The New Normal

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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.”Aug 2 814a

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.

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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.

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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.

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Sidewalk Snippet – 8/1/17

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Many of our local protestors come out multiple times a week. For each patient they approach to harass and bully (although the protestors call it “counseling”), they have anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to say what they’d like. Each anti seems to develop their own short script of talking points they repeat ad nauseam at each patient seeking an abortion. Today, a patient quickly dismantled a protestor’s standard talking point.

When the doors of EMW opened this morning, a patient exited her car and stepped onto the Market St. sidewalk. She was greeted by one of our escorts, but also by one of our regular anti-choice protestors. He launched into his talking points, “None of us want to be out here this morning.”

The patient retorted, “Actually, I do.” And with that, she completely broke his talking point. It made me wonder how many years he’s been doing this same spiel: feigning sympathy for patients while simultaneously being the source of harassment.

As escorts, we train to make no assumptions about anyone we see on the sidewalk. The protestors who call themselves “sidewalk counselors” receive no such training. They assume every person who presents as female and walks anywhere close to the clinic is seeking an abortion (just ask downtown pedestrian commuters who get chased down the block). They assume that female patients are selfish and irresponsible while male companions are forcing the abortion to avoid child support payments. They assume that abortion is such an unspeakable, stigmatized act that no person would ever seek one, forgetting that they’re the ones calling it unspeakable and creating the stigma.

Louisville Clinic Escorts practice strict non-engagement and do not call the antis on these assumptions. It was, however, a joy to see a patient quickly destroy an anti’s argument using only 3 words. Based on clients’ surveys, the only safe assumption on the sidewalk outside EMW is that the “sidewalk counselors” are not wanted.

Where Would They Go? Part 3 – Clinic Staff

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The loss of a reproductive health clinic that provides abortions affects various communities as discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. What about the professionals who staff these clinics? To a clinic staffer, this loss is personal. Beyond losing a job and source of income, a unique and caring environment vanishes.

Shireen Whitaker worked at the Sacramento location of Women’s Health Specialists until it closed in May 2017. Whitaker was initially involved with the clinic as a volunteer clinic escort, joining her mother-in-law who has escorted for over 10 years. Following the creation of a buffer zone at their clinic, Whitaker was hired by WHS as a legal monitor in 2013. During her tenure, she handled Outreach, Education, and Clinic Defense, coordinating security and escorts.

Multiple locations of WHS were closed this year due to reimbursement shortfalls in the California Medicaid system, Medi-Cal, following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Anti-choice protestors in California are framing the closure of these clinics as a victory, but the truth is more bland and bureaucratic. WHS Sacramento relied on providing a full-range of reproductive services like birth control and Pap smears in addition to abortions. Other area clinics were receiving more money in reimbursements and WHS couldn’t compete. According to Whitaker, the Sacramento clinic was a “sacrificial lamb” to California’s health system.

Working at her clinic was more than just a job for Whitaker. It was a “biosphere…a home away from home.” The loss of the clinic has had a huge emotional impact and Whitaker has blocked it in some ways. “I have all this stuff the clinic gave to me and it’s still sitting in my car. It’s like I can’t take it out; I can’t make it real.” WHS provided a space that was accepting and losing it has been “horrible.”

Handling security for WHS Sacramento meant monitoring the media and social media activity of anti-choice activists, something that became “toxic” for Whitaker after awhile. Now, their sites are something she can’t bear to look at. Anti-choice websites are claiming the closing of WHS branches to be a major victory and a vindication of their tactics. The truth isn’t nearly as exciting. The bureaucratic reality for the loss of WHS makes the facilities a casualty of a broken healthcare system. Still, the gloating on anti-choice websites has only made things harder on Whitaker.

At its height, WHS had 11 clinics; now it has 3. Whitaker still works for the remaining WHS clinics in a volunteer capacity and is currently seeking other employment in reproductive health. “I’m really hoping to find a similar space. I should be so lucky.” Most staff members from the clinic have moved onto other medical jobs unrelated to reproductive health. Many staff members retired, including the executive director who had been with the group for 40 years.

The closing of WHS Sacramento, and indeed, any reproductive health facility, has far-reaching consequences for a community. Patients must seek other options for care, often with greater expense and difficulty; other reproductive facilities face emboldened anti-choice protestors; and staff members are left without jobs that provide both income and an accepting environment for important, necessary work. If anti-choice activists are successful in closing EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic, the state as a whole will be poorer for it.

Sidewalk Snippet – 7/13/17

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The escorts in Louisville see dozens, and occasionally, hundreds of protestors on any given day. Sometimes though, we’re blessed to have only a few. Today was one of those days. It’s rare, but sometimes escorting can be a real snooze. Whenever that happens, it’s terrific.

When the escorts are bored, a client isn’t being assaulted; we aren’t calling the police because a protestor is trespassing on clinic property; there isn’t a blockade or sit-in underway. Boredom doesn’t mean that clients present aren’t experiencing some form of bullying or harassment, just that it’s kept at the bare minimum for a state so hostile to reproductive choice.

It’s odd for me to feel blessed with boredom. At any other time in my life, standing around watching traffic drive by would cause me no small amount of anxiety. I always need to feel like I’m actively engaged in something for work or school. But on the sidewalk, in front of KY’s last remaining abortion clinic, we escorts revel in boredom.

To any escorts reading this, I hope you have a very boring week.

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.

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Fundraising Concert!

Louisville Clinic Escorts is holding a concert fundraiser tomorrow, June 25, in order to raise money for our Legal Defense Fund. The fundraiser will be held at:

The Nachbar
969 Charles St.
Louisville, KY 40204

Since it’s a bar, kids are not allowed (sorry y’all). The weather is supposed to be great so the music will be on the patio.

Music line up:
6:00-8:00 Bridge 19
8:00-11:00 Squeeze-bot

Food from New Wave Burritos will be for sale starting at 6:00.
Boulevard Brewing is doing a tap takeover concurrently with the fundraiser.

Lady Parts Justice League has graciously donated 2 pairs of tickets to their July 22 Vagical Mystery Tour show at Headliners. The escorts will be selling a variety of buttons for $5 and the purchase of a button gets you a raffle ticket for the Headliners tickets. Donating $10 will get you 3 raffle tickets. The drawing will happen at the end of the night and you *do not* have to be present to win.

Invite your friends and use #FundESM on social media.
Twitter: @LouClinicEscort
Facebook: @LouClinicEscrts
Web: EverySaturdayMorning.net

To invite your friends on Facebook, send them to bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

If you can’t make it in person tomorrow, feel free to send us your support on social media and your donations via PayPal. Just send donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

(Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

The NY Emergency Safety Zone

On June 23, the New York Attorney General’s office issued the following press release:
https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-files-lawsuit-end-persistent-harassment-women-entering-womens-health

Tl;dr: Due to the harassment suffered by patients, escorts, and staff of Choices clinic in Queens, the NY AG has filed a lawsuit under the FACE Act (and a NY state clinic access law) barring the defendants from harassing those seeking or providing healthcare. This lawsuit and preliminary injunction also seeks to create a 16-foot safety zone in front of Choices clinic.

The protestor behavior the AG cites as grounds for the lawsuit is too familiar for Louisville escorts at EMW. As I read through the list of offenses the protestors are alleged to have committed, I thought “check, check, check…yeah, I’ve seen all of those in Louisville.”

Graphic signs identical to those displayed outside Choices clinic are used to intimidate, harass, and block patients entering EMW. As mentioned in the recent June 14 Metro Council Public Safety Committee meeting, signs have been used to make physical contact with escorts. While not shown in the NY video linked above, I have no doubt the escorts outside Choices have suffered similar unwanted contact.

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Unfortunately, the environment in Louisville is one of escalating violence. In January 2017, a 67 year-old escort was knocked to the ground by a member of the local chapter of Operation Save America. A complaint was made to LMPD, but no charges were filed. Then, of course, there was the Mother’s Day weekend protest in which emboldened OSA protestors flooded in from across the nation to block the clinic doors and test the FACE Act. And they’ve already scheduled their return visit.

I’m jealous of the escorts at Choices for one reason: it appears that the NY state government has their backs. Escorts at EMW receive no such state support. We have Governor Matt Bevin, who met with OSA privately in February (immediately after they displayed graphic signs outside a middle school and had to be removed).

It will take an act of courage for the Metro Council to pass a safety zone in Louisville. Any issue even tangentially related to the topic of abortion enters into thorny political territory. But remember: this is a public safety issue. It doesn’t matter what political message is printed on those signs or who is holding them, the signs are still being used to physically harass escorts.

We can’t rely on the Commonwealth to care about our safety. We can only hope the Metro Council cares enough about the threat of national extremists to take steps to protect Louisville residents and visitors.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Sidewalk Snippet 06/21/17

Is bad behavior contagious? Many of the anti-choice protestors that target EMW have been harassing the clinic’s patients for years. However, over the past couple years, new and more aggressive groups have begun targeting KY’s last remaining abortion clinic. The bad behavior of these new groups seems to be infecting some of the older protestors and they’re causing public safety issues.

This morning, one of the “sweet old lady” protestors* crossed the property line to harass a client and her companion. An escort told this woman to step back over the property line and onto the sidewalk. The protestor told the escort that she can do as she pleases. Later in the morning, a different protestor stood in the street while wearing a sign around his neck. He must have stood there for at least 20 minutes. Again, these are older protestors who have been harassing clients for years, but they seem to be getting more aggressive.

After the Metro Council discussion on the possibility of a Safety Zone outside EMW, we’ve noticed some extra LMPD patrols in the area. We’re very appreciative of their efforts but they’re not able to be there every second of every day. A Safety Zone at the clinic is needed to ensure patient safety and to end the blatant trespassing and harassment outside EMW.

*There is nothing sweet about any of these people. This is just the impression they try to give clients at first.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Sidewalk Snippet 6/17/17

Followers of this blog or our Facebook page know that we occasionally post photos showing protestors and the dangerous, intimidating situations they create. When escorts take photos, it’s for documentation. When anti-choice protestors take photos, it’s in order to harass escorts and clients.

June 17 was the day before Father’s Day, which is typically a very heavy day for protestors. This day brought about 90 protestors to the clinic from various organizations. Early in the morning, I observed the son of a protesting couple playing with a camera. The parents are part of a group that brings multiple cameras, 4’x 2’ graphic signs, and loudspeakers. Their son appears to be around 6 years old and could now harass and intimidate clients with his own camera.

Later in the morning, the sidewalks clogged with multiple anti-choice groups, I took a photo documenting the crowd and how difficult it was for patients to reach the clinic. This photo included the same parents’ teen daughter blocking the sidewalk by holding a 4’ x 2’ sign. The mother accosted me for taking the photo, “She’s just a child.”

I wouldn’t post that photo without hiding that child’s face. Along with her brother, she’s a minor being used by her parents as just another tool to harass clients. Unlike a sign or loudspeaker, though, she’ll grow up and embrace or reject her parents’ specific, twisted doctrine. Today, I make the decent choice not to show her face here. I wish her parents had the decency not to use her on the sidewalk.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Sidewalk Snippet 06/13/17

The first item in our Points of Unity reads, “Escorts must gain consent from every client every time.” When a patient pulls into a lot or parking space, every escort must explicitly ask if that patient would like an escort to walk with them to EMW. If they accept an offer to escort from me, I’ll generally give them a some brief advice for dealing with the protesters. That advice boils down to, “Anyone not wearing an orange vest is probably a protester” and “you can tell them to go away if you like, but they’ll probably just keep talking to you.”

That advice is based off my observations from my year of experience escorting. While escorts seek active consent to aid in a patient’s healthcare visit, anti-choice protesters will force their agenda on anyone who happens to be on that block. They harass and follow patients even if that patient has told them “leave me alone.” EMW is located in downtown Louisville and they often harass people who work downtown and are passing by, assuming they are headed for the clinic. And, of course, they use loudspeakers to make their harassment inescapable.

When a patient tells me they don’t want an escort, I don’t take it personally and I leave them alone. Seeing that patient then have to walk through a gauntlet of protesters without that basic level of decency is heartrending. When you don’t gain consent, it’s not counseling, it’s harassment.