Escorting has allowed me to see the best and worst of human behavior, often at a dizzying rate. Some mornings I am thankful for a long quiet drive home. It gives me time to process what I have seen and heard. This allows me to make better choices on how to interact with clients and make sure I am doing what is less stressful and most empowering for them. Everyone is an individual and it is not a one size fits all approach. It is always their choice on whether or not they choose to speak with us at all, escorts and antis alike.
One morning I was standing along the curb as a car pulled up. As I approached the car, I could see the client and her companion tense up. I stopped a few feet away and waved. The window rolled down a few inches and a sharp voice asked “What?” I pointed to my vest and identified myself as a clinic escort and asked if they had an appointment today. They nodded. I gave a very quick summary, approximately when the doors opened and what to expect from the antis on their way into the clinic. I asked if they would like me to walk with them. They replied no, and they didn’t want to talk to anybody either. I assured them if they changed their mind and wanted someone to quietly walk with them just wave for one of the escorts wearing the orange vests over and we would return.
As I turned to stand back at the curb, I nearly collided with one of the male antis rushing over to speak with them . While they were rolling up their window he was loudly stating “I am not a protester. I just want to talk with you about some options you have not considered.”
Not a protester? Alright I thought , this could be interesting. What is he planning on discussing, the pros and cons of metered parking along the street or the day rates of the lots and garages in the area? Yeah right; unlikely.
From my vantage point several spaces down I watched as he circled the car from driver to passenger, speaking at them through closed windows. He was repeating one of the many similar scripts they all have: free housing, free education, free medical care, open adoptions, loving Christian families waiting for babies. It kind of reminded me of the drive through Safari when I was a kid. Some of the animals like the giraffes and baboons were fun to watch as they approached your car to peer in on you. Others like the tigers and lions were scary and you were glad for the safety of your car; hoping they lost interest quickly and backed off. I wondered how these people saw the actions of this man.
When the clinic doors opened, I stepped back over to the car and informed the client that the building was now open. I again backed off about fifteen feet or so to give them the space they requested, but close enough to get in stride if they changed their minds. Not the case with “Mr. I Am Not A Protester.” He began to very closely follow them up the sidewalk. By now his words had become a blur to me as he kept at them. Part way up the sidewalk they were joined by a female protester with her pleadings of, “Don’t kill your baby. You will always be a mother.”
Repeated requests from the client and her companion to the antis went ignored. The “Please leave us alone, Please go away,” turned into, “Get out of my face! Leave me alone!” I made eye contact with the client to see if she wanted me to step in and walk with her to try and give her some space. The look I got back was not of someone needing assistance. It was one of someone needing answers. She looked at me and loudly stated, “Do they EVER listen?” Sadly, I shook my head no.
They made their way down the sidewalk with the mini circus in tow. Only at the property line did they manage to finally get free of their persistent chasers. A few more words preached at the now closed doors and the antis turned their attention to the next group headed in.
harassment (either harris-meant or huh-rass-meant) n. the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. The purposes may vary, including racial and social prejudice, personal malice, an attempt to force someone to quit a job or grant sexual favors, apply illegal pressure to collect a bill, or merely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious.
It seems like a pretty simple definition to me, but in this country it seems to be tolerated if it is in the name of religion and saving the unborn.
However, with these tactics becoming more public and the growing backlash against the oppressive regulations and laws passed in the last few years, I see it starting to change. A recent arrest of a protester in Albuquerque, the removal of the sidewalk blockers in Jackson, MS on December 4, and the protest-free space created by Portland, Maine’s city council give me hope.
I may be just one voice, but I have found others to speak with and we are being heard. From Wendy Davis and the women of Texas, the voters of Albuquerque, New Mexico and the many tireless volunteers who make sure every day women seeking access to abortion services do not have to face these sidewalk bullies alone. We are 1 in 3. We have a voice. Don’t be afraid to speak up and use it. We can push back against the draconian laws that are forcing women back into the underground network of illegal and unsafe abortions.
Together we can make the difference.