Escorts Return to Sidewalk

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On April 4, 2020 Louisville’s Clinic Escorts announced we were suspending escorts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our article also asked the protesters to stay home or if they did come to practice social distancing and wear masks to protect the patients and companions they claim to care so much about. That claim has been proven untrue.

The escorts have been watching the clinic from their cars since April 7. In the 61 days the clinic has been open from April 7 through June 30 there were always protesters present to harass people accessing needed healthcare. The numbers of protesters present each day varied from a low of 8 protesters to a high of 176 protesters one day. There was not one day where the watchers observed any of these protesters practicing social distancing. Most of them weren’t wearing masks; when they did, they wore them them incorrectly or pulled them down to talk.

Every day the clinic was open the protesters trespassed on EMW property and blocked the entrances and sidewalk. There were incidents of shoving patients and companions, and stalking companions as they returned to their vehicles. There were loudspeakers set on maximum volume some days. How is this sidewalk counseling? It’s not. This claim, like the one about only caring for the patients, is untrue.

Yet despite all of these things, patients did make it into the clinic. One day there was chalk writing on the sidewalk and building to let patients know there were people watching what was happening who cared. The protesters were angry about the messages.

Chalk art done with clinic permission by other supporters. “Abortion is essential healthcare.”

The time for escorts to return is now. We have been watching the city and state guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions. All returning escorts have agreed to these conditions in order to return:

  1. Returning escorts will wear masks and try to keep their distance from clients and companions as much as possible.

  2. Escorts agree to disperse without argument if they are advised by LMPD officers to leave. They can watch from their parked vehicles if asked to leave the sidewalk.

Of course, these are not the only precautions we are taking going forward. Escorts who for their own health or that of those they are in contact with will be waiting a while yet to return – our numbers will be much lower than they have been traditionally. Escorts who experience any symptoms, or who receive a positive test will remove themselves from the sidewalk and notify the group, so that the clinic can be notified as well. Escorts are encouraged to make use of the expanded availability of testing in Kentucky.

We can hope the protesters will learn by our example how to properly social distance and how to properly wear masks

 

Week Four Update

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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:

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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:

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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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.