A Study in Sidewalk Counseling

Before I started escorting, I always viewed the word “counseling” in a positive light. The advice of a knowledgeable expert to assist in coping with life events is positive. Counseling to me implies an impartial, truthful examination of facts from someone with training to help.

Now, I always have a negative reaction as soon as I hear the word “counseling” because I think of the antis and their sidewalk counseling. Like so many terms, they were purposeful in their choice to describe their actions. They have taken a positive word and changed its meaning, like “choice” was made to mean something negative when they use the word. Instead of a positive outcome for the clients and companions “counseled” by the antis on the sidewalk, there is a heaping on of incorrect information, shame, blame and judgment. If any of the clients do not take their advice, the antis turn from gentle words to ones meant to hurt.

Sometimes escorts just watch and listen. We are able to pick up a lot of details without interfering with a client’s actions or decision. There are times it is hard to stand by passively, but when action would only add to the chaos surrounding a client, we wait for a signal they need our assistance. We do not interfere when clients or companions want to talk to the antis. Firm belief in every person’s right to make their own decisions helps us to be witnesses instead of participants.

There was a morning last month escorts were witnesses. The sidewalk drama played out before us for almost 30 minutes. It was a study in how “sidewalk counselors” work.

This story started with the client and a companion pulling to the curb around 715a. We approached and said our normal statements about going to the abortion clinic and explained our orange vests. The reaction from the companion was not friendly, but they listened and decided to park in the $3 parking lot. We let them know we would come get them when the doors opened.

Around 730a a companion parked in the AWC lot. An escort asked if this young man was looking for someone going to the EMW clinic. He answered yes and stopped to talk to the four AWC staff in their parking lot to greet him. An escort overheard part of their conversation and apparently the client and he were in AWC until 5p the day before. He hurried to the entrance of EMW saying, “She’s in there.” All four of the AWC staff followed him.

At the same time, escorts were walking the client and her companion to the door of the clinic. They met at the door. The young man grabbed the client’s arm and tried to hold her back from entering. The companion who had come with the client, pulled her other arm and got her into the clinic door. The young man followed them into the sign-in area. The entire time the four AWC staff were standing at the property line saying, “You don’t have to go in there. Your mother can’t make you do this. Come out and talk to us.”

After a short time, the young man came back to the AWC staff standing at the property line. All four of them were talking to him. “Pull her out of there. What they are doing is illegal. It is illegal to coerce someone into killing their baby. Go tell her they are breaking the law.” He went back into the clinic.

This was repeated four times with variations in the words, but the meaning was the same. The escorts watching were treated to “You say you are pro-choice, but you are only pro-death,” comments when they were waiting for him to come back out.  The last time he came back out, the clients had already gone back for counseling by the EMW staff. During all of this, the EMW staff allowed him to talk to the client and escorts didn’t interfere with his entrances and exits from the building.

The staff of AWC know, or should know, the trained staff of EMW counsels each individual client to make sure they aren’t being forced into their decision. They will turn clients away if they are not sure or if there are questions about coercion.

This morning will always be engraved by two snapshots in my mind of the people involved. The first is of the client pulling away from the young man, tears in her eyes and repeating, “No. I want to do this.” The second is of the young man, head down and shoulders slumped, facing the sidewalk counselors as they walked away from him saying, “You didn’t try hard enough.”

We need to call them something other than “counselors.”

10 thoughts on “A Study in Sidewalk Counseling

  1. Definitely NOT counselors…. I’d call ’em vultures- waiting for a moment of vulnerability, and swoop down. I cannot see how they could consider themselves as ‘counselors’.. Do they really call themselves counselors?! They are manipulators, vultures, creeps, cement stalkers, bullies.

  2. What a sickening display. Preying on that young man in a time of obviously GREAT distress and confusion for him in order get to the client, and then turning on him and telling him he didn’t “try hard enough?”

    Stay classy, pro-liars. I doubt you ever look in the mirror and say things like that to yourselves in spite of the majority of clients you try to “counsel” keep walking away from you.

    And yes, my feelings for the client and the amount of distress she must have been in are a given. Nobody, not even the young man, had the right to do that to her. She’s a human being, not a tug-o-war rope. But this isn’t a case of taking sides. That young man was obviously in great personal pain himself, and he was treated really brutally. That makes me ANGRY. Nobody had the right to do that to him either.

    I really hope the young man gets a chance to examine how they acted within a moment of clarity and realize just how badly they treated him and the woman he was with. They were never on his side or the side of the woman. They were only invested in “winning” the “game” they see this as. I hope he can see the opposite of pro-choice is NOT pro-liarism. And I hope he can get some REAL true and compassionate counseling for himself.

    • Longtail,

      I agree with everything you say. After I had written this article, I told FML that I had to write it for myself. It was one of most heartbreaking scenes I have witnessed on the sidewalk. Like you, I hope he gets counseling from somewhere like Exhale to put this experience in perspective. The images from that day will not leave me for a very long time.

      Thanks, as always,


  3. Sidewalk Bullies and Sidewalk Menaces (link deleted by Servalbear)

    What to do if you accidentally walk into a CPC disguised as a Planned Parenthood (link deleted by Servalbear)

    Dunno if these will post as pics or links, sorry . . .

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