The Abolition of Abortion in Kentucky Act

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As you may have seen in recent news reports, a bill has been pre-filed in the Kentucky legislature to outlaw abortion in the state. Due to its cruel and unconstitutional nature, it’s unlikely that the bill will pass and become law, but it may be useful to understand this proposal as it represents an extremist goal post for reproductive healthcare.

070CF9EE-E301-4B56-A1F5-6C50E43FF8E4This bill comes from Representative Dan Johnson, out of Bullitt County. Johnson is the head of Heart of Fire Church on Bardstown Rd, a church with a shocking amount of guns featured on their YouTube page. Johnson is most famous for racist remarks he made on his Facebook page leading up to his election. Despite comparing the Obamas to chimpanzees, he won election into the KY legislature.

The most striking and extreme of the changes to Kentucky Revised Statutes in this bill is the change to Kentucky’s Fetal Homicide laws. Under the Abolition of Abortion in Kentucky Act, Fetal Homicide Laws would apply both to a physician who performs an abortion as well as the person receiving the abortion. This bill would make abortion a capital offense though the death penalty is prohibited.

Curiously enough, KRS 311.760, which defines when a KY woman can receive an abortion (during the first trimester) is left intact. This is likely an oversight which speaks to the incompetent nature of the bill’s authorship.

Laced throughout this bill is language establishing Kentucky state law and the Kentucky state constitution over the laws and judicial decisions of the United States government. If this law were to pass the KY legislature and get signed by Governor Matt Bevin, it certainly would not hold up in court. It is blatantly unconstitutional and contradicts 40+ years of Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights. It’s unlikely to even make it out of the legislature and go to Bevin’s desk, but this GOP-led legislature together with Bevin have a habit of wasting money and resources on bad laws. How much money will KY waste in a vain attempt to antagonize federal authority?

This terrible bill speaks to some of the end goals of the anti-choice movement. Not only does this movement seek to punish abortion providers, but they want the ability to charge anyone who seeks an abortion with a capital crime.

Rusty Thomas Is Lying

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The thing about public records is that they’re public.

Yesterday, September 19, the 11 members of Operation Save America arrested in May had a pre-trial date for their criminal trespassing charges. A member of Louisville Clinic Escorts was present to observe the proceedings, which were over quickly. They were unable to speak with a prosecutor or anyone connected with a case, so we weren’t sure exactly what happened in the proceedings.

Soon after, Rusty Thomas posted a Facebook Live video declaring that the charges had been dismissed by the city and that OSA had found “incredible favor with the city of Louisville.” Needless to say, the LCE community was concerned.

After looking at the public records this morning, it’s clear that the charges against the 11 OSA members have NOT been dropped. Not only that, but the no-contact order for these 11 people is still in place through at least May 14, 2018.

It’s hard to comprehend why Rusty and OSA would be lying about this, especially considering this exists in public record. Rusty’s other assertion in the video, that the federal government would need state charges to be in place to prosecute a FACE Act violation, is also not true.

So to be clear, the Louisville trial for OSA continues May 14, 2018. FACE Act charges have not been filed yet but we hope they will be soon.

Persist

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Supporting abortion access in Kentucky is an unending struggle. Whether the opposition is the Kentucky state government under Matt Bevin’s leadership, the clinic invaders Operation Save America, or their combined efforts, supporters of reproductive justice persist for the benefit of those seeking reproductive healthcare.

When OSA left at the end of July, they did so without ending abortion in KY; without causing a single appointment to be missed; and they did so after galvanizing Louisville, causing citywide disruptions and animosity. The successful resistance to OSA was the result of months of hard work and planning by numerous pro-choice groups in concert with support from Kentucky residents. As EMW Women’s Surgical Center’s case proceeds in District Court this week, Louisville Clinic Escorts would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of these pro-choice organizations as they are and will be instrumental in the coming days, no matter the outcome of the federal trial.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, are directly involved with EMW’s case. Their participation and resources have been integral in building EMW’s case and protecting abortion access.

A Fund is the oldest abortion fund in KY. They help provide abortion funding to hundreds of women yearly.

Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN) provides a range of reproductive support services including direct funding, transportation and interpretation. Additionally, KHJN provides support for trans healthcare services.

-You can also support Louisville Clinic Escorts by sending PayPal donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

If you’d like something that involves personally showing up for reproductive justice, the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC) is sponsoring a rally in support of EMW at the Federal Court House on Tuesday, September 5 at 7PM. Louisville Clinic Escorts are not directly involved with this rally, but welcome the support KRCRC provides.

Finally, LCE would like to thank the community for avoiding pro-choice counter-protests at EMW. Counter-protests often escalate the aggression of anti-choice protestors and create more chaos on the sidewalk. This chaos only creates greater challenges for patients entering the clinic. Please continue respecting the wishes of LCE and EMW staff in this regard.

Guest Blog: Life Lessons from the Sidewalk

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Following the disastrous 2016 election season, I knew that I had to find a positive way to focus the despair and frustration I felt or sink into depression so deep that I might never emerge. I chose to join the battle for abortion access as my return path to sanity and signed up to escort at EMW.

At 65 years of age, and as a person who will generally go a long way to avoid conflict, I wondered whether this would be the right option for me. I went to a training session where experienced escorts introduced the Points of Unity, guidelines for effective escorting, the Drama Triangle, and tips on managing the antis who congregate in front of the clinic every morning. OK, I thought to myself, this doesn’t sound so bad.

Then I went to the sidewalk.

The noise, the shoving and pushing, the harassment, the rudeness, the shaming and threats from the antis were worse than I could have imagined.

But the strength and dignity of the escorts in the face of that abuse was amazing.. That’s the key.

I’ve spent eight months as an escort now, studying and trying to absorb the Points of Unity in my sidewalk interactions. I am seeing their effectiveness more clearly each week as I attempt to practice non-engagement with the antis, to seek consent from clients before jumping to conclusions about what they might need, and to focus solely on support and empowerment for the client. It’s surprising how easy it is to ignore the foolish sidewalk drama when all my attention is directed fully toward the clients and their safe access to the clinic.

Even more remarkable is how well this emphasis on non-engagement and clarity of purpose has transferred into the other parts of my life. I am learning that the distractions of endless political tweets and posts do not have to interrupt my work, my family time, or my sleep. I am learning to focus on one task at a time. I am learning that we can’t change the behavior or the opinions of those who disagree with us, but by offering our time and our support and our attention we may be able to improve the lives and situations of those with whom we directly interact.

 

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)