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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Shining A Spotlight

In early April, I wrote an article called “Documenting Fear.” In that article I described the steps Louisville Clinic Escorts are taking to document the actions of the anti-abortion protesters in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, KY.

We are ready to take the next step. We have been working with the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP) to develop recruiting criteria, training materials and guidelines for deploying Legal Observers in front of the clinic on Saturday mornings. We have had our first training and the observers will soon be on the sidewalk.

These legal observers are not escorts. They are not counter-protesters. They are just observers. They will be signing strict non-engagement and confidentiality agreements. They will not be talking to escorts or anti-abortion protesters. They will be writing observations, taking photos, sound recordings and videos. They will respect the patient’s privacy at all times. The observers will work in pairs. You will be able to identify them by their red wristbands.

What are they documenting? Harassment, threatening speech, pushing, shoving, blocking, local ordinance violations, such as noise or sign ordinance violations, plus police presence and their responses. They will be recording information about new protesters on the sidewalk, including vehicle information. They will be watching for any potential escalation into violence. They are the eyes and ears outside the clinic. Reports will be shared with the clinic staff, and when necessary the LMPD, FBI, DOJ and NCAP.

Why are we doing this now? All across the nation clinics have seen a dramatic increase in threatening speech and actions in front of their clinics. The anti-abortion rhetoric within the GOP presidential candidates’ campaigns have not helped the atmosphere for abortion access at all. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) published statistics in April 2016 that show we aren’t imagining this, the incidents of threats and violence did increase dramatically in 2015.

We hope the deployment of these volunteers will make a difference in the sidewalk atmosphere. If they don’t, they will shine a bright spotlight on behavior that is not “counseling”, “grandmotherly” or “loving” at all by documenting what they see under that spotlight.

Stay tuned for updates on how it goes.

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.  

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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. 

 

Do You Know That Woman? ~ by KYBorn

So, the Supreme Court has just ruled that antis have a right to engage in activities that would otherwise be harassment. I’m not thrilled, but life goes on.There are so many things I wonder these days. I wonder how the Supreme Court can’t tell the difference between harassment or stalking and free speech. I wonder how our country can still remain so backward while most of the world wants to march forward. I wonder how people can’t see that the debate over abortion doesn’t happen on the sidewalk in front of a clinic. It happens in courts, governments, families and in the minds of women who choose abortion.

I have so many questions I want to ask antis who “counsel” outside clinics but could never do so without causing further chaos for the patient, who is my main concern. I do have many different questions though, after both escorting and taking friends for appointments.

The main one I always wanted to ask is where I got the title for this post.

Do you know that woman? I doubt it. If you knew her you wouldn’t have to stand on a certain street to discern her reproductive choices. She would have told you what they were if she wanted you to know.

Do you know she is both a rape victim and a survivor of childhood molestation? Of course not, to you she is nothing but a fetus container. The fact that she still screams every night from night terrors doesn’t matter to you anyway. Do you know the person who raped her was an intimate partner that she would have trusted with her life until a week ago? Of course you don’t. You are on a mission to save the embryo. It doesn’t matter what she says.

Did you know her name is Jeanna? Did you know she was 8 when her mama committed suicide?

I know her. That’s why I am at the clinic with her.

Did you know she has already been to your CPC before? She was the one who left crying and humiliated because she asked for help with a baby bed. What she got was a lecture and a few coupons.

Did you know I had to buy her child that baby bed because she had no money or help? She has just gotten on her feet after that one. How do you propose she pay for the embryo she carries now?

It must be nice to wrap yourself in that blanket of righteousness when you spend a few hours at your local CPC, while totally denying the real facts and the real, live, living, feeling, breathing women who come to you and you have no real answers.

I guess “just have the baby” and some stuff about Jesus is supposed to make problems about rent, bills that are 2 months late, a car that just had the engine blow and not having a paid maternity leave make it all better.

Did you know she wept on the phone for an hour when that second line showed up? Remarkably, it did not take an hour and a guilt trip to get her results at home. They were no less accurate.

Do you know about her medical history? No, and it is unlikely you care. She is not allowed to get care for herself now that she is a sacred fetus container. She should empty all concerns about making a life, living her dreams or even paying the rent next month in the category of “unimportant things that were never meant to happen.”

Do you know that by having six or more men surround her screaming about her decision makes her flashback to the rape? In case number one, she told a man no and he used her body in a way she didn’t want that got her pregnant. To go see a doctor, she has told a group of men who encircled her and wanted to stop her ability to walk into a clinic to go away. They won’t go away either. They are using her in a way that makes them feel superior by supposedly saving babies.

Do you know that surrounding this fragile woman, calling her a murderer and invading her space called up horrible memories she would rather forget? Of course not, you are all about saving “babies” and the woman is to be used as a vehicle towards this goal; willing or not.

Did you know that the car you used your preteen children to block wasn’t hers? It was mine. When you screamed at her that if she could afford a car like that she could afford another baby, it showed so much ignorance. Her only, unattractive old car won’t even start now.

Did you know that we drove around the block at least 3 times because you compassionate “sidewalk counselors” scared her beyond belief? She doesn’t want to talk to you before you even approach her. She didn’t want your counsel or literature.

Do you know that the decision was already made before she came to the clinic? I know, because I was there on the long, long night she looked up every possible option including abortion regret, adoption regret and motherhood regret on my internet because she couldn’t afford her own.

Do you know she ran faster than ever that day to get away from you compassionate and loving sidewalk counselors? Probably not. There was a ring of them following her and the rest were on to the next big thing.

Do you know we talked about this right on into the morning before we walked in the clinic? I am not even a terribly close friend, but she came to me because I wouldn’t judge or pressure her to do anything. I’m sure you see me here, with the dark circles under my eyes, praying I don’t flop to the pavement having a seizure from lack of sleep. You seem more concerned about my non-existent embryo and the type of car I drive than me.

Did you know when you were yelling at me, the woman you are yelling at to take responsibility and get 5 gazillion jobs to support a baby isn’t even pregnant? Nope. I wish you would have remembered that just because a woman goes into a doctor’s office doesn’t mean she is pregnant.

Do you know she wept in my arms for over 2 hours last night? She was mostly over the decision to terminate the pregnancy. She was more concerned that she wouldn’t be able to withstand the protestors.

Did you know all the “literature” that you mailed to my house did no damage or changed no minds? I doubt it. You clearly got it illegally from writing down my license plate. I’m not messing with filing charges because my husband knew and supported where I was, so the “dead baby” via US mail could be explained. How did you know that the license plates didn’t belong to a woman abused, whose husband would have killed her if she had a baby or an abortion, who just needed a little time to get out? You didn’t. You just didn’t care.

Do you wonder why people felt threatened enough to want a small zone around their clinic where nobody could stalk, harass or threaten them? Put away your photo-shopped images and actually talk to women if that is what you want.

Go away when she tells you that she doesn’t want to talk to you.

Life is simple when everything is black and white or good and evil. That is a safe place we go to when we are children, or a place we stay as adults because we are too afraid to look at anything beyond our own safe little world.

So I will go ahead and answer my own question. The protestors don’t know her or me; whoever that her or me may be. They just know that they know best, even though they don’t know a dang thing about her. They also know that there is nothing easier to love than an embryo that will have no impact on their lives and will be out of their sphere of influence in less than 30 seconds.

Maybe, just maybe, people lining the sidewalks should leave the decision up to women, rather than CPCs, legislatures and random strangers. How can people who have never met a person think they can solve all the problems in their life in 7 seconds?

That is a question I can’t answer and neither can anti-choice protestors.

On McCullen ~ By Huxley

The Supreme Court just handed down its decision in McCullen v. Coakely. It’s not pretty, but it could be worse. For now the concept of the buffer zone survives, although the 35 foot buffer zone adopted by the state of Massachusetts has been struck down. It’s not a total loss, and it is at least encouraging that the unanimous opinion speaks favorably of various other approaches states can take to address congestion and violence in front of abortion clinics.

Of course, it’s less than encouraging how little the court seems to hear states when they say “these things don’t work, though.” And that’s if you’ve got a state that gives a damn in the first place. That’s not what I want to talk about, though. I’m too angry. I’m angry that the opinion is unquestioningly and simperingly sympathetic to the protestors.

You can read the entirety of the opinion if you wish; I can’t recommend that
you do. For now, go ahead and skip ahead to page 19 of the opinion.*   Beneath the “A” is where the court addresses the real meat of the matter: has the buffer zone placed a burden on the free speech activities of these sweet little grandmotherly types?

Yes, indeed it has! And the examples cited in the opinion all come from the protesters themselves. Who would know better, and report more accurately? “The burdens on petitioners’ speech have clearly taken their toll. Although McCullen claims that she has persuaded about 8o women not to terminate their pregnancies since the 2007 amendment… she also says that she reaches “far fewer people” than she did before the amendment.” So, the amendment has resulted in far fewer women being “reached,” has it? And “reached” by what definition? We know that the antis sometimes scare clients off, sometimes cause them to reschedule, sometimes even get them into the CPC – hell, maybe they actually have convinced some clients not to get the procedure. But I’m not sure that’s “reaching” people as a strictly factual matter, you know? And I’m also not sure self-reporting from the antis is all that great.

The court is, though. They cite another anti: “She estimated having about 100 successful interactions over the years before the 2007 amendment, but not a single one since.” Again, I think most escorts know that antis have a pretty wonky sense of “success,” and I’m still pretty skeptical of… well, of anything that comes out of an anti’s mouth, quite frankly. But hey, here’s another anti quoted in the court’s opinion: “…[O]nly one woman out of 100 will make the effort to walk across [the street] to speak with [her].” So we’re clear: the court says the buffer zone has placed a substantial burden on protesters, because they are having a “lower success” rate. We’re all clear on that? OK!

The court goes on to describe the difficulty of placing literature “near their hands,” an issue on which McCullen is quoted earlier in the opinion: “For example, in uncontradicted testimony, McCullen explained that she often cannot distinguish patients from passerby outside the Boston clinic.” The buffer zone, you see, reduces the length that a client must walk while subject to these interactions, dramatically lessening that precious window of time in which antis must decide whether a given woman walking down the street is headed to the book store, the taco stand, or the abortion clinic.

In the days to come, there will be plenty of in-depth, intelligent legal analysis, which I look forward to reading. But clients trying to get in the abortion clinic do not have the luxury of considering only the legal complexities at play. Clients trying to access abortion are doing so in a world where, overwhelmingly, men believes themselves to be utterly entitled to the time, personal space, and bodies of women as a class. And within that cultural milieu, seeing the same thing spelled out by the court, this unanimous opinion that the First Amendment rights of the antis are violated when they don’t get to know precisely what a woman walking down the street is up to, when they are obliged to “raise their voices,” when good gawd, maybe women do not want to walk across the street to talk to them… well, that’s not a message that really needed repeating, now was it?

This decision handed down today does not exist in a legal vacuum; the law of the land is not supportive of women’s bodily autonomy in general. And it does not exist in a social vacuum: the message of this vulgar opinion is one women are used to hearing every damn day: you belong not to yourself, but to others. When you walk down the sidewalk on Market between 1st and 2nd while female, the antis swarm you. They assume you are there for an abortion. They do not take no for an answer from passerby any more than they do from clients. They will shove literature in clients’ faces no matter how many times they are told no.

And now they have a unanimous ruling from the highest court in the land that does not merely strike down buffer zones, but does so in language that glowingly affirms every last ugly bit of entitlement and lack of respect for consent that I have seen out on the sidewalk. Nice.

 

* (I’m using the PDF of the slip opinion available on the court’s website.)