A little over a year ago I wrote an article on this blog titled “Words Matter.” Since we have so many new escorts on the sidewalk, I thought it would be nice to revisit this post.
The article was generally giving tips to new escorts on how to approach and talk to clients. It stressed how we say things and that the words we use when escorting are very important. Some of my words have been adjusted a little bit over time and with experience, but the importance of what words we use remains the same.
We have about 30 seconds to identify ourselves and gain consent to escort. We can completely negate why we are there if we approach a client angry or unsure. We can completely undermine our purpose if we use the wrong words.
If we are seen to be in friendly conversation with the antis right before we approach a client, it makes it harder for them to determine if we are separate groups. ‘If you are friendly with a protester, how can I trust you?’ Conversely, if we are engaged in an argument with the antis before, during or shortly after escorting a client it adds to the stress level for clients, companions and other escorts.
We are all strangers to the clients and companions. We can have the best intentions in the world, but that will evaporate if we do not focus on only the client when we escort. After all, the purpose of our presence is to support and create space for clients to be empowered while going to their doctor’s appointment. The client experience is the goal.
Every escort uses the words they are most comfortable with to talk to clients. They tailor what they say to the client and the situation. There is no script. Flexibility and an awareness of the client are what determine what is said.
There are some things we all use with variations. This isn’t an all-inclusive list of tips, but it does include some key points to keep in mind while escorting. The client will have a lot of things on their minds. We need to make our statements as brief and clear as possible.
Tips for Things to Say-
- Abortion – This is not a dirty word. One of the reasons we are there is to normalize and de-stigmatize abortion services. We can use the word. Some escorts approach clients and say, “Are you going to the surgery clinic?” or “Are you going to the abortion clinic?” Either question quickly establishes you are there to escort them to the EMW Women’s Surgical Center and not the CPC.
- Anti-Abortion – This is used to describe A Woman’s Choice and the protesters. “This is an anti-abortion clinic” and “The protesters are anti-abortion.”
- May I?/Would you like?-We always ask for consent to escort when we approach a client. “May I escort you?” or “Would you like me to walk with you?” or some variation of asking them if they want an escort. This is also used to ask permission for other things during the walk, such as permission to jaywalk or move a particular way.
- Permission to be rude-As you begin your walk, letting a client know they do not have to answer or talk to antis is important. Most people are naturally polite. ‘This is the only place you can be rude and it is ok. You don’t have to talk to the protesters or take their handouts.’ There is a visible relief from a lot of clients when this is said.
- Protesters – Describing the antis as protesters is clear to the client. We call them antis, but unless the client is familiar with abortion blogs they will probably need an explanation of what we are talking about when we just use the word antis.
Tips for Things to Avoid Saying-
- Abortionist-This is what the antis call the physician who will perform an abortion. It is meant to be insulting and it is. Using this term implies the surgeon is not a fully licensed OB/GYN physician and only concentrates on abortions.
- Fake Clinic-AWC clinic is licensed as a Special Health Clinic by the State of Kentucky. It is a fake clinic because they try to lure clients into AWC to delay or prevent an abortion. Any medical information they gather from a client or tests they run are not covered by HIPAA regulations. They don’t tell the truth about their purpose and misrepresent themselves to clients all of the time. The main reason to not call them a fake clinic is because the antis will argue loudly with you every time you say it. This puts the client in the middle of an engagement between an escort and anti. Technically, they are licensed as a health clinic so they are a real clinic. They are an anti-abortion clinic. This is a description that no anti has argued with when said by an escort. They can’t argue with that fact.
- Liars/Lies/Lying-This is a hard one to avoid. We hear a lot of lies told by the antis about abortion, the clinic, their clinic and escorts. It is best to avoid responding to them. Again, the client does not know any of us. They don’t know the antis telling them, “These escorts are lying to you.” They don’t know the escorts telling them, “All the protesters are telling you lies.” The client has already done their research about abortion and have made the decision to have one. No matter who says what on the sidewalk, engaging in trying to refute statements made by the antis just adds more chaos.
- ‘We work for the clinic.’ No, we don’t. We are volunteers who escort clients past protesters to the clinic doors.
When you ask anyone who has been escorting awhile, they can add other tips to these lists. They are by no means all inclusive.
All of the above tips can be boiled down to a few statements:
- Focus on the clients.
- Ignore the antis.
- Keep it as simple as possible without having long explanations.
- Always tell the truth without exaggerating.
- Always speak softly and calmly.