There have been many times I have commented about only being able to escort at the clinic three days a week maximum. This seems to be my personal limit to deal with anti-abortion protesters before I react with anger towards their words and actions. That’s when my snarky comments pop out just in range of the antis hearing. There seems to be only so much I can absorb of the hate directed towards clients, companions and escorts; lies told in order to coerce; physical blocking and aggression; praying; and the signs.
When I read about new legislation to erode the right to access abortion or recognizing personhood at conception, or the conversations about birth control, my first reaction is despair followed quickly by anger. I try never to read these articles early in the morning before escorting. If I do, it is guaranteed I will arrive at the clinic already disgusted with anti-abortion protesters. The insertion of extreme religious viewpoints into private medical decisions agitates me.
Unfortunately, with this election year there is more opportunity to read about these things. Most politicians from all of the parties seem to have jumped on the anti-abortion issues as a way to win their elections. They are focusing on the issues considered to be appealing to the so-called undecided voters. The antis are not undecided. They know for sure they will only vote for extreme positions on sexuality and abortion. Abstinence-only sex education, banning birth control, opposition to gay rights and banning all abortions are platforms they can support.
We hear all of these ideas on the sidewalk. The clients and companions do too. We all try not to engage or respond to the things we hear. It adds to the chaos on the street and does not benefit the client in any way if we point out the truth or argue with individual antis. Clients are at the clinic for an abortion. They are not at the clinic to be caught in the middle of a political discussion.
Besides, there is no discussing the issues. The antis present their views as facts and our views as mistaken opinions. Specious examples of choice are presented to us. “Why if everything is a choice, I can choose to take heroin. Would that be right?” Or, “We can just murder 70-year olds when they have Alzheimer’s. Would that be right?” Or, “Do you support infanticide? What prevents me from killing a one-year old or two-year old if that is my choice?” These arguments have been given to me several times by a regular protester in response to my answer as to why I am escorting. “I believe in an individual’s choice to have an abortion,” is translated to “everyone can do anything.” A does not equal B.
It is so hard for me to not engage. It is so hard not to get angry. It is so hard not to scream the truth at the antis. When an escort does have a flare-up of anger, other escorts try to de-escalate and give the escort time to dissipate their anger. In my case, the anger does not entirely go away until I spend a few days away from the clinic. It can be placed on simmer, but I carry it with me on the sidewalk. It is ready to boil over at any time.
Someone asked recently what I do when I get angry. I focus the negative energy in doing things positve. I take time away from the sidewalk for self-care. Knowing when I have reached my limit to act calmly is helpful.
What coping mechanism do you use when you are angry at antis?