Sidewalk Snippet 07/06/17


Our local antis routinely shove literature into the hands of clients and random pedestrians alike. Social conditioning and not wanting to appear rude, many people accept the handouts and move on.

Most times it is discarded within a few minutes of receiving it.

Sometimes they just throw it in a trash bin on the way past. Other times it’s handed to escorts and they ask us to please get rid of it. When that happens the antis accuse us of taking the pamphlets to prevent clients from learning the truth.

No, our goal is to keep them from being thrown out randomly littering downtown.


Where would they go? Part Two – The Patients


Please also read Part One – the antis, and Part Three – the clinic staff.

Before I get into where the patients would go in the event that controlling power hungry oppressors get their wish, I want to take a moment to make sure our readers truly realize what it already takes for a Kentuckian to get an abortion. In April, Kentucky Health Justice Network outlined the barriers that many folks face before they even get to the clinic in this post:

The True Cost of Abortion in Kentucky

Effective Tuesday April 11, 2017, due to additional overhead from the new ultrasound law, increased staff needs and legal costs, EMW is raising their prices by $50 across the board.  That means the least expensive procedure (medication abortion, using the pill) will cost $700 per person. Someone at 14 weeks will have to pay $1150. Twenty weeks: $2050.

Those procedures costs are some of the highest in the nation, but there are costs far beyond that. Here is a breakdown of what it really costs:

If someone has a negative blood type, they will have to pay extra for a Rhogam shot. $60 if they are under 12 weeks, $150 if they are over 12 weeks.

If they do not live in Jefferson County, they will have to travel up to 250 miles round trip. That requires access to a reliable vehicle, and usually a companion to do the driving post-op. (So, also factor in gas money. Yes, maybe they could fly or ride a greyhound but would they take cabs to and from the airport, bus station, hotel, clinic, etc?)

The law requires they receive informed consent counseling 24 hours before the procedure. Some people take two trips to the clinic for this.  Some do it via web app but that requires access to Internet or smart phone data, plus a safe environment for a video conference call, which can be a big challenge for people in rural areas.

If they are a parent, childcare arrangement must be made, and sometimes paid for.

They may need to stay in Louisville overnight, which could cost $70-100 per night, plus cost of meals while away from home.

All this could require taking 3-5 days off work, which could mean losing a substantial chunk of income, or risking job loss.

All this to access safe legal care, that insurance could cover if it wasn’t for politicians trying to control our bodies and our lives.

THANKS, KHJN for that informative breakdown and also for running the Support Fund, which provides direct and practical support for Kentuckians facing barriers to abortion access, even when they have to travel out of state for care, which brings us back to our title query: Where Would They Go?

Kentucky is bordered by 7 states.

Indiana is home to four abortion clinics, and VP Mike Pence.  Many believe that if KY loses its clinic, IN won’t be too far behind.  I disagree, but have learned in the last year or so to not be too comfy or confident because those in power do intend to strip every right to bodily autonomy away from us, and they are wealthy, resourceful, and punishing- at best. Abortions in Indiana are only available prior to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Ohio has about 3.5 clinics right now.  One clinic in Cincinnati had to modify their services because of harsh restrictions that have no medical justification. For now, that facility can only offer medication abortion (with the pill) prior to 7 weeks of pregnancy, plus pre-op requirements for patients who live close to there, but then would have to travel to another location in Dayton where a termination can be performed.  For many folks living in Central or Northern KY, these OH clinics would be the closest options.

Illinois has some of the least restrictive laws, and several clinics. It is also the Bluegrass State’s neighbor that is least convenient for most KYians to get to. It’s likely that most people traveling to IL for care would be doing so to access abortions later in pregnancy.  Those surgeries can cost as much as $3600 and are often medically necessary due to a variety of complications and health risk.

Missouri is also home to just one clinic- the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. Anyone accessing abortion care in Missouri will be subjected to a SEVENTY-TWO HOUR WAIT, you know, because grown people cannot be trusted to know what they need when they make their doctors appointments. Seems like there would be similar regulations on things like erectile dysfunction meds…oh, wait.. nevermind, LOL. Due to that wait, I cannot imagine KYians choosing MO for an abortion unless they live very close to that state, and have supportive family or friends they can stay with. That medically unnecessarily waiting period is a huge barrier.

Virginia has several clinics, but they are also heavily regulated. Abortions performed beyond the first trimester must be done in a hospital, possibly with the approval of a second physician. There is a 24 hour waiting period, plus mandatory ultrasounds, and parental consent requirements for minors, among lots of other medically unnecessary laws.  Again, KYians needing care would likely only travel to VA if it were convenient for them personally, which is unlikely for the bulk of KY residents.

West Virginia is in a similar boat as KY, with one remaining clinic open in Charleston, which is neighbored by a (you guessed it) crisis pregnancy center- which can be especially confusing for folks coming from out of town. The drive to Charleston and back would be over 500 miles for most KYians.

Tennessee has a handful of abortion clinic, which are of course, outnumbered by deceptive crisis pregnancy centers, including a mobile unit.  Nashville or Bristol has the locations that would be most convenient for Kentuckians being forced to travel for care. Anyone seeking an abortion in TN must endure a 48 waiting period, so we can imagine that a KYian going to TN for care would need a place to stay, or have to make two trips.

All those options are only possibilities for people who have access to resources including social and emotional support, travel capabilities, the freedom and funds to take time off work, and many other hurdles including the biggest one: money.  Most states have one or more abortion fund, and some clinics have financial assistance programs, but for many, the hurdles created by stigma, crisis pregnancy centers, and legislation make it a miracle for folks to even be able to reach a clinic, or a fund in order to get factual information about the care available to them, and what it takes to get there.

We already know that google searches about how to induce an abortion at home are way up. We know that people with mouths to feed and bills to pay will take desperate and dangerous steps to end a pregnancy.  We know that stickers like this pictured below are appearing in public places because groups like Women Help Women want to make sure people have reliable, modern information, rather than questionable “guides” to using cottonroot bark, tansy, pennyroyal, and more to poison oneself in an effort to induce a miscarriage.

Unfortunately, I think the chilling truth that we have to face is that while people with resources will be able to travel to clinics mentioned above, those with fewer privileges in fact have fewer choices, and will likely end up repeating the drastic actions of people in poor, rural, or marginalized communities before Roe vs Wade. As we have already seen, these are also the communities most vulnerable to prosecution for the crime of taking care of their bodies.  This is why it’s vital to preserve access: so people can have compassionate and safe care in a medical setting. If only we can stop clinics from being regulated out of existence.


Old Friends

You say to a person leaving the clinic, “Hey, would you like for me to walk with you to your car?” And they’re like, “Sure. Did you go to ____ Elementary School?” And you’re like, oh my god do I really look the same as I did in 5th grade? “Yep!” And now there is a protester tagging along, so you can’t remind them of your name or ask their name, but you vaguely recognize them too. And you don’t want to be like, “You’re such a good friend!” or “Are you ok?” or “I hope the harassment wasn’t too bad on your way in,” or anything where you’re making assumptions or making the situation weird. So you just pretend you’re at the grocery store (and there’s a guy harassing you both?) and try to be normal and make normal small talk without acting like they’re a hero or victim or whatever, for whatever reason they are there, which is really no one’s business. And you are very conscientious to not say something mildly stupid like, “Great to see you here!” or “Have a great day!” which might seem a little… unaware. But it’s cool that they even said anything, because you would have never recognized them, and it’s a very Louisville kind of thing, and you’re really glad they recognized you. As they get into their car they say thanks for being there and you’re feeling like, well, I never would have guessed we’d both be here today but I’m glad. And then many hours later their name will finally pop into your head.

Where Would They Go? Part 1 – The Antis

Louisville has anti-choice protestors that have come out 5 days a week for decades. What would they do if they actually achieved their goal and completely removed abortion access in KY? If the clinic staff locked the door for the last time and the escorts put away their vests for good, where would the anti-choice protestors go?

Maybe they’ll amp up their random street preaching. Those who work in downtown Louisville might be familiar with the sight of Operation Save America KY preachers outside the courthouse. The close of KY’s last remaining abortion clinic could provide a recruitment boom for OSA and they could protest downtown every day.

Perhaps their protests would migrate to a fertility clinic. Pro-Life Action League has already staged anti-choice rallies at a clinic that provides In Vitro Fertilization. IVF involves the disposal of unused embryos unsuitable for implantation. It’s a logical extension of the anti-choice mindset to view discarded embryos as equivalent to murder and fertility clinic employees as murderers.

Or perhaps they would start congregating outside your local pharmacy. Abortion is the most controversial form of birth control so society affirms their right to harass and intimidate patients as free speech. Would the same excuses be made when they come for Plan B or monthly oral contraception? Anti-choice groups are also opposed to “The Pill” and could mobilize their members to move outside a CVS or Kroger. Maybe they’ll create “Wanted” posters for pharmacists or managers who refuse to stop selling contraception.

Maybe they’ll go even broader and harass children outside public schools. We’ve already seen this in practice when OSA held their national leadership conference in Louisville in February. Anti-choice groups certainly find the public school curriculum to be too secular. This past week, Governor Matt Bevin signed a Bible Literacy Bill into law, “allowing” the teaching of bible classes in KY public schools. The hardline members of the groups we see every week won’t stop until these classes are mandatory. Maybe they’ll create websites containing the photos and addresses of principals and teachers who stand opposed to their curriculum.

These far-right extremists slowly chip away at rights. Look at the slow rollback of abortion access that has happened in the past 40 years. Post-Roe, KY had 17 clinics performing abortions; now 1 remains. TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) have been incredibly effective at destroying abortion access at a slow and steady pace. If you give these people an inch, they’ll take every mile of road you have. Currently, that KY road starts at the toes of Louisville’s clinic escorts. We’re doing our part to hold space and advocate for abortion access because who knows what the extremists will take next.

Please read Part Two – the Patients, and Part Three – the clinic staff as well.


Hard Hearted and Homely

Protester to newer escort: Don’t do this, you’ll become hard hearted and homely like the other women here.

Different protester to different newer escort: Young lady, don’t follow these older women down this path, don’t let them trick you into doing this.

Escorts show up independently, for a wide variety of reasons, but never because the older women in our lives are dragging us out there. I do love the concept of a coven of witches leading the escorts, and I get why protesters think the escorts who are older women are the leaders. But escorts have no leaders and are simply individuals who work together towards common goals with a few binding principles. (Meanwhile I find concern regarding the physical appearance of any escort unnecessary and offensive.)

The biggest thing I hear in these comments is… fear? admiration? bitterness? from the protesters towards older women. Throughout my life I have admired and gravitated towards women who are older than me – women a few years older than me and women a few generations older than me (and now women who are not older than me but just seem that way because I think of myself as a years younger than I am). I grew up with a mom with amazing women friends. Women who were midwives, women who worked at abortion clinics, women who taught dance classes at juvenile detention centers. It’s the same characteristics that make older women seem like leaders that draw me toward them. I see actions driven by compassion and respect for others, carried out with a sense of self-assuredness, assertiveness, and self-respect. So yes, sign me up to be a hard hearted, homely, older woman escort if that’s the price you pay for those qualities. You can also sign me up for the secret coven, and give me my crone card. I’m in.