from a guest blogger…
I have not escorted lately. I have been in school and I have been completely wiped. However, the clinic has not been wiped from my mind, and all but one of my English papers was about some aspect of Choice in Kentucky. My last project was supposed to be a remix of one of those papers. I had written about the protestors and how they are a community problem. The protesting at the clinic really is a community problem. It is not just a problem for the women seeking abortions.
These people treat other people like they are less than human. They use intimidation and coercion to influence the behavior of others, which is almost the exact Merriam Webster definition of the word bully in verb form. As a noun, it means “a blustering, browbeating person; especially one who is habitually cruel to others.” It seems irrefutable to me that this is what these people are.
In the last year, laws were passed across the nation to combat bullying in schools. I work in a preschool, and we teach our children to treat others with respect and dignity. We teach our children NOT to behave the way these people behave on the sidewalk.
It makes me angry. Where is the disconnect? Between childhood and adulthood, from being taught respect, or even just manners? Where is the disconnect between the community as a whole, and the individuals within it?
For my project, I wanted to show what the behavior of the protestors is like. I decided to have a friend walk into the clinic, posing as a patient. She would video record this walk then talk about her experience for me to share with my class. I only discussed this plan with one other escort because I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. I have gotten a small taste of what it is to be surrounded by these people, and I feel that it’s something others should see too.
So the Saturday before Easter, I got up and went to clinic for the first time in months. I was nervous. I’ve been writing paper after paper about this issue, and have essentially been stewing in my anger at the whole situation, especially with all the new bills popping up across the nation that are clear attacks on women and their reproductive health. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle all that anger once I was put back in the middle of all those people.
Once I saw my friend coming down the sidewalk, in the rain, near the end of the morning, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I thought everything had gone off without a hitch. I followed her into the lobby, and we decided to go ahead and leave and not stick around because she seemed a little shaken. Then something happened I did not expect.
We walked out of the clinic and the more the protestors followed us, the angrier I got. More angry than just my general pissy attitude about the whole situation. All of a sudden, it got a whole lot more personal. One woman walked toward us, and reached out like she was going to touch my friend. I practically yanked on my friend and yelled about crazy people. I felt so protective. This was strange because my friend is more than capable of taking care of herself, which is why I felt confident asking her to do this in the first place.
We didn’t do the ‘after’ talk on the video until hours later after we had eaten breakfast. We talked a little while we ate, and it was hard to hear my friend talk about being so scared, and know that I had put her in that situation. On the video, you can still hear her voice break a little.
When I first watched the video, I thought it was pretty tame. I’m kind of ashamed of that. I must be pretty desensitized to the situation if I thought that was as tame as I did. A few of my friends that watched it were pretty shocked. One cried. One said they couldn’t watch the whole thing. The reaction of my class was hard to gauge, because the lights were low, and they are a generally non-responsive group. However, the one person who has tried to tease me about being semi-obsessed with reproductive justice stayed pretty silent. And the person presenting after me made a comment about following something so emotional.
I hope it was emotional. I hope it really did make an impact. I wonder if more people did this, and went and talked to their communities about what it’s really like at the clinic, if there wouldn’t be some sort of social backlash on the behavior of these people who attack women like this on the street. Because that’s what it is. It’s an attack. That’s certainly how I felt when we were LEAVING. I can’t imagine what it must be like going in, to be surrounded by strangers trying to support, and then by more strangers trying to scare you away. I thought it was scary before. I thought it was traumatizing when I got a small taste of it before. Now I think it’s terrifying.
It’s terrifying that some people think this is ok. It wouldn’t be ok in my classroom. “Worry about yourself. Keep your hands on your own body. Respect your classmates words.” It is terrifying that people are treated like this. Bullied and intimidated on the street, and others take no action against it. It is terrifying that people are so apathetic to the treatment of others. It was especially terrifying when it was my friend.
It’s even more terrifying that it’s strangers that I don’t know.
Thank you, to the escorts. I’m glad that even though my friend wasn’t seeking an abortion, and we were just doing a school project, that you were there. I’m glad she had someone to walk down the sidewalk with her. It gives me great relief to know that if any of the women in my life ever have need of the clinic, that people like you are there to be with them. I can’t thank you all enough.