About wench

Wench is based in Louisville KY. What started as a Selfcare Health Education Collective in 2005 has bloomed and flourished and exploded and re-rooted and bloomed again and again. We now wench (verb) all over the US and beyond. Many are still in KY fighting for abortion access, repro and racial justice, and bodily autonomy for all.

To: Louisville Metro Council; From: a seasoned and concerned clinic escort.

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There is a lot of discussion of the buffer zone in front of our clinic right now, since the USDOJ is pursuing federal charges against the 10 people who violated the FACE act on May 13. The Temporary Restraining Order will remain in effect until August 4th, and Federal Marshal will continue enforcing it. Some clinic escorts are concerned that when the lines are removed and all the extra law enforcement and news cameras go away, what will remain could be a quite dangerous situation. We are seeing behaviors this week that really compound the need for a small safety zone that will allow clients and their companions to walk from a stopped car to the clinic door without being blockaded by people who feel entitled to force their views on someone else.

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Below is a letter to Louisville’s Metro Council from a veteran escort, urging them to come to the sidewalk and see how essential it is to create safer spaces, and also to assist law enforcement in being able to enforce the laws that exist to preserve everyone’s rights, especially, those of the patient.

July 20, 2017

Louisville Metro Council Members

Dear Council Member:

I was at the Council meeting July 19 for the discussion of a 20 foot buffer zone at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the abortion clinic.  Even if there is no buffer zone created, there are several facts that were not brought up I thought the Council members should be aware of.  I am an escort at the clinic.  One of the escorts had called to get information about the meeting and was told that there wouldn’t be much time for citizen speakers; therefore, few pro-choice supporters were ready with statements.

As escorts we are not counter-protesters.  We’re there to give information to clients about where to park, and to walk with them and their companions to the clinic.  We don’t try to keep them away from the “sidewalk counselors.”  But the patients are often alarmed and worried about the many protesters present.  (They typically outnumber escorts about three to one, especially on Saturdays.)  Opposing sides can’t easily be relegated to certain areas because both protesters and escorts are walking with the clients from the various parking areas to the clinic entrance.

When “counselors” talk to the patients, patients often tell them to leave them alone; but the preaching doesn’t stop.  Some examples of “counseling” are, “You’ll never get over this”, “Your relationship will never be the same”, “Real men don’t kill their babies”, “Don’t be a wimp”, “He’ll leave you after you have that abortion”, and “Your chances of breast cancer are greatly increased after an abortion” (not true).  The patients must pass through a gauntlet of protesters on both sides of the sidewalk on their way to the clinic, only to get there and find a crowd of people they must walk around who are yelling at them (this is typical for Saturdays).  It’s really intimidation and harassment.  Plus, what an insult to women to assume they haven’t thought long and hard about their situation before arriving at the clinic.

Please come down sometime, and see for yourself what it’s like.  But don’t stay in your car.  The police stay in their cars across the street or around the corner and don’t see these details.  I am glad they are finally paying attention to the clinic; I wish they would get out of their cars and be on the sidewalk.

Very truly yours,

PG [name and address omitted for safety]

cc: Chief of Police

Louisville Police Department

EMW Women’s Surgical Center

 

Temporary Restraining Order GRANTED by Federal Judge

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Louisville’s Clinic Escorts are thrilled with the news today that Judge Hale has granted the temporary restraining order against the members of the group who were arrested for blockading Louisville’s only abortion provider in May.

We have been paying close attention to the group since the event was announced late last year, and it has long been clear to us that these individuals intend to violate numerous laws in order to disrupt access. To watch them brag about their intent to do so with the expectation that they will face no repercussions has been infuriating. Today they have received a clear message that their interpretation of the Bible does not place them above the law. After having read the orders, we would like to make a few points clear for our supporters and for all those who may find themselves in the area for various reasons during this time.

First, this is a federal matter, separate from the earlier trespassing charges that resulted in the individuals signing an agreement that they would remain across the street from the clinic. It will be enforced by US Marshals, and not by LMPD.

Second, the TRO applies only the named defendants and their associates or those acting in concert with them. The “buffer zone” in front of the clinic that is being enforced by federal marshals does not, per the order, apply to others. In short, the order does not create a buffer zone as most of us are used to thinking of one: it does not establish a space that is to be free of any protesters. This temporary order is in no way related to recent exploratory talks with Louisville Metro Council about a potential safety zone ordinance.

The marshals enforcing the TRO, and keeping those to whom it applies out of the buffer zone area, will have to decide who qualifies. We do not yet know what that will look like.

Finally, the order explicitly confirms the right of volunteer escorts to be present.

Read the official orders here:

Order

PI Hearing

Where would they go? Part Two – The Patients

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Please also read Part One – the antis, and Part Three – the clinic staff.

Before I get into where the patients would go in the event that controlling power hungry oppressors get their wish, I want to take a moment to make sure our readers truly realize what it already takes for a Kentuckian to get an abortion. In April, Kentucky Health Justice Network outlined the barriers that many folks face before they even get to the clinic in this post:

The True Cost of Abortion in Kentucky

Effective Tuesday April 11, 2017, due to additional overhead from the new ultrasound law, increased staff needs and legal costs, EMW is raising their prices by $50 across the board.  That means the least expensive procedure (medication abortion, using the pill) will cost $700 per person. Someone at 14 weeks will have to pay $1150. Twenty weeks: $2050.

Those procedures costs are some of the highest in the nation, but there are costs far beyond that. Here is a breakdown of what it really costs:

If someone has a negative blood type, they will have to pay extra for a Rhogam shot. $60 if they are under 12 weeks, $150 if they are over 12 weeks.

If they do not live in Jefferson County, they will have to travel up to 250 miles round trip. That requires access to a reliable vehicle, and usually a companion to do the driving post-op. (So, also factor in gas money. Yes, maybe they could fly or ride a greyhound but would they take cabs to and from the airport, bus station, hotel, clinic, etc?)

The law requires they receive informed consent counseling 24 hours before the procedure. Some people take two trips to the clinic for this.  Some do it via web app but that requires access to Internet or smart phone data, plus a safe environment for a video conference call, which can be a big challenge for people in rural areas.

If they are a parent, childcare arrangement must be made, and sometimes paid for.

They may need to stay in Louisville overnight, which could cost $70-100 per night, plus cost of meals while away from home.

All this could require taking 3-5 days off work, which could mean losing a substantial chunk of income, or risking job loss.

All this to access safe legal care, that insurance could cover if it wasn’t for politicians trying to control our bodies and our lives.

THANKS, KHJN for that informative breakdown and also for running the Support Fund, which provides direct and practical support for Kentuckians facing barriers to abortion access, even when they have to travel out of state for care, which brings us back to our title query: Where Would They Go?

Kentucky is bordered by 7 states.

Indiana is home to four abortion clinics, and VP Mike Pence.  Many believe that if KY loses its clinic, IN won’t be too far behind.  I disagree, but have learned in the last year or so to not be too comfy or confident because those in power do intend to strip every right to bodily autonomy away from us, and they are wealthy, resourceful, and punishing- at best. Abortions in Indiana are only available prior to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Ohio has about 3.5 clinics right now.  One clinic in Cincinnati had to modify their services because of harsh restrictions that have no medical justification. For now, that facility can only offer medication abortion (with the pill) prior to 7 weeks of pregnancy, plus pre-op requirements for patients who live close to there, but then would have to travel to another location in Dayton where a termination can be performed.  For many folks living in Central or Northern KY, these OH clinics would be the closest options.

Illinois has some of the least restrictive laws, and several clinics. It is also the Bluegrass State’s neighbor that is least convenient for most KYians to get to. It’s likely that most people traveling to IL for care would be doing so to access abortions later in pregnancy.  Those surgeries can cost as much as $3600 and are often medically necessary due to a variety of complications and health risk.

Missouri is also home to just one clinic- the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. Anyone accessing abortion care in Missouri will be subjected to a SEVENTY-TWO HOUR WAIT, you know, because grown people cannot be trusted to know what they need when they make their doctors appointments. Seems like there would be similar regulations on things like erectile dysfunction meds…oh, wait.. nevermind, LOL. Due to that wait, I cannot imagine KYians choosing MO for an abortion unless they live very close to that state, and have supportive family or friends they can stay with. That medically unnecessarily waiting period is a huge barrier.

Virginia has several clinics, but they are also heavily regulated. Abortions performed beyond the first trimester must be done in a hospital, possibly with the approval of a second physician. There is a 24 hour waiting period, plus mandatory ultrasounds, and parental consent requirements for minors, among lots of other medically unnecessary laws.  Again, KYians needing care would likely only travel to VA if it were convenient for them personally, which is unlikely for the bulk of KY residents.

West Virginia is in a similar boat as KY, with one remaining clinic open in Charleston, which is neighbored by a (you guessed it) crisis pregnancy center- which can be especially confusing for folks coming from out of town. The drive to Charleston and back would be over 500 miles for most KYians.

Tennessee has a handful of abortion clinic, which are of course, outnumbered by deceptive crisis pregnancy centers, including a mobile unit.  Nashville or Bristol has the locations that would be most convenient for Kentuckians being forced to travel for care. Anyone seeking an abortion in TN must endure a 48 waiting period, so we can imagine that a KYian going to TN for care would need a place to stay, or have to make two trips.

All those options are only possibilities for people who have access to resources including social and emotional support, travel capabilities, the freedom and funds to take time off work, and many other hurdles including the biggest one: money.  Most states have one or more abortion fund, and some clinics have financial assistance programs, but for many, the hurdles created by stigma, crisis pregnancy centers, and legislation make it a miracle for folks to even be able to reach a clinic, or a fund in order to get factual information about the care available to them, and what it takes to get there.

We already know that google searches about how to induce an abortion at home are way up. We know that people with mouths to feed and bills to pay will take desperate and dangerous steps to end a pregnancy.  We know that stickers like this pictured below are appearing in public places because groups like Women Help Women want to make sure people have reliable, modern information, rather than questionable “guides” to using cottonroot bark, tansy, pennyroyal, and more to poison oneself in an effort to induce a miscarriage.

Unfortunately, I think the chilling truth that we have to face is that while people with resources will be able to travel to clinics mentioned above, those with fewer privileges in fact have fewer choices, and will likely end up repeating the drastic actions of people in poor, rural, or marginalized communities before Roe vs Wade. As we have already seen, these are also the communities most vulnerable to prosecution for the crime of taking care of their bodies.  This is why it’s vital to preserve access: so people can have compassionate and safe care in a medical setting. If only we can stop clinics from being regulated out of existence.

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Support Access in KY!

Louisville Clinic Escorts are giddy about all the support people are offering us from near and far.

As we’ve mentioned in the statements pictured below, it is not helpful for our supporters to show up at the clinic, BUT other groups have taken the time to be intentional about supporting us in ways that can help community members be engaged in the struggle for access in KY by planning a series of events! Follow these links for more details:

Thursday July 20th – Exclusive FREE Showing of the film Jackson. co-sponsored by EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Louisville Clinic Escorts, and KY A Fund Inc.  ASL interpretation provided!

Friday July 21st – Karaoke with Lady Parts Justice League, ACLU – KY, Kentucky Health Justice Network, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, and more friends!

Saturday July 22nd – LPJL’s Vagical Mystery Tour (with special guests) will be at Headliner’s Music Hall! ASL interpretation provided!

Sunday July 23rd – LPJL, ACLU, KHJN. & PPINK are hosting a Werkshop (registration required) about ways to support existing efforts to preserve and improve access.  ASL interpretation provided!

Saturday July 22-Saturday July 29th – Pledge – Picketer FUNdraiser for Louisville Clinic Escort’s Legal Defense Fund! See details here. In short: the more bullies show up at the clinic, the more $$ goes towards access in KY. Invite your friends to the FB event and make a pledge today!

Hope to see y’all there!!!!

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Metro Council Safety Committee Hearing on Safety Zone initiative.

One year ago this month, 12 dedicated members of the reproductive rights and justice communities in Louisville formed a Safety Zone Committee to urge our Metro Council to take steps to address safety on our sidewalks.  We all know first hand how dangerous the powder keg constructed by aggressive antis is. Some of us remember when Dr David Gunn and two clinic escorts were shot in Pensacola Florida in 1993 (of the three, one escort survived). We all remember when Dr George Tiller was shot in the head in his Wichita Kansas church in 2009. One of us managed to catch it on camera when another of us was thrown to the ground by a protester in Louisville early this year. We are not interested in waiting for major injury or worse to occur on our sidewalk before something is done to prevent it.

In summer of 2016 the Safety Zone Committee put together a very thorough information packet and started scheduling meetings with Metro Council members. This packet included information about existing local laws and how they could be amended to create a safer sidewalk not just at EMW (KY’s lone abortion clinic) but also at any women’s heath centers and domestic violence shelters.

The packet also featured statistics showing clear escalation in threats and violence nationally, as well as information collected directly from patients shortly after entering EMW about what it was like for them to walk past the protesters. These numbers are rattling.

Included were pictures of the antis on the sidewalk, information about existing buffer laws in other cities, and diagrams of our public sidewalk where aggressive antis have complete access to physically confront, and sometimes touch and obstruct, people while they approach the clinic.

Over the course of several months Safety Zone Committee members met with over a dozen Metro Council Members and local law enforcement about the need for enforceable safety measures. All were invited to come down and see for themselves what happens on the sidewalk. Some declined the invitation saying they had been frequently harassed while patronizing restaurants on the block. Others didn’t feel a need to visit as they were so bothered by descriptions of the scene and the information presented that they quickly offered their support.

At a certain point efforts became more challenging when committee members started approaching less than likely allies, some of whom understood the need for safety measures but were concerned about their constituents rejecting them for “supporting abortion access.” The committee took a hiatus as the Fall/Winter Holidays approached, knowing that it was only a matter of time before the new legislative session, national extremists visiting, and large spring protest days highlighted a need for safer sidewalks.

Sure enough, between the presidential inauguration, the aggressive attacks on abortion in our Capitol, and national extremists “street preaching” not just at EMW, but also at a local hospital and a high school and middle school, a fire was sparked under supporters. Calls, emails, tweets, and comment threads went wild. Police and city officials could not ignore the problem. We readied ourselves for what was coming our way.

If you have been following this blog, or myriad news sources, you know that in addition to the list of events above, we were forced to react to our Governor attempting to shut down EMW with a permit dispute, quickly followed by national extremists attempting to shut down EMW with with physical blockades, which resulted in local and possibly federal charges. These things have kept escorts on our toes, and brought LOTS of media attention, which we have also had to put energy into.

A few weeks ago members of the Safety Zone Committee were contacted by the Metro Council Safety Committee. They are ready to discuss the matter. We have been ready for this for over a year. Our original impression was that the Committee meeting would be closed, so we would need to send our love and support from afar. Yesterday we learned that is not the case, and that the meeting would be open, which means we can go –  and so could the media, and the antis.

We had almost exactly 24 hours to mobilize our supporters, and you know what? They came out in force. There are about 150 seats in the Metro Council meeting chambers. All of those seats were full. We counted five protesters.

While local extremists displayed their gory signs and used audio projection equipment to voice their opinion in the street outside Metro Hall, supporter of access calmly filled the room and equipped themselves with a simple unified message:

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There were a few proceedings before our agenda item. When the time came Metro Council members spoke among themselves at first, and called on staff from the Jefferson County Attorney’s office asking about the 35 foot law in Massachusetts that was found unconstitutional recently. There was conversation about how the ACLU of Kentucky has suggested that a rectangular egress spanning the distance from the clinic door to the curb with a width of 8 feet would preserve the rights of protesters to speak freely, and create a safer way for patients to access the clinic.

Major Eric Johnson was called to speak next, and answered what he could of an array of questions from Council Members. Bill Hollander mentioned having seen our pictures of protesters standing as close to the entrance as they legally can now and resting or pressing signs on the head and face of volunteer escorts. There was discussion of what constitutes a violation and what combination of things needs to happen to result in a charge. Barbara Sexton-Smith and Brent Ackerson talked about the very real safety risks that we know all too well.

At long last members of the Safety Zone Committee were called to speak. The first speaker read a powerful statement about the need for a 20 foot zone to allow people to walk to the doctor un-accosted. She also spoke of the initiative that brought us the drop off zone in front of the clinic, which allows one car to stop and let a passenger exit the vehicle close to the clinic, but how the swarming that takes place in the ten foot stretch between the car and the clinic property is still a huge safety risk.

Our next speaker talked about the level of harassment which has become the status quo on the sidewalk, and how that level of aggression can be dangerous. As a resident of the district in which the clinic is located, she found it appalling that every Kentuckian seeking abortion access has no choice but to be subjected to a gauntlet when accessing legal medical care. Perhaps most importantly, this speaker had an opportunity to share with Metro Council members data from the client surveys.

After the second of four scheduled speakers, Chair David James informed us all that the room was needed for the next committee meeting, and that this discussion would be open for comments again in July. We do not yet know what the date for this will be, but are preparing. Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith asked to make a quick note for the sake of clarity that there is not currently a proposal for a Safety Zone at EMW, and Councilman James adjourned the meeting.

Queue the yelling antis. Yes, really. Two antis who had joined the crowd after their street preaching session stood in the aisle yelling loudly at the Metro Council members. It was similar to how they yell at patients outside the clinic. The main differences were that inside Metro Hall they were not amplifying their voices as high as 90 decibels, holding giant gory signs, or in the words our first speaker: “within knifing distance” of the council members, like they are to the patients companions, and escorts. Since this is the same group pledging to violate any law that may be enacted, we’re kind of glad Metro Council got a good look at their behavior.

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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.