The men at the abortion clinic, the anti-abortion men who were standing there today like sentries; the pray-ers were almost all male today, except for a couple of nuns and a young woman or two. The Puritan Fathers and their side-kicks; they are the gauntlet, reciting their rosary. They fling the prayer like darts.
and I can’t help it, I answer too in my head:
But worse than that was Yellow Shirt, he must have been 6’3”, right in front of us, walking backwards, yelling, “Don’t kill your baby, abortion is wrong, abortion is always wrong, it would be wrong for me to rape you, that would always be wrong, for me to rape you would always be wrong, and abortion is always wrong, it’s wrong for you to kill your baby,” louder and louder, over and over.
It makes me think about all the women who get raped, not just here, but in Rwanda and the Congo and in countries where women count for even less, have less power, than they do here. Really, it is like he says, I guess, rape is a choice too, and – are we supposed to be grateful that he’s not choosing to rape anyone today? Or at least not right now?
And if there’s a man with the client, Yellow Shirt says, “Be a man, don’t kill your baby, listen to me brother, men don’t kill their babies, be a man, don’t let her do this, don’t let her kill your baby…”
I think about my friend Mike’s mother, years ago, back in the 40’s, when she was having Mike, she was in a military hospital, her husband, Mike’s Dad, was a kind of high ranking officer, and he was out somewhere when she went into labor.
So they called him, and he told them “don’t let her have that baby ‘til I get there.”
So they didn’t, you know, they actually tied her legs together so she couldn’t have it ‘til he got there.
It messed Mike up too – gave him Bells Palsy – paralyzed him on one side, his shoulder and his arm. When he was 11 or 12 they developed a surgery that fixed it, so he got the use of his arm then. But you know, they frigging tied her legs together because her husband said, “Don’t let her have that baby til I get there.”
And crazy Mary today, cause it’s not just men, and crazy Mary was so crazy today, leaning on me, pushing on me, trying to get closer to the woman. And Mary too, chanting, “Don’t do this, it’s wrong, you’ll regret it, look at this, you’ll be sorry, don’t kill your precious unborn baby, just look at this, look at this,…” trying to shove a picture of a fetus in the client’s face.
I never thought I’d be escorting at the abortion clinic. I have so much ambivalence about abortion. Kind of like war. I hate it, wish it didn’t exist – but I wasn’t out there screaming “baby killer” at the soldiers that came back from Vietnam, and didn’t think anyone else should have either.
There was a guy on a bicycle at the clinic today, he wasn’t with any of the regulars, he was alone. He stationed his bike so it was halfway across the sidewalk, so it would be hard to get by with a client.
And A, who I’ve known forever, was there, and Crazy Mary was there, and A started reading the agreement that the “40 Days of Lifers” are supposed to have signed out loud.
She’s reading it to Mary, and Mary’s just grinning, and A’s reading it over and over, “I will not verbally harass anyone, I will not have physical contact with anyone,” and so on, getting louder and louder, “I will not verbally harass anyone…” and then Mary’s saying, “I’m not, you are,” and laughing and getting louder and louder and finally I say real quietly, “A, I don’t think engaging her is helping right now,” and she looks at me, and laughs, “I guess it’s not,” and stops.
And then she starts talking to the guy on the bike, and she says he’s not supposed to block the sidewalk, and then he calls her a bitch, and says she needs to shut her mouth, he says something about some people deserve to die, but innocent babies don’t, and he rides off; and then another girl says he was telling her that he’s got guns, that he got a gun license because of things like this where he has to defend himself, and we all thought, oh, shit, and kind of half expected him to ride around the block and come back shooting.
But he didn’t.
And when we told the security guard about it, the guard even seemed concerned and said to let him know if bike guy came back. Which I’m sure would be a big help.
It was when Dr. Tiller got killed that I started thinking maybe I should escort. Sure, the “pro-life” people kept saying, oh, no, they didn’t mean that anybody should kill anybody, but it felt like they were thinking something different. They sounded so innocent, and at the same time there was this undertone that maybe sometimes you had to be violent to save lives. It pissed me off.
The guard at the clinic was quite chatty today – he was talking about how when there’s physical contact, if both sides are involved, if there’s contact on both sides, it’s both their faults. I said it was kind of hard, when Mary came up and started leaning on me, it was hard not to have physical contact back since she was pushing against me, and I’d have to knock into the client to move away from her.
He said that he thinks of the situation as sort of like if a whole bunch of people were waiting to buy tickets for a concert, and there’d naturally be some arguments and people saying, he pushed me, and no, I was here first.
I nodded like I agreed, sure I could see his point, then I mimed thinking real hard and I said, “Yeah, I see, but – gosh, really – we’re not all here for the same reason. Like, we’re not all here to buy tickets.” And I’m still acting like I’m really thinking, which I guess in a way I was, and I say,
“I mean, the clients are the only ones that really belong here…” pause, “and they just want to get to the clinic…,”
“and legally I think they’ve got a right to do that,”
“and the protesters are actually trying to stop them from getting to the clinic – and”
“I wouldn’t even be here if the protesters didn’t harass them like they do.”
He looks at me with some amazement, and I say with a shrug,
“So, I don’t know…”
“Well, what I’d like to do is get some of these other people together first thing on Saturdays, you know, them other people, not youall, and just go over with them these rules, you know, just tell ‘em, this is the way it’s gonna be.”
Now it’s my turn to look amazed, and I hope I look admiring too, I say, “Wow. That’d really be cool, wouldn’t it?”
And then there’s another car in the parking lot, and crazy Mary heading for it, along with some other chasers and just one escort, so I flash a smile at him, and cross the street.
But what really did it for me, got me down here at seven o’clock in the morning on a Saturday morning, was the Catholic church’s response to that situation in Central America, or maybe it was South America, with the nine year old girl. Did you hear about it? The little girl had been raped by her step-father, raped repeatedly, and was pregnant, she was pregnant with twins. She was nine. The doctor told her mother that she couldn’t possibly carry twins to term, that it would kill her. So they all agreed that an abortion was necessary to save the little girl’s life. And the Vatican rose up, in all its authoritarian glory, and said they were all excommunicated – the doctor, the nurses, even the little girl’s mother – they were all excommunicated. Reminded me of the Red Queen screaming, “Off with their heads!” But of course lots of other people besides me didn’t like it either, in fact, so many people complained that the Vatican apologized – yep, they came back and apologized, said that they had been wrong. Said they should have expressed some compassion for the little girl, acknowledged how awful it was that this had happened to her, before they excommunicated everyone.
D’s escorting too, today, and I’ve known him a long time too. Towards the end today, when he realized what was going on with crazy Mary – he said, speaking softly,
“I realized every time she was with a group, it seemed like there were bodies flying,”
and of course there weren’t really, but it does feel like it. So he came across the street and said he was just going to stay on her.
“Where ever she goes, I’ll be there,” he said.
And sure enough, the next client, Mary started trying to move in on the side and Dan was just there, between her and the client, and he’s too big for her to reach around, and too strong for her to shove around, and he’s so gentle and calm that somehow the tension level went way down instead of up. And I was so grateful, both at the moment and now. It helps to remember how his power felt warm and reassuring and safe.
And really it’s good to remember just that, when the world starts to feel all too white male dominated, too hierarchical, too Puritan-Father, it’s good to remember that men are also D, and K, it’s good to remember all the others who, you know, use that masculine power for good. Who aren’t scared of equal and don’t believe control is the only way to go. Who, together with A and M and A and all of us, are working on bringing a little safety and a little sanity to the clinic.
Every Saturday morning.