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.

 

My Regrets Limit You

 

I regret my abortion

Laws should not not be based on what a small percentage regrets. Everyone has things in life they wish they had done differently. By that measure, I would expect marriage to be more heavily regulated than it is as many of us tend to regret our decisions of a spouse. Even Kim Davis  regretted a few of her marriages, but then tried to deny the right to others. To outlaw a common medical procedure based on others regrets or beliefs is absurdity.

Things I regret that should be legislated and/or banned immediately:

  1. Getting married without knowing their potential spouse for at least 5 years and have seen them handle some major life changes and/or stresses.
  2. Building a log home. Too many unseen issues present themselves years later.
  3. Getting a puppy. You don’t know what kind of dog it will become.
  4. Indian food. Banned. I have tried that three times, nothing good about any of them.
  5. Heels over two inches tall and shoes less then a D width minimum. Absolutely banned. These items have caused my feet much pain. I would like others to be saved that pain.
  6. Community college. Was a waste of time for me. I have nine credits that cost me a good bit of money that I can’t use today.

Now, if you think the above examples are just outrageous, they are. Simply because I regret something, or it worked out poorly for me, does not mean it is the right choice for many others.

It’s the same with abortion. There may be those who regret their decision not to continue a pregnancy, but their regrets should not become law.

So think on it. What decisions have you made and regretted that you feel the government or someone who believes other than you should have had a say in?

Bodily autonomy is a right of everyone. No one can take part of your liver, some bone marrow or drain off some of your blood without your consent, even if it means someone else will die, even if you are a corpse. A woman has a right to her own body and what is in it, even if removing something would cause it to die.

Those are my thoughts as I wait yet another few days to hear the Supreme Court ruling on Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt that could determine access to a constitutional right for women across the nation,

 


Results of My Version of Pledge-A-Picketer

Wow! Amazed, surprised, shocked and pleased comes close to what I felt escorting Saturday morning at the EMW clinic in Louisville. Why you ask was this different from past Pledge-A-Picketer days? Shockingly, only 45, yes, just FORTY FIVE protesters came out to be counted and help us raise money for abortion access.

It was a beautiful sunny, cool morning and we had plenty of escorts. The sidewalk was navigable. There were just five over-sized fetal porn posters toted around by our most persistent, aggressive and hateful antis. Surprisingly, there were no children present. I hope they enjoyed doing something fun with their families this weekend. Boating, hiking, biking, you know, quality fun time unlike past weekends spent shaming and harassing strangers on the way to the doctor.

I am very glad I decided to donate on my own concocted sliding scale system. My article May 30 includes my reasoning, but here is the scale:

  1. $0.10 for every adult
  2. $0.25 for every child preteen or younger
  3. $2.00 for every person dragging around a huge cross or oversize sign
  4. $3.00 for every person preaching on a ladder or stool
  5. $10.00 for every person preaching on a microphone
  6. $10.00 added for every protester reported blocking the entry to the clinic in violation of the federal law FACE Act.

Fewer  protesters made it easier to determine our top money anti. Wow, this particular person was just on a roll that morning and I had to whip out my calculator just to keep up with the money they were adding. Here in Kentucky picking the winner is like betting on horses: You take into consideration past performances, who their competition is, what weather conditions are and that gut instinct you get when picking the potential winner. This one was easy to spot right off: big fetal porn sign, microphone and amp, strap on GoPro camera. Already just out of the gate this anti is tied with two others at $12 a piece!

Three top fundraisers 061816

 

And that’s when it kicked into high gear and by far and away this anti was going to be bringing in lots of donations. It was painful to watch and listen to at times, other times downright creepy.

This anti blocked clients four times at the property line with the large sign at $10 each incident, now just one person alone has raised $52 for abortion access and was just getting started. He proceeded to follow a legal observer up and down the sidewalk, very closely behind with what I can best describe as a yearning look, while asking them to repent their wicked ways. This went on for so long, the escorts and other antis started chuckling. The observer just led him up and down, up and down, up and down, like a puppet, without once acknowledging his call to repent.

Another favorite tactic of his is once he learns your name he makes a point to repeatedly call out to you directly by name. He wants everyone to hear his call for you to repent and turn from your sinful ways. He has done this with clinic staff, escorts and even patients or companions.

That morning he named both of our doctors and condemned the work they do. Abortion providers across the country face this sort of personal harassment both at work and in their private lives on a daily ongoing relentless wave.

For trying to dissuade our doctors from performing the very important work they do with your harassment, slander and lies, I have decided to include a $50 donation for your hatefulness and arrogance. Your lack of empathy, compassion and just general all-around respect for anyone born who does not believe as you do just earned money for clinic escorts.

Congratulations, Joseph Spurgeon for being my top fundraising hateful anti of the day and personally raising $102 dollars for abortion access.

My condolences to Donna, Nurse Betty, Ed, Angela and few of the other regulars that I only pledged a dime on. However, I am happy to tell you that since the turn out at the clinic was so light, I decided to count the Sisters for Life marchers at Planned Parenthood as well. This means you regular harassers were counted twice.

My total donation is $138.10.

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!

 

My Version of Pledge-A-Picketer

Pledge-A-Picketer is just a few weeks away!! Do you know that in years past there have been over 300 protesters that have showed up and we count them to raise money for abortion access?

Since we have been doing this for a few years, they have caught on and some have stayed home so they won’t be counted and help raise money for escorts. Soooooo, that’s why this year I am doing my donation on a sliding scale system. Yes, the more aggressive, the louder, the larger the graphic posters they carry, the more shaming they do, the more money they will help raise.

Some protesters bring children to use as their visual props. Many children are holding signs and parroting adult words and phrases at clients, companions and escorts alike.

Mansplaining 05282016

 

Others just like to come out and shame strangers with their words of condemnation and hate.

P82 Playing with Dolls Tweet

A few make this a big family production and have every member, no matter how young, playing a role to shame and guilt people making a very personal decision not to continue a pregnancy. The person making the decision for their own very valid reasons doesn’t need to hear a crowd of strangers’ opinions about their decision.

P82 Ministries Tweet Not Counseling

I have thought for some weeks on the amount I would like to donate. I have decided to leave it up to the protesters. Yep, you heard me right. They will personally decide how much money each one of them is going to add to the funds for abortion access.

  1. $0.10 for every adult
  2. $0.25 for every child preteen or younger
  3. $2.00 for every person dragging around a huge cross or oversize sign
  4. $3.00 for every person preaching on a ladder or stool
  5. $10.00 for every person preaching on a microphone
  6. $10.00 added for every protester reported blocking the entry to the clinic in violation of the federal law FACE Act.

Now, putting my pen to paper and doing some adding there are one or two individuals who will raise TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS just for showing up and doing what they do every week.

So, fair warning antis, if you want the money to be less, or not at all then stay home. This is not your platform for harassment and shaming. This is heathcare.

_______________________________________________________________________

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.

 

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.

 

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!

 

 

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.  

IMG_0828

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. 

 

Spelling Errors vs Reading Comprehension

The words coming faintly through my layers of ear muffs, wrapped scarves and hood sounded whiny and nasal on the cold wind. The ones I heard anyway. “On your vest.” I looked back to see one of our daily protesters with a cold, pinched, disapproving look on her face.

Wonderful I thought, another fashion fail for me, as I inspected my vest to find what the heck she was talking about that was wrong with it. Early mornings as I dress to head down to the sidewalk each week, I have been known to concentrate on dressing for the weather not for style. Mostly it’s a mismatched combination of things meant to keep me warm, dry and comfortable, not for fit and fashion as a few of the antis seem to do no matter the weather.

In the past after a morning of escorting, I have discovered I somehow put a layer on inside out, or backwards. Once much to another escort’s amusement, I looked down to see a dryer sheet peeking out from the bottom of my pant leg. That was a static electricity fail there and I’m not taking the entire blame for that one

So after failing to find any obvious issues with my escort vest I must have had a very puzzled look on my face.  She stepped closer and pointed at me, saying again, ” There’s a spelling error on your vest. It says Pro-Choice but it should read Pro-Death.”   

Thanks to the Clinic Vest Project we are supplied at no charge to us bright neon, highly reflective vests that are lettered with big bold lettering PRO-CHOICE CLINIC ESCORT.

Clinic Escort VestI smiled to myself and thought, poor woman, it’s actually a reading comprehension fail on her part.  She does not understand choice.  By refusing to look at things from outside her own narrow point of view she never will.

Pro-Choice to me is the ability to make whatever decision is best for you, your situation and family regarding a pregnancy. I trust your judgement to make the best choice for you. I don’t know the reasons you are walking with me to the clinic, I do not make assumptions, I do not ask. It is not my place. It is even your choice to walk with me or not. If you say no, I simply tell you it’s the building with the tan painted overhang and let you be.

That’s the difference between escorts and antis. There is only one way of thinking when it comes to them, ” Do it our way.”  They do not respect personal space. They do not listen when asked to go away. They hand out medically inaccurate information and insist on you making a choice they want you to make. That’s not choice. That’s intimidation, guilt, shaming and lying.

This is your journey in life. Make the best choice for you no matter what you choose.  Let no one bully you from the path you know is the right one for you. Whether it is the decision to terminate a pregnancy, to have and raise a child, or decide adoption is what you want. Choice. It’s a powerful word and only you can make the decision. That’s the reason I am all for choice.

So, I will proudly wear my vest that is spelled correctly and continue to respect a  woman’s decision on what she feels is the best choice for her. 

What Does Desperation Look Like? ~ guest post by Heather M

The recent headline cases of women who have miscarried or resorted to self-abortion attempts to end an unwanted pregnancy (Purvi Patel , Kenlissa Jones and Anna Yocca) have had many people saying ” How could they?” Some from an anti-abortion stance that seems to value the life of a fetus over the woman carrying it. Others from a perspective of the fact that abortion is still legal and has been legal nationwide since 1973, Why would anyone take such risks when they could just go to a doctor?

Easy. Legal does not mean accessible, or affordable.

This is my story and I am going to smash some stereotypes many associate with a self-abortion attempt. First, I am a white, US-born female, raised in a middle class Catholic family with two parents present. I was raised in the North Eastern US. I finished high school. I was living on my own and supporting myself with a full-time job. I was in a committed relationship and was using birth control the month I became pregnant.

The year was 1990. I was 20 years old. I was working with racehorses as a caretender, a job with long hours (sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week), tons of responsibility and a great deal of personal satisfaction. I was making my bills every month, rent,  utilities, but did not have much money left over for anything else. To make a big or unexpected purchase I either put it off or worked nights in addition to my regular job, as hard and long as I could, to earn what was needed.

Sometime in early March of that year my period was late and I had been sick and struggling under my work demands. After waiting a few more long scary days, I went and bought three different brands of home pregnancy tests from three different stores. I wanted to make sure I did not get an error due to a bad test.

I read the directions over and over as I did not want to waste one by using it wrong. As I took them, one after another showed a positive result: two dots, two lines, a pink window. All horrifying results to me. I did everything right. How did this happen to me? I used the Today sponge and spermicide. I went out and bought another two tests and took them again the next morning; same results. No denying it now. That’s why I had been feeling so sick

I knew immediately that I did not want to be pregnant. I was not going to be having a baby in the fall of that year. Somehow I was going to figure this out. I had already made my decision when I had used birth control and this was like an invader in my own body; alien like and causing me to be physically ill, draining me and robbing me of my ability to provide for myself.

I was living in a state that had multiple clinics available. I picked up the phonebook and started dialing trying to figure out how much an abortion was going to cost, how far I would have to drive and how hard I was going to have to work to raise the money. Then get the procedure done without missing any time from work or I would be fired. I had found two clinics that were about 40 miles away but the procedure cost $400  cash or credit card. I did not have a credit card so I figured up how many weeks working days and  nights it would take me to save the money. Five weeks was my estimate. After that I may be too far along for those clinics and the price, distance and difficulty would rise.

In the meantime I had a plan. One of the racehorse mares I was taking care of was on a medicine to suppress her heat cycles. Without it she was impossible to manage let alone train and race. I had been instructed to let one of the men in the barn dose her everyday as it was dangerous for women to come in contact with that drug. I went to work that morning and quietly read and reread the cautions and warnings in big bold letters on the packaging. MAY CAUSE MISCARRIAGE!  WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE DO NOT HANDLE WITHOUT GLOVES AND USE EXTREME CAUTION NOT TO COME IN CONTACT WITH IT.

I began quietly taking some of the horse’s medication every day hoping to induce a miscarriage that the label warned in big bold letters about. I weighed about 155 lbs and was making sure I took enough for a 1500 lb horse. This I hoped would work. In the meantime, always planning that if the medicine failed I was going to go ahead with the abortion.

I worked for almost four weeks my usual sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week and started taking night work at the racetracks three nights a week to earn extra money quickly. Those days became 20 to 22 hour marathon work stints two and sometimes three days in a row. Sick with morning sickness. Sick with taking medicine for equines in doses over a dozen times what I weighed. Sick from lack of sleep. Still I kept on. I was not under any circumstances going to remain pregnant one minute longer than I had to. Whatever came first, the miscarriage or enough money saved for the abortion I was going to keep working towards it.

Finally, the end of the first weeK of April I  had saved the $400. I called to set up my appointment. I wanted the latest one available in the day as soon as I possibly could. Why you ask did I not want one first thing in the morning?  Because I had to work. I set up for as late as I could one morning. I was told don’t eat anything after midnight. That morning I was at the barn by 330 am so I could rush through my work by mid-morning and I paid one of my coworkers to take care of my afternoon responsibilities. I told them I had an emergency that came up. I did not confide in anyone except my boyfriend, and even then I did not tell him I was trying to induce a miscarriage.  He was fully supportive, but as cash strapped as I was. He helped some, but my pride and my sense of responsibility kept me from asking for more than I knew he could give.

At the appointment I was given forms to fill out, everything was explained in detail and I was asked repeatedly if this was something I really wanted to do. I could take another few days and think it over now that I had been given information about the procedure. “NO,” I fairly screamed, ‘for a month I have been saving and working like mad to gather the money together. I would have had it done four weeks ago if I could have afforded it!!”

With everything that I had put my body trying to rid myself of this unwanted invader that had taken over my life in such a drastic way, the abortion itself was almost anticlimactic. The thing that stands out the most was the warm thick socks they put on my feet. They said the metal stirrups were cold and the walk to the recovery room was on cold tile and they did not want me to feel chilled. I felt cared for and like I could for the first time in weeks let someone else worry for me. A few hours later I was ready to go and called my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The next morning at 7 am I was back at work, moving a bit slow and taking care to not let cramps keep me from being able to get my work done. it was the first time in over six weeks I had not wanted to throw up everytime I wheeled a full wheelbarrow out to dump it. I clung to the horses to steady myself every now and then, but by now they had become accustomed to it. I had been horribly sick for weeks, but not letting on to anyone human at least.

So, almost 26 years later why am I now telling this story?  Because those women are me: every last one of them. Pregnant and not wanting to be. Desperate and willing to try anything to rid our bodies of this unwanted entity. I was fortunate that I lived in a state with access to multiple clinics. I was able to get an appointment within days of calling. I had the ability to eventually earn the money needed for the abortion, even if at  great personal cost of health to myself. I am one of the thousands of women who will try to self-abort. Some succeed and no one will ever know. Others finally save up enough somehow for an abortion. Others yet are like the cases in Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee where things go very wrong for them.

I was lucky. But make no mistake, I would have been desperate enough to do anything even if it meant I died as a result. Do I have any regrets? Only one. That I did not speak up sooner so many others would know they are not alone. I understand. I am you  You are not alone.