“I think there are ways for people to get safely to those facilities, if they just figure out a plan,” explained Cindi Fowler, Metro Councilor for District 14 at a recent Cafe’ Louie Event.
Upon being asked about her take on safety legislation, Councilor Fowler admitted that there ARE hostile environments surrounding healthcare facilities, however, it was up to the client to protect themselves. This is in light of the Louisville Safety Zone campaign pushing the council to pass it’s ordinance, which would establish a 10’ buffer zone in front of healthcare facilities targeted by physical harassment and violence.
Fowler referenced a large parking lot, which I presume refers to the 15 spot gated and barbed wired parking lot where the clinic’s employees park. With growing numbers of protesters;and escalating aggression, directing patients to the back parking lot will increase safety risks, not to mention reinforcing the stigma connected to back alleys and back door entrances.
The most egregious remark made by Councilor Fowler is her suggestion for patients to “figure out a plan,” while dismissing the planning that already takes place for those accessing abortions in Kentucky.
An immense amount of planning is required before driving to the clinic. The graphic below from Third Wave Fund is a bit outdated, and not specific to Kentucky, but it is a helpful tool for understanding the planning involved.
How much planning does it take?
- The clock is ticking as soon as they learn they are pregnant. They must schedule an appointment as soon as possible, as the development of the pregnancy determines the procedure required, and subsequently the cost. Abortions at EMW cost between $700-$2050.
- Patients have to gather the funding for the appointment. Some people seek funding from nonprofit organizations, because most KY residents’ health insurance will not cover the procedure at all. Many patients seek loans, or make tough decisions about which bills to put off. Some delay care, not realizing that the price of the procedure may increase over time.
- KY law mandates informed consent take place at least 24 hours before the abortion – because lawmakers do not trust pregnant people to know what care they need.
- Time off work, and childcare arrangements must be made by most patients.
- If the patient is a minor, KY law requires a parent to come to the appointment and give consent for the abortion. If the teen cannot gain parental consent, they will need to go before a judge with both an attorney and a guardian ad litem representing them in order to receive the abortion.
- If they are traveling to Louisville for their appointment, they may need overnight lodging, especially if they are having a two-day-procedure.
- For medical reasons, surgical patients must be accompanied by a trusted companion to drive them home. This can be very difficult for Kentuckians who do not have support for their decision, or are in an unsafe situation.
- Patients are given a follow up appointment two weeks after their abortion. More planning. Another trip to Louisville. More protesters shouting hateful insults.
- Many patients travel from all corners of Kentucky or even other states. Some have to seek out a companion with a more reliable vehicle than theirs. Others take busses, or receive rides from Kentucky Health Justice Network volunteers.
- The clinic staff warn patients about the hostile protesters, and the fake clinic that will attempt to deceive them. Patients are advised to look for strategically positioned clinic escorts upon arrival.
What planning does Councilor Fowler suggest for a patient preparing to endure a threatening crowd of protesters?
Is Councilor Fowler suggesting the patient take matters into their own hands? Should this plan include patients carrying pepper spray to remove protesters from their personal space? Would Councilor Fowler recommend a stronger personal protection plan?
Clinic escort volunteers are trained to de-escalate tension on the sidewalk, and often ask companions to leave firearms in their vehicles, rather than carry them into the clinic. The environment on the sidewalk has already proven to be volatile. The idea of suggesting patients create some kind of plan for personal protection seems far less safe than the proactive solution of creating a safety or buffer zone,to give a clear path for entry while protecting protester’s rights to free speech and assembly. This proactive solution is common and effective, many cities have adopted safety or buffer zones and have seen a decrease in violence following an established zone.
While all patient’s circumstances are unique, there is no way to know whether someone’s experince seeking an abortion has been easy or overwhelming. Loud and intimidating protesters being allowed to invade and violate personal space can cause emotions to boil over. This puts everyone’s safety at risk. While no one advocates for violence on the sidewalk, the environment surrounding EMW perpetuates it.
A safety zone is a preventative measure for the benefit of all people on the sidewalk. This solution takes the responsibility of public safety off of an individual, and places it on every citizen, lawmaker, and law enforcement officer, just like in any other area of our “compassionate city”.