Points of Unity ~ Part I

Escorts are a group of individuals who volunteer to accompany patients and their companions to the clinic.  The Points of Unity define what we do and hold us accountable.

We’re not an organization.  The clinic doesn’t train us.  We don’t sign up to escort and we aren’t scheduled for particular days.  People start coming when they feel the urge.  They come when they want to, for as long as they want to.

If someone quits coming ~ gets too busy, moves away, has a work schedule that interferes ~ they may still “be an escort.”  They’re just not spending time on the sidewalk right now.  If they don’t want to “be an escort” anymore, then they aren’t.   It’s that simple.

The Points of Unity are what hold us together.  In any situation, if we’re not sure of the “right” thing to do, the Points of Unity guide us.

At the training we’re doing May 9th in preparation for Mother’s Day, we’re going to review the Points of Unity.  I love doing this in a group of escorts, because they mean something a little different to each of us.  We’re not going to get into all that at the training ~ I promise ~ but it did get me started thinking about  how I interpret them.

So I’m going to do a series of blog posts unpacking them, exploring what they mean to me.  I invite my fellow escorts, who will see shades of difference, to share their thoughts as well, either in comments or a blog post of their own.

The first point of unity is:

* Escorts must gain consent from every client every time.

On a concrete level, this means that every time I approach a car with a client in it, I say something like, “Hi, I’m a volunteer with the clinic.  Would you like us to walk with you?”

Different escorts have their own variations on that, for well-thought-out reasons, but we each say “Would you like us to walk with you?”  And we wait for a response.

We ask the client rather than the companion whenever possible, and we look to the client for the response.  Sometimes the companion will say, “Nah, we’re fine,” and the client will be frantically nodding her head “Yes!!!”   Guess what we do when that happens.

Yes, of course we walk with them, unless the client takes the consent back.

But if the client says, “No, we’re fine,” then what do you think we do?  Yep.  We step back so they can walk without us beside them.

Sometimes we have to follow a little bit behind them, waving off other escorts who would otherwise step out to accompany them.  So it can be an interesting sight.

The client and the companion walking with several chasers attached to their sides, us a little bit behind them, and a series of escorts who walk toward them, see us waving them off, and step back to leave them alone.

Sometimes, part way up the sidewalk, the client or companion change their minds and ask us to join them.  It may be just a panic stricken look and a quick, “Yes, we do!”  Of course, then we step forward and join them.

Other times they walk to the door apparently quite comfortable, clearly unscathed by the scolding, shaming strategies of the chasers.   That’s kind of a warm-fuzzy moment for us.

Those are the technical aspects of getting consent.  On a more abstract level, “consent” is what most separates us from the antis ~ and from rape culture.  We’ve written dozens of blog posts about this because it is at the heart of who escorts are and what we do.

Most of the stories we tell involve the lack of consent from clients to the approaches of the protesters.  If the clients wanted to be lectured at as they walked to the clinic, if they welcomed the protesters, if they said, “Oh, yes, please share your religious beliefs with me during this part of my life journey,” then there would be no need for escorts.

{And I have to pause a moment to laugh at that mental image.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  if all the clients one day, as the chasers approached, greeted them, welcomed them, let them babble on, and strolled into the clinic untouched by their poison ~ can you imagine?  How baffled the protesters would be!

Ok, never mind, I’m sorry.  That was a moment of complete insanity on my part… now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.}

But you get my point, right?  I  won’t tell more stories about consent here ~ all of our stories ~ what we do ~ is based on the fact that the antis interact with clients in intrusive, invasive ways without their consent.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to be there.

Now ~ because pictures are powerful ~ here’s another image from the Saturday before Easter.  At this point, most of the clients were in the clinic.

The woman holding the sign, who’s a regular, kept saying, “Be careful, don’t block the whole sidewalk, you can’t block the whole sidewalk or they’ll call the police.”  You can see another, smaller prayer circle gathered under the awning up the sidewalk.

I’m reminded of the morning a new anti approached us and announced that he wanted to pray for us.  He wanted to know if there was something we wanted him to pray for, for us.   It kind of amused me, like I would ask him to pray for me?  But I guess that was his idea of getting consent.

We said no.  But in retrospect, I guess I could have asked him to pray that all the antis left the sidewalk and went to do something truly helpful for humanity.  Or would that have been one of those snarky comments that I’m better off not saying…

Anyhow, if you’re interested in escorting, particularly if you’re willing to hold space on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, don’t forget the training on May 9th at 6:00.  It’s not required, but it’s helpful.

REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Sunday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 

10 thoughts on “Points of Unity ~ Part I

  1. Pingback: Little Choices | Everysaturdaymorning's Blog

  2. I personally do not pray but for those that believe in it, I think it can be an invaluable coping mechanism. I have, on rare occasions, asked those protesters whom I perceive as being the least hateful, to pray for friends of mine who do believe.

    That being said, I have to ask – “Can God not hear these sidewalk prayers from their homes? If they can pray from their cars when it is cold or raining, why can’t they just pray from their living rooms? Or wouldn’t their churchs be even better?”

    But the answer is apparent. They are using prayer as a weapon.

  3. @Oubli ~

    Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about. Thanks.

    And actually, we may have some video in the not too distant future that makes the point pretty graphically.

    Thanks again!

  4. Consent is easily one of the biggest points about what seperates you from the antis and it’s good that it’s something that you readily remind yourself about and keep fresh in your mind.

    Also, that prayer circle is really weird… and most look like they’re cold. Why else would they be wearing blankets?

    And good luck to you and yours on Mother’s Day. Keep safe, ok?

    • Kazaei5,

      Consent is the biggest point separating us from the antis, in my opinion. That’s why it is first on our Points of Unity. Yes, it was chilly that morning. The blankets or a coat were needed.

      Thank you for your wish of good luck! We will keep safe.

      Thanks for your input,
      Servalbear

    • Thanks, kazei5, We appreciate the good luck wishes!

      It was a little odd, wasn’t it? It reminded me of a football pep rally, with the Honk if you’re Pro Life signs and people draped in blankets, but that’s probably kind of mean too….

      Thanks again. 🙂

  5. I would have asked to pray for an end to the stigma, for calm and for tolerance.

    Prayer isn’t a bad thing, if it helps the antis focus on tolerance and forgiveness (they do think abortion is a sin), it will hopefully give them something to focus on other than shaming, hounding and harassment.

    I know it’s not your job to distract the antis but I dare say if they were distracted with pray they wouldn’t be be chasing, screaming and shaming women. I have no problem with them having prayer circles as long as they aren’t blocking the entrance to the clinic.

    • Oubli,

      It was just before they left at the end of their protest when they had the prayer circle. I have to agree with you, if they are quietly praying they aren’t heaping shame and humiliation on the clients. However, it was pretty spooky to watch. The noise just died down and they gathered in their circle; almost blocking the sidewalk but not quite.

      Thank you,
      Servalbear

    • Hi, Oubli,

      Your answer to the guy’s question about what he could pray for, for us, would have been nicer than my mental response, that’s for sure. And when I read your comment, I thought, omigosh, I sounded anti-prayer, didn’t I? Of course, prayer’s not a bad thing. I believe in prayer.

      But.

      Most of the people who form the gauntlet that the patients walk through are reciting the rosary. I’d rather they do that than chase the patients, that’s true. But in those circumstances, I believe prayer is being used as a tool of intimidation. I was raised Catholic myself, but to walk through that group while the leader chants, “For these misguided women who are killing their own children, we pray, Holy Mary Mother of God…” feels intimidating.

      The chasers often offer the patients an “opportunity” to pray with the patients, in fact, they plead, “We want to pray with you before you do this terrible thing, to pray that you’ll turn your heart…”

      And now my response is turning into a whole blog post! I’m sorry… But I don’t want them praying there. Maybe that is a blog post of its own… hmmm.

      Thank you so much for your comment, Oubli, I really appreciate your perspective.

      • Now that I do think about it prayer can be a powerful form of intimidation and they probably haven’t hesitated to used it in that respect.

        I think about the lady who prayed for me at the CPC I went to for my Medicaid required Confirmation of Pregnancy and she did the same thing – used prayer as intimidation. It was a disgusting turn off to prayer in general and I hated her for praying for me in that manner.

        It didn’t sound like she cared about me at all during her prayer but it was more about herself and the fact that she ‘saved’ me from an abortion that I was never in danger of getting since that pregnancy was planned and very much wanted.

        i definitely second the idea that you should have a blog post about antis and their use of prayer.

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