The tempo, momentum and emotions on the sidewalk outside Kentucky’s only abortion provider can turn on a dime. A single event can trigger reactions and turn a mundane, calm Friday into a boiling cistern of rage and retribution.
Good Friday had been just that – a good Friday, not too many anti’s, the one’s there were somewhat well behaved, the client’s were empowered and relatively unbothered by the harassment and bullying.
The last client of the day was super-empowered. Ed , a self-proclaimed “sidewalk counselor”, came across the street behind me to meet the client’s car. I introduced myself as a volunteer with the clinic, asked if she would like escorts to walk with her and told her who this other man was. She already knew that, she’d been here last week. She wanted us to walk with her but also engaged Ed.
“Thank you but no, I have already been to your clinic” she said to Ed. “My baby is dead and they confirmed that. I just gotta get this taken care of now, so please,just please…”
Ed: “Don’t go in here, go to a real doctor.”
“Sir this is a real doctor and he does this fifteen, twenty times a day” she said calmly.
“But they just want your money. Don’t go to this place where they kill live babies. There are fifteen other women in there with live babies that he is going to kill” Ed pleaded.
“Look mister, I don’t know about fifteen other women, and I don’t care cause it ain’t my business and it sure as hell ain’t yours. I’ve been to your clinic and now I am doing what I gotta do. Come on, Jarrell, we got to go baby!”
We crossed the street and Ed, as if he’d not heard a word, went into auto-harassment spewing the same trite script that so obviously did not apply to this couple – “as men of God we are called to protect our families, be a hero today.” “Men regret abortion too you know.” “”This place just wants your money.”
Along the way Teresa, “post-abortive counselor” paid by the fake clinic to harass people, joined in with “Sweety, we care about you, these people out here aren’t protecting you. Let us tell you the truth.”
The client and companion were stoic, strong, unbothered by anything other than the bad cracks in the sidewalk. “Watch your step, the sidewalk gets a little wonkie up here,” I chimed in to keep things light and real. But I was about to lose my shit. They crossed the property line and got inside and I had to let go or I was gonna blow. I reeled around at Teresa and Ed and whisper screamed through lock-clenched jaw “She went to your clinic, saw her dead baby and STILL you shame her like that! You cruel fucking bastards!” I stomped away down toward First Street, Teresa in hot pursuit.
“Ken let me talk to you. Let me tell you something.”
“NO, You do not get to talk to me right now!”
T a stalwart, reliable, constant weekday escort, quick behind, always getting my back, stepped in and asked her to give me a minute. He checked in and gave me a great buffer to get my self right. I breathed. And regrouped, returned to the clinic, again telling Teresa I was not really in a space to hear her right now. I confronted Ed again and he rambled some senseless bullshit, like I said, I wasn’t really able to hear anything right then.
F, another very calming, chaos-cancelling escort, heard it.
It must have been bad because we were soon on a cool down route around the block. I am a fast walker with legs almost as long as F is tall and I was struggling to keep up.
But it worked. By the time we were half way down the alley, we were laughing at some wildly inappropriate joke I’d made, probably at F’s expense. We returned up the long side of the sidewalk, again ignoring Teresa. As we approached the 40Dayers, I scolded them for what had happened and asked how in God’s name was that Christian or loving or even socially acceptable. They spewed some tripe about my lack of faith and understanding and that I hated women and babies and little chocolate bunnies, or some such. I think there was a bit in there about how often the “poor sidewalk counselors” are lied to so often by the clients that they can’t believe them when they say what this last one said.
Is that victim blaming? Or just a lame excuse to forgive vile behavior?
Like I said, I was really not in a good place to hear any of that.
And I don’t ever want to let myself get used to hearing it.