Never Assume You Know

Escorting clients into EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville draws on all of our resources of experience, diplomacy, anger management and observation skills. Luckily for new escorts, all of these things can be learned.
One of the first things we learn is to never assume. Clients can arrive alone. They can be joined by companions in a separate vehicle. They can arrive with a group of people to support them in the same car.  We have had as many as six people pile out of a car to walk to the clinic. They can be dropped off alone or with a companion in front of the clinic. They can arrive walking, taking the bus, dropped off by cab or by car. They can arrive from any direction.
We have to be especially aware of our preconceived ideas of what clients will look like.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 58% of abortion clients are in their 20s. What about the other 42%?
There was some interesting math posted by South Jersey Women’s Center late in November 2011. The average age of menarche in America is 12.6 years. The average age of menopause onset is 51.7 years. That leaves a lot of possibilities for unplanned pregnancy; as many as 507 opportunities.
The case in November 2011 of a 10-year old girl from Mexico delivering by cesarean birth started me thinking seriously about the range of ages outside the averages. The youngest recorded person to give birth was 5 years old. The oldest recorded person to give birth was 70 years old. A really wide range of ages could be included as clients for abortion.
The second time I was at the clinic escorting, there was a very young girl accompanied by a companion who was an adult woman. The young girl was the client. On the other side of the range of ages, we have had several times when a mother and adult daughter have arrived and the mother was the client.
It is imperative we do not assume based on age who we think is a client. If they are inclined to talk, the client or companion will advise us if they want us to know.
The next assumption we have to overcome is that clients will all be female presenting. This is not what really happens either. Although the majority of clients will identify as female, there are also clients that identify as male. This happens often enough we need to be careful to put our assumptions aside and respectfully approach each person coming to the clinic.
A third assumption we need to be aware of is that everyone walking on the sidewalk is going to the clinic. This is one assumption the antis always make. We have seen them approach the same individuals every morning.
There are a lot of people just going to work. We need to be aware of visible name tags, lunch bags, people walking together with matching bags printed with a company logo, and other people we recognize from our experience on the sidewalk as employees in the area. The more time we spend escorting the easier it becomes to recognize people just walking.
The only way to make sure a car occupant(s) parking around the clinic or people walking on the sidewalk between 7a-8a are going to the abortion clinic is observation and asking them. “Are you going to the abortion clinic this morning? Those of us in the orange vests volunteer to escort clients to the entrance. Would you like us to walk with you?”
As we gain experience escorting, we may approach some antis, some people going to Dr. Bizer’s, some people going to work or individuals just walking. We may miss seeing some clients entirely as they approach the clinic. We may gain some, ‘No,’ ‘Of course not,’ but we will also receive several, ‘Yes, please.’ All of the ‘Yes, please’ we receive are worth the learning process.

5 thoughts on “Never Assume You Know

  1. I wish the protestors would read this! I had the pleasure of escorting one of my friend in for an early medical abortion, I safe guarded her from the protestors and got her inside without much too much emotional bruising. Instead I was the one pelted with anti-choice protestor abuse because I happened to be 7 1/2 months pregnant at the time!

    The looks on those people’s faces, how hard they screamed at me (Don’t kill your baby! We can help you! Etc) and the obvious relief on their faces was utterly laughable – three of them dropped to their knees in rejoiceful prayer when they saw me come out still pregnant.

    On the way home, my friend asked me what the hell was up with them and after explaining it to her she just laughed and laughed (it relieved alot of tension she was feeling), didn’t they know it was illegal to abort in the third trimester, she asked? Evidently not but I was glad to ‘take the hit’ for her, she didn’t need to deal with them so I am glad me and my very pregnant belly could take it for her.

    • Oubli,

      This is a great story you have shared! You are a good friend to “take the hit.” The comic relief about the antis’ assumption is an example of what we see all of the time.

      Thank you,

  2. This is a great post. My clinic is right downtown in an office building.* This means that we often don’t know who is a client and who is just walking by until we ask (“Are you going to the women’s clinic?”) or until they’ve “snuck by” and zip into the entrance. Many times our clients are easily identifiable because they have That Look (fear, dread, uncertainty) that breaks my heart, but sometimes they’re confident or majorly defiant as they approach the protesters. One client sadly shook her head and told the protesters, “I weep for you. I’ll pray to God to forgive your hypocrisy and ignorance.” Woot!. I’ve had solo male-appearing people come into the clinic, I’ve seen butch and femmes. I’ve seen elderly and young and firmly middle-aged. I’ve seen people in suits, jeans, pajama bottoms. We never know, we try not to assume.

    • Biodork,

      We are downtown too. Thank you for sharing the client comment. It is what we feel like saying so often. Yesterday, we had someone walking on the street tell us, “Thank you for your support.” Those times are nice too.


  3. Very well put! You capture the first rule of escorting – assume nothing – very succinctly. It’s amazing how, once one tips that domino, that all of the other pre-concieved notion about abortion go tumbling down.

    Thaks SB!

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