As I stood this past weekend with my fellow escorts, I lost myself in thought among the surrounding swirl of antis. I had just put in a 12-hour shift at work and was content to stand the property line quietly instead of my normal routine of greeting clients in the $3 parking lot and explaining who we are and what to expect as they walked to their appointment.
Saturday is a busier protester day than the normal weekday I escort. That said, I got to thinking as I watched the antis approach clients and their companions with all sorts of props, literature and even children they bring along with them. These women coming here for an appointment are someone’s daughter, sister, aunt, wife, girlfriend or mother. How dare they harass them with their own baggage and beliefs?
Even when asked to ‘Please leave me alone’ they persist. The physical trailing, shoving pamphlets into their hands, and waving four-foot tall posters around may end at the property line, but some feel the need to shout comments and condemnation at them as they enter the clinic. The words are meant to shame, humiliate and hurt, not to help.
Research by the Guttmacher Institute has found that over half of all pregnancies to women in the US are unplanned. Four in ten of those pregnancies will be aborted. That’s about one out of every three women of childbearing age who will have an abortion sometime in their lifetime.
Dr Susan Wicklund in “This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor” shares her life amid the pressures of providing this much needed service for women from all walks of life. She brings readers into the core of this issue with stories about women and the reasons they have chosen abortion. This is not a good vs evil thing that it has been made out to be. There are many shades of gray. One-third of the women you know, or perhaps yourself, will have an abortion. None of them fall into the ‘evil’, ‘sinful’ or whatever label the antis want to use that day.
It’s not just the protesters outside the clinics that are making it difficult for women to access a basic constitutional right to control their reproductive rights, their bodies, and their destinies. It is restrictive laws that must be followed to the letter passed by anti-choice government officials, the lack of providers willing to offer this service and oftentimes a lack of funds and transportation to have an abortion. Some women will have to travel hundreds of miles for a basic outpatient medical procedure.
The harassment is most in your face on the sidewalk, but it is most dangerous in the government and laws that have been passed recently putting yet more of an emotional and logistical burden on someone who with all the information (and crafty misinformation) out there has decided on the best choice for them.
Would we stand for this so quietly on any other issue? Would we discriminate against a full one-third of the population on any other issue? Would we be ready to stigmatize our friends, our relatives, our co workers, or ourselves on any other issue?
(Example of sidewalk preaching on the property line. Escort in tan pants and anti in jeans.)
As I stood there that morning listening to a man yell and preach who has never felt the dread of a late period, or held their breath for the agonizing few minutes it takes for an over-the-counter pregnancy test to register, I wonder how he would feel if it was one of the women in his life that venom was being spewed at. I am sure that if I had asked the answer would have been, ‘None of the women in my life would do such an evil thing.’ Think again, Sir. One in three women do and I bet you know a few. Maybe they are too afraid of being judged, shunned, or lectured by you. You would not stand for someone to treat the people in your life so badly. Why then do you see no problem treating others that way?
After the clients were in for the day, I went across the street to the sandwich shop to get a drink before heading home. Assembled there that morning where busloads of children and young people from a bible camp a few hours away. They had come to meet with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and the group Catholics in Action.* They were taking a stand against abortion. I am sure that was not the ideal way many of them wanted to spend a Saturday; on a field trip to stand downtown in the heat.
Many of them glared at me as I proudly wore my orange escort vest and made my way through the mass of bodies to the shop. I wondered, how many of those standing there that day would I walk with one day in the future, while quietly assuring them that what may seem like the longest walk ever would be just a few more steps to the door? I left that morning hoping safe, legal access would still be a choice for them if they wanted it.
One in three. I hope they will come to understand how very important this is for so many of us. We are not evil, we are not dammed to hell, we are not outcasts from the righteous and pure. We are human. We are women. And we do know what is best for us.
*All links to anti-abortion websites have been omitted purposely. Please use Google or message us separately if you would like a citation for sources.