The Day the Circus Came to Town ~ by Penny

Escorting is always a high-tension job, even on a relatively normal Saturday.  Saturdays always bring out the highest numbers of protesters, and the larger their numbers, the greater their escalations.  This past weekend came with new and frustrating challenges – the whole circus came to town.  

traveling-van-3

Operation Save America rode into Louisville this past week in a cargo van emblazoned with headstones and some favorite graphic “dead baby” imagery, with a few lies about breast cancer sprinkled in for variety.  While the clinic was only targeted on Friday and Saturday, the protesters did their best to cause as much disruption as possible during their stay. 

An hour before the clinic opened on Saturday, they set up two large speakers (each on a six foot tripod) along the edge of the property line just outside the waiting room.  Cords were left dangling between these without a care in the world for the trip and fall hazard this creates in a very highly-trafficked area – because nothing says pro-life like harming people.  

As soon as the setup was finished, escorts holding the property line were treated to some Christian-soft-rock at a volume which could be clearly heard around the entire block.

loudspeaker-2

 
And again, an entire hour before the clinic even opened its doors:
16559425_2351336238425900_1400690639_nAfter the warm-up tape ran its course, OSA members went on to take turns haranguing escorts and clients about our sinning and iniquity as per usual.  

The rhetoric itself is not what made Saturday special.  When a national, well-funded group like OSA comes to town, our regular cohort of sidewalk “counselors,” sign-wavers, and other motley shamers gets all stirred up.  More of them come.  Many of these unfamiliar faces are not familiar with the property line, the FACE Act, or, it seems, common decency.  Their heightened sense of importance and urgency, combined with the extra crowding and assaulting volume from the speakers, made it a very nervous morning. There were places where the sidewalk was nearly entirely obstructed, either by too many bodies or so that OSA could make room for the props they brought along for extra “poignancy.”

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This is the corner of 2nd and Market – this is what clients had to walk through before even being able to see the clinic’s doors.


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And for reference, here is the view around that same corner.  See the speakers taking up half the sidewalk?  Can you imagine the courage clients and companions have to summon to get through this mess?  Can you think of any other medical practice where this intimidation is tolerated?

coffin-with-bags-of-plastic-fetuses

Yes, the picture above is of a tiny white coffin, complete with plastic fetus dolls along the top in a row, on a tray table pushed out into the path of clients on their way in.  

One begins to wonder, looking at their van, their sound system, their tiny caskets – how many women could this money have really helped, if they cared as much as they claim to?  How many meals could this have made for a food-insecure pregnant person, how many nice outfits to go on interviews, how many hours of childcare for the babies already in this world?  If this weren’t actually about controlling the minds and bodies of women, how much of that lobbying power could they throw behind paid medical leave for all new parents?  Looking at the fancy equipment, and the van that’s certainly much newer than any vehicle I’ve ever owned, I have to wonder:  what do they believe their GoPros, amplifiers, custom paint jobs, and bags of tiny plastic fetuses are accomplishing?  

 

 

Reflections on Reproductive Justice Activism ~ by MAP

I was first introduced to Reproductive Justice activism in 2006 when I was 19 years old. I had gone to a Feminist Alliance meeting at the time when I was enrolled in the University of Louisville. A friend mentioned that she was an escort at the EMW women’s clinic. I had honestly never thought about abortion, Reproductive Justice or what and how it could affect me in my everyday life. On a Saturday morning in January I went and had my first experience as a clinic escort. On that cold and snowy morning, it was incredibly frustrating to see all of these clients trying to access healthcare and at the same time being judged and harassed by complete strangers, but it was amazing seeing these people helping clients get into the clinic.

I am forever grateful for what I have learned about myself throughout my experience as an escort. Being a clinic escort has made me a better activist and organizer. Over the past 11 years through my introduction to Reproductive Justice activism, my eyes have been opened to how reproductive justice work intersects with social justice, economic justice, and racial justice. Realizing I needed to care for myself I took a step back from escorting at the clinic, but I am involved with transporting clients to and from the clinic through the Kentucky Support Network. Finding out where you can help and do your part, as well as taking care of yourself, is so important. Escorting at the clinic taught me that this type of work is never easy and that at times it can be draining. Putting yourself and your needs first, by practicing self care are imperative to doing this type of work.

If you’ve ever wanted to get involved now is the time. The anti-choice laws that are being passed in Kentucky, in our country and around the world are horrific. These are terrifying attacks on a person’s right to their bodily autonomy and their right to choose whether or not they are ready to be a parent. There are already so many barriers when it comes to abortion access and when it comes to marginalized groups of individuals, that these laws only continue to prohibit people from accessing safe and legal abortions.

If you don’t think you can escort at the clinic that’s okay. There are so many ways to give your time or your money to important organizations such as Kentucky Health Justice Network, Kentucky Support Network, and the A Fund. I am constantly amazed by my friends and their dedication to this work. They continue to inspire me on a daily basis with their commitment in securing Reproductive Rights and abortion access for every human being.

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” -Jane Addams

 

Control Issues ~ by Ferret

I am something of a control freak, and the offspring of a line of control freaks. We used to joke that if one were to look up “Control Freak” in the dictionary, one would find a picture of my grandfather.

In my battles with depression over the years, I realized that being a control freak was contributing to my depressive state. I worked hard at becoming less of one in part to lessen the effect on my mien, with mixed results.

At one point in my life, I was invited to attend a twelve-step group based on Alcoholics Anonymous, called Emotions Anonymous. Either through that group or through my sessions with the counselor who introduced me to it, I learned the idea that while I couldn’t (by their definition) control my emotions, I could control how I expressed those emotions and which of those emotions I focus on at any given time.

I also learned that if I release control of others to those others, I am more able to do what I need to do to control how I present myself.

That led to an interesting revelation~one that I’m sure many have reached: I’m not responsible for any other person’s emotional state. Because I am not responsible for that person’s emotional state, I get to retain responsibility for my own emotional state and whether/how I express it.

This expands to all sorts of realms. Because I wish autonomy for myself, I cannot assume control over others’ autonomies. I have to accept that they will act in what they think is their own interests.

There are limits, of course, as the classic example of freedom to swing one’s arm illustrates: My freedom to swing my arm ends before impact with another person’s face. I don’t have the right to harm others, save for circumstances of self-defense, and even then the force I may use is somewhat limited. I cannot bring harm to you for endangering me once the danger has passed, for example.

The reason I mention all this at the moment has to do with the social discussion around abortion and related women’s rights.

Yeah, who am I, a white male, to talk about women’s rights?

Call me something of an ally.

And call me one who recognizes that, because I insist on autonomy for myself, I believe it is no business of mine whether a woman chooses to abort a fetus. Because it’s not my business, it’s also not the business of the government that allegedly represents me. It’s a decision for her to make, along with people she chooses to consult. Sidewalk “counselors” (religious bullies, for the most part) aren’t part of that circle. Congress Critters/Gynoticians* are not part of that circle.

Does that mean I favor abortion? Whether I favor abortion is immaterial. As I mentioned, I’m a guy and recognize that I have the privilege of not having to face that decision for myself. It means I recognize that her decision is hers to make. I have to assume that she will consider whatever options are valid in her situation.

And there may not be any viable options other than abortion. Sometimes the pregnancy is such that continuing it at all would put the mother at grave risk. In some cases, the fetus can never become viable. Since the percentage of times those happen is non-zero, and since I cannot know the exact situation (indeed, the exact situation is not my business), I cannot assume that any one woman’s situation doesn’t include elements of those factors. I’m not willing to put limits on abortion based on such factors either. It would be heartbreaking enough to have a wanted pregnancy result in such a situation without having to prove such to a gynotician* before earning a pass to have one’s abortion labeled “acceptable.”

* Per the Urban Dictionary: “A politician who feels more qualified than women and their doctors to make women’s health care decisions.”

 

 

Anger at the Clinic ~ by Stella

Have you ever been angry? I mean really Mad? I mean Enraged!!! Suddenly. Immediately. Without warning. Something happens. Someone does something and – BOOM – steam is streaming out of your ears. It happens. But – it isn’t supposed to happen when you are an escort at the local abortion clinic.

But it does. It did. To me. The signs, the 4-foot tall signs with abortion porn should not have to be seen by anyone, much less little children. So when a gentleman holding the hand of a little girl walked out of the clinic, and one of the male “counselors” moved his sign so that the little girl would see it, I stood in front of the sign and blocked it from being seen by the child. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t review in my mind my goals for being there. I saw someone trying to abuse a child and acted. It made him angry. I didn’t care about his feelings. I cared about hers and the confusion it could cause her.

I cared about a little girl in the midst of screaming adults with ugly signs. I was not just angry, I was enraged. I didn’t say anything, I just moved in front of his sign each time he moved it until the little girl was out of sight.

I consider his behavior child abuse, emotional child abuse. And worse than that, is that parents bring their own little children down to the clinic to hold signs they are too young to read, to listen to threats of hell and worse, to see all those abortion-porn signs. And they are proud of themselves for doing so. They are exposing their kids to emotional abuse and they don’t see it as a problem.

Adult issues don’t belong in the world of children. What kind of people think such actions are okay? What kind of people think they are doing anything right for their kids?

They make me angry too. But not enraged. Mostly I just feel sick seeing so many little people with their parents making them hold signs, be out in the weather without proper clothing, stand for long periods of time without playing.

When anger goes past enraged, it becomes sadness, sadness that is deep and painful; and there is no way to change the behavior which causes it. Because those people think differently, behave differently, and cannot understand the consequences of their behavior.

So anger is not really uncommon to escorts at the clinic. We just usually handle it well. We don’t lash out, we don’t verbally respond, and we try hard not to laugh – or even giggle at some of the goofy things the “counselors” say. But sometimes, we lose it. And then, we have to depend on the other escorts to help us, to hear us, to hug us if necessary, and to remind us that no one is perfect and that it is all right to walk away and regain our composure.

So yes, I can lose it, but I can trust my fellow escorts to help me do what is best for the clients – which is why we are all there, day after day, each of us doing what we can to support choice for women as they make decisions about their own lives.

Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater~by KY Born

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances”.-First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Isn’t the First Amendment great?  I have no desire to see it go away. However, like any idea, it can be corrupted just as it is currently being subtly corrupted by antis now.

It was the idea that the First Amendment was some sort of carte blanche that led to the Supreme Court ruling in 1919 known as Schenck v. United States where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes tried to give some clarity to what limits could constitutionally be placed by the government on personal expression in order to protect not only the rights of one person, but the rights of all citizens from the actions of one to impede their freedoms. I have purposefully bolded “by the government” because many people seem to think that private entities like Facebook, Twitter, Target or private citizens’ blogs have some obligation to allow whoever and whatever to be published on their websites, or posted on their private property as part of the First Amendment. This simply isn’t true. Perhaps the most famous quote to come from this ruling is, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

The problem comes that antis are no longer just committing occasional violations or giant violations that make the news, but are committing ever-increasing and bolder violations while still remaining under most people’s radar. When challenged, they wrap themselves in the First Amendment because many local, state and federal officials hesitate to approach the line between “free speech” and “shouting fire.”

We all know about the big events that are used to terrorize women away from clinics so I want to talk about the smaller violations that are often overlooked, but still are used to terrorize women seeking healthcare. The line is crossed more easily than ever due to YouTube and access to internet postings that feature antis screaming that people are murderers, or post their picture and personal information all over the Internet.

Did you know in some locations antis erect ladders that totally block public sidewalks, forcing anybody who needs to use the sidewalks to access the clinic, or simply to pass through, to step around them? They do this so they can peer over fences to film people entering a medical facility, write down license plates and directly harass patients. This You Tube video was taken in Jackson, Mississippi, but happens at other clinics around the country every day.

The even more subtle, which I have witnessed myself, is the slow walking back and forth across driveway entrances, causing cars to slam on brakes in the middle of busy roads and potentially causing accidents. In some communities, the response from public officials is to call it the First Amendment and do nothing to stop it.

Another subtle way that anti organizations intimidate people and obstruct their right to terminate a pregnancy is through Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or similarly called organizations, that try to trick women out of getting abortions. Much has been written about them other places so I won’t repeat it other than to give people this advice about anyplace that claims to provide medical care:  If they do not give you a Notice of Privacy Practices (more commonly known as the HIPAA form) demand all of your personal information, any copies made and walk out. They are not a legitimate health care provider.

I don’t believe we need a lot more new laws, but we need the current laws enforced. None of this would be tolerated anywhere except outside a medical facility that provides abortion services, or at the homes of those who work there.

I guess this is my main point. I use this analogy frequently and I have self-named it the “ex-boyfriend rule.”  If you have already heard me say this feel free to skip over it, but my point is that if one of my ex-boyfriends chose to engage in any of above-mentioned actions under the guise of freedom of speech or religion, they would be served with a restraining order and likely criminal charges. If they and their gathered group of friends who also believe as they do, follow me, surround me on a public sidewalk, prevent me from walking on a public sidewalk, turning into a private driveway, erected a ladder on a public sidewalk to view my activities over a fence on private property, or provided information to people intent on causing me harm, they all would be subjected to restraining orders or criminal charges.

Garbage like this makes me wonder if the end of abortion will not come about from dramatic events like the overturning of Roe or a series of clinic bombings, but the slow, steady and repeated crossing of lines under the guise of “free speech” that is nothing more than shouting fire in a crowded theater.

I took the right to abortion for granted for years.

I will not make this mistake again. I hope you won’t either.

 

Pledge-A-Picketer – The Official Count!

Since the clinic was closed on Derby Day, which was also the day before Mother’s Day we decided to have the Pledge-A-Picketer target date on Saturday, June 18. This is the day before Father’s Day and is one of the days of the year we normally see more protesters at the clinic. The official count of protesters for the day is 45.

We did publish an article on the Every Saturday Morning blog when we launched the fundraiser with the information and why we were especially targeting the Sisters For Life annual fundraiser march to EMW Women’s Surgical Center. If you didn’t see it, here’s a link.  

This article was more successful than we ever imagined! The Sisters For Life changed their march to end at the new Planned Parenthood location in Louisville. That means all 46 of those marchers were not there to harass patients at EMW!

To us it was a definite win-win-win situation.

  1. The patients weren’t faced with large numbers of protesters and we still were able to raise funds.
  2. The 45 who turned up at the clinic were a far cry from the 300 who were there in 2010 or even the 108 who were there last year.  
  3. Their march was postponed long enough so that some of us were able to counter-protest at the Planned Parenthood site when they arrived.

We think this was a very successful year for the Pledge-A-Picketer campaign. We want to thank everyone who pledged and donated to help the volunteer escorts.

Our supporters make us strong!

 

Keeping Abortion Legal ~ by S.A.B.

In 1973, the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade determined that the current laws in place criminalizing abortions, except in the event that the mother’s life is at risk, is unconstitutional in regards to right to privacy. The attacks on women’s right to choose have not ceased. To kick off 2016, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed an informed consent bill into law. This bill, introduced by Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams forces women to have an information session about risks and alternatives with a medical professional 24 hours before the procedure.   “The importance of a face-to-face medical consultation prior to consenting to a surgical procedure is a widely accepted medical standard of care – and Kentucky woman deserve no less,” Raque said (Legislation Research Commission, 2015). A few months later, HEA 1337 moved through Indiana. This bill, authored by Republican representative Casey Cox, states that fetuses not carried to term, whether abortion or miscarriage, are required to be cremated or have a burial. Finally, and most recently, Oklahoma effectively banning abortions except in the case that the mother’s life is in danger. The bill however gives no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The bill’s sponsor, Republican senator Nathan Dahm, said that the bill was to “protect life” (Chokshi, 2016). The doctors who do not abide run the risk of losing their medical licenses. This essay will examine the negative effects of the public sphere overlapping with the personal sphere. In this case, the public sphere refers to the government, the personal sphere refers to individual women, and the technical sphere includes medical professionals.

A mostly patriarchal government is constantly making strides to dictate women’s healthcare and the choices regarding her body. These legislations are frequently, if not always, rooted in Christian biblical principles. These bills ignore the diversity of our nation and directly attack a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. While Roe v. Wade made great strides for the rights of women, it still leaves much to be desired. The ruling still leaves room for government involvement. In the case of the first trimester, if the woman wants to get an abortion, the judgement rests with her physician. In the second trimester, the state’s interest is legitimate under the guise of having the mother’s best interest at heart. In the third trimester, the state can intervene on behalf of the “potential of human life” (Lewis, 2015). While Roe v. Wade isn’t perfect, it does legalize abortion. Republic lawmakers continue to rage against it, despite the legal commonplace of stare decisis. A woman’s body and any decisions involved should be that of the woman’s to make. Government or religious institutions do not need to be involved.

Common sense tells us that a person’s right to choose what they want for their life seems like a basic human right. While Republicans will be the first to dismiss gun regulation laws based on this notion, they don’t look at women’s health care in the same fashion. In fact, if we’re being honest, one could say that they don’t look at women as people at all, but rather incubators. If these pro-life supporters looked beyond their narrow minded interpretations of scriptures they would see that there are many reasons why their arguments do not hold water. Firstly, we can look at the Constitution, the document that Republicans love to rave about. The Constitution speaks to rights to privacy and bodily autonomy (Justia, 2016). The 14th amendment talks about protection under the laws and privacy rights, it was paramount in the decision of Roe v. Wade. The ninth amendment says that just because rights aren’t specifically granted in the constitution, doesn’t mean that they are denied to citizens either (Legal Information Institute, 2016). The first amendment also sets the separation of church and state in place. Pro-life supporters often use Christian principles as support for their anti-abortion arguments. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb”—Jeremiah 1:5 and “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed”—excerpt from Psalm 82 ( are just a few of the favorites one can hear shouted from the sidewalks at abortion clinics. From my own personal experience escorting patients into the Louisville clinic, reductio ad absurdum is a frequent commonplace employed by the pro-life protestors. They make claims that range from religious, to accusations of murder, to telling black patients that the clinics are funded by the KKK. The scientifically incorrect anti-abortion propaganda with bloody fetuses frequently accompanies their belief that the unborn child is a person with rights. While there is no clear consensus of when life begins, in title 8 chapter 12 of the United States Code, citizens of the United States are considered this after birth. Each qualification listed stipulates that it is after a person is born (Legal Information Institute, 2016). But usually, if the Constitution doesn’t help the pro-lifers out, the next line of defense is that God’s law is the only law. Maybe the legislators have a hard time including women in what we call basic, human rights, because of the engendered language.

G.T Goodnight (1982) breaks up society into spheres which he defines as “branches of activity”.  The personal/private sphere is more individualized or only applies to the participants involved. The public is like society, transcending the private and technical, almost all encompassing. The technical sphere is less accessible to the general public because it is more specialized. He talks about sphere overlap as well, it is a regular occurrence. But it raises the question—how far is too far? In the instance of the abortion debate, we can see an overlap of the public sphere into the personal sphere. The public sphere also seems to be compromising the technical sphere, or completely ignoring it. As I stated before, the public sphere wishes to dictate the personal sphere in matters of women’s health care, namely abortion. These legislations are based in religious principle. A reasonable argument would be that both a woman’s choices and religion are both matters for the personal sphere. Women’s health care and options therein are a matter of the technical sphere. We could also talk about sphere dependence. Most rational people would accept doctor expertise. It takes a great deal of intelligence and effort to get an M.D. tacked on to the end of your name. But if we look at these fanatical pro-life groups, we will see that there is a distortion of the abortion procedure, the size of the fetus in reference to the time of termination, and the “repercussions” on the woman.

While abortion is currently legal, the status quo, for centuries, has been that women aren’t capable of making their own decisions. If we look back the early 1900s first wave feminism, we’ll see that women were denied basic legal rights, like voting. Women were not seen as fit to decide their public officers, if they attended college it was thought they were only seeking a husband and were not awarded a degree, they couldn’t own property or keep their children in the event of a failed marriage. There were no women’s clinics or educational material about pregnancy prevention. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was not pro-abortion by any means. In her book, “A Case for Birth Control”, she depicts several tragic deaths of impoverished women who had unsafe abortions (Sanger, 1917). Today the problem still persists. There is a stigma surrounding talking and being educated about sex. 37 states require sex education that includes abstinence. 26 state sex education programs emphasize abstinence alone (Beadle, 2012). We tell teens and adolescents drowning in hormones and observing our hypersexualized media that “not doing it” is the best way to go. Thankfully, as of this April, California ow offers birth control over the counter with the passing of Senate Bill 493 (Johnson, 2016).

The harms that will occur if we make abortion illegal are insurmountable. Many pro-life supporters argue that adoption is also an option. While it is, they fail to notice that as of 2013 the total number of children waiting to be adopted, whether foster care or orphanages, was just over 100,000 (Child Welfare, 2013). Also, placing the child for adoption doesn’t accomplish what the woman truly wants: not to be pregnant. The women who use birth control want the same thing, but are far less criminalized just because they have access to resources. We must make these resources available to everyone. A study from the Guttmacher Institute showed that 47,000 women in developing countries die of complications from unsafe abortions. The study showed that the legality of abortion bore no correlation to the number of procedures occurring (Culp-Ressler, 2012).

The best course of action would be for the government and lawmakers to remove their personal beliefs from the personal choices of women. Planned Parenthood, rape crisis centers, and abortion clinics need to remain open and protected. Another argument arises that tax dollars should not fund abortions. Currently their funds come from government grants and contracts (only 1/3), Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid. Abortion procedures only make up 3% of the services offered at Planned Parenthood. In fact, a majority of Planned Parenthood patients are there for cancer screenings, STD tests, and contraception. Legally, Planned Parenthood cannot use federal government dollars for abortions. The Hyde Amendment restricts Medicaid funding unless it is a case of rape, incest, or the mother’s life is at risk (Robertson and Morse, 2011).

A familiar pro-choice slogan is “no uterus, no opinion”. But this pervasive idea that masculinity is the dominant characteristic fights this. For millennia society has favored men over women, put them in charge over women, and paid them more than women. These old, rich, Republican white men are on a power trip because they’ve never been told any differently. Despite our advances in the last forty years, women are still seen as the lesser sex. These men do not understand the struggle women face because they have never had to struggle. Then, when confronted with their privilege, they become irate that they too are persecuted in “some ways”. The legislators need to understand that they cannot prevent abortions, they can only prevent safe abortions.

Sources

 


REMINDER: Pledge-A-Picketer 

This year we are targeting the Saturday before Father’s Day as the only day of the campaign. Father’s Day is June 19, so our campaign will be on Saturday, June 18.

How can you pledge? Go to this link and fill out the simple form. When you fill out the form it will record your pledge to help us reach our goals. You will receive an email from us within 24 hours confirming we have received the pledge.

We will publish the count of protesters shortly after Father’s Day along with instructions for payment.

How can you help? Share this with your friends, or anyone you think would be interested.

 

Pledge-A-Picketer 2016

We started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser in 2010, and have been doing it every year since then with great success.  It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge whatever you choose for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts and abortion access. Escorts use this fund drive for legal expenses, training costs, safety supplies, parking fees for patients and other miscellany.

Traditionally there are three big event days when a large number of anti-abortion protesters come to the clinic. The Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day and the Saturday before Father’s Day used to be the biggest protester days of the year at EMW Women’s Surgical Center. When we first started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser, we targeted the Saturday before Mother’s Day as the day to count protesters.  As the numbers on this day have dropped, some protesters have attributed the drop to them not wanting to contribute to the success of our fundraiser. I don’t really believe them. I think they are having problems bringing out large numbers because of more public awareness that abortion is part of healthcare and a human right. Plus, the sidewalk anti-abortion people are being viewed as the bullies they are by more people.

Here is the history of their turnouts from the years we counted. Notice the dropping numbers.

  • Easter weekend: From 170 protesters in 2009 to 60 protesters in 2016.
  • Mother’s Day weekend: From 275-325 protesters in 2009 to 100 protesters in 2015
  • Father’s Day weekend: From 300 protesters in 2009 to 108 protesters in 2015

Last year we combined the Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and the Saturday before Father’s Day and called it Spring Pledge-a-Picketer. This year we are targeting the Saturday before Father’s Day as the only day of the campaign. Father’s Day is June 19, so our campaign will be on Saturday, June 18.

The day before Father’s Day remains a large turnout day for anti-abortion protesters, mostly because it is the day the Sisters for Life come out. Sisters for Life members, including their director, Mrs. Angela Minter, do “sidewalk counseling” weekly in front of the clinic. Angela is known to harass people she recognizes and then call their family members to report they went into the clinic. That’s not really counseling, but you can see for yourself. Here is a video of her being carried out of the clinic when she trespassed following in someone she recognized.

 

This is a different Angela than she presents in front of the news cameras or when she endorsed Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

This will be the 8th year Sisters for Life has their fundraising drive of “Fathers for Life Day Walk or Bike.” They charge a registration that gets everyone a matching t-shirt and walk or bike to the clinic to carry signs, sing and block the sidewalk and entrance of the clinic.

A picture and a video is worth a 1000 words. Here’s FML’s article from last year’s demonstration on Father’s Day weekend. We stood in the pouring rain, fighting umbrellas while being sung to over and over. My personal favorites are the songs they make up on the spur of the moment. They don’t always go as intended and are frequently unintentionally funny.

How can you pledge? Go to this link and fill out the simple form. When you fill out the form it will record your pledge to help us reach our goals. You will receive an email from us within 24 hours confirming we have received the pledge.

We will publish the count of protesters shortly after Father’s Day along with instructions for payment.

How can you help? Share this with your friends, or anyone you think would be interested.

 

Shining A Spotlight

In early April, I wrote an article called “Documenting Fear.” In that article I described the steps Louisville Clinic Escorts are taking to document the actions of the anti-abortion protesters in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, KY.

We are ready to take the next step. We have been working with the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP) to develop recruiting criteria, training materials and guidelines for deploying Legal Observers in front of the clinic on Saturday mornings. We have had our first training and the observers will soon be on the sidewalk.

These legal observers are not escorts. They are not counter-protesters. They are just observers. They will be signing strict non-engagement and confidentiality agreements. They will not be talking to escorts or anti-abortion protesters. They will be writing observations, taking photos, sound recordings and videos. They will respect the patient’s privacy at all times. The observers will work in pairs. You will be able to identify them by their red wristbands.

What are they documenting? Harassment, threatening speech, pushing, shoving, blocking, local ordinance violations, such as noise or sign ordinance violations, plus police presence and their responses. They will be recording information about new protesters on the sidewalk, including vehicle information. They will be watching for any potential escalation into violence. They are the eyes and ears outside the clinic. Reports will be shared with the clinic staff, and when necessary the LMPD, FBI, DOJ and NCAP.

Why are we doing this now? All across the nation clinics have seen a dramatic increase in threatening speech and actions in front of their clinics. The anti-abortion rhetoric within the GOP presidential candidates’ campaigns have not helped the atmosphere for abortion access at all. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) published statistics in April 2016 that show we aren’t imagining this, the incidents of threats and violence did increase dramatically in 2015.

We hope the deployment of these volunteers will make a difference in the sidewalk atmosphere. If they don’t, they will shine a bright spotlight on behavior that is not “counseling”, “grandmotherly” or “loving” at all by documenting what they see under that spotlight.

Stay tuned for updates on how it goes.

Documenting Fear

There have been so many articles written about abortion, abortion access, clinics, anti-abortion protesters and reproductive justice issues in the past five years. It’s not surprising, because since 2010 states have considered almost 400 abortion restriction bills and have adopted 288 of them. Most of these restrictions were TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). It doesn’t seem that any of the GOP legislators are listening to anyone except their anti-abortion constituents.

This week the Town Hall meeting with Chris Matthews gathered enormous news coverage when Donald Trump said he believes if abortion is legally banned, women should be punished for an abortion. Of course, when the media storm broke over his comments there was a “misspeak” retraction. What I found most interesting was the flurry of articles stating women are already being punished for abortion and it is still legal. They are punished by those TRAP law effects and the anti-abortion protesters present every single day in front of clinics around the country. Their Freedom of Speech rights allows the protesters to call women murderers, follow patients to the door at abortion clinics, harassing and bullying them. Every. Single. Day.

The Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law in 2014. Since that decision, buffer zones have either not been proposed or have been revised downwards in several cities. The court decided in the case of Massachusetts, the 35-foot buffer zone law they had was too big and impeded the grandmotherly “sidewalk counselors” in exercising their First Amendment rights.

However, the idea has still percolated that a smaller buffer zone might work for everyone. The anti-abortion protesters will have to yell across a shorter space and can still hand out pamphlets, but they will not be able to block the entrances or stop patients from entering an abortion clinic to exercise a legal health care procedure.

Louisville Clinic Escorts have been working with the National Clinic Access Project and the staff at EMW Women’s Surgical Center for the past few months to document the type of intimidation experienced by patients entering the only full-time abortion clinic in Kentucky. We have started by presenting anonymous questionnaires to the patients on what they experienced from protesters on their arrival at EMW Women’s Surgical Center for their appointments. We have gathered the questionnaire answers for a month and the results are interesting.

I would like to focus on just a few of the answers, but the full results are at this link. Be sure to read the comments. They are from truly frightened people. 2016 March Monthly Report-EMW Client Questionnaire

This graph has some answers to some of the questions we have about the potential for violence in front of the clinic.  

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If over 50% of the patients say the protesters made them feel scared and nervous, it isn’t counseling. It is intimidation. If 38% of patients say they thought about confronting protesters and 12% of them did, it isn’t counseling. It is harassment. What happens if all 38% confront the anti-abortion protesters? Do we have assault and counter-assault charges being filed against the protesters? Does it escalate into violence in an instant? If 50% say the noise level bothered them very much, it isn’t counseling. It is intimidation. What other medical practice is it allowed for protesters to step in front of patients and block their entrance 41% of the time? That is a violation of the FACE Act.  

Are you listening to us? Is it time to say, enough? We need a buffer zone in front of the clinic in Louisville. 15’ would be wonderful, but even 8’ would allow patients to enter a safe space before they walk into the clinic. When is it time to truly protect our citizens instead of proposing TRAP laws that pretend to be for the pregnant person’s health, but really have the end goal of stopping legal abortion?

We will continue gathering the questionnaires. We will continue to document the harassment, intimidation, violations of city and state ordinances, and incidents of violence. I dream of the day when we don’t have to fight daily battles in the struggle to access abortion.