Week Four Update


Four weeks in, and anti-choice clinic harassers continue to congregate in groups larger than ten outside of the clinic. Our observers are still documenting antis talking directly into the faces of patients and companions and engaging in physical blocking. While masks are in use by one of the several groups present, it is unusual to see them being used correctly with any consistency; groups of yellow-vested antis frequently stand in groups to talk with one another with masks down on their chins.

Tuesday – 13 antis

Wednesday – 14 antis

Thursday – 13 antis

Friday – 22 antis

Saturday – 32 antis

With the first phase of a gradual reopening imminent, it is clear that we won’t see anything done about the congregating issue. We are hopeful about the push for mandatory masks while in public starting May 11th.

Week Three Update


Prayer circles – not a good idea right now, guys.

Week three proceeded much the same as the previous weeks, with antis failing to practice social distancing or wear masks. However, this week did have one serious bright point: the hiring of two security guards by EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Both security guards are dressed in black, wearing gloves, masks, and white hats to help identify them to clients.

Tuesday – 17 antis

Wednesday – 8 antis

“Closer than they appear” This is what clients trying to exit their cars see.

Thursday – 18 antis

Friday – 21 antis

Saturday – 51 antis

The tactics of the antis each day of each week have remained consistent, making it impossible for patients to enter the clinic while observing social distancing recommendations. Every day that these people continue to disregard recommendations from public health professionals, they put others at risk. They put themselves and their families at risk, they put patients and everyone they come into contact at risk, they put people they might encounter while shopping at risk – and they do not care. Abortion access advocates have been saying this for a a long time, but hopefully it is abundantly clear to everyone now – these people should never again be referred to as “pro life.”

Week Two Update


This week, as last week, volunteers alone in their vehicles were stationed in the area surrounding the clinic in order to document the behavior of protesting antis. The antis’ presence and tactics have not been much changed by the pandemic locking down much of everyday life. While most non-essential workers in Kentucky are staying safe at home, limiting trips, and refraining from congregating with people outside of the household, the anti-choice protesters continue harassing patients. The antis belong to  a certain subset of person who believes that being asked to act in the interest of others is the greatest imaginable affront to their personal liberty. When you combine that with a penchant for willful scientific ignorance, you get the perfect storm that is our antis.

You can be asymptomatic and contagious.

Tuesday, April 14 – 19 antis

Eight “workers” in the non-essential fake clinic.

Wednesday, April 15 – 11 antis

Thursday, April 16 – 14 antis

Friday, April 17 – 16 antis

Saturday, April 18 – 35 antis

As we saw last week, antis ignored social distancing and continued chatting among themselves and confronting patients entering the clinic. One family even brought their infant along to the protest and allowed other antis to get far too close to the child. Masks were worn only by a few, and not always correctly. While city and state governments have addressed churches and crowded parks filled with those who refuse to comply, still no action has been taken outside of EMW to protect patients and the general public.

As most are well aware, “protests” were held Wednesday night outside of Governor Beshear’s nightly address to the Commonwealth. Scare quotes are appropriate in this instance for the same reason that they are appropriate when describing the anti-abortion presence outside of clinics: the point was not political speech directed against leadership. The point was for one group of people to strike fear into the hearts of their fellow citizens, to discourage them and break them down. Such rallies have been and are being held throughout the country.

That there was overlap between the group at the capital Wednesday and people we see on the sidewalk came as no surprise to us. The organizer of the incident Wednesday has been spreading false information about the clinic and its practices in order to drum up faux outrage. Fortunately, you are welcome to donate to EMW in her honor.

For now, abortion remains legal in Kentucky. Antis remain on the sidewalk putting themselves and everyone else at risk, and escorts remain in our vehicles, documenting.

Week One Update


One week ago today Louisville’s Clinic Escorts announced that we were choosing to suspend our presence on the sidewalk in order to do our part to flatten the curve in Kentucky and the surrounding region. What we did not do was abandon our watch over the clinic. This week, individual volunteers stationed in vehicles have been present each morning to count the number of antis still defying CDC recommendations by showing up at the clinic, interacting directly with one another, and invading clients’ physical space despite this pandemic. Very few antis wear masks and, when they do, don’t always wear them properly even when continuing to approach clients. Since pregnancy lowers an individual’s immune response, and the full effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy are not yet known, this is particularly alarming.

That’s… not doing any good.

We made the ask for antis still arriving at the clinic to take basic precautions. On our final Saturday, one anti informed others as he was leaving that he was on his way to a birthday party. Another was heard bragging that her church was still open – despite the outbreak in Hopkins County that has been tied to a church revival. So it came as little surprise to the volunteers watching this week that our worst fears about the antis’ continued presence and behavior on the sidewalk were confirmed. Below are the numbers and images from each day.

Tuesday, April 7th  – about 30 antis

Wednesday, April 8th – about 17 antis

Thursday, April 9th – about 12 antis

Friday, April 10th  – about 17 antis

Saturday, April 11th  – more than 50

You’ll notice right away that Tuesday and Saturday are the worst days, as has long been the case. There is a regular Catholic presence throughout the week and, while the 40 Days for Life campaign has been called off due to COVID-19, some still remain, funded in part by the Archdiocese of Louisville. Tuesdays are the days that Reformation Church travels the 30 miles from their base in Shelbyville into Louisville to preach on amplifiers, film themselves and clients, and physically block clients as they attempt to enter. The weekend always sees large numbers, but this Saturday was special – Sovereign King Church of southern Indiana declined to postpones one of their semi-regular “rallies” at the clinic. These “rallies” can vary in size, and typically involve multiple people with amplification, multiple people filming, large signs, and frequent instances of physical contact. Last Saturday saw police intervention after one member of this group was seen repeatedly jumping in clients’ paths as they attempted to go around him. There was no distance at all.

The Saturday before Easter is traditionally one of the big three days for protesters at the clinic, and were glad to not see 200 or 300 as has been the case under these circumstances. Still, numbers were high and there was no social distancing – antis were close to one another on the sidewalk and many have plans to hold services tomorrow. Watchers saw innumerable occasions of antis “swarming” patients, obstructing their movement down the sidewalk with large groups of people, getting to close, and speaking directly at their faces, typically with no mask. It was noteworthy that Immanuel Baptist Speak for the Unborn antis had masks – unfortunately, some were removing them in order to speak more clearly to people.

It is our hope that the new order requiring 14 day quarantines for people who choose to participate in mass gatherings will help alleviate this situation. With escorts no longer physically present on the sidewalk, this should be relatively easy for authorities to accomplish, at least with regard to antis who reside in Kentucky. Watching this morning as antis placed clients in danger, blocked them, misdirected and confused them was difficult, and we’re looking forward to the day we can put on our orange vests and get back out there. The sooner everyone joins in to help flatten the curve, the sooner that happens. We’re in this together, Kentucky.


Covid-19 Announcement from LCE


Louisville’s Clinic Escorts have always been client focused. For that reason, we are halting our presence on the sidewalk effective immediately.

We have made every effort to comply with best practices to reduce the spread of Covid-19 as they have evolved. First, we halted our shuttling service. Then, we spaced escorts farther apart, wore masks while escorting, and encouraged escorts to move away from antis invading physical space. This is no longer sufficient.

Going forward, four volunteers per day will be stationed in their separate vehicles to monitor antis’ behavior toward patients accessing care, social distancing, and various violations of the law. They will record and report issues as necessary to the clinic.

As this public health crisis has progressed, we have witnessed innumerable instances of antis not only failing to observe social distancing and other best practices, but actively deriding those who do so. Our presence and example has not impacted this trend. It is our hope that by stepping back from the sidewalk, we expose patients to fewer people while also making it easier for public officials to end congregating outside of the clinic altogether. With public gatherings being prevented elsewhere in the city, there is no reason for this not to happen. Abortion remains essential healthcare, as it cannot be readily rescheduled, and the last thing we want is Kentuckians traveling to neighboring states to access care. We can make it safer by clearing the sidewalk entirely.

To antis if you are reading this: please stay home. Anyone can be asymptomatic but contagious. Pray from home. Call your representatives. If you still come to the clinic, wear masks and do not get closer than six feet to one another or patients and their companions. Please, help Kentucky flatten the curve. We will still be watching.

Sidewalk Snippet, 1/20/2018


This time of year can be rough at the clinic. Escorts show up at odd, non-escorting hours to shovel snow and spread salt at the clinic entrance and as much of the sidewalk as we can manage. We clutch cups of coffee, stamp our feet, and go through countless hand and toe warmers while on the sidewalk for anywhere from one to two hours, oftentimes standing still. But if it’s cold, it’s also generally quieter – antis don’t want to be out in it any more than anybody else does.

Today warmed up a bit compared to our most recent Saturdays, though, and we unfortunately had plenty of energetic antis.

Our local extremist group had a number of copies of the “Lesser Magistrate Doctrine” with them, attempting to persuade members of LMPD to accept them.

The large standing speakers were rolled out, significantly obstructing a portion of the sidewalk when combined with the chairs, strollers, and large signs brought by the antis, and reached in excess of 100 decibels at various times throughout the morning…

… Which was enough to bring one guest staying at Aloft hotel, more than a block away, over to complain to both LMPD and the antis about the noise having woken her early. She wasn’t too happy.

Sidewalk Snippet, 9/2/2017


We’ve had a rainy and cold past couple of days on the sidewalk. While the rain sometimes keeps the number of antis down, the sidewalk is no less crowded when each anti is sporting a large umbrella.



Since we focus on safety and deescalation, escorts leave the umbrellas at home. Escorts are encouraged to use ponchos or rain coats – they’re usually affordable and compact, so we can keep extras in our bags for when they’re needed. More importantly they don’t carry the risk of accidentally hitting someone or causing an injury if caught in the wind. And, of course, a poncho takes up far less space than an umbrella.



When escorts walk with people who’ve given consent to be accompanied from their cars, antis ignore the usual social mores that dictate people give one another a certain amount of physical personal space. And when everyone has a large umbrella, that can be worse than merely rude. Countless times escorts, patients, companions, and even antis have been poked with an umbrella being held by someone who insists on getting in close physical proximity while forcing both their opinions and their bodies onto non-consenting individuals. It’s just a small example of the protesters having little regard for the safety and autonomy of others when it comes into conflict with their sense of entitlement to other people’s time, attention, bodies, and lives.



Sidewalk Snippet, 8/19/2017


On a typical Saturday the sidewalk coming from 1st Street to the clinic is lined on either side by Catholic antis. They mostly pray, standing and periodically kneeling, though the occasional “plea” will be shouted at clients. The gauntlet looks like this:


As 8:30 approaches, they begin the process of dispersing. The gauntlet breaks up. Catholic antis mill about, say their hellos and catch up with one another, exchange various items. For about five minutes, the sidewalk looks like this:


Clients are generally done arriving by this time, but it’s a bit of an inconvenience for anyone else walking by.

Sidewalk Snippet, 8/11/2017


“Normal” can change on the sidewalk quickly. The “Center for Medical Progress” videos intended to incite wrath at Planned Parenthood; goings on in national electoral politics; extremist groups riling up regular antis and bringing new antis out – we know to expect shifts in the dynamic from all of these things.

Recently, we saw some cooling off in the arguments between the longtime, regular weekday Catholic protesters and the newer and more militant Evangelical extremists. It’s not unusual for members of the latter group to yell at Catholics about their “Mary worship” and “idolatry,” and I was worried what large numbers of out of town Evangelical extremists, unused to the dynamic here and with no vested interest in keeping the peace, could mean for escalation between the opposing groups. Fortunately, my concern was unwarranted. Yesterday morning, though, we seemed to be back to it, as a local OSA associate chided Ed Harpring, of the Louisville Archdiocese, on the sidewalk this morning.


The presence of our local extremists is always an interesting thing. They themselves have always been pretty insistent that what they do is not intended to be “counseling,” but street preaching. Abortion is just one front in a vast culture war that also includes attacking trans folks and Muslims; the clinic provides a handy gathering of various heathens in need of saving. Which sometimes includes the Catholics.

We were also treated to a guy who first showed up during OSA week, screaming at escorts and others in the alley behind the clinic.


Image courtesy McCausland with Hosterman Photography.

We’d not seen this guy before. And when he showed up during OSA week, he didn’t have any gear. Now? Well, it looks like this is what we can expect going forward.


“God HATES you… he hates your guts… you wicked, worthless children of the devil…”

I’m not entirely sure what our “new normal” looks like quite yet. More of the loud and aggressive antis for sure; but then, that’s been the trend for a while now.

“Someone Grabbed My Arm”


In January of 2016, escorts began working with the staff of the EMW Surgical Center and the National Clinic Access Project to collect surveys from patients accessing care at the only abortion provider in Kentucky. These efforts, the reasons for them, and initial results were first described here in the “Documenting Fear” article. Since then, thousands more responses have been logged. The numbers help to understand the generally chaotic nature of the public sidewalk and even parking lots near the clinic (Patient-Questionnaire-Annual-Report-July-2016-June-2017). But the comments from patients do more than that – they give one an idea of how an individual walking this gauntlet on the way to their doctor’s appointment is personally impacted.

Media often approach volunteers and other advocates involved in the fight to preserve abortion access in search of “personal stories.” They want to ride along with a volunteer transporting a client; they want to be put in touch with someone seeking an abortion with the assistance of a hotline volunteer; can the clinic get them a patient to talk to? And it is true that breaking the silence that surrounds abortion is a crucial part of combating the stigma that also surrounds it – but the two feed each other. Stigma is why many do not wish to tell their abortion story, especially to a stranger, especially publicly, especially without anonymity. When one woman live-tweeted her own medication abortion some years ago, she received a torrent of vitriol. Similarly, when the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign was launched, many participants again found themselves on the receiving end of abuse.

Abortion storytelling is not without real risk for the person sharing their story. Those who choose to tell their stories do so because they have determined that, for them, the risk they take on is worth the reward – a complicated and individual calculation that each person must consider for themselves. It will not look the same for an individual who is trans, or undocumented, or making plans to safely escape an abusive, dangerous relationship, etc., as it will for someone with more privileges and protections. Privilege impacts abortion storytelling as much as it does abortion access.

This does, of course, lead to a recurrent problem in reporting on abortion access in general, and on the scene in front of too many clinics in particular. Too many stories fall into a pattern of telling “both sides of the story,” wherein antis and abortion access advocates are painted as parties warring over a concept. Too often the patient accessing an abortion does not appear as an active character in what is in fact their own story; they become merely the “idea” that the “sides” in question are “fighting” over. Framed this way, what happens outside of clinics becomes a free speech issue – but when the framing centers patients accessing care, the issue becomes one of private citizens being harassed, intimidated, and all too often physically obstructed and assaulted.

These client surveys do not collect background information, though some patients do choose to share pieces of their story. The comments from patients that follow pertain to their experience of walking into the clinic. These are only a small sampling of the comments provided, and have been grouped to allow brief explanations where necessary – but the comments have not been edited. They are often unpleasant to read – but these are the clients describing, in their own words, what they experienced walking down the sidewalk minutes after having done so, and often with the antis still audible, due to their various amplification devices, as they sit in the waiting room. Please consider a trigger warning in effect for the entirety of this piece – but please consider as well that the patients describing these events had no way to avoid them.


One of the questions on the survey asks clients if they were afraid that antis might do something to them. If the answer is yes, they are asked “What were clients afraid antis might do?” A selection of these responses:


“I was mostly afraid of shootings or bombings at the clinic. I found it disturbing that they were right outside the door, so close to the building. I felt comfortable with the staff, but not entirely safe with them so close and seemingly able to enter any time.”

“Blow up the building or physically grab me. They are way too close, invading our personal space. Nearly all targeted attacks (bombs) on clinics were done so by religious nuts.”

“I was afraid of being shot.”

“The protesters got right in between myself and person that brought me here, almost tripped him trying to get between us and verbally attacked him!!!”

“One of them blocked my path and stepped on my foot causing me to twist my ankle. They are very aggressive and upset me and my support.”

“They were all coming at me at once and so close that a man stepped on me. I did not feel safe.”

“I need space to walk in. I almost fell to the ground trying to get past.”

“Someone grabbed my arm.”

“I was afraid because they had backpacks. Not sure if they had guns or bombs.”

“When I told them to leave me alone and they said “No”, it made me feel as though they would physically try to make me turn around.”

“I was pushed up against and swarmed on a public sidewalk. If I wasn’t having a procedure done, I wouldn’t even want to walk down this street.”

“I told them I had anxiety and to please back up and they surrounded me closer.”

“They made me fear for my life and well being outside of the clinic.”

“I was afraid they would not let me cross the street. As I was trying to park, a woman blocked my way to my car and followed me aggressively until two vested workers helped me to cross the street. I was screamed at once I crossed the street and surrounded.”

“I thought someone crazy might pull a gun out.”

“I thought they might throw food at me.”

“Followed very closely. One followed my friend back to the car. My friend called 911. Protester then walked away after writing down license plate #.”

“I watched a man shove the woman walking with me. I was afraid for myself and other women making this choice physically because of these people.”

“I was afraid I was going to be taken away into another building. Some woman tried to stuff different things in my pockets.”

“The man with mic is very aggressive & I thought he might become angered more & do something”

“I felt like I was being harassed, they followed me and made me cry, I felt so uncomfortable, they came up to our car and were banging on the window and we had our baby in the car and she started to cry”

“Anything to stop me from coming inside, They made a comment about “Black lives matter, right.” I feel it was very racist.”

“Protester put arm up in front of my partner and I, blocked us from entering building. Stood in doorway. My partner wears glasses and did not see lady that stepped in front of me. He bumped into her. She fell. It was raining. Police were called. She was in the doorway. It was terrible.”

“Shoot and/or bomb the place.”

“Spit on me or physically cause harm.”

“Throw things or spit on me.”

“They followed my family to White Castle and told the people they dropped me off at EMW. Very rude. I was very angry.”

“I am afraid of them trying to find me in my workplace or elsewhere.”

“Have a bomb and blow us all up!”

“I asked the man who came to my car to leave. He did not and hovered until a lady escorted me out. He purposely intimidated me.”

“I thought they would grab me. It was very scary.”

“I thought one man was going to hurt me with his poster. I tripped and almost fell!”

“I didn’t feel safe; asked to be left alone. They kept insisting to tell me I’m wrong and a man got in my face.”

“I was afraid they would do something to our car. They could honestly push a woman to suicide.”

“Protesters were very aggressive and scary for me being a young girl already making a hard decision. Even after I said thank you and I was not interested they still wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“They did step on my shoe while following me, making me come out of my shoe. Also walked so closely to me and my mom, that it felt difficult to walk.”

“They told me I was killing my “colored” baby, racist, abusive language.”

“Violence. The protesters should not legally be allowed to come near or on EMW property. It is dangerous and the protesters are mentally unstable and could cause harm to patients.”

“An elderly lady grabbed my arm, got physical with me and told me I was going to hell, my husband doesn’t love me and he’s sending me to hell. My husband almost got into a physical fight/altercation.”

“Spit, shove, verbally abuse, obstruct, film/attempt to expose via social media platforms”

“I was afraid they’d hit me, shoot me or spit on me. They only yelled, so I’m okay. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I really thought I’d be hurt and I’m glad I’m safe.”

“Attack. One person said I was a demon and yelled. I have PTSD and those actions make me upset.”

“One pretended like she worked here and almost made me walk into the wrong building.”

“One lady was very aggressive and pushed and touched me.”

“I was scared of them. I thought they would hurt me.”

“They wouldn’t stop following me.”

“Touch me. They tried coming to my vehicle and talk to my 18 month old daughter. They would not stop talking to her even when asked.”

“Wasn’t sure protester wasn’t going to physically grab me after he jumped in front of me to block my path I was walking. That was scary.”

“Damage our vehicle, attack the clinic, follow me home. Try to prevent me.”

“A woman was shouting about “if there is a fire you’re not getting out of there.” This is terroristic threatening. As is following me yelling at me after repeated requests to leave me alone.”

“I was scared they would try to photograph and expose me for something I’m not. As I walked, I could have blacked out from the pressure.”

“A man blocked my path and wouldn’t let me pass. I thought he was going to shove me away from the door. Thank goodness for the volunteers walking/escorting me.”

“A man got in my face. His breath moved my hair.”

Patients often add additional comments beside questions throughout the survey (in particular, where asked if they would feel safer with antis kept across the street, it is common to see “not even there!” and similar things written next to it.) Additionally, space is provided at the end of the survey for clients to write further comments if they wish.

Beside “I do not understand why the police allow this kind of harassment and rioting outside a health clinic.”

“I know we have free speech. However, they restrict my right and free choice by blocking the clinic.”

“One boy had a camera on his hat. They stuck their heads in our car window.”

“We live in a country where people have the right to Freedom of Speech and to protest. However, these people, the individuals that stand directly in front of the clinic, they are literally screaming, shouting, staring, glaring. The environment looks, feels and sounds violent, unsafe and screams terror. At the very least, police should be protecting the women entering the clinic.”

“I appreciate that the EMW staff warned me about the protestors beforehand so I could mentally prepare myself. The guides in orange vests were very comforting and supportive. The fact that the protesters try to trick you into going into the wrong building and shame you even though they know nothing about you tells me they are in the wrong. If people can be told not to smoke in front of a restaurant, the EMW clinic should be allowed to block protestors from standing in front of their entrance.”

“I really didn’t like grown man yelling in my face and bumping into me while trying to get in the door. I did not appreciate them standing waiting for me to get out of my car.”

“They got way too close. I can understand the protest part, but them being in my face/blocking me was uncalled for.”

“I feel as humans, they have the right to protest and I have the right to an abortion, however, they DO NOT have the right to touch or threaten me!!”