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Moving from middle aged to crone - loving and learning and growing every step of the way.

We Don’t Want Your ‘Sorry’ – We Want You to Stop Hurting People {by Huxley}

Volunteer clinic escorts get hit by antis at the clinic pretty regularly. It’s usually petty little garbage, not worth even attempting to do anything about. Heck, it might even be an accident that the same anti stepped on your foot repeatedly, or whacked you with their sign repeatedly, or knocked into you repeatedly because they “just didn’t see you there”! As a general rule, it’s best to stick to our goal of striving for de-escalation and non-engagement when this happens.

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“I accidentally walked into the door, officer.”

Sometimes, though, safety makes it necessary to object to an anti’s behavior. Our clinic has a designated “drop zone” in front of it, a small area between two signs that, on Saturdays, is not supposed to be blocked. Because the clinic is located on a busy downtown thoroughfare, vehicles need to be able to pull into this space, allow passengers to exit, and pull back into traffic. When we have enough volunteers, we station ourselves along the sidewalk in this area. We’ve had more than a few instances of antis creating an actual traffic hazard when clients pull into this space.

 

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Unfortunately, one of the persistent difficulties our antis suffer from is reading comprehension. You see, when we made the mistake of discussing the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE Act) with folks, they seemed to get the impression that the prohibition on people blocking the entrance (this would be them) actually means that volunteers with agents of the clinic (this would be us) cannot help clients get past them when they attempt to block access. So, according to the antis, what the FACE Act really does is protect their “right” to block patients accessing the clinic entrance! If you’ve heard their interpretation of Scripture, this probably doesn’t surprise you.

All of this is to give you some context for what happened this morning. The video is a little confusing if you’re not familiar with the entrance of our clinic. And if you’re not familiar with FACE, the woman anti yelling in it makes even less sense. Please note: the video is chaotic, does depict violence, and there is swearing.  (transcript at the end)

So. The woman, Kellie Sabie, tries to force her way through escorts so that she can jump in front of a patient attempting to walk in the door, and then starts yelling at escorts. Her husband, Aaron, assumes that she needs to be protected from the escorts and wades in. While he certainly knocks into a number of escorts, he actually grabs Pat – 67 years old, 5’2”, and all of 98 pounds – and throws her to the ground.

She’s badly bruised, and grateful for no fractures.

Officers from Louisville Metro Police Department have been stationed across the street on Saturdays for a while now, so an escort who had filmed the assault accompanied Pat to show them the video and explain what happened. Aaron wasn’t arrested, but Pat is pursuing charges. He asked officers if he could apologize to her and she, of course, said no thank you; shortly thereafter, Aaron returned to the front of clinic to resume “preaching” on his loudspeaker.

To be honest, I don’t think any of us particularly care whether Aaron or Kellie is remotely sorry for their actions today, or any day. All we want them to do is to quit breaking laws that are intended to prevent people from being harmed. We want them to not swarm cars as clients try to park or exit their vehicle; we want them to not physically block patients attempting to walk to the clinic entrance, using their huge 4’ x 2’signs as blockades; we want them to keep their assaults at least a little more subdued than what happened today.

As regular readers know, this has been escalating at our clinic for some time now, and it’s thanks primarily to the group Aaron and Kellie are with, “P82 Ministries.” They’ve recently begun working with Operation Save America, and P82’s leader, Joseph Spurgeon, has publicly called on fellow “real” Christians to join them in testing how much law breaking they can get away with in the name of preventing private citizens accessing medical care they happen to not like. They figure with the current and local political climate, no one’s going to really punish them.

So we’re about to find out if they’re right.

We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, volunteer clinic escorts in Louisville and across the country will continue to show up and hold space for clients, whatever that looks like at a given clinic and for a given client. We’ll hope we don’t get hurt too badly. We’ll continue explaining the FACE Act to folks when it’s necessary to do so, and redirect any potential volunteer escorts who think we’re counter-protesters. We’ll continue to have our Points of Unity as our goals. We’ll continue to point out that the behavior in which anti-choice clinic harassers engage would not be tolerated by law enforcement if it were engaged in by other groups of actual protesters. We’ll continue to point out that protest of elected officials for official government acts is in fact an entirely different thing from harassing and assaulting private citizens for their medical choices. As long as clients have to navigate a gauntlet of hateful, yelling bigots in order to access healthcare, we’ll be there in our neon vests to hold the line, and to walk with clients if they want us to.

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Transcripts:

Escort Shoved to the Ground

Kelly Sabie: (yelling) Public sidewalk!! You and you!! (pointing)
Escort M: Back off Sabie, back off
(Aaron Sabie comes up from the back, approaching from the left)
AS: All y’all need to get back
Escort M: Back off, Sabie, Back off
KS: Really
AS: ALL y’all
Escort L: You’re going to shove women to the ground?
KS: I didn’t shove anybody
AS: Get out of my wife’s face! (camera shows escort being helped to her feet) Get out of my wife’s face like you going to do something
Escort M: You’re shoving women to the ground
AS: I stepped in here to protect my wife. Y’all got a problem?
KS: Because she (pointing) backed into me!
Escort L: I’ve got a problem
KS: She backed into me
AS: Y’all want to surround my wife like that
Escort L: I’ve got a problem with you shoving a woman to the ground
Escort H: (to other escort) Don’t speak to him, don’t speak to him
AS: You know what, I apologize for that, I apologize for that
Anti on Loudspeaker: This is what’s taking place this is what’s taking place
KS: She’s gonna tell me I can’t walk on a public sidewalk!!!
AS: I will apologize for doing that
Escort M: Keep losing your shit,
KS: walk on a public sidewalk
Escort M: keep losing your shit, go ahead, it makes you look super stable, go ahead, keep losing your shit

KS: Oh I am thank you
AS: Who did I knock down? Because I will apologize because I did not
Escort M: It’s too late, she’s already getting the police, it’s too late
KS: …that she wouldn’t let me walk around the sidewalk. You can’t block a person (slamming her sign against the ground for emphasis) that’s your rule remember? There’s Louisville ordinances that go against everything you guys are doing
(Laughter in the background – at the idea that there are ordinances against what we’re doing)
KS: (to an escort off camera) And I don’t need you telling me what to do
Escort M: Somebody de-escalate this bitch y’all don’t care to de-escalate your own people that are losing their shit?
Escort H: You know they don’t.
KS: You need to stop
Loudspeaker: Here’s where we stand. They do not want these children to live
Escort M: Right Sabie whatever

Aaron Preaching

Obey my commands.

And then my question for you this morning is, do you hear the words of Jesus when he said, “thou shall not murder?” Does that – do those words resonate in your heart? Or have you gone hard, have you given over to a debased mind this morning to believe things that aren’t true? Things like, “it’s OK to murder my child”. TheThe folks in the orange vests, the folks behind the counter, your loved ones that bring you in here this morning, they all lied to you making you think that everything is going to be OK, that it’s just a clump of cells, that it’s just a procedure, but those same…

 

Spotlight on Support: A Fund

With reproductive health services under attack, people want to help.  People want to step up to stop the flood of laws designed to keep us from being able to access abortion.  People want to offer support to people needing to terminate a pregnancy.  Every week, new people reach out to us for information about being an escort.  And we love having new faces joining us every week.

But escorting is only one small aspect of the support that people seeking abortion care need.  TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and the distortion of informed consent requirements have created huge barriers that go beyond harassment on the sidewalk outside the clinic.  Lack of money is one of those barriers.

Did you know that in Kentucky, Medicaid only covers abortion in the case of rape, incest, and danger to the woman’s life?  And that even in those cases, the patient has to pay for the abortion ahead of time and try to get reimbursed later?  (Emphasis on “try,” since this is difficult, if not impossible, to do.)

Did you know that, by law, private insurance cannot cover abortion in Kentucky?  That’s right, even insurance companies that cover the cost of abortion in Illinois, for example, are barred from doing so in Kentucky.

Did you know that the cost of abortion care in Kentucky starts at around $700?  TRAP laws that require the clinic to meet unreasonable and unnecessary standards of care are part of the reason the cost is so high.  Most people in need of abortion care don’t have an extra $700 handy.  People deplete any savings they may have, borrow money, pawn belongings, don’t pay the rent, skip meals, and take all kinds of drastic steps to pay for an abortion.  And of course the need is time sensitive.  The longer it takes to get the money together, the higher the cost is likely to be.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that help with funding abortion care.  One of these is A Fund.  As their brochure explains, A Fund, Inc. is a nonprofit organization directed and staffed by volunteers who raise money to help Kentucky girls and women in need of funding for abortion.  They say:

The typical woman we serve is the sole support of two children and knows she cannot afford a third child.  She does not have a credit card.  How can she raise the $600-$750 cash (minimum) needed to terminate her pregnancy?

The volunteers at A Fund believe that no one should be denied access to abortion because of a lack of money.  Last year, they raised about $50,000 and helped more than 400 women.  Virtually every dollar they raise goes directly to help women seeking termination of a pregnancy.

As escorts, we offer immediate support to patients at EMW as they make the trip up the sidewalk to the clinic.  But we recognize that protesters are not the only barrier, and there are lots of other ways to support access.    We want to support the organizations that help reduce other barriers for people seeking to terminate a pregnancy.   So we’ll be spotlighting a couple of organizations that provide help directly to individual women in need, and making it easy to donate to them from our blog and our Facebook page.  A Fund is the first of these organizations.

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To learn more about A Fund, to volunteer, or to make a donation, you can visit their website, or their Facebook page.   Louisville Clinic Escorts are also starting a donation page here on the blog, and will provide a link on our Facebook page.

It is essential that we push back against the loss of rights that we are seeing now.   We invite you to consider supporting A Fund as one way to do so.

(If you want to volunteer to escort, please email us at everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com)

After the Election

“Pro-life” people have been chipping away at abortion access for years. They’ve already made access to this vital healthcare service an obstacle course.  The anti-abortion extremists aren’t satisfied with this approach – they want to stop all abortion now.  They want personhood amendments.  They want to charge women with murder for abortion.  This is not new.

But now?  After the election?  The antis think they’ve already won.

They haven’t.  I know they haven’t, partly because of the amazing surge of support we’ve gotten from you all.  Message after message:

I want to escort.  How can I help?  

When is the next training?  Can I be an escort?  

How do I become an escort?  

It’s been amazing.

So if you want to get involved, start here: How to Get Involved.  Escorting is not the only way to support access, so you may want to look at other options.  Then if you think escorting might be for you, go here:  Trainings for Escorts.   And if you still want to escort, then email us at everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com , and we’ll be glad to get you started on the process.

We’ve scheduled a special training to respond to all the requests – Saturday, December 3.  Email us for location and time.

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If you would like, you can make a donation via PayPal. Just make a “payment” to our email address everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com. If you are not registered with PayPal, we are also registered with Pop Money https://www.popmoney.com You can just make a payment to our email address everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com and it will get to us.

Thank you again for all the support.  It is so very much appreciated.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs…

If you’re familiar with that song, just those few words are enough to get it stuck in your head.  Surrounded by signs at the clinic, it looped endlessly in my mind today.

Signs Signs
Everywhere there’s signs
Fu**ing up the scenery
Breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign

This is where the Catholics keep their spare signs – attached to the fire hydrant.

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 As you can see, they had a few extra today.

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The woman we call the tailgater brings this one.  She sits behind it – yes, sometimes, on the tailgate of the truck.

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This sign has its own rope so you can be a human billboard.  It makes me laugh in a twisted humor way because it’s like letting people know where the clinic is.  fullsizeoutput_1320

This sign offers bloody fetal parts, but hardly recognizable ones.

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Our doctor’s name is at the top of this sign.  The sign says he does this to children.

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  “LEAVE THIS PLACE OF DEATH,” is one of the things the antis yell at clients.  This person stood right at the edge of the property line today.

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“Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess”somehow reminds me of the Puritans and the stocks and scold’s bridles and other instruments of torture.

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I kind of like this one – well, not the fetal parts – but I like that they’re scolding other churches for being incrementalists.

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Of course, they have to compare ABortion and escorts to Hitler and Nazis.  Strange to imagine someone saying, “Oooh, I know – let’s put little fetuses in each corner of this sign – won’t that be cool?”  But they are a nice decorative touch.

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The rest of this verse reads:  “It will be ruined.”   “The kingdom which will not serve Christ will perish.  It will be ruined.”

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THE BODY INSIDE YOUR BODY IS NOT YOUR BODY.  This one creeped me out the first time I saw it, and still does.

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Lots of signs today.  Fetal porn, we call it.  Do you think they think these signs will get people to change their minds?  All it did for me today is get this stupid song stuck in my head… and it’s still there.

Signs Signs
Everywhere there’s signs
Fu**ing up the scenery
Breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign…

 

From the Sidewalk – October, 2016

I know, it’s been a while since I posted.  I guess I ran out of things to say about the chaos on the sidewalk.  And there have been so many new voices talking about their experience as clinic escorts.  I love hearing other perspectives.

But I don’t want you to forget that we’re still here.  And today -it was wild on the sidewalk.

Antis standing in the drop-off zone

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The police asked them to move out of the street, which was helpful, but that was the sweet spot of the morning.

Ky Mountain Bible College showed up. img_1691

Actually, clients came up behind this crew -if they were approaching from the corner on 2nd St.  People coming from 1st were greeted by these folks.

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If you were on the front line today, you got to hear some preaching:

All of us outside of Christ – all of us outside of Christ – are lame and crippled and weak and sick. But we build up ourselves – we have this self righteousness that says we can take care of ourselves, we can save ourselves. There is room at the table for those that are unable to save themselves, which includes all of us. None of us can save ourselves

(With apologies for the music – it helps drown out the noise of the megaphones inside the clinic.  At least it wasn’t polka music today.)

One escort got some special attention:

There is room at the table for all sinners, even you, Sir. Sir, we love you we do, I know you don’t believe that, you probably go home and laugh about this, but we care about you. We do. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I don’t like being out here. I hate it. But we are coming out here to warn you

 End of the morning.  Some escorts talking amongst themselves and  – they laughed.  Spurgeon didn’t like that.  I walked up after he was already on a roll.

JS: WHERE IN THE WORLD – IS IT FUNNY – THAT 25 CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE MURDERED RIGHT HERE?  YOU TELL ME – TELL ME WHAT WORLD THAT IS FUNNY IN!!!  

Escort: I don’t know who you think you are but you need to bring it down because you are incredibly – no – no-

JS: HEY!  YOU BE QUIET!  25 CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE MURDERED IN HERE!!!  

Escort: …you talked enough during the day and I am going to say something

JS: 25 children are gonna be murdered in here and you led them…

Escort: I don’t know who you think you are but do not raise your voice at me like that at all (she continues to say “at all” several times as JS yells over her.)

Anti in the background: We totally raise our voice.

JS: I WILL RAISE – YOU’RE MORE CONCERNED THAT I RAISE MY VOICE THAN THE FACT THAT 25 CHILDREN ARE BEING MURDERED AND YOU LED THEM TO THEIR SLAUGHTER – YOU LED 25 CHILDREN TO THEIR SLAUGHTER!!!  

Escort: …we are grownups and grownups don’t have a discussion like this.

JS: GROWNUPS DON’T LEAD 25 CHILDREN TO THE SLAUGHTER!!  GROWNUPS DON’T KILL BABIES!!!  YOU’RE NOT A GROWN-UP!!!!  

And just in case we didn’t get the point:

Male Escort: Go home, Joseph

JS:  YOU HAVE MURDERED 25 CHILDREN!!  EVERY ONE OF YOU LED 25 CHILDREN TO THEIR DEATH.  THAT’S NOT FUNNY.  IT’S NEVER FUNNY.  I DON’T CARE WHAT YOUR OPINION ON THIS PLACE IS AND WHAT YOU THINK OF ME, IT IS NEVER FUNNY!!  

Female escort:  All right, I think we’re done, let’s not keep giving him the audience he wants… 

At the end of the day, I’m just glad that clients and their companions only experience a minute or two of the chaos on the sidewalk.  It’s like I always say, as we head for the door, “You don’t have to stop or talk to them, we can just keep going.”  And we do.

Dreams of a Safety Zone

We had a relatively new protester on the sidewalk this week.  I don’t know his name – someone called him Herman, and that works for me.  New protesters are sometimes a bit overly enthusiastic about their opportunity to save babies.  They don’t always understand the unwritten agreements between us and the antis.  Herman is a prime example of that.

In our first picture, Herman is excited because he saw an escort talking to someone in a car.  He runs to the Abolish Human Abortion crew to let them know.

IMG_1098(Picture shows AHA members, with one sign, and Herman, a white man with gray hair and a short gray beard, wearing sunglasses, holding a Bible and another book.  They are looking down the sidewalk in the same direction -his arm is slightly raised as he has just pointed at the escort who was talking to the people in the car.)

In this picture, Herman enthusiastically leads the way down the sidewalk to show the big guys exactly which car it was.

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(Excuse my thumb in the lower left corner…)

I head that way too, phone camera ready.   I hope if I’m doing video they won’t actually surround the car.  And they don’t – they stay on the sidewalk.

Here’s that video, with transcript:

Joseph Spurgeon preaching:  Murder.
What you’re about to do will be the killing of your child. The murder of your son or daughter. We come out here, we want to plead with you that there are better options. Other options.
Anything is better than killing your child.
We would like to offer you assistance. we would like to offer you to adopt your child. We also want to warn you that the word of God has said that to take the life of another human being is murder To take the life of your son or daughter is murder.
It is a crime against God, and against man. iI is a crime against your creator.
Herman: (up close to me) Do you know your creator? Do you know your creator? Do you know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Do you know the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
JS: it’s a crime
H: Praise God almighty, you murderers –
J: Because God has created you in the image of himself, he has created your child in his image
H: You’re murdering people  How can you do this? how can you do this and smile about it?  Do you know how great God Almighty is??   YOU one day you will bow to him.  I pray that it’s not too late praise God almighty Turn to God Turn to God (Bible over camera)

JS:  (preaching over H)  And so if you kill your child if you would kill your son or daughter, it is an attack upon him as well. we come to warn you, not that you would mock or laugh. but that we would warn you to flee from God’s wrath and to turn to him.

(H quits talking, puts his Bible over my camera phone.)

JS:  Look to Jesus Christ. You can find hope for your situation. You can find…

I don’t know why Herman’s so upset about me doing some video.  The AHA guys really don’t care, and they’ve been taking pictures and doing video themselves all day.

Then Donna comes up and has a few words to say about me to Herman.  Something about  “her dear mother in heaven” who is “praying for her,” which is fine, the day is not compete without Donna talking about my mama.  The doors open, the clients go inside, and the morning goes on.

Maybe 10 minutes later, I’m standing in front of the clinic door, clients coming, lots of yelling from AHA and from Angela, I take a step back to get out of the way and bump into Herman, who is apparently right behind me.

“You need to move,” I say, “it’s against the law to block clinic access. It’s against the FACE act.”

“I’m not blocking access,” he says, “They got in, didn’t they?”

I walk away from him.

A few minutes later, I’m in the drop-off zone, and he approaches me.  I have my phone in hand, (mostly because I dont have any pockets in the pants I’m wearing) and as he starts talking to me, I raise the phone and hit “record.”

Through an intense 22 seconds, Herman holds his hand up over my phone and moves forward toward me, while I back up.

Here’s the transcript:

H:  Don’t push me
Me:  You’re making me really nervous
H:  Don’t push me
M:  You need to get away from me
H:  Don’t push me
M:  You’re scaring me
H:  Don’t push me
M:  Get away from me.  You’re following me.
H:  Don’t push me, don’t push me
M:  You’re following me, and I’m not touching you, i’m not doing anything to you
H:  You were touching me
M:  Get away from me
H:  You were touching me
M:  You need to get away from me
H:  You were touching me
M:  You need to back up, you’re scaring the crap out of me

At the end, Joseph Spurgeon kind of pulls Herman away, talks with him.  And I appreciate that.  Although – it’s an upside down world when Spurgeon is the voice of reason…

But now you know why I’m dreaming of a safety zone at the clinic.  I’m not usually afraid.  And I don’t usually think of it as particularly high risk to be an escort.  But I was talking about the risk level at abortion clinics with a friend recently.  She agreed – it is low risk – “It’s a one,” she said, “Until it’s a nine.”  Or a ten.  This Saturday was a good reminder of how true that is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’m Pro-Choice, by AJ

When my husband and I had children we always agreed to be open and honest with our kids. When we ended up having two daughters, my husband informed me that “those talks” were all mine. I’ve always been pretty open about women’s rights and at an early age they had probably heard me rant and rave about things they probably shouldn’t have but looking back on it, I’m so glad they did.

They’re 8 and 10 now and about one year ago they asked me what an abortion was. At first, I didn’t want to tell them anything. I didn’t want to tell them the process of an abortion. They’d never understand. They’d get the wrong idea about what it is because they’re kids. There’s no way they could really process that information. Then I thought back and no one in my family talked to me about periods, pregnancy or birth control early. l wasn’t going to be that mom. I told them about abortion in a very age appropriate way, but the most important part I wanted to make sure they understood was that it was their choice. As I explained to them about the process and asked them if someone else wanted to have an abortion what would you say? They were very sure in their answer, “It’s their choice.” Maybe they just said that because I was pushing that the choice is theirs to make or because they truly felt that it was their choice, but I was pretty sure I got my point across.

Fast forward to one day in January,  the night before my first morning as a clinic escort. We had talked about it all week long because they could tell that I was nervous about it. We talked about what an escort does and how they are there to support the woman. How their job is to walk with the woman and her friends or family from their vehicle to the building because they would be harassed. We discussed the protestors and how they were out there with signs with huge photos of dead fetuses and yelling at the women while they were walking into the clinic. My youngest daughter has always been the one to soak up the most information from me. I put them to bed that night, gave kisses, and kiss fives (kiss your hand, then high five) and tucked them in; business as usual. I went downstairs to go to bed myself and I’m lying there for about 10 minutes and in comes my youngest. She hands me a letter and it said,

Dear Mom,

I hope you can help a lot of women tomorrow(sic).

I’ll miss you and I love you a lot.

Love,

 

Then about 10 minutes later she comes back downstairs and she says, “Oh good, you’re still awake,” and she hands me a picture that she has drawn. As I’m looking at the picture, I’m at a loss for words and I ask her to explain it to me. She tells me that I’m at the top with a lady who isn’t sure about her decision, another helper with a lady who is very scared. I asked her what she afraid of. She told me that she was scared of the protesters. She said that she didn’t draw the protesters because they were not important because they weren’t there to help. I was overwhelmed at her understanding of it all.

 

I made sure that I brought those papers with me on Saturday morning because I knew I had plenty of second thoughts about going. I had seen the protesters from the street so many times before but I had no idea how it would affect me up close. When I approached the clinic from 3rd street, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and tear up. When I got into the parking lot, I almost threw up, but then I remembered the papers in my pocket and remembered that the reason I’m here is to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure my daughters have access to proper healthcare and rights to their own bodies. As their mother, I owe them that.

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How Scared Should I Be?

I’ve been thinking about fear lately.  People who offer any kind of abortion care do that ~ we contemplate the danger, weigh the risk, and decide how willing we are to continue providing care based on our personal logarithm for safety.

The shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado shifts the balance.    The vandalism at EMW clinic here in Louisville shifts it a bit more.  We all have to recalculate.  Some of us do it quickly, others may struggle.  But we haven’t lost escorts – in fact, many new people are volunteering.  Clearly, we won’t be scared off.

So I’ve been thinking about fear, and talking about it with other people who provide abortion care.  As a therapist, I believe that when we are anxious or afraid, we are usually overestimating the risk of the danger and underestimating our ability to deal with it.  I ponder how that applies.

I know there are different types of fear.   We can fear for our physical safety or  fear for our emotional safety.  Those dangers can be realistic or not, but we each have our own tipping point for what’s safe and what isn’t.

If you’re afraid of flying, you may be afraid the plane will crash and you’ll die.  Or you may be afraid that you’ll have a panic attack on the plane and (obviously) not be able to get off the plane and that will be horrible.  The actual risk of either of those things happening aren’t what determines whether or not you fly – a whole range of other factors influence it.

It’s the same with escorting.  We can be afraid that some rabid anti with nothing to lose will detonate a bomb or drive by and start shooting.  We can be afraid that our family and friends who are anti-choice will reject us.  But regardless of the actual danger, escorts typically have deeply held beliefs that lead them to choose to take the risk.

I’m not usually a worrier.  This, however, gives me pause:  The Abortion Vigilante Worksheet.  Created by American Right to Life (not to be confused with the National Right to Life group that we’re all familiar with) the worksheet is a masterpiece of double talk.

American RTL publishes this worksheet to help Christians think through the issue of vigilantism regarding the intentional killing of abortionists. Our directors and leaders at the summit which launched our organization (including the director of Operation Rescue National/OSA, the Rev. Flip Benham) have spent months incarcerated in jails for peaceful civil disobedience by blocking abortion clinic entrances and in defense of Christian liberties.

Disclosure: Prior to using this worksheet, ARTL would like the reader to know our own position:
1) Governments have the authority to use lethal force in more circumstances than do civilians.
2) The Bible’s escalation of force principle prohibits civilian use of lethal force if less force could suffice.
3) Civilians may use lethal force defending innocent life against threats of imminent harm.

If true, these principles do not prohibit the use of civil disobedience to prevent abortions. This worksheet, however, concludes that those who kill, advocate, or even defend the intentional killing of abortionists are morally wrong. Some of those who defend such killings complain that others are unwilling to seriously address their position. To any such, this challenge goes out: take the time and courage to answer these questions, and then email your answers and contact information to…

It seems to me that they’re saying, “Yes, it could be morally justified to kill an abortion provider, no, we’re not saying we think that, but there sure is an argument for it, and maybe you think it’s ok.”

It ends on a similar note, which I won’t bother quoting.

In-between, along with a zillion supposedly logical, ethical questions which supposedly will help you think through the ethical dilemma of whether or not it’s ok to kill abortion providers, is this chart:

Note: The following table presents the casualties of actual known U.S. abortion vigilantes:

Anti-Abortion Violence (non-regulatory)

Perpetrator -Date- City -Victims -Death or Injury -Their Title or Role
Scott Roeder 5/31/09 Wichita, KS George Tiller Death Abortionist

Paul J. Hill 7/29/04 Pensacola, FL John Bayard Britton Death Abortionist
” ” ” ” ” ” James H. Barrett Death Bodyguard, clinic ‘escort’
” ” ” ” ” ” June Barrett Shot twice Clinic ‘escort’

James Kopp 10/23/98 Amherst, NY Barnett Slepian Death Abortionist

Eric Robert Rudolph 1/29/98 Birmingham, AL Robert Sanderson Death Security guard, off-duty cop
” ” ” ” ” ” Emily Lyons Critically injured Clinic nurse

John Salvi 12/30/94 Brookline, MA Shannon Lowney Death Clinic receptionist
” ” ” ” ” ” Leanne Nichols Death Clinic receptionist
” ” ” ” ” ” Anjana Agrawal Shot twice, bullet by heart Clinic ‘counselor’
” ” ” ” ” ” Antonio Hernandez Collapsed lung, more Accompanied wife to clinic
” ” ” ” ” ” Brian Murray Bullet tore up insides Accompanied friend to clinic
” ” ” ” ” ” Jane Sauer Shot twice Clinic bookkeeper
” ” ” ” ” ” Richard J. Seron Shot arm, shoulder, hand Security guard

Rachelle Shannon 8/19/93 Wichita, KS George Tiller Shot in both arms Abortionist

Michael Griffin 3/10/93 Pensacola, FL David Gunn Death Abortionist

Dec. 1, 2015 Update: As results of the criminal investigation become public, and the motive of the mentally-ill pothead Robert Lewis Dear, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood murderer, is known, we will update the above chart if need be.

That chills me!!  This chart, the Colorado shooting, and the vandalism at my own clinic (with limited concern or action from the police) hit my tipping point.  I have to re-examiine my own logarithm for physical safety.

How scared is reasonable?  How high is the risk – realistically?  Ok, I have a lot better chance of dying in a car wreck than getting killed by an anti at the clinic, but this feels scarier.  What is that about?

Is it the malevolence?  If I die in a car wreck, it’s an accident.  If someone targets me and kills me because I’m an escort, it is intentional and personal.  That does feel different.

Is it because I’m choosing to do this thing that puts me at risk?  I couldn’t really survive without getting in a car, but I choose to escort.  Does that make it easier to “blame the victim?” Maybe.  Maybe that makes it feel different, but I totally reject that.  Choosing to support reproductive health isn’t punishable by death.

So how scared should I be?  I have no idea.  Mostly, I am not scared.  Mostly, I like to remind people that if I get killed on the sidewalk, I expect to become a martyr and for the escorts to at least get a buffer zone out of it.  Taking time to think it through just increases my appreciation for all the providers of abortion care ~ doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, receptionists, medical assistants, and escorts ~ who won’t let fear stop them either.

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To support abortion access in Kentucky

The Nicest Escort Ever

Walt wouldn’t have wanted me to write this post.  If I could tell him I was going to write a blog post in his memory, I think he would have looked uncomfortable – the same look he got when I complimented him or told him how much we appreciated him.  He would have shook his head, “no,” and said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that.”   Walt was the most modest and unassuming person I’ve known.

But I think he would have approved of this post in the end, or at least agreed to let me do it, if I explained it was really for us.  If I told him that we just wanted to share a few memories and publicly say good-bye, I think he would have given in and told me we could do it.

From his fellow escorts:

I still can’t believe it is true I can’t get my head around the idea that such a caring person is gone so suddenly,maybe next Saturday I’ll see him walking down the side walk then I’ll know I was dreaming.

~~ AI

Walt was a true gentle man and an example of civility

~~RS

Class act that guy. Chatted with him a few weeks ago. Never mentioned he was sick. Talked about his daughters. Hoping his family is doing ok.

~~JR

I remember him always smiling, always full of cheerful good mornings. And the cheerful good mornings were to the escorts and protesters alike. Nodding good morning and smiling, with his hat off and pressed against his chest as he passed through the prayer line. Class act indeed!

~~KS

I already miss him & his always smiling face.

~~JT

Way too bad. The last thing I heard him say was a suggestion to do what seems right, to which I made a flip reply. But that was clearly more important than I realized at the time, spoken as it was by a man who was out on the street engaged in his activism only a couple of weeks before his death. That’s practically dying with your boots on. Rest in power, Walter.

~~AD

That corner will always be “Walter’s corner” to me.

~~CB

Walter was the nicest person I have ever met. Full stop. He always had a smile, a warm greeting and a kind word for everyone he met. He will be missed in my life and in the escort community.

~~PC

It just won’t be the same without Walter’s big bright smile warming up that strip of 2nd street.

~~MS

Walter was a quiet, gracious person, friendly to everyone. He seemed to like to be in quiet surroundings, but was willing to endure the harsh cacophony often demonstrated on the sidewalk on Saturday mornings, to stand up for women and their rights. He would stand on ‘his’ corner all morning, smiling at anyone who came by and making encouraging comments to clients and companions.

Sometimes I would stand with him when it was calm on the corner, and we would chat a little, and then just spend time being quiet. He told me once he appreciated my quiet presence, and that meant a lot to me. I will certainly miss him, and will always remember his smiling face.

~~PG

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RIP Walter…

`

The Things We Carry, by Penny

TW:  Violence, rape

On the sidewalk, the “antis” look at us, escorts as well as clients, and based on our ages, the vehicles we drive or don’t drive, the clothes we wear, the overheard snippets of friendly conversation, they’ll tailor the harassment to what they believe is the greatest effect.

“Does your mother know you’re here – you may be an outcast!”

“That’s what a real baby is supposed to look like.”

“You are not young, nearing the end of your life – repent now!” and memorably,

“Go home and put some decent clothes on!”

We immediately think through all the counter-arguments, the snappy retorts, the “you-don’t-know-me’s,” and sometimes a client or companion will voice them. Mostly we hope to avoid the added annoyance of them learning our names. I can’t help but cringe when this happens, because any acknowledgement feeds the antis. But it’s hard. It’s so hard not to respond, and I understand the temptation. We’re good at what we do, but we’re not robots. We all have reasons for being there, unique experiences we carry up and down the sidewalk.

I carry the memory of Catholic school in the first grade, when getting regularly pinched and shoved by a boy was considered normal, even adorable behavior. “He just likes you.” “Boys will be boys.” When I finally bit the hand that assaulted me, I was scolded by the nuns for my “unladylike” behavior and had a note sent home to my parents.

I carry the endless lectures from puberty onward that “men only want one thing – that’s how they all are, they can’t help it, and so you have to protect yourself.” Internalizing this meant that in order to receive any affection from men, I needed to reduce myself to my body. It meant I accepted as a given that my mind was irrelevant in any romantic entanglements. It took me almost the rest of my life to unlearn this.

I carry the heavy months I spent as a sex worker, and knowing that this would be the peak of my earning power. That society valued me most on my back. That if I got raped, beaten, robbed, there was no one to safely turn to – again, my body was the only valuable thing, but I still had little control over what happened to it. But hey, at least I could pay my bills.

I carry the boyfriend who “rescued” me, who convinced me that no one else but him could possibly love me after sex work. Who asked me to marry him. Who threw a full can of beer at my head in the middle of a party while everyone else shrugged. Who I eventually married because who else could want me now? I felt I must deserve the abuse after my past.

I carry the day I went alone to a Planned Parenthood for an abortion, one I had in secret for fear of what would happen if he found out. One I had to drive halfway across the state twice in two days to obtain. The impotent rage of fighting my way through protestors, with no escorts to assist me. This choice allowed me the time to gain the skills I needed to survive in the nine-to-five world, and without it I don’t know where I’d be. I never once doubted my decision, and don’t to this day, but I do wish that I’d been brave enough then to confide in a friend, and that I’d had escorts to run me through the gamut of shaming.

I carry the time a few years later when my husband began to hit me in earnest, holding our six-month-old baby hostage because “no one is going to give you custody, you’re a whore.” When I called the police one awful night, they talked me out of pressing charges. I was obviously just overreacting, hysterical. I didn’t want to invite CPS into my life, did I? I locked myself into my child’s carefully decorated nursery and silently cried all night.

I carry the last exhausting month of our marriage three years later, when I was trying to leave and he used the threat of further traumatizing my son to get away with raping me. More than once.

* * *

It’s a little past two years since I filed for divorce and never looked back, and it hasn’t always been easy, but I came out the other side knowing this for sure – autonomy is worth fighting for. My story is mild compared to a heartbreakingly large number of people. We need to draw a hard line here, because raising girls to believe that they are only their bodies – as blow up dolls, incubators, or punching bags – is dangerous. I want better for myself. I need better for myself and my child and I am willing to accept nothing less. No one, man or woman, should ever have to suffer living with less.

These are the things I carry with me every morning on the sidewalk, though the antis would never assume it. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. The shame and intimidation tactics are achingly familiar to me. They want to grind you down, make you docile. I lovingly carry my weight to the clinic because we need to hold the line against those who would trap us in our own bodies; against those who would determine our worth for us; against those who would use shame to control us.

If I see you on the sidewalk, client, companion, or escort, I hope you’ll hold your head high. Because it matters, and if you’re out there in spite of all they throw your way, I am proud of you. Make any choice you want, as long as it’s yours. Stay brave, stay free, and may your pack be light.