A very nice car pulled into the pay lot and I approached, wondering if it was, in fact, a family of antis new and late to the protesting party that morning. It wasn’t the car, it was something intangible about the people in the car that made me suspect they might be new protesters. Nonetheless, I walked up to the driver’s side and asked my standard opening questions, “Are you here for the abortion clinic?” and also, “Would you like an escort to walk with you?” The people in the car answered yes to both, and I quickly ran through the information about parking; that they could or could not speak to, or accept materials from, the antis. I could see the antis swarming toward the car.
I don’t use that word lightly. They were swarming.
As soon as the client and companion exited their car, antis were mobbing them –again, I do not use that word lightly, they were mobbed – berating the couple for their choice while alternately pleading with them to do the “loving thing,” to “come next door for a free ultrasound, they will charge you for an ultrasound.”
Let me be clear. A Woman’s Choice, the crisis pregnancy center next door to the EMW clinic, will offer free ultrasounds under certain circumstances, but that ultrasound will not be accepted by any medical professional. You will have to pay for an ultrasound later, whether you continue the pregnancy or terminate it. Also, I am always puzzled as to why the protesters think paying for services rendered is one of the evils of the clinic. I expect to pay for medical services and I would hope that the doctor and his clinic are financially solvent; I consider that to be a good thing.
As the antis turned the screws on the couple, I fought the urge to correct the lies that they were hurling with abandon. It is the choice of the client to engage with the antis or not. I am not there to correct misinformation, much as I may want to do so. At one point in this melee, I realized that the antis had flanked me and turned the lot of us into a barricade, preventing the people in the car from moving forward. Stepping back so as not to be another body in the blockade, looking for a way to throw the couple a line, I finally raised my voice over the antis to ask if I could put the money in the box for them, hoping that would give them permission to push through the antis and to be on their way.
And then I saw the child.
The client and companion had with them, a young girl. Children are not allowed in the clinic, and I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should address this with the couple before walking with them across the street. As ferocious as the antis were being, I decided it would be best to help this threesome get into the clinic and let them sort things out with the staff once inside; in a calm environment.
I positioned myself as best as I could between the antis and the young girl, talking about the bumpy sidewalk and puddles, joking with the other escort – anything to give the girl something to listen to other than the rhetoric from the antis.
As we crossed the street, the antis formed another barricade from the street to the sidewalk with their bodies and umbrellas. The companion was able to get through, and I chose to position myself between the antis gruesome poster and the girl. There were just two escorts on the curb, but they were able to provide an orange cordon through the antis to the clinic’s property line. Unfortunately, in the confusion, the client and the young girl darted away from the orange cordon, around a tree, and wound up completely blocked from the sidewalk and surrounded by antis. The poster bearer swiveled around so that the young girl got a face full of repulsive and untruthful gore shoved in her face.
As an aside, I would like to say that the antis’ “CHOICE” poster has the most riduculously false looking “fetus” soaked in more corn syrup blood than a Freddy Kreuger movie. It looks like a prop from a bad Area 51 movie. However, it is shocking when you first see it. And gross, even if it is fake. I don’t want my own child seeing that, much less someone else’s. And the antis CHOSE to shove this picture in the young girl’s face. That is their CHOICE, reprehensible though it may be.
So, with the woman and child surrounded, blocked from getting properly onto the sidewalk, much less onto the clinic property, the antis rained down a cacophonous chorus of rebukes and protestations on the two females. Repeated, stern statements of, “Excuse me,” were completely ignored as the antis chose to block the woman and child, closing in on them and trying to squeeze me out. It was claustrophobic in the middle of all of it; not a single thing the antis were saying could be made out over the others, except that these people clearly were unhappy with this endeavor. Finally, we were able to get the woman and child across the property line and rejoined with their companion.
Shaken at the most aggressive confrontation I had been a part of – and I can only imagine how the threesome felt – I asked another escort what I could have done differently. She shrugged, offering that sometimes, there is just nothing else we can do. I guess it’s true, sometimes the protesters’ behavior is so beyond the pale that there is no way to predict what they will do.
And perhaps, she added, it was the child who was the client. If there is one thing I learn time and again on the sidewalk, it is to not make assumptions. It never occurred to me that the young girl would have been the client, but it is absolutely possible that she may have been.
I have replayed that scene in my head many times, trying to figure out what I can do more efficiently or what to watch out for more keenly in the future to prevent that from happening to another client. In my reflections, I have become increasingly appalled that, with all their talk of loving children, the antis CHOSE to keep a grown woman and a young woman standing on the street so they could volley antagonisms – to achieve what, exactly?
The antis make such grand assumptions about the clients and their companions, but none of us knows anything about the people walking through those doors. And, more importantly, it’s none of our business.