent, so first we will vote our way back toward bodily autonomy from municipalities and states to Washington DC, and do away with this unjust law that hurts all of us.

Today, legislatures at state and federal levels are still working regulate people’s bodies and attempt to control our lives – but you know what? We will be bold, and brave, because we have to – and also because we all deserve better.

This video features a POWERFUL message about the kind of oppression that we see five days as week on the sidewalks at EMW. Please watch, and be inspired, then read on to learn more about this week of action. Join us as we #BoldTheFuture right now, and move forward knowing that it’s always the right time to talk about why abortion access is important.

Video transcript here.

Visioning a Bold Future – from National Network of Abortion Funds

IN THE FUTURE… Each of us lives with dignity and respect, and without politicians dictating our decisions.

IN THE FUTURE… The Hyde Amendment no longer punishes low-income people by banning insurance coverage for abortion. No one is forced to delay care, stopped from getting an abortion, or pushed deeper into poverty.

IN THE FUTURE… We get the care we need. Without obstacles, free of shame. With respect, support, and coverage.

When our vision is uncompromising, we BOLD the Future.

For abortion funds and network leaders committed to funding abortion and building power, Bold the Future Week of Action is an opportunity to organize at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice and to center those most impacted and their communities to leverage political and cultural change.

BOLD The Future empowers new and experienced leaders to co-create spaces where they can speak truth to power, connect with others, and devise plans of action that are meaningful to the people impacted.

The National Network of Abortion Funds believes in grassroots, community-led organizing. We believe that sharing stories and connecting around our lived experience begets trust and that, with enough trust, we are willing to take more risks together, make bigger demands for justice together. When we know that our personal narrative is connected to the heartbeat and rhythm of communities we care about all across this network, it becomes clearer what we must do, and it becomes easier to do so unafraid. With a wave of anti-abortion legislation and harassment affecting people we love, it is important now more than ever to dig deep, to build roots of trust, interdependence, and resilience.

To learn more about becoming an individual member of NNAF click here. We suggest you anchor your membership with Kentucky Health Justice Network to stay engaged in what’s happening in Kentucky!

Sidewalk Snippet, 11/9/2017

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Sometimes clients will attempt to explain to antis their reasons for coming to the clinic.

Most times, it is countered with the same often-heard-spiel they give to everyone: “sin,” “God,” “murder,” “irresponsible,” “regret that sort of thing…” Pretty much, the same ones that I have listened to over the years.

Today, though, was a new one to me. A young anti began asking very personal, very detailed, very invasive medical questions of a client, after being repeatedly graciously declined on offers of adoption.

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Young seminarians.

If someone has politely asked you to leave them alone, your next question should not be about the status of their internal reproductive organs.

On the possible parole of Dr David Gunn’s killer.

Last week, a call to action went out asking Clinic Escort groups, and other abortion access supporters to write letters expressing concerns ahead of the upcoming parole hearing for the anti-abortion extremist who murdered Dr David Gunn in Pensacola FL in 1993. David Gunn Jr and family are petitioning the Parole Commission in Tallahassee on November 1, 2017.

Michael Griffin also shot a clinic escort when he killed Dr Gunn. Of course we wanted to write a letter.

 

Here is the letter we sent to the Parole Commission:

To: Parole Commission, Tallahassee FL

From: Louisville Clinic Escorts

October 26, 2017

Dear Parole Board,

It’s come to our attention that the United States Parole Commission will be reviewing the case of Michael Frederick Griffin on November 1, 2017. We want to take this opportunity to express concerns about his possible parole.

This letter is from individuals who volunteer as clinic escorts in Louisville KY. We have first hand experience with truly frightening people who hold extreme beliefs about justifiable homicide, or stopping abortions by any means necessary. Staff and volunteers at clinics everywhere endure verbal aggression and physical threats daily from people who draw inspiration from Michael Griffin. To them, Mr. Griffin is a hero for shooting Dr. Gunn, and a clinic escort in 1993. For that reason we want to submit a firm request to this parole board that you consider the implications of a ripple effect that could be triggered by an early release of this murderer, who may appear reformed before your panel, while in fact being poised to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Already, we’ve seen extreme behaviors from followers of Griffin, and a willingness to break the law up to and including murdering doctors. In 2009 Scott Roeder murdered George Tiller with a bullet to the head in his church in Wisconsin. More recently in 2015, Robert Dear invaded Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains with explicit intent to kill people there with a personal firearm, as well as home-made explosives. In the spring of 2017 we saw members of extremist group Operation Save America intentionally violate federal law at our one Kentucky clinic to test the DOJ’s willingness to persecute FACE Act violations. We know that copy cats like Roeder and Dear draw inspiration from Griffin, and we would see it as Mr Griffin’s responsibility – if reformed – to denounce these behaviors publicly, specifically to anti-abortion groups and individuals. We would ask the parole board to consider Mr Griffin’s perceived willingness to do exactly this and incorporate this demand into potential parole terms.

We also ask that you consider how Mr. Griffin may be accountable for his actions going forward, considering that the approach of restorative justice asks perpetrators to repay their debts by repairing the damage done to those who suffered due to the actions of those who are supposedly reformed. We ask that if Mr Griffin is released, he make a commitment to ensure that others do not draw inspiration from his crime.

Mr Griffin’s actions caused irreparable harm to the friends and family of Dr. David Gunn, as well as clinic staff and volunteers everywhere who’ve had to ask if this work is worth risking our lives, considering that the mindset of extremists like Griffin cannot be jailed. In our minds, justice has not been served for the Gunn family.

In addition to the pain and suffering felt by Dr. Gunn’s family and colleagues, there has been immeasurable impact to countless individuals who did and would have sought care from Dr. Gunn, who were instead forced to seek care from another provider, or go without.

We believe that people can change. If Mr. Griffin has truly had a change of heart, perhaps an adaptation to the original life sentence given to him is reasonable. The responsibility of this parole board in determining whether or not Mr. Griffin is a threat to society is a great one. We ask that any terms of his potential parole be proactive to prevent further damage by actions similar to Mr. Griffin’s.

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some dangerous results that could be triggered by Mr Griffin’s release, even if he himself is not a threat at this time.

Signed:

Louisville Clinic Escorts

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Michael Griffin’s actions didn’t happen in a vacuum, and extremist beliefs cannot be jailed. We think that if Griffin is reformed, there is responsibility beyond being locked up if justice is going to be served, so that people will be able to provide and obtain safe, legal healthcare without needing to worry about personal safety.

Louisville Receives 1.5 Out of 5 Stars in Reproductive Health Index

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Louisville Clinic Escorts and Kentucky Health Justice Network urge City Leaders to Take a Stand and Expand Protections for Reproductive Freedom.

National Institute for Reproductive Health Releases First-Of-Its-Kind Initiative to Evaluate and Lay a Blueprint for Advancing Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Policies in Cities

About the Local Reproductive Freedom Index

Louisville KY – The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) just released the Local Reproductive Freedom Index, a first-of-its-kind initiative to evaluate the reproductive health, rights and justice policies of 40 U.S. cities including Louisville, which received 1.5 out of five stars.

View the Louisville report HERE!

Louisville Clinic Escorts and Kentucky Health Justice Network are calling upon Louisville Metro Council and Mayor Greg Fischer to advance and protect reproductive freedoms in light of the constant threat from state and federal governments.
Since the GOP took control of the Kentucky legislature in 2015, we have seen multiple unconstitutional abortion restrictions passed into law, plus the satellite location of EMW, which was in Lexington, permanently closed, leaving just one abortion clinic in the entire Commonwealth. Between the legal efforts to eliminate clinics, and consistent verbal and physical attacks and intimidation tactics on the sidewalk outside EMW, we know that access to legal abortions is under constant threat here.
The Local Index focuses on more than just abortion access, though, and shows us that Louisville has a long way to go, especially if city officials want to live up to the “Compassionate City” branding which they so proudly claim with words, while actions tell a different tale.
Using 37 unique policy indicators, NIRH’s Local Reproductive Freedom Index calculates how individual cities are protecting and advancing reproductive rights across a range of categories including access to abortion clinics, funding and coverage for reproductive health care, support for young people and families and advancement of inclusive policies. NIRH also provides a Model City roadmap that can be used to inspire and guide better policies at the local level.
Final scorecard
The Index shows that some cities have already started stepping up to resist the Trump administration’s assault on reproductive healthcare. We are calling on Louisville to use the Index as a guide to improve reproductive freedom and lead the way for the rest of Kentucky.
Local advocates have been working for more than a year to ask Metro Council to make safer sidewalks outside of the only clinic here. Now more than ever we recognize a need for access, and we will continue to work with partners to hold Metro Council accountable, but also to stand firm in Frankfort, as Matt Bevin, Dan Johnson, and others remain determined to put the lives and bodies of individuals at risk for the sake of their beliefs, rather than protecting the rights and families of Kentuckians who deserve access to safe and legal healthcare.
“As the federal government works to strip women of control over their reproductive and sexual lives, and many states move to pass even more draconian anti-abortion restrictions than in previous years, local action is becoming increasingly important,”said Andrea Miller, president of NIRH and the NIRH Action Fund.“Right now, Louisville has an opportunity to advance and protect reproductive freedom, and the Local Index provides a blue print for actions that cities can act upon.”
“The launch of the Local Reproductive Freedom Index is taking NIRH’s city-based advocacy model to the next level,” Miller said.“We know that radical progress starts local–and that now is the time for cities to hold their own and protect their residents.”

Marcie Crim, Executive Director, Kentucky Health Justice Network said “We’re lucky to have some elected officials in Louisville who support reproductive freedom, but we also know there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. With the Local Index, we now have a roadmap of how our city can improve the reproductive health and lives of city residents.”

Advocates, policymakers, and citizens can visit localrepro.org to see how their cities fare and to learn about specific actions they can take to influence positive community change. NIRH will be hosting a public webinar to introduce the Local Index on October 19th and invite folks to join by registering here.

About the National Institute for Reproductive Health

The National Institute for Reproductive Health builds power at the state and local level to change public policy, galvanize public support, and normalize women’s decisions about abortion and contraception.
Using a partnership model, we provide state and local advocates with strategic guidance, hands-on support, and funding to create national change from the ground up. We are a force multiplier–we form strategic partnerships with a wide range of organizations to directly impact there productive health and lives of women across the country. Since 2008, NIRH has provided direct grants and hands-on support to more than 145 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in 37 states and 50 localities across the country.
At the national level, we go where others don’t, engaging in groundbreaking public opinion research, proactive policy initiatives, and innovative advocacy campaigns to shape a new national conversation about reproductive freedom.
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