The National Conference held by Operation Save America was more than just a disruption at EMW Women’s Surgical Center; it was a city-wide disturbance. While OSA were in town, they visited churches, protested with graphic signs and trucks all over the city, and even displayed a “live abortion” on a Jumbotron at a park downtown. Most disturbing, they distributed the personal information of clinic workers and demonstrated outside of their homes. Now that it’s August, and all but the local members of OSA have left, the question I get asked by my local friends is, “So is everything back to normal?” Consider the rest of this post a long “no.”
The first two weeks of August 2017 have felt significantly more perilous while escorting. Louisville Clinic Escorts love boredom, but the past 2 weeks have been eventful, unfortunately. Comparing the incidents of August 2016 with those of this year show both an increase in the number of anti-choice protestors as well as a heightened level of aggression of antis.
The number of antis that showed up on weekdays has increased significantly in August 2017 compared to August 2016. Two weekdays in the first two weeks examined saw a 100% increase in the number of protestors year over year. No weekdays saw a drop in the number of protesters. The number of protestors on Saturdays were comparable year to year.
Looking at the numbers of protestors only provides half the picture of escalation by antis. The other half is the aggression they express. From August 2-13, 2016, there were no incidents significant enough for the police to be called. This doesn’t mean that patients weren’t harassed, just that the harassment didn’t rise to the level of requiring LMPD intervention. Between August 1-12, 2017, police were contacted twice by either the escorts or by the clinic.
The first incident occurred on Saturday, August 5. A man harassed two escorts with rhetoric that rose to the level of significant threat. The man stated that if his daughter ever thought of having an abortion he’d “lynch her.” He then said maybe we should go back to the old days of “lynching white women,” directly threatening the escorts. The individual was dangerous enough that employees of A Woman’s Choice, the CPC next to EMW, requested escorts to ask LMPD for assistance. An officer spoke with the man, who then walked down the street accompanied by Vince Heuser, attorney for the 11 National OSA people arrested May 13, 2017.
The second incident happened on Tuesday, August 8. A homeless man approached the clinic and spoke to one of the regular Catholic protestors. She gave him items from the trunk of her car, including a carton of cookies. Presumably, she also told him about the abortion clinic since he immediately began harassing the escort standing near the front door. The escort, fearing for their safety, began recording the man, who then tried to grab the escort’s phone multiple times. At one point, the man swung the carton of cookies within inches of the escort’s face. The clinic called the police who responded and after talking to him, asked the man to leave the area.
Both of the men in these incidents appeared to be homeless. It’s been a tactic of antis in the past to use descriptions like “deathscorts” and “murderers” to cause escalation using homeless people as a proxy. It’s symbolic of the escalation of aggression on the sidewalk the first two weeks of August 2017.
The OSA conference was widely covered by both local and national press. It seems this press acted as a recruitment tool for new antis. In the past few weeks new antis, several carrying megaphones, have begun protesting at EMW. One of the new antis screams aggressively at escorts and clients. Another has brought his 10 year-old brother and used him as a prop to block clients attempting to access the clinic entrance. Saturdays used to be primarily composed of Catholics praying on the sidewalks while only a few of their numbers actually approached and personally harassed patients. Now, more “walkers” than ever grab clients, block them using signs, and shout threats as they attempt to access legal healthcare. The numbers of antis may be the same as 2016 on a Saturday, but their tactics are not.
So no, things aren’t getting back to normal. Louisville Clinic Escorts are now getting used to a new normal, one that is significantly more dangerous than what was experienced at similar times in previous years. As antis increase their aggression, a safety zone is needed even more than before OSA came into town.