Thank You For Your Support

(Photo by Isis, Germantown, MD, August 2011)
We talk in this blog a lot about what the antis are doing to prevent a woman’s choice for healthcare. We do not often talk about the support escorts receive from various groups around Kentucky.

When our minds are bruised with the things we have heard and seen in front of the clinic, it is always a lift to think of the pro-choice support we get from our friends, our community and  nationwide.

Cooking a breakfast for escorts? This is a great morale booster which we are treated to at least twice a year from one group of supporters. It is always yummy and we are able to socialize with each other and people who believe in what we are doing when we escort.

Providing us with supplies? This is such a great help to us and is always appreciated. We have limited resources and donations of copies, office supplies, vests and even money are welcome additions to our effort.

Training information? We have individuals who make time in their busy schedules to present at training sessions. They are experienced in areas we need to know more about in order to be effective escorts.

On the spot support? A honk and wave as a car passes in the morning or a yelled, ‘Thank you,’ as the car moves down the street. A pedestrian saying, ‘Thank you for being here,’ as they pass the clinic in the morning. These give a lift to the escorts and strengthen our resolve we are doing something necessary.

There are so many generous supporters who believe in a woman’s choice.

They believe in the slogan: TRUST WOMEN

They swell our numbers beyond just the small group escorting.

Thank you, one and all.


Bananas and Orange Juice

What do bananas and orange juice have to do with clinic escorting? It turns out they have a lot to do with our clinic on a Saturday morning.

Every Saturday Morning antis arrive at the clinic. Some come with bananas, orange juice and their signs that say, “For Clinic Escorts.”

When they first started stopping by on Saturday mornings, they set up portable tables at two different sites. There is now one man and his family carrying offerings of free food and drink around in a basket. When I asked them one Saturday about why they weren’t setting up tables they replied, “An escort suggested this and we thought it was a good idea.”

It is a good idea for them. They are able to interact with more escorts as they walk along the street. They will approach every escort on the sidewalk and ask them if they want a banana and orange juice. As they are asking them about the food, they are smiling and talking to the escorts. They will tell you they come out every Saturday morning to help. “I want you to meet my mother,” “I want you to meet my wife,” “Why are you out here?” You know the usual conversation when you meet someone for the first time as they escort clients to the abortion clinic.

When I asked the man walking around with the basket why he came each Saturday, he answered he just wants to help. In our conversation he confirmed he was pro-life and was not affiliated with any church or organization. He only represents himself. He is a seminary student and had heard about what happened at the clinic in class.

He came out one Saturday and, “I saw the great division between the sides. I come out to be a bridge between the two sides. I want to show God’s love to the escorts.” I replied he was assuming escorts were not Christians. “Many of the escorts are Christians and attend services regularly. We have several Christian churches in the community who support us. You are assuming things about all escorts.” He agreed he had found out there were Christians among the escorts.

These people are so nice. They care about the escorts. They want to form a bridge between the antis and escorts so they can talk to each other. This will never happen with bananas and orange juice.

There are several homeless people who gravitate to the clinic in the mornings. They tell us it is interesting to watch all the people until it gets too loud. I was walking and talking to one of our regular homeless watchers the first Saturday these helpers came out. The helpers had a table set up with the sign “For Clinic Escorts.” We stopped and I asked the men behind the table if my friend could have what I wasn’t going to take. There was a long pause. They said, “Well, it is only for Clinic Escorts.” I countered with, “But I am not going to take any and want to give him my share.” My friend said, “I just want orange juice.” With great reluctance, he was given the orange juice.

Showing love and forming a bridge between anything is not extended to the homeless. They only want to help escorts.

My real question is how are they helping us? Are they going to change our minds about being escorts with a banana and a glass of orange juice? Will a smile and pleasant conversation change our minds? Will they change our conviction that it is a woman’s choice? Will they change our hearts from feeling no antis should be on the sidewalk, no matter how nice they seem?

What is the price for your convictions? Do you have one? Is it as low as a banana, orange juice and a smile?

What is the price for their conviction they belong in front of the clinic on Saturdays trying to build bridges to conversation? What happens to the bridge when they slip in a quiet, “Don’t do it,” to a client? What if we offered them food and drink, would they go away?

I watch these pleasant-speaking people walking up and down the street. They talk to any escort who will not move away. They are always smiling.

My observation is a mixture of contempt and revulsion. How can they think my ethics can be bought at any price, but especially so cheaply? How naive they are to feel they can bring about cordial conversations between antis and escorts. How arrogant they are to think they have a right to interfere with women as they go for an abortion. How revolted I am to know when they are smiling and making polite conversation, they are “working the room” to convert people.

I have never and will never accept bananas and orange juice on Saturday mornings.

Blog for Choice Day

Last night around 50 people came out in the snow, after our venue was changed and school was cancelled to the Speakout to Normalize Abortion.

We had a powerful event where people shared their abortion stories and supported each other.  We worked very hard to create a safe space to hear how different every person’s abortion experience can be.

Every one entering our speakout signed a pledge to be supportive, not engage in shaming behavior or use judgmental language and to keep confidential all the stories told.

Because of that promise, I am not going to write about all the different types of people who spoke or about the stories told.  Holding that space still reminds me of the  value of Trusting People.

Honoring the fact that just because abortion is a normal part of our lives does not mean these moments of transition do not challenge our beliefs, or make us grow; giving us time to pause and hopefully validate our strengths.

1 in 3 American people with a uterus will have an abortion in their lifetime, half world wide.  The sooner we recognize that abortion is a normal part of our reproductive lives the better.  The sooner we ensure safe, clean, supportive abortion services to the whole world the sooner we can prove that what happens to individual people matter.

Jill Stanick wants to ask what does choice really mean. I think it means public funding of abortions at 6 weeks, at 12 weeks at 20 weeks, at 24 weeks.

I think the right to parent our children even if we are poor is included in choice.

I think the right to not be forced into cesarean and medicalized birth is included in the right to choose.

I think the right to be unapologetically queer is part of Reproductive Justice.

Choice includes access to comprehensive sex education, birth control and emergency contraception.

Choice means addressing privilege and dismantling rape culture and racism.

Supporting and normalizing the right to access abortion services gives us all more room to build community where the lives of the disadvantage are not denied dignity and respect.

I’m Just Not That Nice – by FML

 He was tall and slender. The video camera hid most of his face. I noticed the camera first as we came down the sidewalk with the patient, a young Hispanic woman. The camera was pointed straight at her and her companion, at the center of the “scrum,”* in the middle of the sea of orange vests. It pissed me off. 

This is a scrum, from the back. Camera man would have been on the other side of us.

We left the patient and her companion at the door, the clinic wasn’t open yet. I was glad she didn’t speak English, couldn’t understand everything the protesters were saying. Although, she couldn’t help seeing and hearing the man who jumped out of the prayer line to scream, “PLEASE DON’T KILL YOUR LITTLE BABY!” 

I approached the man with the camera. He was still shooting, standing off to the side of the door. “Don’t take pictures of the clients,” I said. “It’s really rude to take pictures of clients.” 

He started to say something, but I talked over him. “It’s rude, and it’s just wrong, and you should leave them alone.” I was angry. I don’t know if that’s exactly what I said, but I was just angry, and I said something like that.

 I wasn’t trying to be nice. There he was, this six foot-something white man with gray hair and a fancy video camera, and how dare he?  

Oh, I’m not… it’s ok…” he said soothingly, and that just made me angrier.

 “No, it’s not ok,” I said. “It’s rude You’re violating their privacy!”

 “No, I’m not I’m – come here,” he said, “Come here,” motioning with one hand for me to come closer to him, and I thought, oh, right, no way. I shook my head, disgusted; they always want to preach at you, the protesters do, get you off to the side to preach and lecture at you. “No,” I said. And I walked away, back to the door and the Hispanic woman.

 I tried to practice my pitiful Spanish on her, and actually almost made her smile. I’d already said, “Non hablo Espanol,” and then I said “Hablo Italiano, un poco,” and she nodded and I said, “Ustedes, non habla Italiano? And she shook her head and almost smiled at this goofy woman asking if she spoke Italian.  

Then I looked up and he was there, with his camera, motioning ‘come here’ again. I moved toward him a little, but he moved closer to me too, til he was just a couple of inches away from me, all up in my space. I’m short, I’m five foot, and he was at least six foot, maybe more. I wanted to back away from him, but I didn’t, I wouldn’t.

Come here, “ he said, in a low voice. “Listen, come here,” and I thought “here, where? For what?”

 I was afraid, I think. Don’t ask me why, we were right there in public. But he was all up in my space, I couldn’t even see his face without tilting my head way back, so I was looking directly into his chest.

 Then I looked down and saw that he’d stepped over the magic line in the sidewalk, and I said, “You’re on private property. Step back.” He looked surprised, and I said it again, “You’re on the clinic’s property. I’m a volunteer with the clinic. You’re not. Step back.”

 And he did step back. Which made me feel pretty good. And I think he was still kind of saying, “Come here,” and motioning to me, but I really didn’t care. I went back to talking to the Hispanic woman.

 A few minutes later, I was out in the parking lot; I was standing near the light pole. A young woman with dark hair approached me. I didn’t recognize her, but when she stepped into the light, then I noticed her jacket had a logo with, “Channel ***,” on it, and I kind of thought, “Oh, shit.”  

Sure enough. She lowered her voice, like this was confidential, which confused me a little, but sure enough, he was her cameraman, she said, and they were going to blur the faces of the patients and it was all ok. She said all that in a reassuring whisper that made me feel like she was trying to placate me, and that annoyed me.

 “He was still rude,” I said, thinking about him stepping up to me by the door. “And the patients don’t know you won’t show their faces.” I was still angry, maybe angrier, because with all his gesturing and “come here,” I guess I was supposed to know he was going to tell me he was with the media?

Oh, I know,” she said, “We want you all to tell them. When you go to the cars, you tell them we won’t show their faces.” I nodded. Sure, we could do that.

 But I was still pissed.

 The morning went on. There weren’t a lot of us escorts so we were working on moving around to cover the space we needed to, and doing pretty well. The group of escorts right across the street from the parking lot were stationed so they could cover the sidewalk on their right or groups crossing the street directly across from them. Some escorts were stationed in the back of the parking lot.

 A group of escorts had just left the parking lot with a patient when a truck pulled in. I approached it, along with a bunch of protesters who were actually wearing orange vests too. The frigging weasels, trying to look like escorts.  Liars and deceivers. I liked to say it loudly when they could hear me.

 But we approached the truck, and of course it scared the young couple in the truck. The driver was getting ready to park but he pulled out again and moved to another space. This time when I approached, I pointed to the words on my vest, “Clinic Escort,” and he rolled the window down.

 I could see her on the passenger side of the truck, shaking, tears in her eyes. She looked fragile, beautiful and scared. He looked a little shaken too. “Where can we park?” he asked, “Is there somewhere we can park where they’ll leave us alone?”

 I shook my head, “Not really,” and added, “But – if she’s ok with it,” then looking at her, talking over him, “If you’re ok with it, he could drop you at the door.”

 He pulled out then, another escort approached the truck as he was pulling out – L maybe or T. I walked toward them in time to hear her suggest it too, that he drop the patient at the door. He looked at the other escort, and at me, and he said, “Will you be there?” Of course, we said yes, and headed across the street to the door while he drove around the block.

When we got there, I realized we hadn’t been able to hold the opening in the sidewalk this week. The priest, with his Roman collar, and a couple of other men, were blocking it. Next to them was a three foot pile of snow. You couldn’t get to the clinic from the street. You would have had to walk through them or the three foot pile of snow just to get to the sidewalk. That made me really angry too.


Ok, the door wasn't as blocked that day as it is in the picture. But I'm sure it felt like it to the woman and her companion. Can you imagine having to get through that crowd?

The police officer was new, he’d never been at the clinic before. He was standing by the door, looking nervous. I pushed through the men blocking the sidewalk. “There’s a woman coming up, she’s going to get dropped off,” I told the officer. I gestured. “She won’t be able to get through. Will you make them move so she can get through?”

 He look a little confused, so I said, “The men – see the men there?” pointing, “They’re blocking the way, she won’t be able to get to the door,” and then he nodded.

And he did help, when the truck pulled up and she got out, looking so scared and fragile, he made his way over and just his presence was enough to create an opening and then she was over the line and in the door. I smiled.

In moments like that, I felt like a warrior. Or something powerful. A goddess, maybe. Maybe Uadjet, the cobra goddess, aggressive defender of the pharoah in ancient Egypt. The idea made me smile more.

As I crossed the street, I saw the camera man, and was feeling so good, I had to laugh. “Did you see that?” I said. “Did you see – it took the police to get them to move so she could get through? Jesus!” I shook my head. “Talk about FACE act violations!” And he shook his head too.

Later the camera man came over and was talking to me. He was being really nice, said he understood that I was there to protect the patients, and all that. Said that the patients probably had so much going on that they didn’t even notice him with the camera.

I said, “Yeah, maybe sometimes they don’t, but sometimes they get tears in their eyes and say, “Why is he doing that? Why is he taking pictures?” all panicky.”

Don’t worry,” he assured me, “we blur the faces, make sure they know that, ok?”

But much later – ok, it’s not much later, it only lasts about an hour, hour and a half all together, it just feels like much later – he came over again, the photographer. He stood real close to me again, but by then I didn’t care. He sort of apologized, it was one of those, “I’m sorry I upset you even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong” apologies, but that was ok. He was sincere about it.

We talked about how his camera and clothes didn’t have any marking to show he was with the media. We talked about how hard it is to be “the good guy” at the clinic. We shook hands.

And he said he knew we felt protective of the patients – he understood that. “But,” he said, “You-all might want to think that when you come across ‘like that’” (like I had, you know, although he didn’t quite say that) “that when you-all come across real harsh, it doesn’t help, it might just make you look bad. So, you know, when you don’t know why someone’s there, you might not want to come on so strong with them.”

And I thought, well, you’re probably right. But really, as C said later, “if you want to see me nice, meet me somewhere else.”

I almost just nodded in agreement anyway, and then some super-empowered part of me kicked in, and I said – really calmly and nicely, “You know, that’s a good example of white male privilege – the belief that if you show up somewhere, you’re entitled to be there and everyone else should accept that and adjust what they’re doing to accommodate you.”**

 I said it and my heart was racing, I couldn’t believe I’d said it, even though I knew it was true.

To my amazement, and his credit, he looked surprised, but then he nodded, “That’s right,” he said, “You’re right, it probably is.” We left it at that. 


 Months have gone by since I wrote this. The same photographer was out for Mother’s Day, and we were like old friends. Strange how that happens.

I don’t feel like a cobra goddess so much anymore. I’ve moved away from being a protector, now I aim more at being a presence. I can’t protect anyone from anything out there, but I can be with them. It is closer to the mindfulness idea, “don’t just do something, sit there.”***

And really, that sounds a whole lot more Zen than I can actually pull off. If you show up down at the clinic, you’re just as likely to find me ranting at someone about something, or walking away to cool down. But I keep working at holding on to that calm inner peace, on the sidewalk, every Saturday morning.


*scrum – a football term. We use it to refer to the formation made by the group of escorts who surround the patient and her companion, as we move down the sidewalk with them.

**The following observations are from my friend D., who proofed my post, found some typos, and made some suggestions. He said:   “Overall, I think your most powerful message to get across in this essay is the point about white male privilege.  What do you think about spending a few more words on that and really emphasizing it?” 

And then he went on and did it for me:   “Through the whole story, that’s the thing that kept nagging at me about his behavior, even though I didn’t know it until you said it. The whole idea that it’s ok for him to be filming because he was going to blur their faces was ridiculous. Even if we tell the clients that, that friggin’ camera is still extremely rude, intrusive, and scary. What if the woman was an illegal immigrant? She would have run scared and not gotten her abortion. It’s NOT ok to just film people and put them on the evening news, blurred faces or not. His privileged white background completely ignores all those scenarios and keeps him from being able to see just how rude he is. It’s the same with all those idiot protesters and chasers. They really can’t see how what they do is rude and intrusive. Their background only let’s them see how wonderful they are for what they endure to get their message across.”    (Thanks, D.!)

** “Don’t just do something, sit there,” is a Buddhist concept, and has been used in a variety of contexts, with slightly different connotations. One of my clinical psychology teachers in graduate school used it often to discourage new therapists from rushing to “fix something” when the client made an important disclosure. When something painful is under discussion, it’s easier to act quickly in an effort to make it go away, but often more helpful to just experience the feeling and let others “sit with it” as well.

Trust Women. Thank goodness for Roe v. Wade

What does it mean to Trust Women?

Trust Women.

Do I really have to answer such a simple question?

Justify such a powerful statement?

Is the idea that personal integrity and freedom extends to women such a stretch?

Why does the content of my uterus change my right to legal medical care?

My right to decide if I want to be a parent.

Why must I shoulder the burden of my pharmacist’s conscience

What is it about women refusing to acquiesce our reproductive and sexual autonomy that evokes the kind of anger that manifests bombings and murder.

Every year the anniversary of Roe v. Wade gives me pause. I am ready to celebrate, yell from the rooftops my joy at being a woman, a queer person and the Supreme Court’s decision to respect my privacy and bodily autonomy. In that same moment however, I mourn the tragedy that is the anti-choice movement’s march across the political landscape, throwing up roadblocks large and small. The cumulative result being a tiered system of the haves and the have nots, baring access to reproductive health care with parental consent laws, 24 hour waits, compulsory ultrasound viewing, personhood amendment, prohibitions on sex education, emergency contraception and constant stigmatization and harassment.

I started escorting at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in 1999 and am there every Saturday morning. I have walked with countless families past protesters yelling, begging, lying, crying, pushing, obstructing, harassing and bullying.

I have used my body to create space between the most confident 15 year old in the world and grown men who think they know her story without ever asking.

I have run with terrified women past protesters trying to grab her arm into the clinic doors.

I have stopped anti-choice protesters from slipping religious materials into client’s purses.

I have watched protesters call out their neighbors by name as they enter the clinic and then call the client’s mothers, pastors and sisters to bully them into leaving.

I have held a crying woman in my arms as she told me about her diagnosis with MS after her health began to rapidly deteriorate with her fourth pregnancy, and the agony in her voice as she wondered about sacrificing her body for the one or preserving her health for the other 3.

I have heard hundreds of stories of families in need, poverty beyond my wildest nightmares and heartache that I do not have the language skill to adequately express. And everyone of these people have been forced to walk through a gauntlet of anti-choice protesters who believe they know better than each of these women how to handle the struggles in their lives.

So what does it look like to Trust Women?

Trust is earned by every working mother.

Trust is knowing that women are life bearers. There is great power and knowledge in being the one to bring forth humanity. Trust is believing that women know better than anyone else when and if they have the resources to bring a child into this world.

Trust is agreeing to disagree; every woman experiences pregnancy on a continuum, Trust is supporting women no matter what.

Trust is acknowledging and dismantling privilege.

Trust is recognizing that poverty, racial and gender oppression burden us all.

There is no healthy world without healthy women.

Dr. Tiller understood.

Women are to be trusted.