A client we escorted into the EMW clinic started me thinking about how much we internalize society’s messages about abortion. These messages are inescapable. They are currently in the news, politics, churches and of course, on the sidewalk in front of abortion clinics around the world.
There are so many articles that have been written about abortion stigma. I will not attempt to repeat the great articles existing, but will direct you to two.
- Guttmacher Institute Publicationspublished this research in October 2010: “Abortion Stigma: A Reconceptualization of Constituents, Causes, and Consequences” (PDF Document) by Alison Norris, MD PhDa,, Danielle Bessett, PhD, Julia R. Steinberg, PhD, Megan L. Kavanaugh, DrPH, Silvia De Zordo, PhD, Davida Becker, PhD
- “Stigmatization is a deeply contextual, dynamic social process; it is related to the disgrace of an individual through a particular attribute he or she holds in violation of social expectations.”
- Gender Across Borders published a series of articles titled “Tsk Tsk: Stigma, Shame and Sexuality Series” beginning in September 2011. One of the articles in the series is:“Stigma, Shame, and Sexuality: A Reflection on Abortion.” by Leila Hessini
- “The one that has an abortion is treated as…as bad, as a killer and…the other one is…is a good woman, she has a good heart, she loves children.”
When we escort, we attempt to support clients and create a space removed from stigma and shame as they access their choice for an abortion. We aren’t always successful, but we try.
This story is what started me thinking about the pervasive messages we internalize and how sad it can be to wrestle with these messages.
The client and companion pulled up to the meters and we talked. They were from out of town and didn’t know the streets in Louisville. They were also nervous about protesters who might be around. After answering their questions, I directed them to the all-day parking lot across the street to wait for the 30 minutes before the clinic opened.
They were aware they might be approached by antis trying to talk to them and give them pamphlets, but I reassured them it was their choice to talk or not and they didn’t have to roll down their window. Shortly after they parked, an anti approached their parked car. They did decide to engage in conversation, but it was short and the anti moved back to the sidewalk.
Just before the the doors opened, they started walking on the other side of the street towards the clinic. I crossed the street to meet them and let them know the clinic wasn’t quite open yet. They were actually looking for me because they needed assistance with paying the parking fee. There is a box with slots you slip the money into and it is confusing for almost everyone parking in that lot.
We walked back to the box and started sorting out how to pay. They were distressed about their conversation with the anti and wanted to tell me about it. They were told, “Don’t kill your baby. Have you thought about adoption?” They said they had tried to tell the anti their circumstances, but kept being told, “Just come next door for a free ultrasound to see your baby. It will only take 10 minutes and they can talk to you about adoption.”
They were upset and told me a lot of personal events that led them to their choice. We were talking while looking at the pay box and feeding the money into it. Then the client said, “This is my first pregnancy. I’m a good person.” I just stopped and looked directly in her eyes and said, “You are a good person. You are making the choice that is right for you and your family. Don’t ever doubt that you are a good person.”
We talked a little bit more and then walked back up the sidewalk and into the clinic that was now open. At one point on our walk, the client asked me why I escorted. I replied, “We believe every person should have the right to make the choice that is best for them. We come out to support clients in their decision and create a space for them to access abortion services.”
They both thanked me for walking with them. When we got close to the clinic, the companion was confident enough to tell the antis standing by the door to back away. They actually did back away, but they continued hurling hurtful words towards the client and companion.
REMINDER: Our annual fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Saturday 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: