notes from a Ken’s first saturday 3/21/09

I spent two hours this morning providing a barrier between women going into an abortion clinic and those that would see the procedure outlawed. I have lived a pretty full and often bizarre life, dabbling in all manners of lifestyles and realities but what I saw today twisted my head far worse than any mushroom, pill, smoke or juice fast I have ever indulged.

I’m just home from a session at O’Shea’s trying to get my head around this (therapy is for people that can’t afford a good bartender). I need to write this, get it out there, get it out of my head. Please read no further if you expect me to be fair or even-tempered or civil about the anti-abortion thugs I saw today. Those people are VILE! And Jesus is going to be right pissed off at them when they get to his heaven.

These poor women drive up, emotional taxed at the decision they have made, forcing their every step to do what women are intrinsically, genetically wired NOT to do. Immediately they are set upon by eight to fifteen strangers, half wearing orange vests and looking like rugby players asking if they’d like an escort, the other half begging them not to kill their baby. Most accept the escorts. Those that don’t – two today, I think – were pretty much badasses that threatened to knock a bitch out if she didn’t get out of her face with all that Jesus mythology bullshit.

The escorts surround the patient and their supporter, two in the back, one on each side. The ones on the side hold extended hands in front of the client, forming a wedge, all four keeping a bodywidth buffer between the patient and the protesters trying to hand pamphlets and rosaries, saying shit like “your baby may cure cancer” and “you’ll burn in hell for all eternity for this”. One freak even holds up her less-than-six-month-old baby in front of the client and walks, BACKWARDS, down the broken sidewalk. It was cold out at 7 this morning and this baby is wearing nothing but a sleeper. That bitch should have her kid placed in protective services.

I took up station on the street in front of the clinic with one, sometimes another escort. When the entourage arrived, it was our job to extend an arm and make a hallway through the idiots. For as toxic and potentially volatile as that sounds, this was never the point of greatest tension. As I understand it, that usually came in the parking lot with one or two of the most zealot getting overly pushy and aggressive to get to the patient before the escorts. There was one moment when the crowd compressed just as the entourage was passing through and the asshole behind me shoved me and screamed not to push him. I said “I didn’t shove you, you gotta give us room to get through.” And that was it. He left shortly after that.

In another tense moment, a homeless looking man with a beat up crucifix, got up in my face, accused me of doing this to baby jesus – seriously, this simpleton said just that, “you are doing this to baby jesus”. I tried not to laugh, looked deep into his eyes, and said “mythology, Zeus, Juno, Mt Olympus, just like that ,you are living mythology”. He said I had a cold, hard heart and he’d pray for me. I told him to talk to himself in the dark about somebody else.

But these are the stray fifteen seconds of adrenaline pumping intensity. Most of the time is painfully boring. Standing, pacing, listening to badly cadenced Hail Mary’s, poorly pronounced Our Father’s and woefully out of tune Ave Maria’s. As if the crucifixes aren’t creepy enough, they have Kroger bags full of rosaries and a little wooden cradle full of sacred heart medallions – aren’t these things sanctified and supposedly objects of holy adoration? “Just chuck that Holy Grail in the dishwasher, hon, we’re off to violate the constitution and every law of common human decency in the name of our personal Jesus!” From the pictures they carried, a blued-eyed white man from the Middle East I think.

In the end, the protesters just drifted off. The sun came up into beautiful rose colored clouds. The clients’ friends came out to get their cars and take their loved ones home. The sheriff shook our hands and thanked us – odd that, I thought. Someone, Meg, took notes about the oddities of the morning and asked what I thought. I thought it was way less volatile than I imagined. We took off our vests and went home.

I hate the idea of doing this again. I’m haunted by the faces of those terrorized young women – one especially, held close by her man, trying his best not to cry for the hell his ladylove was enduring. Haunted, as in I’ve puked twice thinking about it all. Haunted. Forever, never ever the same, I feel. I fear.

But those faces make it impossible for me NOT to go back.

10 thoughts on “notes from a Ken’s first saturday 3/21/09

  1. One more thing I’d like to add. When I captured these thoughts, I was raw from the assault on my senses. I was offended by the judgment and condemnation meted out by the prolifers, not to mention the total disregard for personal space and border line illegal obstruction. I struck back at the core of their religious beliefs using words like mythology and fairy tales. I apologize for attacking anyone’s beliefs.

    Everyone has a right to believe as they believe without ridicule or condemnation. Going forward, I will do my level best to refrain from insulting beliefs and stick to the issues at hand – unobstructed access to medical care and the bizarre dance between freedom of speech and free access.

  2. It’s nice to see a thought turned into a discussion. Glad I could stimulate the juices.

    Tiffany – Thank you! I hadn’t considered the effects of projecting my emotions and judgments into the situation. You are right, we are there to make a hallway and walls don’t judge, cry or laugh. They just need stand there and do their job.

    Michelle – Believe it or not, I think most of us on both sides of the issue come to the clinic out of compassion, duty and responsibility. I am not experienced enough in this whole escort thing to comment intelligently or debate the tactics of either side. But it seems to me the time to counsel on abortion alternatives is not as a woman is walking into an abortion clinic. And from my limited experience – two Saturday Mornings – these sidewalk “counselors” aren’t counseling at all, they are condemning and producing undue burden to women accessing safe, legal, reproductive care.

  3. I would like to take a moment and point out to Michelle that regardless of what your reasons for being at the clinic are, the reality is that your actions as a whole (the atmosphere out side of the clinic) is intended to be intimidating and judgmental. Inside the clinic I hear more than anything else something along the lines of “they are so mean, why are they so mean?’ There is no way to come across as loving as you shove lit at clients and refuse to leave them alone when they ask you too. You may be yelling jesus loves you, but you are still yelling.

    And it is up to women to decide if they have all of the information they need. I am happy for any person who finds they have a healthy pregnancy when they thought other wise, but the fake clinic is not a clinic. You all are there to perpetuate a world view and not to provide medical care. The political views you espouse taint any advice you may give and if there is not space for a whole continuum of options for dealing with an unhealthy pregnancy than you are doing every one a disservice.

    If you care, find another way to positively impact someone’s life. Being outside of the clinic is vulgar and no matter your intentions hurts more women than it helps.

  4. Just two weeks ago a distraught woman came out of the clinic and “chose” to go across the street to A Women’s Choice where she saw her baby via 3-D ultrasound–perfectly formed. She had so much joy after seeing the image of the healthy baby girl inside her. She was told by another clinic out of town that her baby had heart problems, which is what brought her to Louisville for the abortion. Yet the ultrasound showed the baby was perfect. This is why I go back–I’m not trying to make the process any more difficult for any woman–there are some women/girls/dads, etc. who are uninformed and have never understood the other choices out there like adoption or other social support…Our world views differ greatly, and you would say I am wrong in believing in a God to whom I will answer one day…If I am wrong, and He is just a myth, then what I am doing only goes as far as doing the right thing in my mind–praying for the moms, escorts, doctors, etc, and being there if someone changes her mind. If you are wrong, and there is a God, then wouldn’t it be irresponsible for anyone who believes in Him to ignore the fact that many innocent, uninformed women and girls are walking into a place where a doctor gets paid to dispose of her baby? There are some things in the Bible that are clear. It is safe to say that God despises abortion, but it is also very clear that God forgives all things when anyone accepts His existence and His gift of grace through Jesus. If you are right, then I am just another person on a corner expressing my right to free speech, and maybe helping a woman in need.

    I don’t know about the physical altercations you experienced, but from your post I take it that you believe the “protestors” are only there to judge and/or harass the women and escorts. That is not why I am there, and not what most of the people I know are there for. There is genuine love for these women, even if you don’t understand our point of view. The moments on that street corner are the last opportunity for anyone to reach their hearts and minds before they make a decision that will have long lasting emotional and physical consequences. That’s what I believe, and I know you believe differently. We both care.

    • I would point out to Michelle that many people who are atheists might feel that your choice to believe in a deity is a choice that not only ruins your own life, but also influences your choices to ruin the lives of others (i.e. with your abortion protests, voting against gay marriage, etc.). You have to ask yourself, how would you feel if every Sunday, when you walked from your car to your church, you had to deal with a crowd of atheists shouting at you about how deluded you are, that your religion is nothing but antiquated mythology, that your religion causes pain and suffering to millions of innocent people. Even if the intentions of the atheists were good, would you condone such behavior? Would you applaud their efforts as you walked through their midst on your way to church? Now imagine that it isn’t an easy choice like going to church, but a very difficult life decision that you already feel bad about having to do, something that you have already agonized over, a choice that you wouldn’t make unless you had already decided was the best of a bunch of awful choices. That is the low point at which you and your flock choose to harass these women and their families.

  5. Yay for guest bloggers! I really enjoyed reading this post, and hearing Ken’s experience. After some time at the clinic, I think I can be jaded about what it is like for people their first time. And I was certainly glad to see Ken back today! I think it was very brave to post this and to come back to fight the good fight.

    This blog also brings up something that I have been giving a lot of thought lately: our tendency to project emotions onto clients entering the clinic. This is something that I will venture to say all of us escorts have done at some point, and something that I think we need to guard against and keep in check. While the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a difficult decision for some women, it is not for others, and we escorts usually don’t know into which camp a client falls, nor do we need to know. There have certainly been occasions in which clients have sought out emotional support from us, and I am not discounting those emotions. But, abortion is a routine health care procedure and the less emotions we project onto it the more likely others are to realize that it is a routine part of womens health care. By giving it more weight and power, by imagining that making this decision emotionally taxes all who make it, the more power we give the anti-choicers, who are quick to say that “they’re only upset about it because they know it’s wrong”. It is important to remember (and I have to remind myself at least once a week!) that we are not there to make judgments, good or bad. My role as an escort is to provide access that would otherwise be impeded. And my goal is that there will one day come a time when we don’t have to be there.

    Also, I think we must be very careful in assuming that the decision to abort is difficult because of biological imperatives. While I understand the idea behind the statement, that all animals are driven to reproduce in order to propagate the species, the idea that all women have an inherent drive/need/desire to carry and birth children is a dangerous one. For the other side of that statement is that women are genetically programmed to bear children, which is an idea that I think many of the anti choicers embrace, and has historically been a tool to oppress women. (barefoot and pregnant, anyone?) There are times when our evolution as humans allows us to move past our animal natures. We are doing that whenever we use birth control. Vasectomies are a great case in point – sort of the opposite of abortion in this reference. But I don’t think that we assume that when men get vasectomies that they are going against their nature.

    All that being said, abortion is a difficult decision for some women, as is the decision to become a mother. We should always honor and respect those decisions, giving whatever support is asked of us. And I am so appreciative of Ken and all my fellow escorts who drag themselves out of bed so early in the morning, rain or shine, and head to the clinic. Our presence is our statement, and what a powerful one it is.

    Peace to you all, and I’ll see you next week!

  6. Pingback: From the Eyes and Mouth of a Pro-Choice Activist: Louisville, Kentucky « Lawn Gospel

  7. I escorted down there for about a year or so, I think it was. I could write a fucking book – every day was just bizarre. I guess you didn’t see the man with the papier-mache fetus nailed to a cross that he carried around on his back. It was about two feet tall, and had an american flag sticking out of the end of the umbilical cord. Bizarre.

    • If you want to volunteer we suggest that you attend our next training Saturday April 25 at 9am. Check back here for location as it is yet to be determined. Or feel free to swing by any Saturday morning and check us out. Introduce yourself to an escort, we are the ones in the orange vests, and we will get you started.
      Thanks for the interest.

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