Sidewalk Snippet – Donuts

Image

As clinics and states make the news for extreme restrictions and lack of access to abortion, more people across the country are taking notice.

For escorts a simple thank you, or a kind gesture, goes a long way in diluting the hate that gets spewed our way everyday when we guide and allow individuals to be empowered as they make their healthcare decisions at Kentucky’s only remaining abortion clinic.

This morning was a pleasant surprise as escorts arrived to fresh donuts provided by a reproductive justice activist and Every Saturday Morning blog reader from New Mexico.

But as always, you never know what’s going to set off antis into a tirade. This morning it was body shaming escorts and those eating donuts.

It seems their entire purpose is to ridicule and shame individuals in the name of their religion for personal decisions they make, whether it be donuts or abortion.

Sometimes you just shake your head and wonder how anybody has that much hatred. Unfortunately, that’s just a Tuesday on the sidewalk in Louisville Kentucky.

Sidewalk Snippet – Overheard

Image

“Every Tuesday morning” they hissed quietly at the friend walking with them.

“That one right there,” they gestured pointing up the sidewalk.

I turned to see who they were talking about as they walked past.

“Same thing every week, assuming I am going to the clinic. I’m just trying to get to work, I don’t think he’s ever looked at my face.”

As the conversation trailed off I watched as they continued down to the crosswalk.

Sure enough, the preacher with the loudspeaker gets in front of them yet again.

Because he does not see them as a person. Only an individual capable of pregnancy.

Sidewalk Snippet – Never Assume

Image

Today was a slightly chaotic morning with new church members coming out to scream and preach at escorts and clients alike.

Many of us this morning were working multiple stations on the sidewalk making sure it went as smoothly as possible for clients and companions with appointments.

One of our wonderful escorts had to leave and go to work. As he walked down the sidewalk taking off his vest he encountered a client that asked to be walked in.

He immediately agreed and was accompanied by two additional escorts that were wearing vests for the walk down the sidewalk.

Not two minutes had passed since he had been wearing an orange vest escorting in front of the antis when his group of four approached the property line.

Five of our most persistent daily protesters then swarmed the 3 approaching escorts and client. Pleading with the now vest-less male escort not to kill his baby, take responsibility be a man, and if you love her you won’t let her do this.

The client entered the clinic and the three escorts turned back thinking about the assumptions and judgment the antis make every day on people they know nothing about.

Stepping back for the Bigger Picture

Image

By now if you own a computer, a smartphone or have even walked past a television set in the last 24 hours you have seen coverage of individuals from the Covington KY Catholic School on the news.

I want to step back a little further to cover what many news outlets will overlook.

The reason this individual was in Washington DC is getting lost among the outrage of how he treated Nathan Phillips, Omaha Nation Elder, and Vietnam War Veteran.

The ugly things they chanted to him, the smug entitlement in their faces, attitudes of complete contempt for individuals unlike themselves. All this is so very familiar to me.

Covington Catholic High School students went on a school-sponsored trip to Washington DC for the annual March for Life, held every year around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

I am a clinic escort at the only abortion clinic in Kentucky. I have seen this very same behavior day after day for years now from individuals just like Covington Catholic students. The same despicable behavior, bigotry and callous disregard for others.

During the week it’s usually older men and women, representing many church denominations. On Saturdays they bring their young kids, teens. Sometimes large groups of religious families or fundamentalist churches will make an event of it.

Catholic churches and schools in the area organize field trips to Louisville for this purpose often with Archbishop Kurtz in attendance offering full support and encouragement, as we’ve written about before.

Once a month Kentucky Mountain Bible College offers a field trip to the abortion clinic. This allows students to get up close and personal with their harassment. Other churches and extremist groups frequent the sidewalk as well.

They chant, scream, stalk, loom and block individuals trying to make their way down a public sidewalk to a doctor’s appointment. This harassment has been documented, but is often tolerated as well.

Many people of all faiths, plus non believers are dismayed that religion is being distorted so badly to allow and even encourage this kind of hate.

For many, the raw display of racism in the news yesterday was shocking. How could they laugh and film? Where were the chaperones? How did their parents raise them? How could good Catholic kids do this?

That’s just it….

This is exactly what their elders do.

They have learned intolerance and hatred from the very people who raise and educate them.

Are you angry and upset that this type of harassment, verbal abuse and shaming still happen in 2019?

Are you willing to look at this from all angles?

Are you willing to tell others that everyone from all races, ethnicities, and beliefs deserve bodily autonomy?

That regardless of your personal beliefs no one should face this discrimination , intimidation and harassment?

Have you read this far? Then please do me one more favor, ask for a safety zone around abortion clinics to allow folks accessing care a little more physical space than the Covington Catholic students allowed Nathan Phillips.

50458295_2453395781402479_3283908376496439296_n.jpg

 

Counting My Way

As a huge supporter of abortion access I have contributed to our Pledge- A-Picketer fundraiser every year.

Louisville Clinic escorts started this fundraising idea after 300 protesters came out one Saturday before Mother’s Day a few years back.

Over the years we have seen the numbers of protesters drop off as we have used their presence to fund raise money for abortion access.

They know why we count and they do not like the fact that their presence raises funds for abortion support.

In 2016 since the numbers of protesters were dropping I decided to modify my pledge a little bit and put a monetary amount not only on number of protesters, but signs, amplification, and other harassment techniques they use.

The turnout of antis on the Pledge-A-Picketer, Spooky Halloween Edition was fairly small, probably due to rainy weather and the fact they knew we were going to fund raise off of their numbers.

I pledged $0.25 an anti for a total of $21 for the two days.

But seeing as how dedicated  clinic escorts are for showing up in all kinds of weather and all the stuff life throws at you, I know they are worth so much more.

I decided to pledge $2 an escort and Legal Observer.

Clinic escorts and Legal Observers showed up for choice and access raised $112.

Just doing what you do week in and week out is amazing. I wanted to acknowledge how much I value your presence on the sidewalk.

I’m Glad You Asked

Image

It seems everyone today has an opinion on reproductive health choices and access to legal abortion.

Escorting at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, assisting clients get to their appointments with as little interference/harassment from anti-choice protesters as possible, my mind is constantly engaged and thinking. So when this screen capture taken off a video Operation Save America posted and I read that comment from a viewer, I pondered on it.


What was I thinking as I calmly stood there that Friday morning, while Rusty Thomas of OSA (in town for a federal court appearance) bellowed, roared and shamed clients, companions, and escorts alike that morning?

I thought back to May 13, 2017 when this man in front of me chose to break federal law and cross the property line, sitting down with about a dozen followers blocking the entry doors until eventually peacefully removed by LMPD after many polite requests and invitations by the officers went unanswered.

I thought about the dynamics I was watching that Friday morning among the anti-abortion protesters. I watched when the cameras came on and when they had an audience, they kicked it into high gear, yelling shaming, preaching.

I thought about theatrics they love to present: escorts as stone-hearted, cold, uncaring people and themselves as poor put-upon saviors.

I thought about the perception their viewers must have when they watch these videos. I wonder if viewers know how much of a show it is to recruit donations and support?

I thought about the distortions they offer, the narratives they speak when they claim a save. In reality sometimes clients or companions tell them just what they want to hear so they will be left alone.

I thought about clients having to come back for a second appointment because they were tricked into the CPC next door and missed their originally scheduled one.

I thought back to last July when we had a very temporary buffer zone and Federal Marshals on hand. How much safer clients felt when they did not have anti-abortion protesters in their face, blocking their path, leaning over and separating them from their companions.

I thought about Rusty Thomas’ court appearance that Friday morning. I wondered if a federal judge would even think about weighing a First Amendment right to free speech versus the safety of citizens trying to just go to their doctor’s appointment?

I thought about how difficult and how politically weaponized someone who wishes to maintain their bodily autonomy and access the legal right to terminate a pregnancy has become.

I thought about the many difficulties people who choose this option overcome just in getting to the clinic.

I thought about the spectacle to have a small strange man in a cowboy hat yelling at them as they approached the doors, shaming them for the decisions they choose to make for themselves.

I thought about if we accept one person’s decisions and choices in life may not be ours, but those are decisions that must be left up to each individual, what they feel and know is best for their family.

So yeah, thanks for asking. I wish you’d take the time to think it over as well. Too many times one only sees what’s presented, not the whole picture.

Sidewalk Snippet 2/15/18

Image

This morning at the clinic we had a German-based documentary crew complete with camera.28171035_1807159309317514_1145647224_o

To those journalists, and anyone else putting their “reporting” over the experience of patients and their companions:

Our Media Policy states that escorts will not do interviews on sidewalk. Our focus is the clients not your documentary.

We asked that you not film people going to the doctor. Your response was “we will blur the faces”.

You do not see it through a client’s eyes. They turn the corner to walk down the street and mobbed by protesters trying to hand them pamphlets, steer them into the CPC and they see you with a big camera.

It’s frightening to many clients to see this, and the promise to blur faces is not comforting to someone whose family and neighbors will recognize them by their shoes (regardless of who your intended audience is).

But I guess let no ethics or compassion get in the way of dramatic journalism.

Sidewalk Snippet, 11/9/2017

Image

Sometimes clients will attempt to explain to antis their reasons for coming to the clinic.

Most times, it is countered with the same often-heard-spiel they give to everyone: “sin,” “God,” “murder,” “irresponsible,” “regret that sort of thing…” Pretty much, the same ones that I have listened to over the years.

Today, though, was a new one to me. A young anti began asking very personal, very detailed, very invasive medical questions of a client, after being repeatedly graciously declined on offers of adoption.

blogpicYS

Young seminarians.

If someone has politely asked you to leave them alone, your next question should not be about the status of their internal reproductive organs.

Sidewalk Snippet, 8/24/2017

Image

Each morning when escorts arrive at the clinic we make a quick scan for anything that looks out of place. In the past week two incidents of childish, petty vandalism were quickly apparent to early arriving escorts.

On Tuesday, someone spray painted over the word “no” on the marked white line that distinguishes clinic property and is clearly marked “No Trespassing.”

NOsnippet

This morning, after the LEO ran a front page feature that was actually balanced reporting, someone again took issue. 17 copies of the paper were thrown in front of the doors of the clinic.

LEOsnippet

It’s little acts of aggression like this that we see building on to a bigger, more explosive, incident in the future

And a Little Child Shall Be Exploited By Them

Image

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Antis this week have used their children as props, more than in any time I can remember in the recent past.

This anti from Operation Save America was preaching on an amplified system, reaching between 90 and 100 decibels for much of the morning, with his 17 month old son in his arms.

c1

As he preached, directing his shaming to the waiting room window of EMW, he told us all that he could have had his son aborted right here 17 months ago*. But no; he loved him; he was grateful to have a wonderful child to love and raise.

Not ten minutes later, another escort looked over at the corner of the sidewalk next the the three-lane Market Street to see his young son parked, unattended, in his stroller.

c2

This is not loving and cherishing. This is using another human being as a prop. And when I thought I had seen it all, OSA directed all their young children, ranging from about four to ten years old, to march up to the property line and pray over the escorts and the clinic for the salvation of our souls. Escorts stationed on the front line said it was so painful and shameful to see children used this way that they quietly and respectfully turned around while the children chanted, sang, and spoke in tongues behind them.

Encouraged on by OSA leaders who were coaching and filming delightedly, these children were broadcast live for viewers of conservative blogs. Among them were Elizabeth Johnston, the “Activist Mommy” of “burn Teen Vogue” fame; these exploitative antics with children received some push-back from her own fans.

 

c5

“Now, you see here, our children…” Screengrabs from “The Activist Mommy” Facebook page.


I felt nothing but extreme sadness for these young children being used by the very people who claim to cherish them so much.

 

c3

Operation Save America brought a large group of children to the protest again EMW Women’s Clinic, at one point lining them up in front of the clinic escorts — who turned to face the clinic — and instructed them to pray at the escorts and clinic. Two adult men exhorted the children into more fervent prayers after positioning them, recording the event with a GoPro camera. The clinic escorts stood professionally and stoically throughout the ordeal.” Image and text courtesy Daniel Hosterman Photography

(*Even prior to the Kentucky 20 week abortion ban, EMW Louisville did not perform procedures past 22 weeks and one day.)