Sidewalk Snippet – It’s Always Something

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It’s always something back at the garage behind EMW to disrupt the peace.

Many mornings preachers from various anti abortion cliques from the local area bring their portable amplified equipment to stand at the garage and preach.

They seem to enjoy the sound of their own voices echoing off the multi-level concrete garage.

Those mornings escorts stationed there are often subjected to personalized Bible readings creatively distorted out of context.

When clients park and exit on foot for the block and a half walk to the clinic, the amplified harassers quickly fall into step behind them and then proceed to verbally assault them in the name of free speech to the clinic property line.

Often times these walks are balancing act of escorts quietly reassuring clients, while gently deescalating companions from wanting to shove the individuals following on their heels preaching at them still mic’d up and amplified from a distance of only a few feet.

Today it was not the usual annoying disturbances. It was a car with an alarm going off repeatedly on the second floor of the garage.

Making ample use of the acoustics and clear morning air, it paused briefly every now and then before starting another 3 minute screech fest.

The bright side to this is it did not confront escorts or chase clients down the sidewalk.

Intentional Cruelty

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In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to decline to hear an appeal of Kentucky’s medically unnecessary narrated mandatory ultrasound law, I want to share with you one of my most heartbreaking mornings as a Louisville Clinic Escort. I have spoken of that morning just a few times with trusted friends. Although it has been more than five years, the day will forever haunt me.

For me, it started like any other weekday morning on the sidewalk. I greet my fellow escorts. We take note of the various protesters out that morning and then decide how best to take positions so we will be visible and available for arriving clients and companions.

Many clients have driven for hours to their appointment that morning; negotiated confusing exits and one-way streets; have successfully located the clinic on Market Street and are now searching for parking. That’s a lot of what I do: non-exciting, run-of-the-mill, give directions to various parking lots and garages. The CPC next door has their own private parking lot and deceptively encourages arriving clients to park there with these signs:

This morning my position was to stand in the alley behind the parking garage. It’s a confusing setup as that entrance is for monthly passes only, not day parking. I then explain to frustrated drivers how to get to the main entrance off of Jefferson Street. I directed a car to the correct entrance after they had circled the block twice and were visibly upset. They just wanted to get out of traffic and get parked. I told them I would meet them at the back entrance of the garage with the rest of the information I had for them.

As the pair approached me, I identified myself as a clinic escort and introduced myself. We had a few minutes before the clinic opened and stayed at the parking garage where it was quieter until we got the notice the doors were open. I told them what to expect from the protesters as they make their way to the clinic entrance. It’s an unsettling experience that has become routine for me, but is very intense, chaotic and frightening for many clients.

Sometimes clients will want to share their reasons for needing an abortion. I never ask. It is not my business. I listen because they need to talk. Some want to explain. Some just want to tell another person without fear of judgment. Others choose to share with me more personal stories, many of those are emotionally devastating.

The client that morning introduced themselves as Adrianne and her mother Rose.** This was Adrianne’s first pregnancy and she had been excitedly looking forward to motherhood. Earlier the previous week Adrianne had gone in for a routine check up and ultrasound to see if they could determine if the pregnancy was a boy or a girl. That’s when Adrianne’s planned world exploded in a million shattered pieces.

The news received was the fetus had fatal anomalies and it was dying. In a scramble to consult with other experts to confirm the initial diagnosis, they were in a race against time and the gestational limits set for terminations in Kentucky. Since Kentucky only has one abortion clinic left, mandatory wait times and appointment availability makes scheduling an abortion a desperate race against time. It took my breath away. I was devastated for them knowing what they would face in just a few minutes.

Adrianne was remarkably calm when explaining this to me while also comforting Rose who had flown in just hours earlier to be with Adrianne for the appointment. Rose told me she had not slept much since finding out. Rose was terrified about possible health complications Adrianne could be facing.

I then sadly told them they would hear some of the most awful, cruel things said to them by people that did not know their situation, and did not care. I told them I would walk with them the entire way; they could hold onto me; they could hide behind me; they could use me in any capacity they needed to get through the protesters. I would get them safely to the clinic door. As we set off for the walk to the clinic, I quietly braced myself for the verbal onslaught I knew was coming.

A long-time daily protester masquerades as a sweet old lady. It’s quite an act. I’ve seen her in action for years now and know exactly how she operates and can almost recite word for word what she will say. As we turned down the sidewalk on Market Street to head to the clinic this protester approached. With a soft pleading voice, pamphlets in hand begging, coaxing and cajoling them to make another decision and just go to the CPC next door for another opinion. “What could it hurt? You need all the information. You need a second opinion. You don’t have to do this today.”

The closer we got to the property line the more biting the words became. This protester always saves their most disgusting verbal assault for those last few steps clients and companions need to take to get to the door and into the clinic. “Grandma. what are you going to tell your daughter years from now when she asks you, ‘Mom why did you let me kill my baby?’ She’ll always be a mother, honey. She’ll just be the mother of a dead baby.” Those last words flung at us from a distance of less than 18 inches for maximum emotional impact. It’s a tactic they all use: intentionally cruel, intentionally provoking, vicious verbal assault in the name of free speech and their deity.

I reached the door and held it open for them. As Adrianne stepped in the lobby, Rose, the one running on almost no sleep; devastated for her daughter and the loss of her first grandbaby; the one who was needing comfort at the garage; stopped and turned to face the intentionally cruel protester who spoke those words.

Rose did a transformation I have rarely seen in my years of escorting. With two steps back towards the protesters, Rose let loose with what I can only describe as a primal, heartbreaking roar. She shouted inches from the protester’s face, ” IF MY DAUGHTER DOES NOT HAVE THIS ABORTION I WILL LOSE MY BABY”

At this point, I am standing at the door stunned about what just happened. trying to comfort a sobbing Adrianne as she is crying for her mother to please come in. Adrianne says through tears streaming down her face, “They don’t understand. They don’t care. They’re just cruel. Please come, Mom. I need you.”

I quietly went over and spoke in her mom’s ear, let’s go in, let’s get some space. Your daughter’s calling for you. The three of us stepped into the lobby and shut the door behind us. At that point we were all sobbing, our arms wrapped around each other huddled up. I was devastated for them. I kept apologizing for what they just endured. Adrianne was again comforting Rose who was pleading with me for answers. “Why are they allowed to do this? Why can they get so close to us? Why don’t they leave us alone when we asked them to? Why does Kentucky think this is okay?” I didn’t have any answers. The only thing I could do was keep apologizing saying I hoped it would change. I hoped that more people would understand what it’s like trying to access abortion services in states hostile to abortion. I looked at both of them and said I will do everything I can to try and change it. I will try to make it one less horrifying, traumatic episode to an already devastating day that I knew was full of more legislated inaccurate shaming obstacles to overcome.

Here I am, 5 years later, finally able to put into words what I experienced that morning. Still fighting. Still using my voice to share what it’s really like to access necessary medical care. And in those five years, it has gotten worse. Clinics around the country have been vandalized. Anti-choice individuals have targeted and massacred those providing and seeking healthcare.

We also now have an administration that is venomously against bodily autonomy and working to strip even more from individuals wishing to end pregnancies. The laws, the inaccurate, inflammatory rhetoric spewed by the individual in the presidency, by his followers, and by those claiming to speak for their god, all aimed at people trying to access healthcare. Even the city of Louisville does not see this as a problem and is dragging their feet on the most basic, minimal safety zone for patients accessing medical care in their state.

So yeah, it’s intentionally cruel on so many levels. I’m going to continue to do my part in making this world a safer, kinder place, We need it.

———-
**These are not their real names. They are random names to protect the client’s and companion’s anonymity.

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.