Probably the last thing the world needs is yet another dude’s opinion on reproductive rights and abortion access. Unfortunately, that’s all I have to offer as I watch powerful, mostly white men decide the fate of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic.
I’ve been volunteering as an escort with Every Saturday Morning (ESM) since July 2016 and ithat short period of time has been a roller coaster.
Sure, there is some good. The volunteers with ESM are some of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever met. As a man, I was unsure of how welcome I would feel or how well I would fit in with ESM. It is, after all, an organization centered around women’s rights and its membership is comprised mostly of women. I try to live my life by listening, trusting and respecting women, and for that, I was met with open arms. Every day on the sidewalk escorting clients past hateful anti-abortion activists makes me feel like I’m helping in some small way and there’s no one I’d rather do that with than the other ESM volunteers.
And then there’s everything else. The short amount of 2017 that has passed has been a violent, hateful slog. In January, protestor Angela Minter was selected by Bevin to be a part of the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees selection committee. This is the same Angela Minter that harasses women outside of EMW, has been filmed trespassing on clinic property and just a few weeks after this appointment, would be photographed pressing a sign into the face of a clinic escort.
On January 21st, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, a clinic escort was knocked to the ground by Aaron Sabie, a member of Psalm 82 Ministries (or Psalm 82 Reformation Media as they’ve recently rebranded). LMPD has not and will not press charges against Sabie.
P82 joined with Operation Save America (OSA), and OSA held their leadership conference in Louisville in February. Over 150 protestors clogged the sidewalks, harassing patients with graphic signs and loudspeakers. Speaking of graphic signs, OSA/P82 left the clinic and took those signs to a middle school and high school. Their protest outside Noe Middle and Manual High was disturbing enough that those schools sent an email to parents assuring them that their children were safe. After they finished their protest at these schools, they had a meeting with Governor Bevin. The governor offered encouragement to these extremists when he addressed them.
Which brings us to today. Governor Bevin has described himself as “unapologetically Pro-life” and is attempting to make Kentucky the first state to have citizens without access to abortions. He has ordered EMW closed starting Monday, April 3rd, based on a licensing technicality. This license is good through the end of May 2017, yet the KY Cabinet of Health and Human Services suddenly finds a deficiency with the document.
Their goal is transparent. They wish to end access to safe, legal abortion in Kentucky. Governor Matt Bevin will happily tout that he’s the governor who removed a woman’s right to choose in Kentucky. Will he be there to gleefully accept credit the first time a Kentucky woman dies of sepsis from an unsafe, underground abortion? What about the first time a Kentucky woman suffers genital disfigurement while attempting to perform an abortion on herself because she can’t afford to travel out of state?
No. Governor Matt Bevin won’t be there for the poor, rural citizens of Kentucky that this will affect the most; nor will Minter, Sabie, Joseph Spurgeon, Rusty Thomas, or any of the other toxic company that Bevin keeps.
As a male ally and volunteer, I’m disgusted by the individuals listed above. I walk on that sidewalk every day with my only assumption being that each patient is making the decision that’s best for her. At the base of all this for me, as a man, is that I can have all the empathy in the world for a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy, but I’ll never truly be able to understand what she’s going through. I listen to women, I trust what they’re saying, and I respect both their thoughts and their bodily autonomy. I wish there was a way I could magically explain that to the people above and I hope any potential ally will read and take that advice.
When I began writing this post, EMW and its supporters were anxiously awaiting to hear if a federal judge would grant a temporary restraining order against the state’s order of closure. Now, several hours later, EMW has its order granted and will remain open for the time being. This will continue to be a fight over the next several months, particularly at the end of May when the clinic’s license expires. And I’ll be there, side by side with some of the strongest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.