GOOD NEWS!

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In late August, anti-abortion groups successfully purchased the building that Dr Leroy Carhart was operating a clinic in, and terminated the lease abruptly, forcing the clinic to close.

This impacted people from all over the US, and delivered a palpable blow to patients, providers, and abortion funds who had appointments, or made referrals to that clinic.

The good news is: a handful of weeks later (which can translate to higher risk of complications AND a few extra THOUSAND dollars when we’re talking about needing to wait or travel for an abortion) Dr Carhart has been able to secure a new location for his Maryland practice, and is on track to open in just a few days.

This is GREAT news for access! CONGRATULATIONS to all involved in this wonderful development!

What it takes

Infographic from the Third Wave Foundation

The Abolition of Abortion in Kentucky Act

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As you may have seen in recent news reports, a bill has been pre-filed in the Kentucky legislature to outlaw abortion in the state. Due to its cruel and unconstitutional nature, it’s unlikely that the bill will pass and become law, but it may be useful to understand this proposal as it represents an extremist goal post for reproductive healthcare.

070CF9EE-E301-4B56-A1F5-6C50E43FF8E4This bill comes from Representative Dan Johnson, out of Bullitt County. Johnson is the head of Heart of Fire Church on Bardstown Rd, a church with a shocking amount of guns featured on their YouTube page. Johnson is most famous for racist remarks he made on his Facebook page leading up to his election. Despite comparing the Obamas to chimpanzees, he won election into the KY legislature.

The most striking and extreme of the changes to Kentucky Revised Statutes in this bill is the change to Kentucky’s Fetal Homicide laws. Under the Abolition of Abortion in Kentucky Act, Fetal Homicide Laws would apply both to a physician who performs an abortion as well as the person receiving the abortion. This bill would make abortion a capital offense though the death penalty is prohibited.

Curiously enough, KRS 311.760, which defines when a KY woman can receive an abortion (during the first trimester) is left intact. This is likely an oversight which speaks to the incompetent nature of the bill’s authorship.

Laced throughout this bill is language establishing Kentucky state law and the Kentucky state constitution over the laws and judicial decisions of the United States government. If this law were to pass the KY legislature and get signed by Governor Matt Bevin, it certainly would not hold up in court. It is blatantly unconstitutional and contradicts 40+ years of Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights. It’s unlikely to even make it out of the legislature and go to Bevin’s desk, but this GOP-led legislature together with Bevin have a habit of wasting money and resources on bad laws. How much money will KY waste in a vain attempt to antagonize federal authority?

This terrible bill speaks to some of the end goals of the anti-choice movement. Not only does this movement seek to punish abortion providers, but they want the ability to charge anyone who seeks an abortion with a capital crime.

Rusty Thomas Is Lying

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The thing about public records is that they’re public.

Yesterday, September 19, the 11 members of Operation Save America arrested in May had a pre-trial date for their criminal trespassing charges. A member of Louisville Clinic Escorts was present to observe the proceedings, which were over quickly. They were unable to speak with a prosecutor or anyone connected with a case, so we weren’t sure exactly what happened in the proceedings.

Soon after, Rusty Thomas posted a Facebook Live video declaring that the charges had been dismissed by the city and that OSA had found “incredible favor with the city of Louisville.” Needless to say, the LCE community was concerned.

After looking at the public records this morning, it’s clear that the charges against the 11 OSA members have NOT been dropped. Not only that, but the no-contact order for these 11 people is still in place through at least May 14, 2018.

It’s hard to comprehend why Rusty and OSA would be lying about this, especially considering this exists in public record. Rusty’s other assertion in the video, that the federal government would need state charges to be in place to prosecute a FACE Act violation, is also not true.

So to be clear, the Louisville trial for OSA continues May 14, 2018. FACE Act charges have not been filed yet but we hope they will be soon.

Persist

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Supporting abortion access in Kentucky is an unending struggle. Whether the opposition is the Kentucky state government under Matt Bevin’s leadership, the clinic invaders Operation Save America, or their combined efforts, supporters of reproductive justice persist for the benefit of those seeking reproductive healthcare.

When OSA left at the end of July, they did so without ending abortion in KY; without causing a single appointment to be missed; and they did so after galvanizing Louisville, causing citywide disruptions and animosity. The successful resistance to OSA was the result of months of hard work and planning by numerous pro-choice groups in concert with support from Kentucky residents. As EMW Women’s Surgical Center’s case proceeds in District Court this week, Louisville Clinic Escorts would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of these pro-choice organizations as they are and will be instrumental in the coming days, no matter the outcome of the federal trial.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, are directly involved with EMW’s case. Their participation and resources have been integral in building EMW’s case and protecting abortion access.

A Fund is the oldest abortion fund in KY. They help provide abortion funding to hundreds of women yearly.

Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN) provides a range of reproductive support services including direct funding, transportation and interpretation. Additionally, KHJN provides support for trans healthcare services.

-You can also support Louisville Clinic Escorts by sending PayPal donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

If you’d like something that involves personally showing up for reproductive justice, the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC) is sponsoring a rally in support of EMW at the Federal Court House on Tuesday, September 5 at 7PM. Louisville Clinic Escorts are not directly involved with this rally, but welcome the support KRCRC provides.

Finally, LCE would like to thank the community for avoiding pro-choice counter-protests at EMW. Counter-protests often escalate the aggression of anti-choice protestors and create more chaos on the sidewalk. This chaos only creates greater challenges for patients entering the clinic. Please continue respecting the wishes of LCE and EMW staff in this regard.

Sidewalk Snippet, 9/2/2017

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We’ve had a rainy and cold past couple of days on the sidewalk. While the rain sometimes keeps the number of antis down, the sidewalk is no less crowded when each anti is sporting a large umbrella.

 

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Since we focus on safety and deescalation, escorts leave the umbrellas at home. Escorts are encouraged to use ponchos or rain coats – they’re usually affordable and compact, so we can keep extras in our bags for when they’re needed. More importantly they don’t carry the risk of accidentally hitting someone or causing an injury if caught in the wind. And, of course, a poncho takes up far less space than an umbrella.

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When escorts walk with people who’ve given consent to be accompanied from their cars, antis ignore the usual social mores that dictate people give one another a certain amount of physical personal space. And when everyone has a large umbrella, that can be worse than merely rude. Countless times escorts, patients, companions, and even antis have been poked with an umbrella being held by someone who insists on getting in close physical proximity while forcing both their opinions and their bodies onto non-consenting individuals. It’s just a small example of the protesters having little regard for the safety and autonomy of others when it comes into conflict with their sense of entitlement to other people’s time, attention, bodies, and lives.

 

 

Sidewalk Snippet, 8/24/2017

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Each morning when escorts arrive at the clinic we make a quick scan for anything that looks out of place. In the past week two incidents of childish, petty vandalism were quickly apparent to early arriving escorts.

On Tuesday, someone spray painted over the word “no” on the marked white line that distinguishes clinic property and is clearly marked “No Trespassing.”

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This morning, after the LEO ran a front page feature that was actually balanced reporting, someone again took issue. 17 copies of the paper were thrown in front of the doors of the clinic.

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It’s little acts of aggression like this that we see building on to a bigger, more explosive, incident in the future

Guest Blog: Life Lessons from the Sidewalk

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Following the disastrous 2016 election season, I knew that I had to find a positive way to focus the despair and frustration I felt or sink into depression so deep that I might never emerge. I chose to join the battle for abortion access as my return path to sanity and signed up to escort at EMW.

At 65 years of age, and as a person who will generally go a long way to avoid conflict, I wondered whether this would be the right option for me. I went to a training session where experienced escorts introduced the Points of Unity, guidelines for effective escorting, the Drama Triangle, and tips on managing the antis who congregate in front of the clinic every morning. OK, I thought to myself, this doesn’t sound so bad.

Then I went to the sidewalk.

The noise, the shoving and pushing, the harassment, the rudeness, the shaming and threats from the antis were worse than I could have imagined.

But the strength and dignity of the escorts in the face of that abuse was amazing.. That’s the key.

I’ve spent eight months as an escort now, studying and trying to absorb the Points of Unity in my sidewalk interactions. I am seeing their effectiveness more clearly each week as I attempt to practice non-engagement with the antis, to seek consent from clients before jumping to conclusions about what they might need, and to focus solely on support and empowerment for the client. It’s surprising how easy it is to ignore the foolish sidewalk drama when all my attention is directed fully toward the clients and their safe access to the clinic.

Even more remarkable is how well this emphasis on non-engagement and clarity of purpose has transferred into the other parts of my life. I am learning that the distractions of endless political tweets and posts do not have to interrupt my work, my family time, or my sleep. I am learning to focus on one task at a time. I am learning that we can’t change the behavior or the opinions of those who disagree with us, but by offering our time and our support and our attention we may be able to improve the lives and situations of those with whom we directly interact.

 

Sidewalk Snippet, 8/19/2017

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On a typical Saturday the sidewalk coming from 1st Street to the clinic is lined on either side by Catholic antis. They mostly pray, standing and periodically kneeling, though the occasional “plea” will be shouted at clients. The gauntlet looks like this:

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As 8:30 approaches, they begin the process of dispersing. The gauntlet breaks up. Catholic antis mill about, say their hellos and catch up with one another, exchange various items. For about five minutes, the sidewalk looks like this:

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Clients are generally done arriving by this time, but it’s a bit of an inconvenience for anyone else walking by.

The New Normal

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The National Conference held by Operation Save America was more than just a disruption at EMW Women’s Surgical Center; it was a city-wide disturbance. While OSA were in town, they visited churches, protested with graphic signs and trucks all over the city, and even displayed a “live abortion” on a Jumbotron at a park downtown. Most disturbing, they distributed the personal information of clinic workers and demonstrated outside of their homes. Now that it’s August, and all but the local members of OSA have left, the question I get asked by my local friends is, “So is everything back to normal?” Consider the rest of this post a long “no.”Aug 2 814a

The first two weeks of August 2017 have felt significantly more perilous while escorting. Louisville Clinic Escorts love boredom, but the past 2 weeks have been eventful, unfortunately. Comparing the incidents of August 2016 with those of this year show both an increase in the number of anti-choice protestors as well as a heightened level of aggression of antis.

The number of antis that showed up on weekdays has increased significantly in August 2017 compared to August 2016. Two weekdays in the first two weeks examined saw a 100% increase in the number of protestors year over year. No weekdays saw a drop in the number of protesters. The number of protestors on Saturdays were comparable year to year.

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Looking at the numbers of protestors only provides half the picture of escalation by antis. The other half is the aggression they express. From August 2-13, 2016, there were no incidents significant enough for the police to be called. This doesn’t mean that patients weren’t harassed, just that the harassment didn’t rise to the level of requiring LMPD intervention. Between August 1-12, 2017, police were contacted twice by either the escorts or by the clinic.

The first incident occurred on Saturday, August 5. A man harassed two escorts with rhetoric that rose to the level of significant threat. The man stated that if his daughter ever thought of having an abortion he’d “lynch her.” He then said maybe we should go back to the old days of “lynching white women,” directly threatening the escorts. The individual was dangerous enough that employees of A Woman’s Choice, the CPC next to EMW, requested escorts to ask LMPD for assistance. An officer spoke with the man, who then walked down the street accompanied by Vince Heuser, attorney for the 11 National OSA people arrested May 13, 2017.

The second incident happened on Tuesday, August 8. A homeless man approached the clinic and spoke to one of the regular Catholic protestors. She gave him items from the trunk of her car, including a carton of cookies. Presumably, she also told him about the abortion clinic since he immediately began harassing the escort standing near the front door. The escort, fearing for their safety, began recording the man, who then tried to grab the escort’s phone multiple times. At one point, the man swung the carton of cookies within inches of the escort’s face. The clinic called the police who responded and after talking to him, asked the man to leave the area.

Both of the men in these incidents appeared to be homeless. It’s been a tactic of antis in the past to use descriptions like “deathscorts” and “murderers” to cause escalation using homeless people as a proxy. It’s symbolic of the escalation of aggression on the sidewalk the first two weeks of August 2017.

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The OSA conference was widely covered by both local and national press. It seems this press acted as a recruitment tool for new antis. In the past few weeks new antis, several carrying megaphones, have begun protesting at EMW. One of the new antis screams aggressively at escorts and clients. Another has brought his 10 year-old brother and used him as a prop to block clients attempting to access the clinic entrance. Saturdays used to be primarily composed of Catholics praying on the sidewalks while only a few of their numbers actually approached and personally harassed patients. Now, more “walkers” than ever grab clients, block them using signs, and shout threats as they attempt to access legal healthcare. The numbers of antis may be the same as 2016 on a Saturday, but their tactics are not.

So no, things aren’t getting back to normal. Louisville Clinic Escorts are now getting used to a new normal, one that is significantly more dangerous than what was experienced at similar times in previous years. As antis increase their aggression, a safety zone is needed even more than before OSA came into town.

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Sidewalk Snippet, 8/11/2017

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“Normal” can change on the sidewalk quickly. The “Center for Medical Progress” videos intended to incite wrath at Planned Parenthood; goings on in national electoral politics; extremist groups riling up regular antis and bringing new antis out – we know to expect shifts in the dynamic from all of these things.

Recently, we saw some cooling off in the arguments between the longtime, regular weekday Catholic protesters and the newer and more militant Evangelical extremists. It’s not unusual for members of the latter group to yell at Catholics about their “Mary worship” and “idolatry,” and I was worried what large numbers of out of town Evangelical extremists, unused to the dynamic here and with no vested interest in keeping the peace, could mean for escalation between the opposing groups. Fortunately, my concern was unwarranted. Yesterday morning, though, we seemed to be back to it, as a local OSA associate chided Ed Harpring, of the Louisville Archdiocese, on the sidewalk this morning.

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The presence of our local extremists is always an interesting thing. They themselves have always been pretty insistent that what they do is not intended to be “counseling,” but street preaching. Abortion is just one front in a vast culture war that also includes attacking trans folks and Muslims; the clinic provides a handy gathering of various heathens in need of saving. Which sometimes includes the Catholics.

We were also treated to a guy who first showed up during OSA week, screaming at escorts and others in the alley behind the clinic.

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Image courtesy McCausland with Hosterman Photography.

We’d not seen this guy before. And when he showed up during OSA week, he didn’t have any gear. Now? Well, it looks like this is what we can expect going forward.

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“God HATES you… he hates your guts… you wicked, worthless children of the devil…”

I’m not entirely sure what our “new normal” looks like quite yet. More of the loud and aggressive antis for sure; but then, that’s been the trend for a while now.