Sidewalk Snippet – Overheard

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“Every Tuesday morning” they hissed quietly at the friend walking with them.

“That one right there,” they gestured pointing up the sidewalk.

I turned to see who they were talking about as they walked past.

“Same thing every week, assuming I am going to the clinic. I’m just trying to get to work, I don’t think he’s ever looked at my face.”

As the conversation trailed off I watched as they continued down to the crosswalk.

Sure enough, the preacher with the loudspeaker gets in front of them yet again.

Because he does not see them as a person. Only an individual capable of pregnancy.

Who are the Legal Observers?

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Who are the Legal Observers?

Many people have noticed Legal Observers on the sidewalks around EMW Women’s Surgical Center over the past 3 years. They are wearing caps and/or badges that say, “NCAP Trained Legal Observer”. They carry cell phones and take notes. Who are these people? What are they doing? Are they taking photos of people who have appointments at EMW?

NO, they are not taking photos of people going to the clinic. They adhere to strict guidelines not to take photos of any patient or companion. If you see them with their cell phones up, rest assured they are not taking photos of you entering the clinic. They are taking photos of the protesters and escorts. They do not carry any other cameras either.

The Legal Observers are not connected to any escort group. They are present at the invitation of the clinic staff on the recommendation of the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP). Their focus is the safety of the patients, their companions, clinic staff and escorts.

They will not approach patients for conversation and cannot act as an escort for any patient and/or companion.

What are they doing then?

The Feminist Majority Foundation established NCAP in 1989. It was modeled on the observers for the National Lawyers Guild. These observers are documenting interactions of everyone on the sidewalk. The documentation is reported to the clinic, LMPD and NCAP with their notes on any threats or violations of laws.

Why won’t they talk to me?

The Legal Observers are neutral observers at all times. They have pledged to be strictly non-engaging with anyone on the sidewalk while observing. If someone asks them persistently what they are doing their standard reply is, “We are legal observers. We are not reporters. We are just observing and not interviewing. We don’t want to discuss anyone’s viewpoint.” If they are asked what NCAP stands for, they will reply, “Google it.” Then they will walk away and not have further discussion with the questioner.

When are they present?

Legal Observers are present each week and sometimes a couple of times a week. They are only on duty in the early morning. The clinic relies on their surveillance cameras when they are not present. The Legal Observers are an extra layer of protection for people wanting to exercise their right to an abortion.

Sidewalk Snippet – Never Assume

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Today was a slightly chaotic morning with new church members coming out to scream and preach at escorts and clients alike.

Many of us this morning were working multiple stations on the sidewalk making sure it went as smoothly as possible for clients and companions with appointments.

One of our wonderful escorts had to leave and go to work. As he walked down the sidewalk taking off his vest he encountered a client that asked to be walked in.

He immediately agreed and was accompanied by two additional escorts that were wearing vests for the walk down the sidewalk.

Not two minutes had passed since he had been wearing an orange vest escorting in front of the antis when his group of four approached the property line.

Five of our most persistent daily protesters then swarmed the 3 approaching escorts and client. Pleading with the now vest-less male escort not to kill his baby, take responsibility be a man, and if you love her you won’t let her do this.

The client entered the clinic and the three escorts turned back thinking about the assumptions and judgment the antis make every day on people they know nothing about.

Counting My Way

As a huge supporter of abortion access I have contributed to our Pledge- A-Picketer fundraiser every year.

Louisville Clinic escorts started this fundraising idea after 300 protesters came out one Saturday before Mother’s Day a few years back.

Over the years we have seen the numbers of protesters drop off as we have used their presence to fund raise money for abortion access.

They know why we count and they do not like the fact that their presence raises funds for abortion support.

In 2016 since the numbers of protesters were dropping I decided to modify my pledge a little bit and put a monetary amount not only on number of protesters, but signs, amplification, and other harassment techniques they use.

The turnout of antis on the Pledge-A-Picketer, Spooky Halloween Edition was fairly small, probably due to rainy weather and the fact they knew we were going to fund raise off of their numbers.

I pledged $0.25 an anti for a total of $21 for the two days.

But seeing as how dedicated  clinic escorts are for showing up in all kinds of weather and all the stuff life throws at you, I know they are worth so much more.

I decided to pledge $2 an escort and Legal Observer.

Clinic escorts and Legal Observers showed up for choice and access raised $112.

Just doing what you do week in and week out is amazing. I wanted to acknowledge how much I value your presence on the sidewalk.

I’m Glad You Asked

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It seems everyone today has an opinion on reproductive health choices and access to legal abortion.

Escorting at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, assisting clients get to their appointments with as little interference/harassment from anti-choice protesters as possible, my mind is constantly engaged and thinking. So when this screen capture taken off a video Operation Save America posted and I read that comment from a viewer, I pondered on it.


What was I thinking as I calmly stood there that Friday morning, while Rusty Thomas of OSA (in town for a federal court appearance) bellowed, roared and shamed clients, companions, and escorts alike that morning?

I thought back to May 13, 2017 when this man in front of me chose to break federal law and cross the property line, sitting down with about a dozen followers blocking the entry doors until eventually peacefully removed by LMPD after many polite requests and invitations by the officers went unanswered.

I thought about the dynamics I was watching that Friday morning among the anti-abortion protesters. I watched when the cameras came on and when they had an audience, they kicked it into high gear, yelling shaming, preaching.

I thought about theatrics they love to present: escorts as stone-hearted, cold, uncaring people and themselves as poor put-upon saviors.

I thought about the perception their viewers must have when they watch these videos. I wonder if viewers know how much of a show it is to recruit donations and support?

I thought about the distortions they offer, the narratives they speak when they claim a save. In reality sometimes clients or companions tell them just what they want to hear so they will be left alone.

I thought about clients having to come back for a second appointment because they were tricked into the CPC next door and missed their originally scheduled one.

I thought back to last July when we had a very temporary buffer zone and Federal Marshals on hand. How much safer clients felt when they did not have anti-abortion protesters in their face, blocking their path, leaning over and separating them from their companions.

I thought about Rusty Thomas’ court appearance that Friday morning. I wondered if a federal judge would even think about weighing a First Amendment right to free speech versus the safety of citizens trying to just go to their doctor’s appointment?

I thought about how difficult and how politically weaponized someone who wishes to maintain their bodily autonomy and access the legal right to terminate a pregnancy has become.

I thought about the many difficulties people who choose this option overcome just in getting to the clinic.

I thought about the spectacle to have a small strange man in a cowboy hat yelling at them as they approached the doors, shaming them for the decisions they choose to make for themselves.

I thought about if we accept one person’s decisions and choices in life may not be ours, but those are decisions that must be left up to each individual, what they feel and know is best for their family.

So yeah, thanks for asking. I wish you’d take the time to think it over as well. Too many times one only sees what’s presented, not the whole picture.

On the possible parole of Dr David Gunn’s killer.

Last week, a call to action went out asking Clinic Escort groups, and other abortion access supporters to write letters expressing concerns ahead of the upcoming parole hearing for the anti-abortion extremist who murdered Dr David Gunn in Pensacola FL in 1993. David Gunn Jr and family are petitioning the Parole Commission in Tallahassee on November 1, 2017.

Michael Griffin also shot a clinic escort when he killed Dr Gunn. Of course we wanted to write a letter.

 

Here is the letter we sent to the Parole Commission:

To: Parole Commission, Tallahassee FL

From: Louisville Clinic Escorts

October 26, 2017

Dear Parole Board,

It’s come to our attention that the United States Parole Commission will be reviewing the case of Michael Frederick Griffin on November 1, 2017. We want to take this opportunity to express concerns about his possible parole.

This letter is from individuals who volunteer as clinic escorts in Louisville KY. We have first hand experience with truly frightening people who hold extreme beliefs about justifiable homicide, or stopping abortions by any means necessary. Staff and volunteers at clinics everywhere endure verbal aggression and physical threats daily from people who draw inspiration from Michael Griffin. To them, Mr. Griffin is a hero for shooting Dr. Gunn, and a clinic escort in 1993. For that reason we want to submit a firm request to this parole board that you consider the implications of a ripple effect that could be triggered by an early release of this murderer, who may appear reformed before your panel, while in fact being poised to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Already, we’ve seen extreme behaviors from followers of Griffin, and a willingness to break the law up to and including murdering doctors. In 2009 Scott Roeder murdered George Tiller with a bullet to the head in his church in Wisconsin. More recently in 2015, Robert Dear invaded Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains with explicit intent to kill people there with a personal firearm, as well as home-made explosives. In the spring of 2017 we saw members of extremist group Operation Save America intentionally violate federal law at our one Kentucky clinic to test the DOJ’s willingness to persecute FACE Act violations. We know that copy cats like Roeder and Dear draw inspiration from Griffin, and we would see it as Mr Griffin’s responsibility – if reformed – to denounce these behaviors publicly, specifically to anti-abortion groups and individuals. We would ask the parole board to consider Mr Griffin’s perceived willingness to do exactly this and incorporate this demand into potential parole terms.

We also ask that you consider how Mr. Griffin may be accountable for his actions going forward, considering that the approach of restorative justice asks perpetrators to repay their debts by repairing the damage done to those who suffered due to the actions of those who are supposedly reformed. We ask that if Mr Griffin is released, he make a commitment to ensure that others do not draw inspiration from his crime.

Mr Griffin’s actions caused irreparable harm to the friends and family of Dr. David Gunn, as well as clinic staff and volunteers everywhere who’ve had to ask if this work is worth risking our lives, considering that the mindset of extremists like Griffin cannot be jailed. In our minds, justice has not been served for the Gunn family.

In addition to the pain and suffering felt by Dr. Gunn’s family and colleagues, there has been immeasurable impact to countless individuals who did and would have sought care from Dr. Gunn, who were instead forced to seek care from another provider, or go without.

We believe that people can change. If Mr. Griffin has truly had a change of heart, perhaps an adaptation to the original life sentence given to him is reasonable. The responsibility of this parole board in determining whether or not Mr. Griffin is a threat to society is a great one. We ask that any terms of his potential parole be proactive to prevent further damage by actions similar to Mr. Griffin’s.

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some dangerous results that could be triggered by Mr Griffin’s release, even if he himself is not a threat at this time.

Signed:

Louisville Clinic Escorts

everysaturdaymorning.net

Michael Griffin’s actions didn’t happen in a vacuum, and extremist beliefs cannot be jailed. We think that if Griffin is reformed, there is responsibility beyond being locked up if justice is going to be served, so that people will be able to provide and obtain safe, legal healthcare without needing to worry about personal safety.

For Such Time as This!

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This clinic stays open.
Every client made it to their appointment.
Our doctors, nurses and staff made it to and from work safe and sound.
Every escort made it home.

July 22-29, 2017 EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY was inundated by fanatic, anti-choice activists. Because of amazing organizing by Louisville Clinic Escorts, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Abortion Federation, plus coordination between federal and local law enforcement and EMW, no one was denied an abortion. We saw the sidewalk blocked, sound systems turned up to full volume and every attempt made to thwart the work of supporting folks, simply trying to live their lives.

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Pledge-A-Picketer has been one of our tools since 2010 when we began to see increased protesters at the clinic on weekends like Easter, Mother’s and Father’s day. As the crowds increased we decided to monopolize on their organizing efforts.

It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge whatever you choose for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts and abortion access. Escorts use this fund drive for legal expenses, training costs, safety supplies, parking fees for patients and other miscellany.

And here are the daily protester totals:

Saturday 7/22/2017: 75 protesters
Tuesday 7/25/2017: 175 protesters
Wednesday 7/26/2017: 100 protesters
Thursday 7/27/2017: 115 protesters
Friday 7/28/2017: 200 protesters
Saturday 7/29/2017: 155 protesters

Which gives us a grand total of: 820 protesters.

Based on the pledges that came in from our dear supporters, that will bring in a total of $13,975 for abortion access in Kentucky! WOOOOW!!!!

Emails are going out to those who have already pledged. If you would like to contribute, you may do so through Paypal using everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com.

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Sidewalk Snippet 07/06/17

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Our local antis routinely shove literature into the hands of clients and random pedestrians alike. Social conditioning and not wanting to appear rude, many people accept the handouts and move on.

Most times it is discarded within a few minutes of receiving it.

Sometimes they just throw it in a trash bin on the way past. Other times it’s handed to escorts and they ask us to please get rid of it. When that happens the antis accuse us of taking the pamphlets to prevent clients from learning the truth.

No, our goal is to keep them from being thrown out randomly littering downtown.

 

The Day the Circus Came to Town ~ by Penny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

 

Control Issues ~ by Ferret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call me something of an ally.

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

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

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

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