Pledge-A-Picketer Summer of Harassment: For Such a Time As This

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Back in 2010 we began Pledge-A- Picketer as a way to flip the script on those holidays we see increased protester attendance. Events on the Saturdays before Easter, Mother’s and Father’s days have drawn hundreds anti-choice protesters. For the last 7 years we have had great success using this event to raise funds for Louisville Clinic Escorts, Kentucky Health Justice Network and other reproductive justice issues. Escorts decided that if the protesters were going to be on the clinic sidewalk in number, raising money off their heads was a brilliant plan.

And it’s again time to count our abortion hating, not counseling, sidewalk preaching, door blocking protesters. And we need your help!

This year we are adding another event to the schedule. July 22-29 Operation Save America is planning a full week of protests. May 13, 2017 ten OSA participants blocked access to the clinic, refusing to move and were arrested. This action was a test for the upcoming July event.

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The concept is simple. Make a pledge for every protester that shows up. That way the bigger the crowd the more money we raise for abortion access in KY. Historically our community has donated between $.05 to $1 per protester. You can cap the amount of your donation. You can make a block donation regardless of crowd size. And this year we also have a way for you to donate an additional amount for every protester arrested.

To make a donation, fill out the form here. Share the link, ask your friends and family and raise your voice against anti-choice violence by raising funds for abortion access in Kentucky!

 

 

To: Louisville Metro Council; From: a seasoned and concerned clinic escort.

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There is a lot of discussion of the buffer zone in front of our clinic right now, since the USDOJ is pursuing federal charges against the 10 people who violated the FACE act on May 13. The Temporary Restraining Order will remain in effect until August 4th, and Federal Marshal will continue enforcing it. Some clinic escorts are concerned that when the lines are removed and all the extra law enforcement and news cameras go away, what will remain could be a quite dangerous situation. We are seeing behaviors this week that really compound the need for a small safety zone that will allow clients and their companions to walk from a stopped car to the clinic door without being blockaded by people who feel entitled to force their views on someone else.

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Below is a letter to Louisville’s Metro Council from a veteran escort, urging them to come to the sidewalk and see how essential it is to create safer spaces, and also to assist law enforcement in being able to enforce the laws that exist to preserve everyone’s rights, especially, those of the patient.

July 20, 2017

Louisville Metro Council Members

Dear Council Member:

I was at the Council meeting July 19 for the discussion of a 20 foot buffer zone at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the abortion clinic.  Even if there is no buffer zone created, there are several facts that were not brought up I thought the Council members should be aware of.  I am an escort at the clinic.  One of the escorts had called to get information about the meeting and was told that there wouldn’t be much time for citizen speakers; therefore, few pro-choice supporters were ready with statements.

As escorts we are not counter-protesters.  We’re there to give information to clients about where to park, and to walk with them and their companions to the clinic.  We don’t try to keep them away from the “sidewalk counselors.”  But the patients are often alarmed and worried about the many protesters present.  (They typically outnumber escorts about three to one, especially on Saturdays.)  Opposing sides can’t easily be relegated to certain areas because both protesters and escorts are walking with the clients from the various parking areas to the clinic entrance.

When “counselors” talk to the patients, patients often tell them to leave them alone; but the preaching doesn’t stop.  Some examples of “counseling” are, “You’ll never get over this”, “Your relationship will never be the same”, “Real men don’t kill their babies”, “Don’t be a wimp”, “He’ll leave you after you have that abortion”, and “Your chances of breast cancer are greatly increased after an abortion” (not true).  The patients must pass through a gauntlet of protesters on both sides of the sidewalk on their way to the clinic, only to get there and find a crowd of people they must walk around who are yelling at them (this is typical for Saturdays).  It’s really intimidation and harassment.  Plus, what an insult to women to assume they haven’t thought long and hard about their situation before arriving at the clinic.

Please come down sometime, and see for yourself what it’s like.  But don’t stay in your car.  The police stay in their cars across the street or around the corner and don’t see these details.  I am glad they are finally paying attention to the clinic; I wish they would get out of their cars and be on the sidewalk.

Very truly yours,

PG [name and address omitted for safety]

cc: Chief of Police

Louisville Police Department

EMW Women’s Surgical Center

 

“Someone Grabbed My Arm”

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In January of 2016, escorts began working with the staff of the EMW Surgical Center and the National Clinic Access Project to collect surveys from patients accessing care at the only abortion provider in Kentucky. These efforts, the reasons for them, and initial results were first described here in the “Documenting Fear” article. Since then, thousands more responses have been logged. The numbers help to understand the generally chaotic nature of the public sidewalk and even parking lots near the clinic (Patient-Questionnaire-Annual-Report-July-2016-June-2017). But the comments from patients do more than that – they give one an idea of how an individual walking this gauntlet on the way to their doctor’s appointment is personally impacted.

Media often approach volunteers and other advocates involved in the fight to preserve abortion access in search of “personal stories.” They want to ride along with a volunteer transporting a client; they want to be put in touch with someone seeking an abortion with the assistance of a hotline volunteer; can the clinic get them a patient to talk to? And it is true that breaking the silence that surrounds abortion is a crucial part of combating the stigma that also surrounds it – but the two feed each other. Stigma is why many do not wish to tell their abortion story, especially to a stranger, especially publicly, especially without anonymity. When one woman live-tweeted her own medication abortion some years ago, she received a torrent of vitriol. Similarly, when the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign was launched, many participants again found themselves on the receiving end of abuse.

Abortion storytelling is not without real risk for the person sharing their story. Those who choose to tell their stories do so because they have determined that, for them, the risk they take on is worth the reward – a complicated and individual calculation that each person must consider for themselves. It will not look the same for an individual who is trans, or undocumented, or making plans to safely escape an abusive, dangerous relationship, etc., as it will for someone with more privileges and protections. Privilege impacts abortion storytelling as much as it does abortion access.

This does, of course, lead to a recurrent problem in reporting on abortion access in general, and on the scene in front of too many clinics in particular. Too many stories fall into a pattern of telling “both sides of the story,” wherein antis and abortion access advocates are painted as parties warring over a concept. Too often the patient accessing an abortion does not appear as an active character in what is in fact their own story; they become merely the “idea” that the “sides” in question are “fighting” over. Framed this way, what happens outside of clinics becomes a free speech issue – but when the framing centers patients accessing care, the issue becomes one of private citizens being harassed, intimidated, and all too often physically obstructed and assaulted.

These client surveys do not collect background information, though some patients do choose to share pieces of their story. The comments from patients that follow pertain to their experience of walking into the clinic. These are only a small sampling of the comments provided, and have been grouped to allow brief explanations where necessary – but the comments have not been edited. They are often unpleasant to read – but these are the clients describing, in their own words, what they experienced walking down the sidewalk minutes after having done so, and often with the antis still audible, due to their various amplification devices, as they sit in the waiting room. Please consider a trigger warning in effect for the entirety of this piece – but please consider as well that the patients describing these events had no way to avoid them.

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One of the questions on the survey asks clients if they were afraid that antis might do something to them. If the answer is yes, they are asked “What were clients afraid antis might do?” A selection of these responses:

 

“I was mostly afraid of shootings or bombings at the clinic. I found it disturbing that they were right outside the door, so close to the building. I felt comfortable with the staff, but not entirely safe with them so close and seemingly able to enter any time.”

“Blow up the building or physically grab me. They are way too close, invading our personal space. Nearly all targeted attacks (bombs) on clinics were done so by religious nuts.”

“I was afraid of being shot.”

“The protesters got right in between myself and person that brought me here, almost tripped him trying to get between us and verbally attacked him!!!”

“One of them blocked my path and stepped on my foot causing me to twist my ankle. They are very aggressive and upset me and my support.”

“They were all coming at me at once and so close that a man stepped on me. I did not feel safe.”

“I need space to walk in. I almost fell to the ground trying to get past.”

“Someone grabbed my arm.”

“I was afraid because they had backpacks. Not sure if they had guns or bombs.”

“When I told them to leave me alone and they said “No”, it made me feel as though they would physically try to make me turn around.”

“I was pushed up against and swarmed on a public sidewalk. If I wasn’t having a procedure done, I wouldn’t even want to walk down this street.”

“I told them I had anxiety and to please back up and they surrounded me closer.”

“They made me fear for my life and well being outside of the clinic.”

“I was afraid they would not let me cross the street. As I was trying to park, a woman blocked my way to my car and followed me aggressively until two vested workers helped me to cross the street. I was screamed at once I crossed the street and surrounded.”

“I thought someone crazy might pull a gun out.”

“I thought they might throw food at me.”

“Followed very closely. One followed my friend back to the car. My friend called 911. Protester then walked away after writing down license plate #.”

“I watched a man shove the woman walking with me. I was afraid for myself and other women making this choice physically because of these people.”

“I was afraid I was going to be taken away into another building. Some woman tried to stuff different things in my pockets.”

“The man with mic is very aggressive & I thought he might become angered more & do something”

“I felt like I was being harassed, they followed me and made me cry, I felt so uncomfortable, they came up to our car and were banging on the window and we had our baby in the car and she started to cry”

“Anything to stop me from coming inside, They made a comment about “Black lives matter, right.” I feel it was very racist.”

“Protester put arm up in front of my partner and I, blocked us from entering building. Stood in doorway. My partner wears glasses and did not see lady that stepped in front of me. He bumped into her. She fell. It was raining. Police were called. She was in the doorway. It was terrible.”

“Shoot and/or bomb the place.”

“Spit on me or physically cause harm.”

“Throw things or spit on me.”

“They followed my family to White Castle and told the people they dropped me off at EMW. Very rude. I was very angry.”

“I am afraid of them trying to find me in my workplace or elsewhere.”

“Have a bomb and blow us all up!”

“I asked the man who came to my car to leave. He did not and hovered until a lady escorted me out. He purposely intimidated me.”

“I thought they would grab me. It was very scary.”

“I thought one man was going to hurt me with his poster. I tripped and almost fell!”

“I didn’t feel safe; asked to be left alone. They kept insisting to tell me I’m wrong and a man got in my face.”

“I was afraid they would do something to our car. They could honestly push a woman to suicide.”

“Protesters were very aggressive and scary for me being a young girl already making a hard decision. Even after I said thank you and I was not interested they still wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“They did step on my shoe while following me, making me come out of my shoe. Also walked so closely to me and my mom, that it felt difficult to walk.”

“They told me I was killing my “colored” baby, racist, abusive language.”

“Violence. The protesters should not legally be allowed to come near or on EMW property. It is dangerous and the protesters are mentally unstable and could cause harm to patients.”

“An elderly lady grabbed my arm, got physical with me and told me I was going to hell, my husband doesn’t love me and he’s sending me to hell. My husband almost got into a physical fight/altercation.”

“Spit, shove, verbally abuse, obstruct, film/attempt to expose via social media platforms”

“I was afraid they’d hit me, shoot me or spit on me. They only yelled, so I’m okay. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I really thought I’d be hurt and I’m glad I’m safe.”

“Attack. One person said I was a demon and yelled. I have PTSD and those actions make me upset.”

“One pretended like she worked here and almost made me walk into the wrong building.”

“One lady was very aggressive and pushed and touched me.”

“I was scared of them. I thought they would hurt me.”

“They wouldn’t stop following me.”

“Touch me. They tried coming to my vehicle and talk to my 18 month old daughter. They would not stop talking to her even when asked.”

“Wasn’t sure protester wasn’t going to physically grab me after he jumped in front of me to block my path I was walking. That was scary.”

“Damage our vehicle, attack the clinic, follow me home. Try to prevent me.”

“A woman was shouting about “if there is a fire you’re not getting out of there.” This is terroristic threatening. As is following me yelling at me after repeated requests to leave me alone.”

“I was scared they would try to photograph and expose me for something I’m not. As I walked, I could have blacked out from the pressure.”

“A man blocked my path and wouldn’t let me pass. I thought he was going to shove me away from the door. Thank goodness for the volunteers walking/escorting me.”

“A man got in my face. His breath moved my hair.”

Patients often add additional comments beside questions throughout the survey (in particular, where asked if they would feel safer with antis kept across the street, it is common to see “not even there!” and similar things written next to it.) Additionally, space is provided at the end of the survey for clients to write further comments if they wish.

Beside “I do not understand why the police allow this kind of harassment and rioting outside a health clinic.”

“I know we have free speech. However, they restrict my right and free choice by blocking the clinic.”

“One boy had a camera on his hat. They stuck their heads in our car window.”

“We live in a country where people have the right to Freedom of Speech and to protest. However, these people, the individuals that stand directly in front of the clinic, they are literally screaming, shouting, staring, glaring. The environment looks, feels and sounds violent, unsafe and screams terror. At the very least, police should be protecting the women entering the clinic.”

“I appreciate that the EMW staff warned me about the protestors beforehand so I could mentally prepare myself. The guides in orange vests were very comforting and supportive. The fact that the protesters try to trick you into going into the wrong building and shame you even though they know nothing about you tells me they are in the wrong. If people can be told not to smoke in front of a restaurant, the EMW clinic should be allowed to block protestors from standing in front of their entrance.”

“I really didn’t like grown man yelling in my face and bumping into me while trying to get in the door. I did not appreciate them standing waiting for me to get out of my car.”

“They got way too close. I can understand the protest part, but them being in my face/blocking me was uncalled for.”

“I feel as humans, they have the right to protest and I have the right to an abortion, however, they DO NOT have the right to touch or threaten me!!”


					

Temporary Restraining Order GRANTED by Federal Judge

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Louisville’s Clinic Escorts are thrilled with the news today that Judge Hale has granted the temporary restraining order against the members of the group who were arrested for blockading Louisville’s only abortion provider in May.

We have been paying close attention to the group since the event was announced late last year, and it has long been clear to us that these individuals intend to violate numerous laws in order to disrupt access. To watch them brag about their intent to do so with the expectation that they will face no repercussions has been infuriating. Today they have received a clear message that their interpretation of the Bible does not place them above the law. After having read the orders, we would like to make a few points clear for our supporters and for all those who may find themselves in the area for various reasons during this time.

First, this is a federal matter, separate from the earlier trespassing charges that resulted in the individuals signing an agreement that they would remain across the street from the clinic. It will be enforced by US Marshals, and not by LMPD.

Second, the TRO applies only the named defendants and their associates or those acting in concert with them. The “buffer zone” in front of the clinic that is being enforced by federal marshals does not, per the order, apply to others. In short, the order does not create a buffer zone as most of us are used to thinking of one: it does not establish a space that is to be free of any protesters. This temporary order is in no way related to recent exploratory talks with Louisville Metro Council about a potential safety zone ordinance.

The marshals enforcing the TRO, and keeping those to whom it applies out of the buffer zone area, will have to decide who qualifies. We do not yet know what that will look like.

Finally, the order explicitly confirms the right of volunteer escorts to be present.

Read the official orders here:

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Where Would They Go? Part 3 – Clinic Staff

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The loss of a reproductive health clinic that provides abortions affects various communities as discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. What about the professionals who staff these clinics? To a clinic staffer, this loss is personal. Beyond losing a job and source of income, a unique and caring environment vanishes.

Shireen Whitaker worked at the Sacramento location of Women’s Health Specialists until it closed in May 2017. Whitaker was initially involved with the clinic as a volunteer clinic escort, joining her mother-in-law who has escorted for over 10 years. Following the creation of a buffer zone at their clinic, Whitaker was hired by WHS as a legal monitor in 2013. During her tenure, she handled Outreach, Education, and Clinic Defense, coordinating security and escorts.

Multiple locations of WHS were closed this year due to reimbursement shortfalls in the California Medicaid system, Medi-Cal, following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Anti-choice protestors in California are framing the closure of these clinics as a victory, but the truth is more bland and bureaucratic. WHS Sacramento relied on providing a full-range of reproductive services like birth control and Pap smears in addition to abortions. Other area clinics were receiving more money in reimbursements and WHS couldn’t compete. According to Whitaker, the Sacramento clinic was a “sacrificial lamb” to California’s health system.

Working at her clinic was more than just a job for Whitaker. It was a “biosphere…a home away from home.” The loss of the clinic has had a huge emotional impact and Whitaker has blocked it in some ways. “I have all this stuff the clinic gave to me and it’s still sitting in my car. It’s like I can’t take it out; I can’t make it real.” WHS provided a space that was accepting and losing it has been “horrible.”

Handling security for WHS Sacramento meant monitoring the media and social media activity of anti-choice activists, something that became “toxic” for Whitaker after awhile. Now, their sites are something she can’t bear to look at. Anti-choice websites are claiming the closing of WHS branches to be a major victory and a vindication of their tactics. The truth isn’t nearly as exciting. The bureaucratic reality for the loss of WHS makes the facilities a casualty of a broken healthcare system. Still, the gloating on anti-choice websites has only made things harder on Whitaker.

At its height, WHS had 11 clinics; now it has 3. Whitaker still works for the remaining WHS clinics in a volunteer capacity and is currently seeking other employment in reproductive health. “I’m really hoping to find a similar space. I should be so lucky.” Most staff members from the clinic have moved onto other medical jobs unrelated to reproductive health. Many staff members retired, including the executive director who had been with the group for 40 years.

The closing of WHS Sacramento, and indeed, any reproductive health facility, has far-reaching consequences for a community. Patients must seek other options for care, often with greater expense and difficulty; other reproductive facilities face emboldened anti-choice protestors; and staff members are left without jobs that provide both income and an accepting environment for important, necessary work. If anti-choice activists are successful in closing EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic, the state as a whole will be poorer for it.

Metro Council, 7/19/2017

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The Safety Committee of the Louisville Metro Council met for the second time to hear the thoughts and concerns of constituents regarding a potential safety zone in front of EMW Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only abortion clinic. Louisville’s Clinic Escorts encouraged our supporters to make it early, knowing this meeting was likely to be more heavily attended than the first. Sure enough, the room was quickly packed both with supporters of a safety zone and those opposed – though we probably outnumbered them.

 

As was the case last time, speakers were scheduled in advance, but LMPD were first called by the council for a description of their plans regarding the impending siege by outside extremist group Operation Save America/Operation Rescue. Major Eric Johnson explained that they had “a good working relationship” with OSA, and that OSA had assured them of their good behavior during the week. That would certainly be an about-face given the group’s history and rhetoric; I don’t think any of us feel particularly reassured by this.

Council Members Brent Ackerson, Barbara Sexton-Smith, and Brandon Coan asked Johnson about the free speech zones employed by LMPD for other events where there was a concern in advance that protest or counter protest might turn dangerously chaotic. Johnson explained that they simply didn’t feel this was necessary – again, presumably, based on OSA’s assertions that they will be well behaved. I fail to see how this fits with their past pattern of behavior, their “Lesser Magistrate Doctrine,” or even the rhetoric on display in front of the courthouse today. It was nice, at any rate, to see some Council Members asking for a little bit more in the way of reassurance, even if it wasn’t forthcoming.

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After the Council was finished interviewing Johnson, they moved on to the scheduled speakers. Those opposed had been allotted four spots, and as there was a bit more time, a list was established for others to speak briefly if they wished. Speakers against included many faces that were familiar to us, and will likely be to you, too, if you’ve been following us for any length of time. Since the OSA group held a press conference outside immediately prior to the meeting, it appears most of them had to be content with the overflow room for the duration of the meeting, so the Louisville Metro Council was at least mostly hearing from Louisville folks.

Perhaps most exciting was that one of our folks who has been working on this project for more than a year now finally had the opportunity to speak and present today, after having been bumped from her scheduled spot at the previous meeting. Though the time was insufficient for her to get through the entirety of her presentation, copies were provided for each of the Council Members (and can be viewed by anyone here – Metro-Council-Safety-Committee-Meeting-July-19-2017-1 ). The materials help to give a very clear view of what the issue is: not speech, but behaviors and location.

The remarks of those opposed were unfortunately not particularly on topic. We knew that they wouldn’t be; listening felt rather like attending a Right to Life meeting as opposed to the meeting of a civil government body or, as one escort put it, “like being back in church again.” There was a good deal of rhetoric about “killing babies” and a good deal of religious commentary; one gentleman treated us to an explanation of how he’d put his flag away for years until Trump was elected. There was also some talk of immigrants, and the obligation of Western women to reproduce more – rhetoric that I always find deeply disturbing. Donna’s speech was the same one she delivers to the closed doors and windows of the clinic, Ed drew on the authority of the Church for his remarks but did not disclose that they pay him to be out there, and Vince Heuser criticized OSA’s antics without disclosing that he’s been representing them. Local news has covered the remarks of OSA and their supporters at their “press conference” outside quite thoroughly, so there’s no need to recap that for you.

It was all over the place, really. As of now, there is no actual proposal before the Metro Council to vote on; we continue to urge our supporters to contact their Council Person and ask for action (Glass Capitol). Meanwhile, we’ll continue doing what we do, in accordance with our long-established Points of Unity. We will continue to train for deescalation and nonengagement regardless of the provocation, and we will continue to remain client focused. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the antis do or say – it only matters what clients accessing care decide that they want. Someone has  to respect that.

(If you were unable to attend the meeting, video can be viewed here.)

Sidewalk Snippet – 7/13/17

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The escorts in Louisville see dozens, and occasionally, hundreds of protestors on any given day. Sometimes though, we’re blessed to have only a few. Today was one of those days. It’s rare, but sometimes escorting can be a real snooze. Whenever that happens, it’s terrific.

When the escorts are bored, a client isn’t being assaulted; we aren’t calling the police because a protestor is trespassing on clinic property; there isn’t a blockade or sit-in underway. Boredom doesn’t mean that clients present aren’t experiencing some form of bullying or harassment, just that it’s kept at the bare minimum for a state so hostile to reproductive choice.

It’s odd for me to feel blessed with boredom. At any other time in my life, standing around watching traffic drive by would cause me no small amount of anxiety. I always need to feel like I’m actively engaged in something for work or school. But on the sidewalk, in front of KY’s last remaining abortion clinic, we escorts revel in boredom.

To any escorts reading this, I hope you have a very boring week.

There is no law against love.

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Content warning: domestic violence

When walking with a victim of domestic violence to the police station or walking with a patient to the clinic through years, I have observed remarkable similarities in the behaviors expressed by both abusers and protesters, but I had not reflected upon the actions til now, I realized they do share correlations as oppressors, with their complicated perception of love.

Let me say it clearly, I’m not saying that protesters and abusers are the same-  abusers in abusive relationships can be physically violent toward the victim(beating, strangling, punching), as well as withholding financial and social access (preventing the victim from seeing their family, and not allowing having a personal bank account or keeping their income), as well as holding the children or pets as hostages. Reproductive abuse includes withholding the access to contraceptives, refusing to take them to the pharmacy for emergency contraceptives, marital rape, as well as forcing their partners into keeping unwanted pregnancies, trapping them in the relationship. And on the other side, some clinics, this one included, have experienced physical aggression as in stepping on the patient’s shoes in the back, or leaning heavily backward upon an escort, or blocking the patient, using a graphic fetus poster. At no point, I am not saying that protesters are abusers in their intimate relationships since I do not know their personal lives, and I certainly don’t want to know what they do in their own homes. (Wish they could give us the same consideration!)

What parallels they do share are:

Verbal abuseYell.  Speak in a menacing tone. Blaming. “Do not talk back to me.” Criticize you on how you look, talk, act. In the home, abusers put down your opinions, or yell at you front of your family or friends enough to embarrass you, mock you on your successes.  “You are ugly, you’re lucky that you have me. No one else would want you.” “You are stupid- you can’t do anything right.”  “Shouldn’t have made me mad to hurt you.” While on the sidewalk, it is common to hear “you’re a murderer,”  using a loudspeaker loud enough to deafen you even with a bluff of thick glass between you and the anti. “Your hot pants got you in this situation.” “We pray that God breaks you down and humble you so that you may know and love him.”  “You’re prime candidates for euthanasia,” spoken to an escort in an wheelchair and to an elderly escort using a cane.   “This is what love looks like” was said by the protester harassing the escort.

Gas-lighting: This is a tactic that intentionally causes one to question “did I just experience that?” while the abuser or protester claims that it did not happen, or switch the role to themselves, painting themselves as the victim.  The victim would look for her keys which she very well knew she had put on the counter, and then the abuser would return the keys to the counter later and tell the victim “you’re feeble-minded, you forget everything.” The victim then questions her sanity.  After saying “I’ll kill you,” later to say “I was kidding, I never said that, you made that up.” On the sidewalk, it’s common for protesters to make statements which they then do not recall later on, or rewritten to make themselves look as victims. “I’m the victim, not you!” “I did not push you, you pushed me” – despite the fact that they were in the back, pushing against you.  “Rape is always wrong, it would be wrong for me to rape you, and abortion is always wrong. If I raped you, it would be wrong, and getting an abortion is wrong.” “She certainly does not look brutally raped!” was said to a patient’s mother trying to explain why her daughter was getting an abortion.  Trivializing is popular, in dismissing their own behavior, while telling the patient or escort “you’re too sensitive, getting upset over a little thing?” It is also common for them to take videos and then edit the videos to paint themselves as the victim or martyr, omitting their own oppressive actions toward the patients and escorts, so when folks see the edited videos, they question the validity of the experiences that the patients and escorts – exactly as intended. That is a reason why we escorts hold up our cameras to tape illegal and violent activities of protesters,  on live Facebook, to prove otherwise.

ThreatsThreats are very common in both situations. That includes intimidation and threatening gestures.  “If you leave me, I’ll find you and kill you.” “No one will believe you, they will think you crazy.” “You have no job experience, no one will hire you. How can you live without me?”  The abuser does this to control the victim to stay in the abusive relationship, and people keep wondering why they will not leave.  Threats can be overt (“I’ll take you to court and take the children from you”), and covert, in which the victim is hyper-sensitized then to certain gestures and words – even a raised eyebrow can be a threat to the individual involved, that may fly over other people not familiar with this kind of tactic.  On the sidewalk, the threats are often cloaked with ‘good intentions’- hence covert threats, “They’re going to take you into the basement and cut your baby up.  If there was a fire, you’d never make it out alive.” “Be a  man, don’t let her kill your baby.” “You should die for helping them kill their babies.” Provoking the companions in goal of having them attack the ‘helpless protester” to get police involved, to prevent the patient from going ahead with the procedure.   And of course, this one. Loudly in the Louisville Metro Council chambers.

 

Depersonalizing: Both share the belief that the domestic violence victim and patient seeking the procedure is not their own person- they are property, belonging to the controller/public, not allowed to decide  or thinking for themselves. Even more, they see you as an object that should be controlled within marriage or relationship, your reproductive capability belonging to them, not you. They shame you for having sex outside of marriage, and then shame you for having a sexual identity – “Slut”, “Whore”, “mother”, “mommy”, “freak”, “sinner.” They take the personal identity from the individual involved in the situation, be it in a relationship or going to the clinic.

In the predictable outcome, the escorts and medical staff become desensitized to the mistreatment, like the victim in the abusive relationship.  The insults start creeping in, imperceptibly undermining the victim’s confidence and the escorts’ resilience. Insults disguised as jokes or prayers. Eventually, by months of being belittled and disparaged, the abuse is then normalized. It is concerning that when a day on the sidewalk come with “minimal” verbal abuse and threats, we count it as a “good day”, not realizing until later that it was still traumatizing for the patient who is like a victim newly exposed to domestic violence in the budding relationship, without conditioning as we escorts and medical staff have been.  The victim in the abusive relationship had already lost their self-confidence and trust in themselves was gone, whittled to nothing by the hands of the abuser.  Easier to do that with being isolated and alone, which is not so for us escorts and medical staff. We have each other to check in, to hold space, and to reaffirm our support for each other.  I admire solo escorts at certain clinics immensely; they each one would have to deal with the hatred cloaked as “love” and “good intentions,” while reassessing their self assertion without that support.   The tactics by the abuser and protester aim to cause harm to the other person who dares to take control of their own body, whittling here and there to the point that most of us have become numb.   Only when talking to other escorts who just returned to the sidewalk, commenting on escalating aggression, do we realize the danger.

All  this acts are done in name of “love” –  how they interpret love is very different from what the majority of us see love as.  They see love as harming the person for “the good of the person/soul.” They blanket their oppression, the violence, the aggression as “love”.

In domestic violence, the abusers misconstrue their actions as “love,” as control and power over the partner/victim.  They feel threatened by any sign of independence, either physical or emotional, expressed by their partner, such as considering going to college or getting a job, or picking an item of clothing without the abuser’s feedback. Hence the behavior is to pull in the victim back in control, while reminding them that the behavior is their fault, not the abuser’s. Shifting the blame of their own oppressive actions upon the victim in the abusive relationship: “You made me hurt you, I love you and I have to do this to you.”

In protesting against abortion, protesters distort their actions as “love,” as control and power over the patient, medical staff and escorts.  They feel threatened by the patient practicing the right to decide for themselves, so they cloak their harassing by claiming they are doing it in God’s name. The protesters are avoiding taking responsibility for their own behavior by claiming that the escorts supporting the patients are making them being aggressive. And they threaten the medical staff providing the abortions, by trying to find where they live, where they go to church or the grocery, with potential of harm. They even bragged how they stalked providers, with pride.  The “You’re making me hurt you, God says I must love you, and I am doing this in name of His love” mentality.

So you can see, how the abusers and protesters share some common ground in their twisted perception of love, how they shape love in their own image, to justify emotional, psychological and physical maltreatment toward the victim in the intimate relationship and the patients and people involved in reproductive access. Excusing their own abusive behavior in the name of “love.”

Truth?  Not in love, not in God’s name, but in truth, in the name of power, fear and control.

Sidewalk Snippet 07/06/17

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Our local antis routinely shove literature into the hands of clients and random pedestrians alike. Social conditioning and not wanting to appear rude, many people accept the handouts and move on.

Most times it is discarded within a few minutes of receiving it.

Sometimes they just throw it in a trash bin on the way past. Other times it’s handed to escorts and they ask us to please get rid of it. When that happens the antis accuse us of taking the pamphlets to prevent clients from learning the truth.

No, our goal is to keep them from being thrown out randomly littering downtown.

 

Where would they go? Part Two – The Patients

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Please also read Part One – the antis, and Part Three – the clinic staff.

Before I get into where the patients would go in the event that controlling power hungry oppressors get their wish, I want to take a moment to make sure our readers truly realize what it already takes for a Kentuckian to get an abortion. In April, Kentucky Health Justice Network outlined the barriers that many folks face before they even get to the clinic in this post:

The True Cost of Abortion in Kentucky

Effective Tuesday April 11, 2017, due to additional overhead from the new ultrasound law, increased staff needs and legal costs, EMW is raising their prices by $50 across the board.  That means the least expensive procedure (medication abortion, using the pill) will cost $700 per person. Someone at 14 weeks will have to pay $1150. Twenty weeks: $2050.

Those procedures costs are some of the highest in the nation, but there are costs far beyond that. Here is a breakdown of what it really costs:

If someone has a negative blood type, they will have to pay extra for a Rhogam shot. $60 if they are under 12 weeks, $150 if they are over 12 weeks.

If they do not live in Jefferson County, they will have to travel up to 250 miles round trip. That requires access to a reliable vehicle, and usually a companion to do the driving post-op. (So, also factor in gas money. Yes, maybe they could fly or ride a greyhound but would they take cabs to and from the airport, bus station, hotel, clinic, etc?)

The law requires they receive informed consent counseling 24 hours before the procedure. Some people take two trips to the clinic for this.  Some do it via web app but that requires access to Internet or smart phone data, plus a safe environment for a video conference call, which can be a big challenge for people in rural areas.

If they are a parent, childcare arrangement must be made, and sometimes paid for.

They may need to stay in Louisville overnight, which could cost $70-100 per night, plus cost of meals while away from home.

All this could require taking 3-5 days off work, which could mean losing a substantial chunk of income, or risking job loss.

All this to access safe legal care, that insurance could cover if it wasn’t for politicians trying to control our bodies and our lives.

THANKS, KHJN for that informative breakdown and also for running the Support Fund, which provides direct and practical support for Kentuckians facing barriers to abortion access, even when they have to travel out of state for care, which brings us back to our title query: Where Would They Go?

Kentucky is bordered by 7 states.

Indiana is home to four abortion clinics, and VP Mike Pence.  Many believe that if KY loses its clinic, IN won’t be too far behind.  I disagree, but have learned in the last year or so to not be too comfy or confident because those in power do intend to strip every right to bodily autonomy away from us, and they are wealthy, resourceful, and punishing- at best. Abortions in Indiana are only available prior to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Ohio has about 3.5 clinics right now.  One clinic in Cincinnati had to modify their services because of harsh restrictions that have no medical justification. For now, that facility can only offer medication abortion (with the pill) prior to 7 weeks of pregnancy, plus pre-op requirements for patients who live close to there, but then would have to travel to another location in Dayton where a termination can be performed.  For many folks living in Central or Northern KY, these OH clinics would be the closest options.

Illinois has some of the least restrictive laws, and several clinics. It is also the Bluegrass State’s neighbor that is least convenient for most KYians to get to. It’s likely that most people traveling to IL for care would be doing so to access abortions later in pregnancy.  Those surgeries can cost as much as $3600 and are often medically necessary due to a variety of complications and health risk.

Missouri is also home to just one clinic- the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. Anyone accessing abortion care in Missouri will be subjected to a SEVENTY-TWO HOUR WAIT, you know, because grown people cannot be trusted to know what they need when they make their doctors appointments. Seems like there would be similar regulations on things like erectile dysfunction meds…oh, wait.. nevermind, LOL. Due to that wait, I cannot imagine KYians choosing MO for an abortion unless they live very close to that state, and have supportive family or friends they can stay with. That medically unnecessarily waiting period is a huge barrier.

Virginia has several clinics, but they are also heavily regulated. Abortions performed beyond the first trimester must be done in a hospital, possibly with the approval of a second physician. There is a 24 hour waiting period, plus mandatory ultrasounds, and parental consent requirements for minors, among lots of other medically unnecessary laws.  Again, KYians needing care would likely only travel to VA if it were convenient for them personally, which is unlikely for the bulk of KY residents.

West Virginia is in a similar boat as KY, with one remaining clinic open in Charleston, which is neighbored by a (you guessed it) crisis pregnancy center- which can be especially confusing for folks coming from out of town. The drive to Charleston and back would be over 500 miles for most KYians.

Tennessee has a handful of abortion clinic, which are of course, outnumbered by deceptive crisis pregnancy centers, including a mobile unit.  Nashville or Bristol has the locations that would be most convenient for Kentuckians being forced to travel for care. Anyone seeking an abortion in TN must endure a 48 waiting period, so we can imagine that a KYian going to TN for care would need a place to stay, or have to make two trips.

All those options are only possibilities for people who have access to resources including social and emotional support, travel capabilities, the freedom and funds to take time off work, and many other hurdles including the biggest one: money.  Most states have one or more abortion fund, and some clinics have financial assistance programs, but for many, the hurdles created by stigma, crisis pregnancy centers, and legislation make it a miracle for folks to even be able to reach a clinic, or a fund in order to get factual information about the care available to them, and what it takes to get there.

We already know that google searches about how to induce an abortion at home are way up. We know that people with mouths to feed and bills to pay will take desperate and dangerous steps to end a pregnancy.  We know that stickers like this pictured below are appearing in public places because groups like Women Help Women want to make sure people have reliable, modern information, rather than questionable “guides” to using cottonroot bark, tansy, pennyroyal, and more to poison oneself in an effort to induce a miscarriage.

Unfortunately, I think the chilling truth that we have to face is that while people with resources will be able to travel to clinics mentioned above, those with fewer privileges in fact have fewer choices, and will likely end up repeating the drastic actions of people in poor, rural, or marginalized communities before Roe vs Wade. As we have already seen, these are also the communities most vulnerable to prosecution for the crime of taking care of their bodies.  This is why it’s vital to preserve access: so people can have compassionate and safe care in a medical setting. If only we can stop clinics from being regulated out of existence.

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