Documenting Fear

There have been so many articles written about abortion, abortion access, clinics, anti-abortion protesters and reproductive justice issues in the past five years. It’s not surprising, because since 2010 states have considered almost 400 abortion restriction bills and have adopted 288 of them. Most of these restrictions were TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). It doesn’t seem that any of the GOP legislators are listening to anyone except their anti-abortion constituents.

This week the Town Hall meeting with Chris Matthews gathered enormous news coverage when Donald Trump said he believes if abortion is legally banned, women should be punished for an abortion. Of course, when the media storm broke over his comments there was a “misspeak” retraction. What I found most interesting was the flurry of articles stating women are already being punished for abortion and it is still legal. They are punished by those TRAP law effects and the anti-abortion protesters present every single day in front of clinics around the country. Their Freedom of Speech rights allows the protesters to call women murderers, follow patients to the door at abortion clinics, harassing and bullying them. Every. Single. Day.

The Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law in 2014. Since that decision, buffer zones have either not been proposed or have been revised downwards in several cities. The court decided in the case of Massachusetts, the 35-foot buffer zone law they had was too big and impeded the grandmotherly “sidewalk counselors” in exercising their First Amendment rights.

However, the idea has still percolated that a smaller buffer zone might work for everyone. The anti-abortion protesters will have to yell across a shorter space and can still hand out pamphlets, but they will not be able to block the entrances or stop patients from entering an abortion clinic to exercise a legal health care procedure.

Louisville Clinic Escorts have been working with the National Clinic Access Project and the staff at EMW Women’s Surgical Center for the past few months to document the type of intimidation experienced by patients entering the only full-time abortion clinic in Kentucky. We have started by presenting anonymous questionnaires to the patients on what they experienced from protesters on their arrival at EMW Women’s Surgical Center for their appointments. We have gathered the questionnaire answers for a month and the results are interesting.

I would like to focus on just a few of the answers, but the full results are at this link. Be sure to read the comments. They are from truly frightened people. 2016 March Monthly Report-EMW Client Questionnaire

This graph has some answers to some of the questions we have about the potential for violence in front of the clinic.  


If over 50% of the patients say the protesters made them feel scared and nervous, it isn’t counseling. It is intimidation. If 38% of patients say they thought about confronting protesters and 12% of them did, it isn’t counseling. It is harassment. What happens if all 38% confront the anti-abortion protesters? Do we have assault and counter-assault charges being filed against the protesters? Does it escalate into violence in an instant? If 50% say the noise level bothered them very much, it isn’t counseling. It is intimidation. What other medical practice is it allowed for protesters to step in front of patients and block their entrance 41% of the time? That is a violation of the FACE Act.  

Are you listening to us? Is it time to say, enough? We need a buffer zone in front of the clinic in Louisville. 15’ would be wonderful, but even 8’ would allow patients to enter a safe space before they walk into the clinic. When is it time to truly protect our citizens instead of proposing TRAP laws that pretend to be for the pregnant person’s health, but really have the end goal of stopping legal abortion?

We will continue gathering the questionnaires. We will continue to document the harassment, intimidation, violations of city and state ordinances, and incidents of violence. I dream of the day when we don’t have to fight daily battles in the struggle to access abortion. 


14 thoughts on “Documenting Fear

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  5. Thank you guys for what you do. I can’t tell you how comforting this is that wonderful volunteers like you are helping to keep a buffer between these people. I have an appointment and will be going to EMW clinic in June…the thing that scares me the most isn’t the appointment or the treatment, it’s the protestors and what they might try to pull that scares me. This will be my first time I’ve ever had to come here and I don’t know what to expect. As long as there are escorts that brings me some comfort. This difficult time is already heartbreaking and stressful enough , protestors would just make me even more upset.

    • We have escorts present every day the clinic is open. Please look for the people in the orange vests that say “Clinic Escort”. We will walk with you to the entrance. We are glad we can provide some comfort to you on the day you come in. That is the whole reason we volunteer.

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  7. I have visited this clinic (Louisville EMW) both as a patient for an abortion and as an escort (trainee, to be accurate). I found it very confrontational and intimidating. There was no counseling; it was flat out harassment. I felt my personal privacy and LIBERTY was at risk.

    It’s important to note; I was so “lucky” that I have a job that I can take a day or two off for the procedure AND do it on a weekday. I have a six foot tall husband that looks like military or police (because he is) and people are a tiny bit less confident in trying to scare/intimidate him vs some of the other smaller statured men I saw escorting their partner or friend into the clinic. He made me feel safe and helped me ignore the few folks there that morning. Other women were by themselves and made easy targets.

    My husband is the type of guy the pro escort team wants standing at the front lines. Isn’t that terrible? You need your biggest volunteers standing in critical spots to block people from stopping women and their family from getting into a clinic for legal medical care. Read it again. Legal medical care requires people blocking other people so the patient can safely enter the building!

    I’m so lucky my abortion was prior to the current KY and federal GOP administration and that I just had to make a call, make an appt and make sure I had the money. I sit here almost 12 years later and think how terrible it would be to have to do this now under the current laws and the “counselors” on the sidewalk. I feel like I’m living in the 80’s and 90’s again and that the spray paint, bombs and attacks are going to start multiplying again. Our politicians are egging the crazies on…it’s overwhelming to watch.

    The anti choice protesters are horrible people. I can’t believe they actually say with a straight face they are there for the “babies”. That makes me sick. It’s laughable. They are simply trying to control women, period. For me it’s the women standing out there that really make me angry. The men I just write off as whackos but the women are traitors. Traitors to their gender and their friends and family. I feel awful knowing 1/3 women will require this medial procedure during their lifetime and these awful women outside the clinic will judge their friends and family and not be loving and supportive.

    I’ll end my rant on one last note for anyone still reading. On my first visit to the clinic for my own abortion I saw one woman that was visibly pregnant. She must have had something wrong with her wanted baby to be there for a procedure. (Because something like 97% of abortions take place in the first 8 weeks when only you can tell you are pregnant). These awful people yelled and screamed and worse yet CHASED a visibly pregnant woman down a sidewalk. I asked my husband to do something and right then someone in a vest came and got her in to the clinic. I’m not religious but thank goodness for our city’s brave escorts. I am hoping for a day when they are no longer needed but am so grateful they are there for women like me. Thank you

  8. Yes, you do!
    Clinics without a private parking zone need a larger area. Noboby, ever, for any reason, should be harassed going to the doctor.

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