About wench

Wench is based in Louisville KY. We work collectively to learn and feel empowered to find and use tools to take better care of ourselves and our communities through a holistic understanding of health in many forms

Extremists FAIL to close KY’s only clinic

This morning Rusty Thomas lead a sit-in, blockading the entrance to the clinic in a clear attempt to prevent access to EMW. About a dozen people including a few minors (one infant) sat on the clinic’s property and refused to move, while at least 100 onlookers gathered around, creating the wildest spectacle I’ve seen in my 18 years as a Louisville Clinic Escort.

I was approaching the entrance with a client, just a few minutes after the doors were unlocked. We were having the usual light conversation when I observed that the scene at the door was different than the usual massive cluster fuck of bullies. Instead of anti’s swarming at us and lining the sidewalk with signs, they were all tightly packed near the entrance. Then I noticed everyone was holding their phones up and pointing them at a swarm of people who I could tell were on the property. I told the person I was walking with that it looked like some trespassing was happening, and invited her to step to the other side of the parked cars and continue walking with me around the block. I figured we would head to her car and figure it out from there. Once we passed the clinic and rounded the corner, other escorts told me to head to the alley, where escorts were holding space at the back gate, which is usually reserved for clinic staff. We were able to walk folks to the alley and in the back door and NO APPOINTMENTS WERE MISSED thanks to the quick actions of escorts and staff who train to stay focused on safety and client needs.

Police were already on the scene, and responded pretty quickly, but were generally helpful and gentle to the offenders who face trespassing charges, and were in clear violation of the FACE Act. I can’t help but notice the contrast between the treatment that this type of behavior is met with compared to how individuals within the Movement for Black Lives are treated by law enforcement……

After holding space at the alley driveway for period I moved to the front of the building again where police had blocked the street and were detaining the trespassers on the opposite side of the street from the clinic. The remainder of the morning’s debacle was broadcast live from our Every Saturday Morning Facebook page. Watch that here: https://www.facebook.com/LouClinicEscrts/videos/10154291275180146/ or at the bottom of this post.

We are really thankful to everyone who has reached out and offered LCE support this morning. Our volunteers did a fabulous job of showing up for access this morning. We know we have not seen the last of this sort of behavior, and we expect the worst from these extremist terrorists. Contributions to LCE legal defense fund can be made via paypal to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com.

#EMWStaysOpen!!!

Bowling over barriers to abortion access

Louisville Clinic Escorts will be going balls out to strike down barriers to access at the Kentucky Support Network‘s Bowlathon again this year.

KSN provides practical support to people in and around Kentucky who are seeking abortions and need support overcoming barriers to access. The Bowlathon is the main way KSN raises funds to pledge towards clients procedures, pay for transportation assistance, and cover other practical needs.

If you’re in the area, we would LOVE to see you at this fun event (even if you don;t like to bowl, there will be prizes, entertainment, and lots of awesome folks! here is the link to the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/697645673710272/

Whether you’re closeby or not, please consider making a donation to KSN so they can continue to fulfill this very real need, as restrictions to abortion in Kentucky seem to be the newest trend in Frankfort. Bowlathon pledges can be made through this link:

http://bowlathon.nnaf.org/fundpage.asp?Branchid=88

pick a team, any team! and of course, you can donate any time through the website linked above.

THANKS!

 

 

Ranting and Raving on Abortion Provider Appreciation Day

Alternate title: Two Facebook Rants that Deserve to be Seen.

But first, for the raving part….

WE ARE SO VERY GRATEFUL TO THE BRAVE PEOPLE WHO PROVIDE ABORTIONS TO THOSE WHO NEED AND WANT THEM!! Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer providers, as abortion access continues to be under attack from anti abortion demonstrators, extremists, and legislators. This is why it is SO important that we show our appreciation to the kind and brilliant doctors, staff, and volunteers who work in the face of perpetual hurdles. The services performed by these heroes literally save people’s lives, and can preserve a quality of life for those who aren’t able to stay pregnant, or become parents (again, right now, or at all). I am not going to take this space to spout about the attacks taking place in our state, and our region right now, ranging from vandalism to lawsuits and more new laws to make it harder to both operate a clinic, and to access an affordable procedure without having to travel long distances. Most of our readers are aware of these matters, and can follow the links to the stories about dwindling access. So, for now I’ll repeat a loud and proud THANK YOU to all of the folks working to provide abortion care. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. WE NEED YOU. PLEASE DON’T STOP.

And now…. For the ranting.

Below you will find separate contributions from two different women. We are friends, but did not collaborate on or draw inspiration from each other’s rants in any way. They both center around privilege (our own, and that of those around us), and are appropriate in these times when there is an unprecedented level of tension, both in this country as we head towards a heated presidential election, and in Kentucky as we feel the impact of our new Governor Matt Bevin, who is doing his damndest to punish and oppress people for being poor, queer, trans, non-white, or any person who wants to practice a variety of religions, or (GASP!) have sex for some reason other than procreation.

The first section is taken from a comment thread on a Facebook post that mentioned voting, and linked this NYT article titled Abortion Witch Hunt. It culminates in a rant. I (the author behind “wench” on esm) made the original post, did the ranting, and have omitted the name of my FB friend.

The second section is a touching poem by a woman I have known for a very long time, and have a ton of respect for. We will call her D. D posted her poem on Facebook and I asked permission to share it here, as I thought it fit nicely. Please enjoy and share!

……………….

Him: Are you guys fighting for Bernie? Because if not $hillary is likely to get smoked in the general election. How’ya like for Trumperific years, or maybe the Cruzinator? BERNIE OR BUST! Times drawing near.

Me: I am voting for Bernie, but I think Hillary will win the nomination. I can’t really get down with what feels like a coercive threat: Vote for Bernie or be punished. I’m also not gonna fight with other Dems / feminists about what might be happening in 2017 when Bevin is actively trampling on the rights of so many KYians today.

Him:  Never mind, I’m not contributing to the abortion witch hunt, sorry to inject something as unimportant as the Presidential election, Furthermore, I won’t say a word about the ridiculousness of anyone considering $hillary a feminist. Lastly, it was no threat, but many Bernie supporters, myself included will never vote for the criminal racket that HRC, the DNC and their mega-money overseers comprise. Bernie beats trump by 8% in the polls right now, $hillary beats him by 4% and while Bernie beats all the other GOP candidates handily $hillary loses to them all. Have a nice day!

Me:  I wasn’t referring to HRC as a feminist. I was referring to her supporters. I truly hope Bernie wins the nomination. If he doesn’t, I’ll do what I’ve done every election since my first when I voted Nader in 2000 and lived through 8 more Bush years. I’ll vote for Not Trump.

I know there are Berners who won’t vote HRC. You may not call it a threat or punishment, but there is a palpable difference between intent and impact there. That’s no way to teach any lessons. That’s your privilege showing.

H: My privilege? I’m listening

M: yes. I’m not sure if you want me to elaborate on the privileges that you enjoy in this culture (the fact that you are seen as an able bodied, strong, heterosexual, white, cisgender man, and all the leeway you get with that… the fact that you and your family members have had access to education throughout your lives….. your ability to gain employment and maintain job security at not one but two well established and highly regarded institutions)…… Or if you’re wanting me to elaborate on the privileges inherent to the concept that by refusing to support a democratic presidential candidate, just because it’s not *your* preferred person, as a way of punishing those of us who you don’t think are fighting hard enough for your preferred candidate, you are teaching us some kind of lesson by making us suffer through Trump (or any republican contender) because you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for the lesser of two evils.

These hardcore Berners you’re aligning yourself with aren’t the people whose loved ones will be deported (or murdered or waterboarded) in the name of immigration reform or anti terrorism efforts. y’all won’t be the ones losing your homes in real estate collapses, then housing project demolitions and section 8 cuts. Your kids won’t be the ones whose class sizes swell well above 35 children per one tired, underpaid adult in schools with no arts programs. Or whose teenagers get charged as adults and shuttled through the school to prison pipeline because they’re seen as troubled at-risk thugs who are a threat to society. The absence of these disadvantages and countless more are some of reasons why the approach of punishing dems for not nominating Bernie is a very privileged one.

That covered some of the class and race privilege in this approach. To make it more personal for myself, as a person who enjoys some privileges as a (somewhat) educated white cis-woman: what might happen to health care? to marriage equality? and i’m not just talking about abortion access… i’m talking about being able to keep my home (or car, or phone) if I have to spend time in the ER or ICU for some reason, or end up needing long term treatment for an ailment. if I could afford, for example inpatient cancer treatment, or hospice care, would a partner who can’t be a legal spouse have rights regarding my care or benefits? going Trump is going backwards, just like we are seeing with Bevin now.

but since it came up, and since the original post was about abortion access, and now we are talking about male privilege… I can’t tell if you mentioned not being in on the abortion witch hunt meaning you’re not taking part in the hunt, or it that doesn’t concern you, but those sentiments both fall under: Your Male Privilege Showing.
Here is just one way men will be affected if Bevin stays his course in eliminating *LEGAL* abortion in KY (note that abortions will happen even if illegal, so here is a freebee example where a mother of 3 leaves behind dad and kids by trying to self abort and hemorrhaging to death) so currently a couple living in Louisville or Lexington can decide to terminate a pregnancy and do so after making a phone call and waiting 24 hours, IF they have $750+ laying around. Bevin has already made it to where two trips to the clinic will be required in addition to the original phone call (this will go into effect this summer). so now imagine if the charge Bevin has filed closes that clinic in Lexington. a couple who lives in a suburb east of Lexington now will have to make two trips to Louisville for the procedure. this will mean two adults taking two days off work, possibly having to pay for childcare both days, plus gas expenses (if there is a vehicle) and possibly a hotel, or more gas…… or stay with friends but that might be uncomfortable, and again is a privilege of knowing people with a big enough home in the city.

so you see, there is a LOT of privilege in thinking it’s ok to choose the option of teaching the milquetoast feminists a lesson by punishing us with trump because y’all can’t bear to support a candidate that’s not *your* candidate.

(end rant. These comments took place over the course of two+ days. There have only been crickets post rant.)

……………………………………..

A rant. By D

My whiteness is a cloak. It is a invisible cloak that protects me from the bigots and fascists. It blocks me knowing. It makes me a party to racism whenever I stay quiet.

I wear it without realizing how much it protects me. I want to rip it off layer by layer so I can become more emboldened to not lie and lay
silent when by its lack of color one believes I am a comrade for hate.

Out of what I was taught to do cloaked and white. I smile and nod confining and defining the very bigotry I claim to hate and oppose. Sweetness is not the antithesis to racism. Racists can be sweet as hell saying “would you like a big ol glass a sweet tea?”

Layer by layer I will take off the cloak and I need to do it with care. Underneath there are the others layers I use the cloak to protect. My lower class background, divorced, in poverty working class self, my queerness, my child’s disability, my families mental illness and suicide history.

None of those things. None of those things. Did I say that? None of those things are as powerful to define me as the privilege of the cloak of this white skin.

For that is my truth.

Because of it I must listen to the ones uncloaked fearless or in fear and learn.

Because of my cloak I must learn to speak to ones who wear it too.

To call them out and ask them to tear my cloak off too.

I will falter and it will hurt but it will never be the pain of those I seek to understand.

It will never be the pain I cannot comprehend.

Growing pains can be hard but I’m taking the step in faith for a world where we all come to a table and our skin is removed.

Blood spills and is mixed. The river of us all renewed.

The Morning after Robert Dear was allowed to surrender alive.

This past Saturday was the first time in over 16 years of escort that I had to send “safe” texts to loved ones after I left the clinic.

Clinic escorts are accustomed to dealing with scary people. Some of the most frightening people I have encountered in my 16 years as an escort have been white men. Some seem more stable than others. Some seem more sober than others. 12295325_10153631366470399_7791018100278684395_n

It will never cease to amaze me how entitled these men feel to forcing their beliefs and morals onto complete strangers who are doing what they know is best for themselves and their loved ones. I have often guessed that some of the people who come to protest at our clinic aren’t there out of compassion for life, or as a way to care for pregnant people or their potential offspring. I think some of them come out because the sidewalk protests are a place where it is socially acceptable to bully people. The ways that they use their bodies, their massive signs, and their words, with or without amplifiers to shame and intimidate others is praised by their peers in this space. it is bullying at it’s best, and domestic terrorism at worst.

This past Friday (the day after thanksgiving, when many clinics were closed for the holiday and many americans were acting some type of way in the name of capitalism) we were reminded of what can happen when entitled and potentially unstable people decide to take action against what they have been convinced is wrong, even if it has no actual bearing on them – whatsoever. In the aftermath we are seeing anti choicers react in various ways. Some are openly praising the attack. some are trying to wash their hands of any remote responsibility. I demand accountability. Unfortunately, I will have to be very patient. Robin Marty explains better than I can about how even the sidewalk prayers need to hold themselves and each other accountable for the Robert Dears and the Scott Roeders of the world, for they are not going away, they’re getting inspired.

It is still unclear what exact message Dear wanted to send with his actions. Survivors of Dear’s murderous hissy fit have stated he said “no more baby parts” so we can infer that he was acting against PP while drawing inspiration from the widely disproven “sting” videos that were released earlier this year. One thing we can be sure of is that Dear wasn’t doing this out of a logically driven compassion for life (as his supporters may wish to believe) since he clearly aimed to cause great harm with his actions, and ultimately killed three people and injured nine others. His victims included an officer of the law who was doing his job, plus two civilians, both People of Color. Both accustomed to life without the privileges afforded Dear and most clinic protesters (who *if* they recognize their white privilege, almost certainly think they deserve it.) It was Dear’s white privilege that allowed him to surrender alive, even after killing an officer and two innocent bystanders. I saw someone make a comment about whether the police bought Dear a fast food treat on the way to jail, referencing the greasy kudos Dylann Roof was given after his Charleston SC shooting spree. My stomach churned knowing that this is the reality of this day and age.

These rather unpleasant thoughts are part of our day to day reality now. These are the facts that we cannot ignore while we are on the sidewalk, creating and holding space for people. We can’t forget that our own clinic has been under attack very recently. We must consider our own safety in addition to that of everyone on the sidewalk. Above all that we know we cannot let these bullies prevail. so, what can be done? That is a great question, and one that is being asked in and of escort and other access groups constantly right now. The answers are varied and unclear, but one thing we know we have to do is use our voices and demand accountability. Share this post, and the ones linked herein. Encourage others to speak up. It is our duty to change the narrative that it’s socially acceptable for white men to tell people how to lead their lives – lest they end them for us.

Escorts double down in the face of clinic property destruction

This past week, the clinic we escort at suffered it’s second act of property destruction within a three week span. People have used words including ‘insanity’ and ‘domestic terrorism’ when reacting to what happened. The pic below was taken by an escort on Thursday morning. More details about this and the previous attack (also resulting in a broken window) can be found in this article.

broken glass door

Now, as you might imagine, while police, clinic staff, and whatever additional parties have been filling out papers and watching surveillance footage, those of us on the sidewalk are going through our own reactions and feelings about this. Destruction of this property does not directly affect escorts. It’s not our window to replace. It’s not even our bosses’ window, as we are all volunteers and are only loosely connected to this clinic. That said, the indirect impact on escorts could possibly be more tangible than what the clinic staff has dealt with.

Five days a week, escorts stand toe-to-toe (often literally) with the people who encourage and enable this kind of extreme aggression to grow and thrive. We hold space and absorb hateful remarks day after day. We have been assaulted, and had our buttons pushed too many times to count. Escorts often harden themselves to the awful things that are spewed at us, but we can’t help but hear what is said, and we are often triggered by the terrible things that are said to clients and escorts: slut shaming, racism, low jabs about people’s physical features, bringing up personal details about people’s children, or lost loved ones. Remarks obviously meant to hurt us from people claiming to be there out of a love for life (and presumably people…)  It is bullying. We know this.

The bullies who come to protest – to exercise their freedom of speech – come for many reasons. Many come for reasons rooted in some sort of morals they’ve been taught. Some come from a place of misdirected compassion. There are those who are truly peaceful and simply pray. As far as I am concerned, none of it is ok. The reason why not is clearly demonstrated by the photo above. As long as people are kneeling and praying, and showing up to make their statement that they believe what someone else is doing with their body and life is wrong, to me they are enabling these broken windows. I think that people who drag their young children out in the cold to stand on a sidewalk and shame others are contributing to a culture that encourages rocks through clinic windows. We know from history that it doesn’t stop at bricks. (Search Drs. David Gunn and George Tiller, plus clinic bombings, etc.)

Sometimes it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of such a sick and widespread culture, but as justice advocates we are never alone and we are powerful too.

The escort who snapped the photo of the broken door also talked about how on that very windy morning little pieces of glass kept clinking on the ground as the clients entered the clinic. I was not there that morning, but to me it sounds a little eerie, and maybe stressful. I was glad to hear that the glass was replaced that day, and even more pleased to read the encouraging quotes from the clinic director in the article linked above.

Something like violence at a nearby abortion clinic isn’t something to be taken lightly, and for those of us there regularly, it won’t be easily forgotten.

This week the impact on those who occupy both ‘sides’ on the sidewalk has been strong. Someone described the protesters there this Saturday as possibly giddy (sick, huh?) As escorts we create and hold space because we think sidewalk bullying is wrong. After such an incident, I think we all feel especially convicted to hold that space a little differently now; deeper, perhaps.

So, when I say we are doubling down in the face of these attacks, i guess you could picture a number of things. It’s got nothing to do with triple-meat sandwiches, despite us being in Kentucky. It’s got more to do with practicing what we already do pretty damn well, but maybe through a cracked lens, if you will.

Things we will continue to NOT do:

  • Bring signs that add to visual clutter/chaos for clients and really carry messages more for the protesters, which might escalate tension. Signs are also often used to block and shove, and none of that is part of escorting.
  • Swarm clients and obstruct the sidewalk the way protesters do.
  • Start campaigns to recruit more escorts. We are constantly training new escorts and engaging interested people, but we don’t need to recruit. The protesters, legislators and media do that for us.

Things we will continue to practice (possibly with a little more depth now):

  • Gain consent from every client before walking and talking with them.
  • Keep de-escalation in mind at all times.
  • Hold space as best we are able.
  • Make client experiences our main focus. We are not there for antis.
  • Limit engagement with protesters, because to do otherwise might justify their presence in their minds. (This is by far the hardest, and is almost impossible to practice all the time, but when we do the result is remarkable. Also, not all escorts practice non-engagement the same way, and that’s ok too)

Of course we will keep doing lots of other things too, like adapting to changes as they come our way and doing our best to not make assumptions about folks we see on the sidewalk. Most importantly, just like the clinic staff has promised, we will keep showing up.

Have you pledged yet?

As you may know, we are in the final days of our Pledge-A-Picketer drive, and we are hopeful that you, kind reader, are feeling generous and willing to make a pledge to benefit groups working on the frontlines everyday to improve access to abortion in Kentucky.

Please find a summary of how the fundraiser works below.  You can donate by filling out the form linked in the text if you want to pledge per protester this coming Saturday, or you can donate a flat amount with an easy click here:

 

Pledge-A-Picketer details:

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You pledge so much for each protester who shows up on the day before Mother’s Day (historically one of our largest protest days), we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts {vests, training costs, and other miscellany} and abortion access.

Make your pledge here. Donate.

One Louisvillian’s report from Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice

Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice.  There is a lot to be said for making a point to create a space – a whole conference – for activists, advocates, academics, and service providers to caucus about the challenges they face in their communities around a so many topics. These issues (birth, pregnancy, abortion, HIV, sex, LGBTQIA health, education, economic rights, racism…) face so many attacks, and it is important for those of us working to address these challenges to be able to learn and share with each other. it’s amazing how much there is in common, but surprising to learn how very different things are in other places (and, based on my observations, some things are worse than you can imagine, in a place you probably haven’t thought of…)

So, I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to attend the Take Root conference for a second year in a row, thanks to the support of Louisville’s Reproductive Rights /Justice communities.

In addition to the support I received from our local folks, I was especially honored to be invited to sit on a panel by the Take Root organizers.  The panel I took part in was titled Visions for Our Movement: Service and Practical Support in Red States. I was proud to represent the Kentucky Support Network, and the Louisville Clinic Escorts alongside individuals from Backline, Trust Women in Wichita, Cicada Collective in Texas, the Bay Area Doula Project, and Defending the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi.  It was exciting to stand alongside folks who are also doing client based support work based on the various challenges that are faced by folks in different places.  One of the most unifying (and gratifying) points that was shared by a number of us was the powerful experience of being a space holder, and a story bank of sorts, as we offer an informed ear over a hotline, or a steady hand on the sidewalk, to people who are dealing with stigma, a lack of support, a deficit in resources, and other barriers.  Hearing that point being made by other people, and knowing how large of a piece it plays for me in the work I do was very satisfying.

After my panel, there was a followup session with breakout activities where small groups from different places collaborated on various topics.  I was excited to brainstorm with a range of folks about ways to move the conversation away from just abortion in order to cultivate a unified movement towards justice across lines of difference.   We talked about how important intersectionality is in this work.  How it is vital for reproductive rights advocates to ally themselves with folks working on voter rights, HIV advocacy, LBGT health, economic human rights, mental health, on and on… so that we are able to stand together as we fight, because it is impossible to separate the various aspects of a whole person’s complex identity.  We cannot expect people to forget that their skin is brown, or their kids are hungry, or that they need access to healthcare, because we also want them to lobby for voter rights, just like we can’t expect a transman to ignore the importance of pap smears while trying to adopt a child with their partner who is up against the fact they have a non violent marijuana charge from ten years ago on their record… for example.

On top of the two sessions about practical support, I attended two other workshops.  One entitled HIV, Self Determination, and Cultural Safety explored the challenges faced by people in various circumstances and we heard from panelists doing work on a national level through various orgs, and on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi.  A major takeaway from that discussion was that HIV is not the problem for lots of folks that are positive.  The problem lies in a lack of access to care, and in systems that are constructed to continually oppress people who are already facing a lack of resources.

The next session I attended a presentation called We’re here! We’re queer! We’re sober!: Assessing Ourselves and Our Environment.  This presentation focused on intentional sobriety, or intentional use of substances, as a way to foster conversations about safety, stigma, and the reasons why we are taught to suppress our desires, and trained to feel like we need substances in order to be comfortable in intimate settings. We also talked about the problematic nature of a culture that is built on buying and consuming substances as a way to feel like we can come together in spaces that are supposed to be “safer” spaces to be ourselves in.

Outside of workshops, I was delighted to see faces, familiar and new, as we exchanged cards and smiles on the way to lunch or in the halls between sessions. The highlights for me included hearing from Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women during her keynote address where she spoke of people being denied bodily autonomy and other human rights for the simple reason that they were pregnant.  Her speech included the stories of people who were not just being denied abortion access.  She spoke of a woman who was threatened with arrest to comply with a doctor’s wish to perform a medically unnecessary cesarean procedure, and told us about multiple people who were jailed in an attempt to prevent them from having abortions including one woman who was sent to jail from a hospital without examination, where she died of an ectopic pregnancy.

The conference was closed out with an incredible closing plenary by Deon Haywood of Women with a Vision who gave us a picture of what is going on in New Orleans where there is a staggeringly disproportionate number of women (especially black women and black trans women) who are being prosecuted for sex work and “crimes against nature” (such as anal sex, and oral sex). As a result, these women are being placed on the national sex offender registry which carries countless repercussions on their entire lives, including but not limited to their rights to raise their children, and also the ability to find a job.

I am very thankful to be part of such a supportive community here in KY that allowed me to access such an amazing and inspiring broader community so I can learn and continue to strengthen the work I do.  Here’s hoping I can go back next year.

here are a few links for more projects that I was fortunate to make connections to this time around:

Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center

http://colorlatina.org/

http://www.1in3campaign.org/en/

Indy Feminists

http://prochoiceohio.org/

http://www.ircrc.org/

http://www.womendonors.org/

support in a vortex

before the inception of this blog, we escorts were essentially existing in a vacuum.  we had minimal support from the clinic we volunteer outside of, and very little connection to those who escorted before us.  we had no idea what protesting looked like at clinics in other places, or how bad we really had it here.

since ESM’s birth (how old is this blog now?) we have had the privilege of meeting and working with access advocates from all over the US, and even abroad.  for us bible belters, it’s been very encouraging to no longer feel so isolated, and it’s impossible to quantify the value of the connections that have been made in these last… (fine, i’ll go check) …SIX years!  Our methods on and off of the sidewalk have changed immensely, and our numbers have grown shockingly.  lots has changed in the 14 years i’ve been escorting, and especially since this blog has been helping spread the word (go ‘head internet) but lots has stayed the same as well.

some things we can always count on:

  • oppressive legislation – take action!
  • uninformed assumptions from protesters
  • misleading promises of loving adoptions and paid expenses
  • sickening use of children as political tools
  • and (more to the point of this post) a post holiday break rush at clinics across the states

now, i apologize for not having awesome links for each of my bullets, but you’re a smart reader who has possibly seen these things first hand, or at least read about them here, or somewhere else, (plus i know you know how to use google).  yep, most of those are fairly well known things, EXCEPT maybe for the last one.  I can’t remember how long ago we put it together that there is a reason why we see an increase in client load starting in January, and lasting through March… it’s the same reason why there are more babies born in spring and summer months than other times of year.  starting in the late fall, folks get snuggly, and no matter how lively the football season is, there are other indoor (undercover) activities that folks tend to pass the time with… (ok, i know you get it, and as much as i may want to, i won’t fill a whole blog post with sexual innuendo.)

this year, i am learning more about how this pregnancy rush affects people, and that escorts and clinic staff are not the only ones feeling the squeeze from higher client numbers.  In the last year I became a volunteer for one of two organizations here in Kentucky that provide support for people seeking abortions and facing barriers to access.  this work has given me new insights to the hurdles people face before they even get to the sidewalk, including, but not limited to a lack of funds to cover the procedure, which is more expensive here than at most other clinics.

the group i volunteer with (which has chosen to not be mentioned here for security reasons – funny how stigma works, huh?) started to see an increase in calls for assistance right as 2014 arrived, and in just two weeks, the caseload has just about tripled from what we were seeing before the holidays (and these are mostly pregnancies that began in October… so we’re not even hearing from people who got pregnant over christmas break, or during the recent POLAR VORTEX yet).  so, as we’ve been scrambling to support people as they seek funding for their abortions, we’ve reached out to other groups doing similar work, as well as the clinic here, at which point we learned that not only does this rush happen every year, but it almost always depletes the funds available for this type of support.

this brings me to my point, which is that until abortion is not only legal, but is truly accessible and AFFORDABLE – on demand and without apology –  those of us with more privilege than other folks (and if you’re reading this on a computer that is not at a library, let’s assume you have more privilege than a number of folks in your community) have a responsibility to do what we can to support people facing barriers to access, until we can do away with the barriers.  i don’t mean to imply that donating to an abortion fund is the only way to offer support, but for many folks it as an easy way to make a difference.

if you’d like to donate to one of our local abortion funds, you can send a contribution via PayPal to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com.  include a note about funding abortion, and i’ll be sure it gets where it needs to go.

to learn more about abortion funds, check out http://www.fundabortionnow.org/

The counting of the antis

this year was our fourth annual pledge a picketer fund drive. Each year i learn something, and am surprised by different things about these mass protests. Now, major protest holiday, or not, each escort experiences the sidewalk differently, and we are all surprised by different things and (hopefully) learning each time we escort. We also talk about how we must be careful to not become completely desensitized to the atrocities that folks accessing medical care must endure, lest we forget that clients do not experience this weekly, and have totally different perspectives than the escorts have. Keeping this in mind is important to allow escorts to accompany clients and companions in a compassionate way.

But, back to pledge-a-picketer, and specifically my experience with counting the anti’s on this special day…

on the large protest days we see many many antis that are not usually on the sidewalk. The protesters turn these days into family events and bring their little gaggles of kiddos to stand around in the wee hours of the morning. It saddens me (as a childcare professional, and auntie to many little ones) to watch these kids wiggle and bounce as they try to stave off boredom and be “good children” while their grownups use them as political tools to shame the clients who are making the best decision they can for their own families. I try to smile at the kids, but after 13 years of this, I have stopped trying to imagine the things that their grownups tell them about the escorts, and the people going into the clinic.

So, on Pledge a Picketer day, there are a few key moments that we pay attention to. The crowd starts gathering close to 6:30am, and is largely in place by 7, though protesters trickle in for the next 15 minute or so. Clients usually start showing up about ten til 7 (we encourage them to wait in their cars, but they can stand outside the doors if they really want to). The most anticipated moment is when the doors to the clinic open, usually about 7:15. This moment is followed by 10-20 minutes of extreme chaos where floating escorts signal each other and the clients and companions waiting in cars that the door is open and if they are ready, it is time to walk. The chaos emanates from the chasers (floating protesters) and the prayer gauntlet, which on days like this one stretches 2/3rds of the length of the long city block. Escorts strategize paths of least resistance, but the antis do their best to block our paths, and the unavoidable area in front of the door is always congested and aggressive.

That intense 20 minute period is when everyone spends their adrenaline for the morning. Once the client rush slows down, a number of us have the thought that it’s about time to start counting. This is a humorous process for a number of reasons (to me anyway).

This is where I admit that our counting process is anything but advanced, or even accurate. I ask 3-4 other floating escorts to count at the same time that I do. A few of us will count more than once, and we take the highest number (y’all are cool with that, right?)

Now, it’s really tricky to count them, as they move around a lot, and some sort of hide, like the guy who drives his flatbed trailer with the anti abortion billboard on it, but then he sits in his truck the whole time. Make sure to count him for sure. We also joke about how Mary and Angela should count as more than one, since they are hyper aggressive and pushy. And how about the fact that Terry isn’t just preaching from his soapbox, but he has a mic and a small PA today. Can we count that as extra too? (nah)

so, as i walk down the line trying to keep count, i also have to try not to react to the things the antis say and do while i count.  some of them clearly know why we’re counting (sometimes we tell them, and for sure some of them read this blog) but some do not.  as i count in my head i point at each person, you know, the way you would when counting a large number of anything.  a few of them wag their finger back at me.  i wonder if they realize how silly they look, and move on down the row.  a few of them try to mess up my count (fifteen, twenty five, three, ten…) and two ladies tell me to be sure to count their angels.  um, no.

of course we count the babies in carriers and strollers, and yes, i count the obviously pregnant ladies for two.  afterall, they are displaying their big bellies as tools of shame, same as they are their toddlers.. and besides, they count them, right? (this is a LIFE!!)   plus, i am that escort who will call a fetus a baby without shame, and still justify termination as a compassionate option, no matter what the reason is.  of course i can’t have that conversation on the sidewalk.  for one thing that would be engaging, which i try to avoid at all, but also the predictable next step (to call me a murderer) crosses the line of trying to argue logically with an illogical person, hence the non-engagement.

so, yeah, counting is interesting, and entertaining for me anyway, but far from scientific.

also interesting is the way that escort attitudes have been changed about these big days by the pledge a picketer drive.  i remember dreading these big protest days, and in a small way, feeling defeated by their massive numbers.  i guess in that sense the shaming was working on me too.

but now, bring it on suckers!   bring the babies in strollers, and the elderly folks that can’t even stand for the hour and a half. this time they didn’t even make the old nun sit in the usual folding chair, they removed a seat from the van so she could be more comfortable.  that’s right, they put an upholstered car seat on the sidewalk.  what’s next, a recliner?

it’s interesting to feel excited as they roll up en mass.  maybe that’s some desensitization creeping back in on me, but i can’t help being glad knowing that for each of them who turns out to shame people, our generous supporters are shelling out extra bucks to increase access in Kentucky (and surrounding states).  these goof balls are effectively raising money that pays for rides to the clinic, language interpretation, escort vests, and even financial assistance for abortions that some clients cannot afford on their own.

So let’s keep it up, friends!

and thanks again to everyone who has donated, and joined us in creating space on the sidewalk for clients to feel empowered, no matter how circus-like if gets out there.

and now, another look at the madness of the morning…

celebrate access!

We here at Every Saturday Morning are excited to welcome a new organization to the growing force that is demanding better access to abortion in Kentucky.  Abortion Support in Kentucky [ASK] aims to improve access to reproductive healthcare in Kentucky by offering assistance with childcare, transportation, and housing for folks seeking abortion services in Kentucky.

To kick off our week of celebrating the 39th anniversary Roe vs Wade, we are asking that you join us in supporting ASK by making a donation to help them achieve their goals.

Donors of $1-$20 will receive a button.

$21-$50 will receive a hand printed poster.

$51-$100 will receive a button and a poster!

$101+ will receive a poster, two buttons and a Tshirt!!  (be sure to tell us your size and if you prefer red, green, or brown)