Sidewalk Snippet ~ {8/12/13}

Saturday mornings parking is at a real premium. Most of the meter spaces on both sides of the street are taken by the antis cars. If escorts get there early enough, we can get a few spaces close to the door of the clinic and then we turn then over to clients as they arrive. That’s what we did this Saturday morning.

A client and two companions stopped around 7a at the street corner and asked about parking. We directed them to parking about a block away, but they had one person who wasn’t able to walk that far. We had them pull around the corner and park while an escort moved a car for them. The escort had the space exactly opposite to the clinic door, so it was a very short trip to walk.

When they had their car successfully parked and knew what to expect from the antis, we went back to the street corner. We watched antis approach their car time after time. The client and companions did not roll down their window, but we noticed they pulled their car forward and backed it up several times.

I went around to the driver’s window and asked the driver if they were comfortable with where they were parked. They said they were okay. And then I commented we had seen them pull forward a few times, so that’s why I asked. “Oh, I was trying to run over their feet. Maybe then they will leave us alone.” I kind of chuckled and said, “Okay, just checking.”

Their plan seemed to work because after a few minutes, the antis stopped approaching their car. We were able to escort them in easily when the doors opened.

A Study in Sidewalk Counseling

Before I started escorting, I always viewed the word “counseling” in a positive light. The advice of a knowledgeable expert to assist in coping with life events is positive. Counseling to me implies an impartial, truthful examination of facts from someone with training to help.

Now, I always have a negative reaction as soon as I hear the word “counseling” because I think of the antis and their sidewalk counseling. Like so many terms, they were purposeful in their choice to describe their actions. They have taken a positive word and changed its meaning, like “choice” was made to mean something negative when they use the word. Instead of a positive outcome for the clients and companions “counseled” by the antis on the sidewalk, there is a heaping on of incorrect information, shame, blame and judgment. If any of the clients do not take their advice, the antis turn from gentle words to ones meant to hurt.

Sometimes escorts just watch and listen. We are able to pick up a lot of details without interfering with a client’s actions or decision. There are times it is hard to stand by passively, but when action would only add to the chaos surrounding a client, we wait for a signal they need our assistance. We do not interfere when clients or companions want to talk to the antis. Firm belief in every person’s right to make their own decisions helps us to be witnesses instead of participants.

There was a morning last month escorts were witnesses. The sidewalk drama played out before us for almost 30 minutes. It was a study in how “sidewalk counselors” work.

This story started with the client and a companion pulling to the curb around 715a. We approached and said our normal statements about going to the abortion clinic and explained our orange vests. The reaction from the companion was not friendly, but they listened and decided to park in the $3 parking lot. We let them know we would come get them when the doors opened.

Around 730a a companion parked in the AWC lot. An escort asked if this young man was looking for someone going to the EMW clinic. He answered yes and stopped to talk to the four AWC staff in their parking lot to greet him. An escort overheard part of their conversation and apparently the client and he were in AWC until 5p the day before. He hurried to the entrance of EMW saying, “She’s in there.” All four of the AWC staff followed him.

At the same time, escorts were walking the client and her companion to the door of the clinic. They met at the door. The young man grabbed the client’s arm and tried to hold her back from entering. The companion who had come with the client, pulled her other arm and got her into the clinic door. The young man followed them into the sign-in area. The entire time the four AWC staff were standing at the property line saying, “You don’t have to go in there. Your mother can’t make you do this. Come out and talk to us.”

After a short time, the young man came back to the AWC staff standing at the property line. All four of them were talking to him. “Pull her out of there. What they are doing is illegal. It is illegal to coerce someone into killing their baby. Go tell her they are breaking the law.” He went back into the clinic.

This was repeated four times with variations in the words, but the meaning was the same. The escorts watching were treated to “You say you are pro-choice, but you are only pro-death,” comments when they were waiting for him to come back out.  The last time he came back out, the clients had already gone back for counseling by the EMW staff. During all of this, the EMW staff allowed him to talk to the client and escorts didn’t interfere with his entrances and exits from the building.

The staff of AWC know, or should know, the trained staff of EMW counsels each individual client to make sure they aren’t being forced into their decision. They will turn clients away if they are not sure or if there are questions about coercion.

This morning will always be engraved by two snapshots in my mind of the people involved. The first is of the client pulling away from the young man, tears in her eyes and repeating, “No. I want to do this.” The second is of the young man, head down and shoulders slumped, facing the sidewalk counselors as they walked away from him saying, “You didn’t try hard enough.”

We need to call them something other than “counselors.”

New Escort Story ~ by Anonymous

I am a new escort. I cannot speak for all new escorts, but I hope that my post will give both potential future escorts and more experienced escorts some insight into what it is like to be a new clinic escort.

I first heard about the escort group when calls were put out for extra assistance on the day before Easter. My husband and I are very pro-choice, and decided to put our values into action by volunteering as escorts. The email said that you were expected to not engage/argue with the protesters and I figured I could handle it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of the number of protesters (or their volume) but figured there might be people holding signs and yelling. My husband and I were given clinic escort vests and a brief rundown – ask people if they want to be escorted, walk at their speed, don’t engage with the protesters, don’t touch the protesters (or they’ll cry “assault!”), keep talking even if it’s just about the weather, to just keep the client’s attention away from the screaming.

In the chaos, I somehow found myself escorting from the $3 lot. (Please know that this is unusual! New escorts typically undergo a lot of shadowing before actually escorting). It was a quick frenzy of jaywalking (at the client’s request), shouting protesters, and emotion. My mind didn’t even have time to process everything that was happening. One protester ran up to me and bumped into me, trying desperately to reach the client. Everything in my mind cried out, “You will not hurt her!” and in a moment of intense (and selfish) need to feel like I could protect the client, I put my arm around her. The client, her face set with determination, yelled back at the protesters. Just as she reached the door, a protester wailed out, “Don’t DO it, darlin’!” and as suddenly as it had began, it was over. The client was inside the clinic.

It was then that I met one of the senior escorts, as she pulled me aside and helped me to realize that I had just broken one of the fundamental Points of Unity – asking the client’s consent (not just to be escorted, but also to be touched). My heart sank. With the panic of the crowd subsiding, I knew she was right. Logically I had known that, but in the chaos of the moment, there is no logic. As my husband and I walked back across the street to the parking lot, I started to get choked up. I hadn’t realized it was going to be so intense. The raw emotion felt too overwhelming.

We stayed a bit longer. I turned in my vest, thanked the other volunteers, got to my car, and started to cry as I tried to process my first escort experience.

I found myself at the escort training two weeks later. I think I oscillated between “I really want to do this” and “I don’t think I can handle this!” about ten times during the two-hour training.

The same experienced escort from my first experience encouraged me to try again, this time during a weekday morning when the sidewalk tends to be quieter.

My second time escorting was on a weekday morning. Now armed with non-sidewalk training and a deeper insight into the Points of Unity, I felt more confident. Being assigned the sole job of observing for that morning was incredibly helpful. I breathed more, forced myself to mentally slow down the events, allowed myself to process everything at a calmer rate.

In processing my somewhat unique start to escorting, I have realized that I (perhaps like many new escorts) was misdirecting energy during my first experience. In the chaos, I allowed myself to think that clients needed protection. This is not an unusual thought, I suppose, when you actually get a glimpse of some of the more vocal and hysterical protesters. The whole experience felt dramatic, frenzied, and full of helplessness. After the training, I saw clearly that the experience was about empowerment. We provide the space for clients to be empowered by always asking consent, by remaining calm and quiet, and by not engaging with the protesters.

Psychologists often speak of learning as a process of using what you know to navigate the world. People use mental scripts to guide expectations of what to do in new situations. For example, a mental script for ordering food in a restaurant can help you learn how to order food at a drive through.

There is no script for escorting on the sidewalk. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the chaos from the protesters. All of the implicit, unspoken rules we use for engaging with people in our daily life (turn-taking, respecting personal space, not yelling at strangers) seem to be forgotten by the protesters. For new escorts, facing this bizarre situation with no mental framework for guidance is a disorienting and chaotic experience! The escort training (both formal and on-the-sidewalk training) has been helpful in providing guidance. Even so, as a new escort, it feels very unsettling to not have a mental script to help me process events on the sidewalk. There is nothing in my daily life that helps me relate to this bizarre occurrence of people showing up daily to harass other people who are just trying to make the walk from their car to their doctor’s office.

To the more seasoned escorts: I am trying, I am listening, and I will do my best. I will probably still beat myself up for mistakes, no matter how many times you tell me not to. I still feel anxious at times, even though you teach me the “thousand-yard stare” that gives me a serene face to present toward the protesters. I am still trying to manage my emotions in a way that will allow me to provide a calm presence for the clients and their companions. And despite all of this, I will still show up to escort, even though there is still a part of me that doubts that my money wouldn’t be more helpful than my physical presence. As one experienced escort put into words, “I don’t think I can do this, but I know I have to do this”. How very true.

*********************************************************

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:

 

 

*********************************************************

First Impressions ~ by Anonymous

I felt pretty comfortable today and as I reflected back on what I heard and saw, the best comparison I can seem to come up with is used-car salesmen and/or pushy shop owners in the cruise ships foreign ports of call.

Car salesmen are trying to sell you an idea/product/service that you have no interest in. They are using repetitive streams of words to overwhelm your senses and put doubt in the choice that you have thought over, researched, and know is the correct one for you at this time. Be it something as simple as XM Radio, alloy wheels and road hazard coverage, or something as personal as the decision to end a pregnancy.

The pushy shop owners comparison is when upon finding out that you are not interested in what they are selling and pass it up, they then attempt to heap words of guilt, shame, regret, etc. on you in an effort to make a sale of something that you don’t want because the sale suits their need, cause, agenda.  Hoping that the stinging words will have an effect on your emotions and override the hard thought you have put into whatever choice you have decided upon. Again, be it Mexican coffee, trinkets, woven blankets or a reproductive decision.

I have had shop owners shout “CHEAP LADY” at me in ports of call as I walked past and would not cave into to going to look at or buy something in their shops.  I have also had used-car salesmen try and talk me out of a standard shift car telling me that they can be too tricky to drive in city traffic, or that as a woman I would be better off with full-coverage roadside protection for my safety.  “Silly them,” I think laughing inwardly. They don’t know me at all.  I don’t buy overpriced junk made in China at tourist traps and I can drive a variety of vehicles, including a stick-shift Dodge dually-diesel pickup,  through city traffic, I see myself having no problem with a 5-speed Honda sedan. My Dad taught me how to change a tire, so covered there too!

The thing that sticks out in my mind as being at the top of my list is, “You have not seen my life through my eyes. DO NOT try to put yourself in MY shoes. Your feet and your views are not a good fit.”    As I remember back when I had an abortion, I am glad the few protesters that I encountered only held up signs and prayed quietly and did not approach me.  If they had, I am sure that I would have been more upset and scared then I already was.  I would have loved to have had someone like the escorts I have met to hold my hand and walk me to the door.

I am glad to have met a like minded, strong group of people like those who come out to escort in Louisville.

*********************************************************

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:

 

 

*********************************************************

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {3/25/13}

There were not many antis out this morning. A group of three people were approaching the clinic from across the street. They decided to jaywalk right at the time the traffic light changed.

When that traffic light changes, the cars start whizzing down the one-way street. Everyone is in a hurry to get to work and don’t always pay enough attention to pedestrians. Escorts jaywalk across the street frequently, but we also have it timed for when the lights combine with the traffic to make it safer. We still walk clients to the corner to cross with the lights if the client doesn’t want to cross in the middle of the street, traffic is particularly heavy or one of the group is having mobility issues making a quick crossing impossible.

With my heart in my mouth, I stepped out into the street and encouraged them to hurry while holding up my hand towards the oncoming traffic. All the time I was hoping my orange vest would stand out and slow the traffic. I joined them on their walk and laughed with them about the timing for traffic being tricky. We made it across the street safely and they were able to enter the clinic with no interference.

One companion came back out of the clinic later while I was standing at the entrance. With a pat on my back they said, “You all do such a nice job. Thank you.”

It gave me the mood lift I needed.

*********************************************************

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:

 

 

*********************************************************

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {2/18/13}

The morning was cold, snowy and the roads and sidewalk were slick. There were fewer antis than we normally see, but there were so many empowered clients I don’t think it would have made any difference.

Fully half of the clients arriving declined our offers to walk with them. With smiles and kind words, they told us “We’ve got this” and “They won’t bother me.” We had several clients thank us for being there, but they just walked past the antis like they were not there; ignoring all the things they were saying.

I thought about Kescort this morning. He recently requested we post stories about the number of clients who are confident and move past the antis with ease. This morning was custom made for his request.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {2/11/13}

We had almost as many escorts as there were antis on the sidewalk, but M was there and she is always a problem. Most of the clients were escorted to the clinic door without issue.

The last client and companion pulled to the curb close to 8a. We went down to talk to them, but M was racing to beat us to them. As they got out of their car, M started talking and telling them, “Come to A Woman’s Choice and find out about all of your options.” The companion replied, “We know them. We have made our decision. Move away from us.”

Of course, M didn’t move away. She started to press up against the client holding a plastic fetus in her palm for the client to look at. The companion said, “I asked you to give us some space. Since you won’t do it, I will do it for you with my body.” The companion blocked M and kept her behind the client as we continued to walk to the clinic door.

I am always surprised at the total lack of awareness of personal space and the meaning of “Move away” M always exhibits.

You would think my capacity for being surprised would have run out by now.

Where Do I Park?

The client and companion pulled into the drop-off zone to ask where to park. It was about 30 minutes before the doors of the clinic normally open. We discussed options and I gave them directions to the $3 parking lot. Before I moved away from the car, I warned them about the antis not wearing orange vests and that they may approach them to talk and give out literature.

They were starting to pull over to the lot when D approached their car. She was talking to them when I re-approached the car to let them know she was a protester. D turned to me and said, “You are so rude. You had your turn to talk to them. Now it is my turn. You say you are pro-choice. They need to know their choices.” Since I had said what I needed to let them know, I  backed off and let her talk.

Escorts watched as the car drove down the street and turned the corner, bypassing the public parking lot. I alerted another escort to the fact they might have been diverted to the AWC lot by D. This is a common tactic we see. They offer free parking in their lot, but it comes with a lot of talking about the “right choice.” It is usually easier to pay for parking than hear the words meant to shame and coerce clients into their clinic.

The other escort was able to stop them just before they parked in the AWC lot. The companion told the escort the woman (meaning D) said they would have to pay for an ultrasound at EMW, but they could get it from AWC free. When it was explained to them that they didn’t have to pay extra for the ultrasound at EMW*, the free ultrasound performed at AWC would not be accepted by EMW* and they would just have to have another one, and AWC was an anti-abortion clinic, they parked their car in the public lot as originally planned.

D arrived at the AWC parking lot just as the client and companion were pulling away. She approached the other escort and asked, “If you die tonight, do you know where you are going?”

The companion was really upset when I went over to help them with the payment box. We discussed what had happened to them. They were mad they were lied to by D. I explained we cannot control what the antis say, but agreed it was frustrating.

As I was leaving, I warned them about the antis approaching their car even in the parking lot and suggested they did not need to roll their windows down if they didn’t want to. I told them we would come get them when the clinic doors opened.  Sure enough, shortly after I left the lot four antis surrounded their car trying to get them to roll their windows down. The antis began sticking literature on their windshield without permission.

The companion called the police to report their harassment. Two squad cars arrived within minutes and spoke to the antis. The four antis moved to the corner of the lot and stayed away from the car after their conversation with the officers. We did not hear what was said, but we were able to escort the client and companion without further incident.

When I went into the lobby of the clinic a short while after they entered, the companion asked me why the protesters were allowed to go right up to clients. “There should be a distance they have to stay away. This isn’t right.” I agreed and explained there was no bubble/buffer zone in Louisville. The companion expressed their anger over the whole situation.

I have to agree, lying, shaming, judging and harassment from the antis just makes the day more difficult than it has to be for everyone.

*The ultrasound at EMW is included in the procedure fees. There is no association between EMW and AWC. A procedure done at AWC will not generate a discounted fee from EMW. It will just cause the client to have duplicate procedures.

Belief and Abortion-by fml and servalbear (Re-publish)

This article was originally published December 24, 2011. We liked it and decided to publish it again. 
—————————————————————————
.
One of the myths anti-abortion groups spread is that people in support of abortion access to everyone are all godless. Many of our escorts attend services weekly and have deep faith in their religions. There are many religious groups who support abortion. In Louisville, we have the support of several Christian groups, individual churches and connections to other Christian groups around the country.
.
This week one of us heard an anti tell a client, “Don’t kill your baby this close to Christmas.”  We think there are unplanned pregnancies every day. The most talked about unplanned pregnancy in Christianity is Mary’s. It was unplanned by her.
.
.
The above photo is from a billboard in New Zealand. You can read the whole story of how the billboard was put up to promote tolerance of different views and was vandalized because it was “satanic.”
.
Personally, we think the billboard added humor to a serious discussion. Unplanned pregnancies happen all of the time, every day, all year around. Supporters for abortion access are respecting the choices clients make about their pregnancy.
.
There is a diversity of beliefs among escorts and supporters of reproductive health and we appreciate and value that.  In honor of that diversity, we want to wish everyone a Happy Hannakuh, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Good Yule, or Happy Festivus ~ lots of joy in whatever holiday you celebrate. For our atheists friends, we hope you enjoy the time with family and friends on these long weekends.

———————————————————————————-

REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {11/5/12}

The client and companion pulled to the curb and asked directions for parking from another escort. They pulled into the private lot I was standing in.

As they were parking, I noticed their “Choose Life” license plate. Since they had not talked to the other escort very long, I asked them when I approached their car, “I noticed your Choose Life license plate. Are you going to the abortion clinic or are you here to protest?”

After a little confusing conversation, they confirmed they were a client and companion going to the abortion clinic. We escorted them to the doors with no issues.

Another escort pointed out they could have borrowed the car. They also could have had a change of heart when it was their unplanned pregnancy.