The Bicyclist

On a recent breezy, balmy, Summer morning, I was at the corner of 2nd and Market, available to drivers who might ask for clinic and parking information. I walked quietly a little way down Market Street, passing the corner building, the CPC, disingenuously named, “A Woman’s Choice,” and often called the fake clinic. This CPC is right next door to the abortion clinic. Side by side, they share a thin dividing wall.

In a parallel way, the antis and the escorts exist on the sidewalks across the nation, side by side, divided only by a thin line of law and human decency.

Ed shouldered into me earlier that morning and cut in front of me, edging me back and away from the client. The client turned to Ed and said, “And NOW you’re getting in my personal space! Why don’t you just go away? I already told you, No!!  I don’t want your brochure. I don’t want to talk to you or hear what you have to say. Now, go away!”

No surprise that Ed didn’t go away or stop, until he stopped at the property line. His highly polished, brown dress shoes sparkled in the morning light.  When I told Ed to stop shoving me, to stop pushing me, he said, “You’re the one who’s doing the pushing.”  As always, the anti believes his self-martyrdom mythology and will not admit to constantly doing wrong shit.

As I stood on the sidewalk, I heard a deep British voice behind me say, “What you people are doing here is wonderful. Simply wonderful!  Marvelous! Thank you so much for doing this. And I really do mean that.”

Turning around, I saw a helmeted bicyclist. A young, handsome, bearded bicyclist with a luscious British accent. What’s not to smile about? So, I smiled.

“Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt what you were doing.”

“That’s all right,” I replied. “Thank you for your kind words.”

“I cannot understand what those people are doing here,” he continued, nodding toward the cluster of antis who stood at the property line, a few feet from the door to the clinic.   Old women and men, saying and doing horrible things.  Words and actions which would land them in jail if they pulled that crap anywhere else in town.

“I mean,” he went on, shaking his head, “What those people are doing here is truly evil!! They are evil, evil people, terrorizing the people coming here to see the doctor. Complete strangers on a public city street. They are horrible. Can’t they see that? How could they not understand that?”

“I do not know,” I agreed. “We just do what we can, to get people through the mess.”

“Well, I’m going to ask them,” he declared, wheeling toward the entrance.

“May I ask you people a question? Just why are you here? What are you doing here? Don’t any of you people have a job? Yes, a J-O-B; that’s a job, where you go each day, and work for money. Why are you here, terrorizing people? You there! Don’t you have a job to go to?”

The short, older anti with bobbed black hair and glasses, held up her laminated abortion porn poster. The one she had been holding up, facing the glass entrance doors, hoping someone inside the lobby would look out, be stricken by conscience, and stumble out in a flood of shame and guilt, preferably in tears, begging the antis to help them rethink their choice.

The anti woman answered the bicyclist, “I worked for fifty years. I did have a job. Now, I’m retired.”

“Then why don’t you go home, and BE retired? Go home. Enjoy your retirement. No, really! Why don’t you just go on home and be a retired person? Why not do something else good with your life?” the bicyclist asked, truly amazed and curious.

“Don’t you people see that what you are doing here, terrorizing people, is evil? It is. It’s truly evil. Why don’t you just all go home and mind your own business? This is none of your business.  None of it.  Surely you can see that.”

I walked back to my post on the corner, smiling. We always enjoy the positive comments we hear from the morning people just passing by, on their way to work or to a morning appointment.

A long debate ensued between the Bicyclist Man and the antis. So engrossed were they in their argument, they meandered away from the clinic entrance, standing a few feet away, at the curb. In fact, the antis completely missed a heckling opportunity, as our escort C smoothly walked clients and companions past them and through the door.

What I hope to say here is this:  We must reclaim the moral ground.  We must call upon the support of our nation. We must realize and remember that the majority of people understand and support reproductive autonomy and freedom and choice. People who are informed do not want to backslide to back alley abortions, coat hangers, and women dying from botched illegal abortions.

Thank you, Mr. Bicyclist, for supporting choice.

Gentle Reader:  Thank you for lending us your listening, moral, spiritual, verbal, electoral, financial, intellectual and/or physical support.  You truly make a difference and we appreciate your support and encouragement!

 

Reflections

On Wednesday, while driving home after escorting, I was thinking about how smoothly things had gone on the sidewalk.  When I turned from a busy road to a side street, there were ambulances and police cars at an accident near the expressway on-ramp.  Cars were flowing the other way, part of the early morning, rush-hour traffic.

Then I saw a lady standing on the curb to my left.  She seemed to be a walker or jogger, waiting for the traffic to clear so she could cross the street.  I slowed, then stopped, to give her a chance to cross.  The traffic was still flowing the other way in the lane between us.  Waiting to cross, she was standing in the grass at the curb’s edge.  Then I noticed she was holding a brown plastic Kroger bag in each hand.  I thought she was out picking up dog poop from her neighborhood.  As a kind driver stopped in the other lane, the lady walked out onto the street.

Suddenly, she stopped and squatted down in the road.  Surprised, I looked over and saw a tiny, gold and brown Yorkshire Terrier, lying there, motionless.  With a sharp in breath, I stared at the miniature collar and the long leash, looping and curving across the pavement like blue, longhand penmanship.  The lady scooped up the silky, limp body with the Kroger bags, stood up, and smiled a thank you to the waiting drivers, walking back to the grassy curb.  The blue leash trailed strangely behind, upside down, the leash handle dancing along the ground.

Stunned and aware of the impatient drivers lined up behind me, I drove on.  A few blocks later, it dawned on me the dog might be injured, but still alive, needing a vet or an animal hospital.  Did she have a way to take it there?  As I u-turned the car and drove back, I felt sad and guilty for having driven off without asking if she needed assistance, or a ride, or comfort.  But I couldn’t find the lady with the little Yorkie.  I couldn’t even tell where they had been.  I turned back out onto the main road.  The ambulance and police were still at the accident on the other side of the road.

Tears in my eyes, I drove on.  To me, this was an opportunity for me to be at the right place at the right time, to be of service to another person, and I had only seen the top layer of what might be needed.  Yeah, I should have stopped and asked.  Yeah, consciousness is about staying aware and paying attention.  Yeah, death is part of life and life is part of death.

What, you might be wondering, does any of this have to do with escorting?   One of our regular antichoice protesters, Ron, is fond of shouting loudly at the clinic entrance, “Bring out the buckets of dead babies!!!  I wanna see the buckets of dead babies!  What do you DO with all those buckets of dead babies?!?? All you people care about are trees.  What do you do for fun after you leave here, deathscorts?  Huh?  Do you go kill puppies and kittens for fun?  Huh?  Is that what makes you happy?  Buckets of dead babies and buckets of dead puppies and dead kittens…”

While standing at the corner of 1st and Market Streets, sometimes – – just sometimes – – Fear tells me that any car, stopping for a red light or purring past us downtown, could be an anti-choice extremist.  Any one of us could be shot, just standing on the street, because we are wearing the orange vest of a pro-choice clinic escort.  To quiet Fear, I quietly whisper, “I fear none, for I love all.  The purpose of my life is to help, love and serve others.”

Quietly saying this to myself banishes Fear.  It soothes and steadies my spirit.  Again, I am just standing there, in the now, not doing anything, feeling calm and aware, just paying attention.

Why am I sharing this story here about a tiny brown Yorkshire terrier and a protester who says ugly things about “babies” and “dogs” and “kittens” and “deathscorts?”  Why does my mind even imagine someone showing up with a gun and shooting me or one of my beloved escort friends in cold blood?

It is because we know with the increasingly radical, right-wing extremists, there have been bombs, murders, and hate campaigns which pretend to be “Christian.”  Abortion doctors have been murdered.  Abortion clinics have been vandalized, bombed, picketed.  Abortion doctors, staff, and clinic escorts have been publicly “outed” on WANTED posters and flyers.  Those flyers have been distributed online, given to the targeted person’s neighbors, and even their children’s schools.  When outing someone, the person’s name, address and other personal information is often included.  Escorts have been fired from their jobs within Catholic systems, after the antis called and wrote to the employers.  Protesters are pushing abortion porn into the hands of our children as they go into or out of their schools.  Anti-abortion laws are chipping away, bit by bit, shutting down clinics, making it incredibly more complicated, difficult and expensive than ever for a woman to get an abortion.

It’s not like you see picketers, or bombers, or vandals at other medical clinics.  When did you have to shove your way through a crowd of protesters to get your tooth filled or to get your annual physical?  I didn’t think so.

What part of this is American?  I ask you, how is this part of living in the “greatest nation on Earth?”  How is this still the Land of the Free?  This is not the America I was raised to know, love and take pride in.  Where is law enforcement?  Where is the local mayor?  Where are the rights of normal American citizens?  Where is the outraged citizenry needed to stand up to these thugs, these bullies, these domestic terrorists?

Yes, we need buffer zones.  Maybe not two miles away, as they have for the protesters at the national Presidential conventions, but even a safety zone extending 20 feet away from the door would be better than nothing.  The in-your-face harassment, intimidation, and interference (all violations of the FACE Act), and the illegal threatening and intimidation of the abortion clinic providers and their staff, both at the clinics and in their private lives, have been endured for too long.  These illegal activities by the “Forced Birthers” must be prosecuted and stopped.

It is worrying, perplexing, irritating, confusing, infuriating and wearying to see this in our society, in our culture, in our community, and on the sidewalk.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Trust Women.  Respect Choice.  (End of rant.)

a woman of god

After several people told me it was time to go to breakfast, that we were done this morning, there was one last “scene” in the back parking lot. As I was walking to my car, a woman came across the lot, with a rabid Angela hot on her heels.

Another escort and I got on either side and danced the dance with Angela, back and forth, side to side, forward and backwards. It’s almost as hard as swatting away the mosquitoes when you’ve just devoured your peanut butter and banana and honey sandwich. . .

As Angela continued to lecture, preach, scold, shame, and instruct God to send this woman straight to hell, we tried to give her a little space so she could enter her car and make a quick escape.

Instead, she stopped, turned around, and gave the most calm, strong, Christian, bible-quoting, God-centered reprimand to the insanity as ever I’ve heard.

“I DO believe in God. You don’t need to quote the bible to me. I’ve got my bible right here in my purse and I read and study it every single day. What you are doing is trying to force this on people. I understand you think you are trying to help people.

But what you are doing, and the way you are doing it, by trying to force your beliefs on people, this will turn people AWAY from God, not bring them to him.”

This went on for a couple of minutes. It didn’t matter how logical or forceful she was. Angela ranted on and on. The woman got a little louder and told her to be quiet and listen. Listen to me. . .she must have said it 2 or 3 times before the raving clots (crazy lady on the sidewalk) finally stopped to catch her breath.

The woman tried again, and was so sincere and strong in her clear truth, I was sure Angela was listening.

Eventually, the ranting began again from our loudest sidewalk terrorist, and the other escort and I told the woman we were sorry, but it was like trying to reason with a broken record; we told her it didn’t help to try to reason with an unreasonable person.

And she got in her car and drove away. I couldn’t help saying through the window, “Thank you, ma’am. Thank you for speaking your truth.”

I guess it gives me hope to hear how someone from such a religious background had struggled with this issue, had prayed about it, and had realized this is what her God wanted her family to do.

They’re not all raving lunatics, after all, are they?

breathing in the womb

Just for the record, we have yet to convince Angela that the unborn are not breathing air in the womb.  Now that we have recommitted to ignoring the protestors and their ignorant words and actions, we seem to be far more efficient and effective in attaining our true goals.  We are there for the clients.  We are there to provide safe entry to the medical clinic for whatever medical reasons they have for being there.

That is easy to think about, talk about, and understand.  It is easy to ignore them when they insist they just want to ask us one little question, which invevitably leads to an endless debate, during which they listen to little and hear nothing.

However, it is not always easy to do.  It seems to be increasingly difficult to not answer back, especially to the lies and threats of damnation.  Sometimes, they seem to make up “facts” on the spot.

In older days as a Catholic child, my greatest sins were talking back to my parents or fighting with my little brother.  The clarity I felt safe in was a coccoon of cyclical logic and black/white rules.  Although I understand how easy that world is to live in, I cannot understand how an adult can grow and learn in this world without perceiving a more complex and inclusive worldview.

We clearly cannot change their minds or make them go home.  Well, except for Dave.  However, we can continue to open our minds and offer respect to each other and the clients we walk with. 

Thank you for caring about a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, her own reproductive capabilites, her own life.

not making things worse, or de-escalating

overheard a conversation this morning in the snow, out on the sidewalk.  a client hollered at the 2 protestors as she went in the door.  an escort repeated what the client had yelled, happy to tell the other escorts one of the clients hadn’t taken their domestic terrorism without some attempt to stand up for herSelf.  “Tell her,” said the client, “Tell her to go home because while she’s down here being a busybody, her husband’s at home banging some other woman.”  After repeating this with some glee, certain the protestor heard what had been said about her, the escorts agreed aloud it would indeed be better for this female sidewalk bully to go home.  Then one escort informed the others that the protestor’s husband had died, just to get away from her.

This left an appalled silence.  In this forum, in this time and on this day, may I implore each of us to rethink what we say before we open our mouths and say it.  I am truly one of the worst about this, and there is no way of knowing how many years our services will be required on the sidewalks of America.  But every time we become mean-spirited and cruel, we have sunk to (or below) their level.

It was difficult to not apologize to the protestor for our unkindness.  What stopped me?  My own grim certainty that she “deserved” it for all the trouble she causes clients, day in and day out, year after year.  Perhaps this is merely the winter of my own discontent with myself and others, but I do feel guilty, still.  Yes, still.  At least her husband stayed with her, in their marriage, until death did them part.  Every man, husband or otherwise, has always left me.  So she’s definitely better at that relationship/marriage stuff than I.

Are the bruises on my arms as real as the bruises in another’s spirit when I am unkind?  Yes, the aggression seems to be rising, on both sides, and they are pushing and yanking and hitting enough to leave bruises.  Please, I need to hear from you.  What do you think?  Are we too cruel?  Are we not cruel enough?  What is too much?  And what is not enough?

WHY I VOLUNTEER AS AN ABORTION CLINIC SAFETY ESCORT

About one year ago, my 20-year-old daughter went to the clinic for an abortion. Her boyfriend and I went with her. We parked around the far corner, cattycorner to the White Castle. The anti-abortion (so-called “prolife”) demonstrators were on us in a heartbeat. I was on one side of my daughter and her boyfriend was on the other. “Just ignore them,” we said to ourselves and to each other during that long, cold walk down the sidewalk to the clinic.

As we turned as a united trio toward the entrance, underneath the front covered area, definitely no longer on public property, a man rushed forward, then stepped right in front of us, determined to convince my daughter to not have the abortion. He stepped right in front of us, facing us, blocking the door, right up in our faces, still yelling and preaching.

All the calm – – albeit nervous – – . determination to “just ignore them” evaporated. Sorry, but when you threaten my child, all bets are off. Mess with my child? Seriously? Really? Really????? Shiva, The Lioness, and Mamma Polar Bear all reared up in me. I totally lost it. I was screaming, shouting, cursing, so loud and so long that before I knew it, we had pushed him out of the way and were inside the entryway. I was still yelling at him. My daughter, my calm, sensitive, centered, intelligent, beautiful, loving daughter said, “Mom, it’s okay. You can stop shouting now. He’s gone. It’s okay. You can calm down now.”

Rarely have I been so ashamed of myself. Normally, I would never speak to any human being that way. Normally, I would never scream and yell and curse worse than any sailor, especially not at a complete stranger. Although I was still shaking with rage & terror (they do use terrorist strategy, don’tcha know?), I also felt guilty, ashamed, like I owed that man an apology for treating him so horribly.

Yes, I have grieved the loss of that could-have-been grandchild. It was never mine. It was never my decision to make. And just as I supported my daughter in making this difficult, personal, private choice as best she could, I today support her decision to not go public about her abortion. It was her life, her body, her heart, her mind, her soul, her pregnancy. It was her choice and I support her completely.

However, for a year now, I have thought from time to time about how cruelly and uncivilly I behaved towards a complete stranger. That man probably felt compelled to say and do those things, based on his understanding of his ideas about God and morality. He probably believed he was trying to save an unborn human life. He couldn’t see that he was terrorizing and traumatizing three born human lives. The dilemna of how to resolve both my anger and my guilt have been answered in my volunteer work as a Clinic Escort.

Every day this week, I have been there as early as humanly possible, given my penchant for late-night tin roof sundaes, volunteering as a Clinic Escort. I started doing this a couple of weeks ago. Strangely enough, there were no weekday morning Clinic Escorts a year ago. When I went with my other daughter earlier this year for her own abortion, it was like orange-vested angels arrived to surround us and walk us in with care, respect, and dignity. We were so grateful for them. I wanted to do that, too. I hope and pray that I can control my temper, continue to provide the opportunity of safe passage to the women and men who arrive in the predawn hours at the clinic. I also hope and pray I can extend the same calm, respect, and dignity to the protestors, no matter how rabid, loud, violent, or insane they become.

Thank you for giving me a way to make a living amends to the stranger I went off on.

– Anonymous