Sidewalk Snippet ~ {7/22/13}

There were several clients waiting by the door before the clinic opened. Of course, they were the focus of the antis’ attention for the entire time they were there. They were preached to, pleaded with, insulted and harassed while they waited. Offers of help with housing; offers to adopt their babies; offers to teach them the love of Jesus Christ were rapidly said by a series of antis from the property line.

R was there and said something I had never heard before. When I asked some of the long-term escorts about it they all said, “Oh yeah. I have heard him say that.”

“They are going to throw your baby in the garbage. Then they are going to send it to be burned up with all of the other trash. If you are going to kill your baby, bring it back out to me so I can give it a decent funeral. I will make sure it has a respectful service.” He repeated it twice to make sure they all heard him.

This is a step beyond offering to pay for their attorney fees for adoption. It was so very creepy. How would this really be accomplished? R and all of the antis are gone by 830a. Should the client just call R? Why would they entrust this to someone who has just been screaming at them about how evil they are?

What the antis don’t realize is that some women do have respectful services and make a time to say goodbye. We have had readers who have been kind enough to share their stories with us and have read articles about others.

It is an idea only an anti would come up with to say in an effort to upset clients as they wait by the door.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {7/15/13} by Skeletor

Sometimes there is nothing to do but laugh at the doozies the antis come up with. Nevermind the faux science they like to quote, there are times when they really go off the rails with the things they shout at the clients.

D had one that stopped us in our tracks this week. Three escorts were standing at the front at the end of the morning, preparing to leave when she shouts, “Your babies will end up in the trash after they sell your babies’ brains for $1000!”

What?!

We’ve heard a lot about Gosnell lately; oh, boy, do the antis like to paint gory images of what happens in a clinic. But selling brains? Wow. Just, wow. Not sure where she came up with that one.

That’s a new one, to be sure, and a good example of the depths to which the antis will stoop.

Sidewalk Bingo ~ by Anonymous

One of our escorts developed this brilliant Bingo to be played while we are at the clinic. You can print out the pictures and play along wherever your clinic is, but with practice you can visualize the Bingo board in your mind and place your mental tokens while practicing your 1,000-yard stare. Have fun and don’t forget to yell “Bingo”! It will totally confuse the antis.

(We have written out the Bingo Legend cards at the end of the article for easier reading and hyperlinks.)

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Bingo Card

Bingo Worksheet 1 (650x841)

Bingo Worksheet 2

Bingo Worksheet 4

Bingo Worksheet 3

BINGO LEGEND

FREE SPACE – Any mention of god, because there will be; there will be.

Description: The use of god as a weapon is prevalent on the sidewalk. The protesters never seem to think that the people escorting or going to the clinic might worship a different god or no god at all. They can’t fathom that someone might worship the same god but interpret the writings in different ways, with different outcomes. No, their god is THE god and they know what angers him, they are right and you are wrong.

Example: “Blah, blah, blah GOD blah, blah blah.”

MONEY

Description: Mention of payment as proof that abortion is evil and the doctors are without compassion or ethics. Makes you wonder how upset they get about plastic surgeons.

Example: “Girls, they only care about your money, they don’t care about you.” “Did you know this clinic has made four million dollars?”

CHICKEN

Description: Use of the ever popular “are you chicken?” taunt. Most people grow out of this phase at the same time they outgrow recess and drinking juice boxes, which is probably why it’s so jarring when used by an adult.

Example: “Are you too afraid to look at me?” “Are you too afraid to look at [plastic fetus, abortion porn, etc.]?”

TRAP

Description: Protestors like to try to scare people entering the clinic. One popular way is to imply the building is a tinder box waiting to go up in flames, apparently with no fire suppression equipment or escape route. If they are that concerned about the clients well being maybe they should be urging their congressmen to reverse the TRAP laws that prevent the clinic from renovating or moving.

Example: “Did you know that they take you into the basement to perform the abortion? There are no windows or exits down there. If there is a fire there is no way out. You will die down there.”

CHOICE

Description: The protestors like to point out that the women can change their minds even after they’ve entered the clinic. They seem to believe no one has ever realized this. The escorts on the sidewalk just call that CHOICE and assume women will make the one that’s right for them.

Example: “The door didn’t lock behind you. You can leave at any time.” “Every one of you can walk right out that door.”

RACE

Description: The number of assumptions here are staggering: assuming the race of the female; assuming the race of the male; assuming either cares about racial purity; and assuming that a woman owes something (in this case the use of her uterus) to her race.

Example: “Don’t destroy your race today.” “You are participating in a holocaust of you race today.” “You obviously didn’t look up Margaret Sanger. S-A-N-G-E-R.”

HELL

Description: Talk goes from love to punishment & damnation quickly on the sidewalk. Protestors know exactly what incurs god’s wrath and will happily tell you what’s coming for you in the afterlife.

Example: “God will punish you for this.” “If you die tonight are you ready to face your creator knowing what you’ve done here today?”

PROTEST

Description: Protestors like to say they are “counselors” due to the negative connotations of the term protestor, but counselors usually spend most of their time listening, not condemning. And by the very definition of the word, yes, they are:

pro·test n.

1. A formal declaration of disapproval or objection issued by a concerned person, group, or organization.

2. An individual or collective gesture or display of disapproval.

Example: “I am not a protester.”

DEPRESSION

Description: Planting the FALSE seed that depression, regret and emotional/spiritual trauma is an absolute consequence and that any and all future issues are directly related to the abortion. From the American Psychological Association:

“The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy.”

This review [Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion] identified several factors that are predictive of more negative psychological responses following first-trimester abortion among women in the United States. Those factors included:

•Perceptions of stigma, need for secrecy, and low or anticipated social support for the abortion decision;

•A prior history of mental health problems;

•Personality factors such as low self-esteem and use of avoidance and denial coping strategies; and

•Characteristics of the particular pregnancy, including the extent to which the woman wanted and felt committed to it.

Example: “This will change you. You will never get over this.” “80% of all women who have abortions think about suicide and 20% attempt it.” “You will ALWAYS regret this; all women regret this.”

MISOGYNY

Description: Misogynistic statements implying a male companion has dominion over a female client, her body and her choices. The people who say this truly believe men have the right and the obligation to drag women out of the clinic and force them to give birth, with no thought to her wants, her needs, or her mental/physical/financial health. After all, a woman’s only role in life is to be a “helpmeet” to a man and mother to many children. The men who get upset and aggressive on the sidewalk seem angry that women are doing things without their consultation and against their wishes.

Example: “Men are supposed to take care of women. Don’t let her do this.” “Be a hero today and take her out of this place. Don’t be a wimp””

SPECIAL

Description: Attempting to sow the seeds of discontent by pointing out the clients were all told to be there at 7:15 for a 7:30 appointment. They don’t seem to realize this isn’t like changing your mind about lunch cause you don’t want to stand in a long line at the burger place. If you leave that line you don’t have a burger. If you leave this one you have many months of pregnancy, then labor, then a baby that’s dependent on you.

Example: “Girls, you think you’re special with your 7:30 appointment. You all have 7:30 appointments. You’re not special.”

EDUCATION

Description: The complete disregard for the importance of education in a person’s life and it’s impact on future success. This seems most insulting coming from a bunch of educated, middle-aged, financially secure white people.

“The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” — Benjamin Franklin

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” — Brigham Young

Example: “Your education isn’t important. This baby is.” “Your degree won’t mean anything to you if you kill your baby.”

NAZIS

Description: Because all arguments wind up at Nazis. Godwin’s law = you lose.

Example: “You’re walking in to a death camp today.” “You’re like Nazis walking people into the gas chambers.” (to the escorts)

BIBLE

Description: Another popular weapon on the sidewalk, the Bible is THE trump card in all arguments.

Example: “It says in the Bible . . .” “In [book,chapter, verse] Jesus commanded us to . . . “

INNOCENT LIVES

Description: Touting god’s great sadness at the death of the innocent. Unless of course he’s doing the killing, he seems cool with that. Now that Noah’s ark has turned into a nursery decoration we forget it was floating over the corpses of millions of men, women and children. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he could show his might by killing all the first-born males in Egypt. In his anger he killed David and Bathsheba’s newborn son, but I guess it’s ok because he really liked their next son.

Example: “God hates the spilling of innocent blood”

CONSCIENCE

Description: Apparently if a client walks up looking nervous it’s not because she’s worried about having a medical procedure. It’s not due to stress because her pregnancy is putting her life at risk or because she may be recovering from rape. It’s definitely not because the client is scared of the protestors. It’s obviously the holy spirit whispering in her ear, if only she’d listen.

Example: “Listen to that voice inside you, it is telling you this is wrong.” “You’re crying because you don’t want to go in there and kill your baby.” “That’s god’s voice telling you this is wrong.”

SOAP BOX

Description: OK so it’s not a soap box, it’s a small step stool. Usually accompanied by loud men and occasionally loud men with microphones. Never women though, hmmmm.

Example: This one is visual, you’ll know it when you see it.

BABY KILLER

Description: The term “baby killer” is saved for the escorts; the clients and companions get a more manipulative appeal, but the idea is the same.

Example: “Please don’t kill your baby today.” “Mommy, don’t kill me.” “Why do you want her to kill her baby.” (said to an escort)

LIES

Description: Telling lies seems to come easy to the antis, but they also like to accuse escorts of lying or keeping the “truth” from clients/companions, even if all an escort is doing is walking quietly at client’s side. It doesn’t matter if the client/companion tells them to go away, it doesn’t matter if the escort is just giving directions to parking in the area. If the protestor doesn’t get to force his/her belief system on others they like to hurl this at the escorts.

Example: “Why don’t you want them to hear the truth?” “Don’t believe his lies.” (said when an escort informed someone of the cost of parking)

JESUS SAVES

Description: Apparently the human race sucked, so Jesus died for us. Because of that we’re supposed to do exactly what street preachers tell us Jesus wants us to do.

Example: “God sent his only son to die for us, even though we are not worthy of his mercy” “Jesus died for your sins and this is how you repay him?”

DOCTOR

Description: Protestors seem very concerned that clients have not met the OB/GYN who will be performing the abortion. Not sure if they feel the same way about an ER doctor, or a heart or brain surgeon. A lot fewer surgeries would be completed if everyone had to have a “getting to know you” dinner with the surgical staff beforehand.

Example: “Girls, you don’t even know the abortionist.” “Why don’t you go to a real doctor.

BREAST CANCER

Description: Spreading incorrect, out-dated data on the sidewalk is a biggie (see depression above). A popular one is about the link between breast cancer and abortion

From The American Cancer Society:

In February 2003, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) held a workshop of more than 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. The experts reviewed human and animal studies that looked at the link between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. Some of their findings were:

✴Breast cancer risk is increased for a short time after a full-term pregnancy (that is, a pregnancy that results in the birth of a living child).

✴Induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.

✴Spontaneous abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.

The level of scientific evidence for these findings was considered to be “well established” (the highest level).

Example: “Girls, your risk of breast cancer increases with an abortion.” “The younger you are the greater your risk of getting breast cancer if you go through with this abortion”

DEATHSCORT

Description: Escorts won’t get with the company line and call protestors counselors or “life escorts” so the next best thing is to call your enemy names.

Example: “Don’t listen to the deathscorts, they don’t care about you.” “The deathscorts won’t be here when you come out.”

FREE STUFF

Description: Protestors use the lure of free things to get clients into the CPC. They imply it will save them money and time, but the “few minutes” stretches into sixty, the counseling turns into preaching. They even have “hospital grade” pregnancy tests, a nicer stick to pee on one presumes?

Example: “Why don’t you come next door for a free ultrasound? It will only take a minute.” “If you change your mind we’ll refund the cost of your procedure.”

BAT-SHIT CRAZY

Description: Some things defy all categories.

Example: “Why do you want to kill my daughter.” (said to an escort while the protestor was shoving a two year old towards the escort)

“You were created in the image of god, not the image of. . . of . . .of a chicken”

“When I was pregnant . . .” (said by a male protestor)

“I just want to love on you.” (because ewwwwwwwww!!!!!!)

Various clients:

“The pregnancy is ectopic.”

“My daughter’s baby doesn’t have a brain.”

“The heart never formed.”

Protestor response:

“Are you sure? Have you seen a real doctor? Would you talk to a friend of mine, she had something like that and the baby’s fine.”

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {7/8/13}

There were only a few escorts this morning. Sometimes we aren’t able to reach clients as soon as we would like.

This client already had pulled into the parking lot behind the CPC when we met on the sidewalk. I let them know about the orange vest, the clinic wasn’t opened yet and they were parked in an anti-abortion lot. We discussed moving their car and directions to the $3 lot.

As they started to their car to move it T, one of the AWC staff, intercepted them and started talking to them. “You can park in our lot for free. We won’t tow you. Why don’t you come in to have a free ultrasound while you are waiting.” I quietly said, “That’s an anti-abortion clinic and she is a protester.” The client said, “Thank you,” and continued moving to the car. I let them know I would go across to the parking lot and guide them to it. Then I waited.

After about 5 minutes, the client pulled into the $3 lot. When I approached the car, they were shaking and started crying. “That was so horrible. She wouldn’t let me close my door. She blocked me from leaving the lot. She just kept talking and talking and saying horrible things.” We talked for awhile and I reassured the client to not take the things said personally because we hear the same things said to every client every day. “They don’t know you and your circumstances. They are just saying the things they have memorized to upset clients.”

When the client was a little calmer, I let them know I would come get them when the doors of the clinic opened. As we walked to the clinic, T’s parting yelled words to the client were, “Don’t believe the lies she is telling you. All of the escorts lie. They are not pro-choice. They are pro-death.”

Even though I know we will not change the antis’ minds on the sidewalk, I wish they would reflect upon the effect their words have on clients. I fail to see the compassion and practice of ‘We just want to help.’ The words always change once the client crosses the property line of the clinic. No matter how quiet the words on the sidewalk and in their parking lot, words are always shouted at the property line.

The last impression clients have of these antis is of anger and hate; not too conducive to fostering trust.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {7/01/13}

Sometimes clients and/or companions really want to engage with the antis. These conversations usually start with an anti saying, ‘If you believe in Jesus, you shouldn’t go into this place.’ This morning a companion really wanted to talk theology with A.

The client and companion were waiting for the door to open and sitting just outside the doorway. The client had on headphones and was ignoring everyone and everything around them. The companion was ready to argue religion.

A is a frequent anti who always says, “I used to be a sinner like you. The word of God turned my life around. Let me talk to you about the Bible.” The companion answered him, “You need to reread the Bible and understand what you missed, like compassion and love.” The conversation between the two of them went on for about 15 minutes.

At one point, A reassured the companion he made his living by researching and studying the Bible. The companion replied, “That’s your problem. You are reading only religious documents. You need to read some secular documents to understand the entire history of the period and culture. Your information is all one-sided.”

During the discussion that we were listening to, the companion was able to ask questions A was not able to answer and to correct mistakes in A’s argument. They were both quoting Bible verses by number.

While the conversation was entertaining to bystanders, the point of protesting abortion is not “What would Jesus do?” It is always the need to force your beliefs and view of morality on another person; a stranger. It is the desire to dictate another person’s most personal choices about reproduction.

An amusing offshoot of this conversation was that A became offended when he was described as associated with the Baptist church instead of his sect of  Christianity; he quickly corrected the error in labels, even while during the conversation a Catholic anti became offended with A’s description of the gospel.

It doesn’t matter what label you put on your beliefs, they still should not be forced upon others.

Remember

Dr. George Tiller*

Dr. George Tiller*

This day four years ago Dr. George Tiller was murdered. He was murdered by an anti-abortion protester on May 31, 2009. He was murdered while ushering at church services on a Sunday morning.

Today we should remember his bravery and commitment for years to help women, even at great risk to himself. Today we should honor his life while mourning his loss. Today we should remember to “Trust Women.”

Trust Women

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*The photo of Dr. Tiller is included in a statement from Merle Hoffman, On The Issues Magazine, Spring 2009 edition. Please take a minute to read it.

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If you are interested in reading more about Dr. Tiller’s story, I highly recommend  ”The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by Stephen Singular, published by St. Martin’s Press, First Edition edition (April 12, 2011) It is available for purchase at bookstores and Amazon.com.

Family Event Photos

The Saturday after Mother’s Day still saw a lot of anti-abortion protesters at the clinic. There were about 200 of them.  At one point another escort asked me what one anti’s name was and I answered, “I don’t know. That is one I haven’t seen, but I can’t remember all of their names. There are a lot of new ones out today.” An anti overheard me and said, “Yes, and there will be a lot more of us from now on. Get used to it. You aren’t going to win.” Psychic predictions from the sidelines.

Among the new groups was one of young people carrying shiny, new fetal-porn posters. I noticed a lot of Operation Rescue labels in the bottom corner of these new posters. This particular group had brought at least twelve posters, about four feet wide by two and one-half feet high each. All of them, old posters and new, displayed a graphic image of what was supposed to be an aborted fetus or sonogram pictures of a developing fetus. One person could carry each poster and after all of the clients entered the clinic, they lined up across the property line facing the waiting room windows. There were so many of them and the posters so large, they had to stand three deep and raise the posters up so all of them could be seen.

I know I should have taken a photo of them for you guys, but I neglected to do so. You will have to  just imagine the spectacle spreading across the sidewalk just beyond the clinic entrance. The sidewalk was so blocked, escorts discussed strategies for moving around them in case any clients arrived late. Luckily, we didn’t have to implement those plans.

This May 19th article by Robin Marty in RH Reality Check caught my attention. It was published the next day and described exactly what we are seeing at EMW. Marty describes this tactic perfectly:

  • Public protest of abortion using graphic material has been a staple of the anti-choice movement since the early ’80s, when activist Joe Scheidler advocated it as a means to engage in protest and “sidewalk counseling” in his handbook Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion. From fliers with graphic pictures that were handed out at public events and marches to larger photos outside of clinics where women would be terminating pregnancies, Scheidler was an enthusiastic advocate for the power of a gruesome image, although he did recommend that the ones at clinics be positioned away from the person doing the actual “counseling” of women prior to their entrance into the clinic in order to not scare them. He also encouraged the use of such photos at pro-choice events or when picketing the homes, private offices, clubs, and places of worship frequented by providers.

And, the new twist in those plans is:

  • Still, for the most part the target remained adults, and adults in places where anti-choice advocates assume the majority would support abortion rights. That is beginning to change as more protesters are seeking to give the photos wider distribution, and directly affect those under the age of 18. High schools  are becoming a favorite protesting place of late, with one “truth truck” driver stating that the giant photos of “dismembered fetuses” displayed on the side of his truck are the only way to get the message across.

Bringing the graphic photos to public events where young people are expected has backfired for the extremists more than once. Parents object to the politicizing of school events or family-friendly events. They object to their children being exposed to the photos. When and if a parent talks to their children about reproductive issues and abortion should be left up to the parents’ judgment. It is just one more way the anti-abortion groups prove they do not respect anyone’s right to decide unless it is to agree with their anti-abortion views.

Almost two years ago, protesters targeted a child’s middle school back-to-school night. Why was this child a target of their signs? The father of the child is the landlord for an abortion clinic in Germantown, MD. After public outcry about the graphic nature of the protests, this landlord decided to fight back. Voice of Choice was formed to help others targeted by these extreme tactics. 

The antis do not seem to listen to public outcry or reason. They are stepping up the in-your-face efforts at locations that have nothing to do with reproduction or abortion. This week in a Texas high school, abortion photos were found in the girl’s restroom. The… “material was scattered all over the restroom.”

The US isn’t the only one to see this uptick in distribution of fetal porn. In Calgary this month, 50,000 photo postcards were distributed in an effort to “reopen the debate on abortion.” Their target audience are residents in the ridings of “MPs who voted against a motion to study when life begins.”

  • Melanee Thomas, an associate political science professor at the University of Calgary, questions the organization’s tactics.

  • She says the postcard campaign may be aimed at young people.

  • “Part of it is to try to convert the young to a very particular way of seeing this issue, one that is, I ought to say, not legally balanced and not constitutionally balanced with the way that we have the Charter set up in Canada.”

Targeting the young is not a new tactic for the antis. They bring their children to protest at the clinics. It is their idea of a family event and it is a learning experience for their children that frequently reverses in adulthood. This story is only one example of how minds change from our childhood adherence to our parents’ doctrine to our own viewpoint through discussion, research and reading non-religious and/or scientific articles of the facts surrounding abortion.

Marty believes the distribution of fetal photos to the young seems to be about this message:

  • The message implied is clear: If you want these pictures to go away, ban safe abortion. Until you do exactly what they say, they will continue to bring their protests everywhere people gather. Especially family events involving children.

Good luck with that plan. Fostering outrage against your group rarely seems to sway people to a particular viewpoint.

We need to broaden access to abortion not ban it. We need to broaden access to birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies, not make birth control harder to obtain.

We need to support individual reproductive choices.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {4/15/13}

The companion and client pulled to the curb in front of the clinic before 7a. We talked awhile about orange vests, protesters and parking options. They decided to remain parked where they were since it was close.

When I moved to the clinic door after talking to them, D decided to stand one foot away from me and stare at me. She wasn’t talking to me and I wasn’t talking to her or looking at her. She continued to stare for about 5 minutes and only stopped when another escort came to join me. That pretty much set the tone for the day. The antis were aggressive and there were enough of them to swarm around each client entering the clinic.

We were able to escort this client and companion with minimum interference when the doors opened. The companion repeatedly told D and the other antis near the door to leave them alone, but of course this was ignored.

When most of the clients were in the clinic, the anti we call “Screaming Preacher” showed up to shout at the clinic windows. He always says the same things: you are sinning, you are murdering, let me adopt your baby, I want to pray with you. We call him Screaming Preacher because he is so loud he never needs amplification to be heard down the street. The clients can hear him while they are in the waiting room, but they cannot always hear his words. They just know someone is harassing them by screaming about his views on what it means to be a Christian..

The companion came out of the clinic after 8a and just stood by the door staring at him. She did say, “You need to be quiet,” and then moved towards their car. As I walked to the car with her she said, “I am trying to be polite about unsolicited opinions. They can hear him in the waiting room. These people (gesturing towards the antis) don’t need to be here. They aren’t helping. This decision is hard enough, we don’t need people giving their opinion of what is right.”

I let her know there was nothing personal in the antis’ words. “We hear the same thing said every day to every client. They don’t know you. I agree they shouldn’t be here, but we cannot prevent them from saying hurtful things. They will be gone soon. When we leave they only stay a few more minutes. We are leaving now and most of them should be gone right away.”

She just shook her head and said, “Thank you for being here. I just wish they weren’t here too.”

All I could do is agree.

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 

 

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First Time Escort – by Chris

The first thing I knew, going in, was that I couldn’t be “me”. I normally do not shy away from confrontation or controversy, but today wasn’t about me. I was there to try to make an awful situation somehow less awful for the women involved. It’s never fun to have to walk a gauntlet of people trying to intimidate you and bully you into their will, especially when they use photographs and blatant lies to accomplish their goal.

The urge is so strong to get right back in their faces, but we can’t.

I don’t know why these anti-abortionists are so strongly held in their deceit, but I have long noticed that the truth of abortion doesn’t sell the anti-abortion agenda, so they show pictures of 2-4 month old babies, smiling and dressed. This is not what is being aborted. Why lie? Because it serves their purpose.

It was an education for me.  As an atheist, I had thought of this as a conflict between atheists and Christians, but it wasn’t so much of an atheist/Christian fight, but a reasoning vs plea-to-emotion. Sure, they came armed with ‘facts’ that they might as well have made up on the drive there, such as stating that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, than ANY other event in history. I’m sure there are some history students who will be shocked to learn this.

I did try to be civil, if asked a question, no matter how ignorant I thought it was. I saw a sign they had that commanded people to obey the gospel. I mentioned to one of the other escorts, that I wondered which gospel they were referencing because of the errors and contradictions in them. I was asked to name the errors, and I’ll admit they aren’t worth committing to memory, so I admitted that I did not have them on recall. His response was that because I didn’t know any, they didn’t exist. Well, I don’t know a single person in the country of Ethiopia, so I wondered aloud to my friend if that also meant Ethiopia didn’t exist.

They made the claims that there were millions of people waiting to adopt the babies that were being aborted, but last time I checked, orphanages weren’t drying up, or running empty on kids. The most obnoxious guy there seemed to love getting right in people’s faces, and when I saw some people volunteering that were less formidable, I stepped in front of him, and towered over him. I don’t think others were intimidated by him, but until me it might have been possible for him to make himself believe he was intimidating. I guess his neck hurt from having to look up at me, because he moved on.

In some ways, it is easy to dispel their arguments, especially when they start picking and choosing from the Bible. Again, I did have to remind myself that this was not the time for that kind of encounter.

This doesn’t phase me, the insults, the name calling, the propaganda, but again, I can’t be strong for these women, just hope to shield them as much as possible.

Will I do it again? Absolutely, if only because I can. I think about what it would be like if this was my daughter, and she had decided to have an abortion. I don’t know that I could refrain from responding to the things the protesters say when it was someone so important to me.

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REMINDER: If you are interested in escorting, don’t forget the training on Saturday, April 13th at 9A.  Training is not required, but it’s helpful. Please see our Trainings for Escorts page or email us for additional information

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

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First Time Escort – by Tom

My wife has been a clinic escort for over a year. She has helped with new escort training several times, and she discusses with me her experiences as a clinic escort, telling me how various “regulars” among the anti-abortion crowd act and react and how escorts, clients, and client companions manage themselves in what can be a tense environment.

In our discussions, I find that my first reactions to envisioned scenarios are sometimes good, and sometimes not so effective, in light of the primary mission in the Points of Unity the escorts agree to follow: It’s not about escalating. It’s not even about me, or any escort or anti-abortion protester. It’s about providing the space for clients to follow their decision through, with the underlying assumption being that clients have considered their options well enough to make their own decision. The hows and whys of their decision, just like the decision itself, is their own business, to be shared only with people they trust.

Of course, this also means that to focus on the clients, there is no time or space to judge the protesters. They have their own reasons for being there, most often based in their religious belief systems. That I do not share the specifics of their belief hierarchy is irrelevant. They are still people. As discussed later this morning, if calamity were to strike, I would do what I could to help them.

But I digress. Often. You’ve been warned.

I know myself well enough to realize that I would have to be VERY careful if I were to volunteer on the sidewalk. I am too ready to escalate in general. Even so, I have wanted to be there, to see first-hand the intensity, the individuals I hear of by nickname and actions only, and to help.

So, this morning, I went. It’s Easter weekend, a time crucial to the central belief of many Christians, so it was expected that there would be extra and extra-loud anti-abortionists on hand. As it turns out, the call went out via many electronic avenues, and we had students from the University of Louisville Medical School, other college students, and many other folks come out to wear orange vests. I don’t know how many orange vests were in use—one count was in the upper forties, and more people came afterward. I’ve seen posts claiming that sixty or more escorts were on hand—a reality commented upon by a couple of the anti-abortionists, who may or may not have cared that I heard them claiming to each other that our huge turnout was an indication of our concern over the power of their message. Delusions abound.

With all that extra staffing, we had the luxury of posting several volunteers across the entryway to the clinic. We were a moveable wall—tasked with keeping antis from blocking access to the clinic building, moving out of the way when clients and client companions arrived.

It was pretty easy duty, really. Stand there and let the preachers preach, let the antis spew their religious silliness. At times, move aside to allow passage by clients, client companions, and an occasional escort.

Yes, I was more than once reminded of scenes in movies in which drill instructors yell at recruits during boot camp, with the recruits required to stand at attention and all but ignore the verbal abuse. Some of the antis even tried to shame us, speaking derisively of our humanness, calling us names, telling us that their god was going to punish us for our wicked evil abetting of the abortion mill. And then in the next breath telling us that if we confess to their god, and ask forgiveness, we could enter heaven after all. Such hypocrisy. Such ludicrousness.

A couple years ago, I read the book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture, by Darrel W. Ray. The base premise of the book is that an apt metaphor for religion is found in the study of virology. Others have used the expression “thought virus” to describe other applications of the analogy, and I find the expression apt. The idea is that once a thought virus gets into one’s head, it’s exceedingly difficult for a thought counter to the original to take root. It’s hard for someone indoctrinated in religion to see an atheistic viewpoint as even being an acceptable alternative to belief in his or her god. Scripture makes use of this, even without formally recognizing it, when it has passages that demonize those of us who don’t believe.

Of course, it could be viewed in reverse: Those of us who have been “inoculated” against the virus don’t get absorbed into it. Speaking from personal experience, I simply find the reliance on the religious person’s god to be speaking of some imaginary friend, like Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. It’s hard for me to imagine believing in what seems horrendously illogical to me. The hubris in saying that no matter what our sins, the Christian God will forgive if we but ask is astonishing to me. That some sidewalk preacher dares to condemn me to his version of hell, not having any idea who I am or what I do is an insult. It’s meant to bother me.

But, because I have the secret weapon of knowledge of the concept of thought viruses, I am able to let his vitriol go on by me. I am able to focus on keeping my place, keeping my awareness on my surroundings so that I can alert my colleagues that clients are coming our way and that we need to be ready to make room for them to pass into the building.

A couple hours after things settled down, after the group breakfast, after some errand-running with another escort to collect her bicycle, and after starting to type out my thoughts, I realized that the antis were giving me a lot of power over themselves. Because I was able to let their words go by me without effect, they got angrier and more strident in their word choices.By giving me this power, they in effect empowered me to be a better volunteer, and do a better job for the clients and their companions.

I say this because one in particular spent some time in front of a group of us, deriding us, mocking us, telling us we must have been “real men” to stand up to a woman haranguing clients in front of an “abortion mill.” He went on and on, talking about how he imagined us being really proud that we were abetting the killing of babies and all the guilt-trip words he added to that. We mostly ignored him, until he called us weasels. One of our group piped up with “Can I be an otter instead?” which prompted me to chime in with “I’ll be a ferret! People treat pet ferrets quite well!” The guy walked away, disgusted that he couldn’t upset us. He came back a couple times, trying again to shame us, without success. He gave us the power to disgust him with our indifference to his snide remarks. Again and again.

Other of their ilk preached for a bit at us, or more accurately, at each other for my amusement, then moved on to preach at other vaguely-human forms wearing orange vests or clients or anyone who would listen.

A snippet, because I enjoyed seeing it happen: At one point, a fellow escort was standing beside me, and one of the more vocal preachers was haranguing people who had walked into the building. Because the preacher’s words were having less than the desired effect, he focused his attention on my fellow escort, who was at times smirking at the lunacy of the vitriol. “You mock me! You dare to mock me as I speak the word of God! You dare to mock me!” the preacher shouted.

The escort’s response? Indifference, in the main. An occasional chuckle. He removed his glasses to clean the spittle from them, put there by the preacher as he shouted his anger at having a less-than-desired effect on the escort’s mien. My fellow escort and I chuckled to each other soon after the preacher’s departure.

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REMINDER: If you are interested in escorting, don’t forget the training on Saturday, April 13th at 9A.  Training is not required, but it’s helpful. Please see our Trainings for Escorts page or email us for additional information

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

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