Because the most important person in an unintended pregnancy is the dude. Right?!

Saturday before Father’s day. June 20, 2009.

Escorts:15

Protesters:300

Cops: 1 with extra patrols

I know it has been a few weeks since Father’s Day weekend, but it has been a little crazy around here, and I really wanted to write about the morning. So please forgive the delay.

When we showed up to the clinic around 6:50, there were 30 or so protesters in their usual spots, starting the rosary and in general milling about. About 7:10 or so the Sisters for Life, Angela’s group, marching around the corner. By around 7:30 there were close to 300 protesters outside the clinic.

Most of the protesters stayed very close to the door, creating a gauntlet on both sides of the over hang. Those around the door were singing and praying loudly, Angela was using a blow- horn directing the protesters. With approximately 200-250 protesters on the clinic side of the street, they spilled out into the street.

There were also another 25-30 protesters standing in the parking lot across Market Street. These protesters were mostly people we had not seen before from Sister’s for Life and the usual protesters from A Women’s Choice, the cpc down the street; these are the guys that do the majority of the chasing of clients from their cars to the clinic door.

There was a very different tone around these protesters as opposed to our regular crowd, they were very verbally aggressive making statements like “you will find great pain in the judgment of the blood of the babies on your hands” to the escorts. I heard that one a lot from a very tall, lanky man, wearing the pink Sisters for life tee-shirt. He was holding onto a 3 or 4 foot ‘Malachi’ sign and really yelled at clients getting as close to them has possible. Often we get called ‘deathscorts’ and vultures. We often get preached at and condemned, but I have rarely been so often told of my certain evilness and a complete de-humanization of my fellow escorts.

Another unique aspect of this protest happened at the door. Commonly, the Catholics say the rosary at the door with a person or two stepping out of line to talk at a client coming through, but mostly they stay in line and focus on their prayers. The Sisters for Life group would stop praying or singing to yell as a group at any client walking by. Squeezing into the area in front of the clinic doors, protesters attempted to impede clients walking forward from the street onto the sidewalk. Protesters we also trespassing onto clinic property throughout the morning and Officer R spent much of his morning keeping protesters on public property.

One client came out of the clinic to yell at one of the Sisters for Life protester for calling and waking up her mother to tell her she was at the abortion clinic.

Our escort training encourages escorts to refrain from engaging protesters in most cases. We try to keep lines of communication as open as possible without entering into heated debates or arguments with the protesters. Often escorts have to walk away from protesters as they attempt to engage us. This Saturday we had several protesters who attempted to talk to the escorts well after the escort made clear their desire not to engage. On one occasion, the protester, an older white male, grabbed the elbow of a younger white female escort as she attempted to disengage from the conversation by walking away. She became very upset and turned around yelling at him not to touch her. He immediately denied that he had touched her and began to argue with her about it.  Several escorts intervened and gave her the space to walk away from the protester.

Around 8:15 or 8:30am the protesters began having speakers use the blow-horn to speak to the crowd right outside of the clinic doors. Several men got up and spoke about how the abortions of their partners and wronged them, emphasizing their lack of inclusion in the decision. This all went on until close to 9am, when they marched off as quickly as they arrived, chanting and dancing off to a good old camp style call and response spelling Jesus as they went.

The morning was probably one of the worst I have seen in a while. We were not prepared for the large number of protesters, nor the overall aggressiveness from people we have never seen before. It was a rough one. But as usual, the escorts stepped up, dealt with the situation in front of us and remained as calm and composed as possible.

I continue to be amazed at the positive attitude of the escorts.

Please make sure to read the note a client posted about her experience entering the clinic this morning, posted below.

9 thoughts on “Because the most important person in an unintended pregnancy is the dude. Right?!

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  3. How sad.

    And how angry it makes me. Vengeful. And I know, to be vengeful isn’t a good thing, so they say…

    But if I had my druthers (I don’t know where they went, I think a right-to-lifer stole ’em) – there would be an organization which would exhibit the exact same behaviors as the anti-choice protesters – but it would be outside a church, their church, during every sermon and every meeting, where we could shout at them not to suppress their intellect

    “God Gave You A Brain For A Reason!” “Religion KILLS!!”

    Yes, I know, I’ve been told before, “don’t sink to their level” but really, any kid who’s ever been beaten down by a schoolyard bully knows that the bully stops fastest if an even BIGGER kid pushes the bully down. Sure, it’s violence meeting violence, but the kid who’s getting the beat down appreciates the big kid stepping up. Who is anyone to say to the Bigger Kid, “hey now, don’t sink to the bully’s level”, while watching the bully beat the smallest kid to a pulp.

    Really, is it better to try to talk it out, to compromise? Should we strike a deal where the bully can only punch the victim 3 times, or where the bully is only allowed to break three people’s noses during recess?

    Sheesh….

  4. Since our walk is shorter (and our protesters less aggressive) I just work to get and keep eye contact, and chat very clearly about the weather. Clients at my clinic do not want to engage the protesters, and my job is to give them somewhere else to focus for those 15 seconds.

    Clients mothers on the other-hand can need less distracting and more diffusing. I think we have a rule that no one can bring coffee to the clinic because we have had clients’ parents/supporters throw their coffee at protesters when pushed.

    For me, being an escort can mean protecting the protesters as well as the clients. We have called 911 several times: once when a protester dropped her baby on the sidewalk and the kid passed out. Not that she appreciated our effort, but it was our job. Thank you again for the strong post.

  5. I don’t know if this idea is to simplistic, but have you ever thought of offering ear plugs or other froms of hearing protection to people. If I had to go through that crowd not being able to hear seems like good idea.

    • We have offered ear plugs to clients in the past but found the process of stopping to unwrap them and put them in created more hassle than help. We also have handed clients signs with which they could block their faces from the protesters, especially when they are using cameras as tools of intimidation. But again we found it to be a less than ideal solution, as clients then had limited visibility. In general the best tool we have for supporting clients entering the clinic is a kind word and brisk step. We appreciate the thought. It is a good one.

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  7. I escort as well, and I am so sorry you had a day like that. It is beyond rough to be called names and condemned by my peers at home, and it sounds 10x worse where you are. My prayers and thoughts are with you–thank you for going on.

  8. You’ve done a nice job of capturing the attitude and mood of that day. Along with the incidents you mentioned, what is etched in my mind, and will forever baffle and astound me were the words to the song the Sister’s for Life sang right before they started the “Gimme a J” cheer:

    “Let the blood of Jesus wash me white as snow”

    Do they even hear themselves?

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