When a new escort shows up on the sidewalk one of the first questions we ask them is, “Why did you decide to escort?” The answers range from long and detailed to short.
* ‘I had an abortion’,
* ‘My relative had an abortion’,
* ‘I have always supported choice’, ‘
* ‘I heard about escorting from a friend and wanted to be involved’,
* ‘I am worried about continued access to abortion with the political climate today and want to lend my support’,
or they have a unique and personal reason. Most of the time the answers are boiled down to their simplest terms.
My first day, I gave a simple answer. Now that I have been escorting for a time and have been reflecting on the reasons why I do this, I realize there is no simple answer.
Why do I get up at 6a to go to the clinic to escort women through a crowd of shouting and praying protesters – even if it is raining, snowing or the temperature is above 90 or below freezing? Why do I take the hate pouring out from the antis and risk the potential of physical violence each time I escort? Why do I care since I’m past the age to have the possibility of needing reproductive care?
There is no simple answer except the total of all of my life experiences.
Roe vs Wade was decided when I was 23. Even though birth control pills were available in the early 1960s, there were state laws prohibiting the distribution until a Supreme Court ruling in 1965 stated that these laws violated the “right to marital privacy.” (Griswold vs Connecticut). That made it possible for married couples to obtain prescriptions for birth control pills without restrictions.
It wasn’t until 1972 that unmarried couples were included in this right. (Eisenstadt vs Baird) I was also 23 when that decision came down from the Supreme Court. Some states still have restrictive laws for the distribution of birth control to unmarried minors. (http://www.contracept.org/minorsaccess.php)
Let’s put that last paragraph into perspective in real-life terms.
For all of my teenage years, the only birth control available for most single women was abstinence, rhythm method, douches or condoms.
The first three options didn’t work for most young people because of natural sexual urges combined with “heat of the moment” and rape. This was also the time of hippies and “free love” when sexual freedom was being explored by large groups of young people. Condoms were available in men’s rooms at every gas station, but mostly they went unused. Hope and dread were mixed equally when each menstrual period was due.
A few lucky teenagers were able to get prescriptions for birth control pills from sympathetic doctors who would prescribe the pills to regulate menstrual problems. This wasn’t an option unless your parents took you to the doctor and wasn’t an option for the poor because of the doctor fees and prescription costs.
There was a free clinic in my town that would prescribe birth control to married teenagers if they were 16 or over. This resulted in a trip to the Five and Dime store to buy a simple wedding band, enlisting a male friend to come to the clinic and pretend you were just married, and your birth certificate. This was not an option for a lot of teenage girls.
There were a lot of unplanned teenage pregnancies. The only options were drop out of school to raise the baby, put the baby up for adoption or go to a back alley abortionist. If you decided to give the baby up for adoption, you were usually sent to a an unwed mothers’ home for the duration of the pregnancy. The girls would come back the next school year and give stories of visiting a relative in another state.
The shame and humiliation heaped on an unwed mother were crushing.
I was 9 when I was first aware of an unwed mother. There was a teenager across the street from a friend’s house. She was standing in her doorway and my friend was telling me her story. She got pregnant and her boyfriend left her. She had to drop out of school and was living with her parents.
The story was told to me with lots of blame heaped on the girl for getting pregnant and ruining her life. The boyfriend was not criticized at all.
My sympathies immediately went to her. I remember watching her standing in the doorway, drinking a glass of milk and looking sad. She might have known we were talking about her or I might have projected the sad look on her from what I was feeling.
My next experience with unwed pregnancy was with a cousin. She was only 12 and was pregnant by her boyfriend. Since this was 1964, she lived in Kentucky and she was pregnant, they got parental consent and were married. By the time she was 17, she had four children. When she was 19 she was divorced. What a difference birth control would have made in her life!
(The laws changed in the 1990s to require a court order if the minor is under 16, even if they are pregnant.)
There are many more stories of girls who touched my life that went away for a time, got married or faced raising a child alone.
The girl who hid her pregnancy from her parents until she was 8 months. She was thrown out of their house and was then homeless and pregnant.
A cousin who entered an unwed mothers’ home but left in her last month of pregnancy. She decided she could face the stigma to raise her child alone.
A close friend who was married at 16 because of her pregnancy. She never pursued her plans for college.
A single mother at 14, kicked out of her parents’ home, who turned to prostitution to support her child.
A girl married at 14 to an abusive man 20 years older because she was pregnant.
So many stories, so much shame heaped on girls and so many changed lives for want of reproductive education and options.
There are not many stories I can relate to abortion. I lived in Central Illinois and there were rumors of Jane in Chicago. There were rumors of different girls getting abortions, but this wasn’t something people admitted even to their close friends.
It was illegal.
They were afraid.
I only knew of one person who obtained an abortion. She did go to Chicago in 1968 and was referred to a physician there. It may have been through the Jane network.
Even though she was a close relative, the subject wasn’t one she was comfortable discussing. Abortion is not a dirty word, but it was/is stigmatized. Over the years I have known a lot of people who have had abortions. I’m always pleased when they trust me with this knowledge of their decision. It is a way of breaking down the shame heaped on this legal medical procedure when it is shared. I wish it could be discussed with the same openness as dental visits.
Let’s talk about how much I dislike bullies. I have waged a protest against them as long as I can remember.
Most of us put up with them when we were in grade school and higher grades. Some of us put up with them in their roles of power at our places of work.
The gauntlet of antis and chasers are in front of the clinic because they are bullies. When antis yell at clients entering the clinic, they are trying to shame and humiliate them.
The client who responds to them by crying or yelling back, or the companions who yell and push them, is exactly what the bullies want.
All bullies want you to recognize their right to manipulate your feelings and your physical reactions. You can see the gleam in their eyes when they ‘score.’
No client should have to face only the antis’ hate when they walk into the clinic. They should know there are people who support their right to choose the decision right for them.
Empowering women to have confidence in their right to decide what happens to their body is an equal feeding empowerment for me. I gain confidence in my decisions and my ability to act upon my convictions.
Is there a risk of potential physical violence at the clinic? Yes, there certainly is. I have been faced with violence during periods in my life and have consciously tried to eradicate all traces of violence in my personal life. This is possibly the hardest thing I face when I escort.
Every day tempers and feelings from antis, escorts or clients and their companions can break through to violence. A nudge and bump can escalate to a shove and punch. Yelling from one foot away can escalate to one inch.
We have received real violence against escorts and threats of planned violence at the clinic and against escorts.
The antis believe escorts are evil and are leading the clients astray on the path to righteousness. They really believe they are on the side of God and we are on the side of Satan. They call themselves “prayer warriors” because they believe they are in a conflict with evil.
When a protester said, “All of these people wearing orange vests have the burning fires of hell in their chest. I can see it,” I got a chill because of the level of hate.
This is beyond bullying.
Most of the regular antis are religious fanatics. The dictionary shows synonyms for fanatic are: enthusiast, zealot, bigot, hothead, militant. The last four are not peaceful terms.
It would take so little to tip the encounters at the clinic into violence.
The escorts are there to try to bring calm to the chaos. There is no reason anyone should have to face potential violence by keeping a medical appointment.
And finally, I’m past the age to have the possibility of making reproductive choices – why do I care?
* Because I live in the world.
* I have a long memory.
* I care about people.
I especially care about the options in life my son and grandson will have. I would really hate to have all the options removed and return to the conditions of 1960s. We need to keep fighting for choice and reproductive rights.
Why do I escort?
The quiet ‘Thank you for what you do and being here’ from clients are reason enough. I will keep getting up at 6a and going to the clinic for that reason, even when I don’t feel like it.
Why do you escort?