40 Days of Respect – Day 2

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The staff of EMW Women’s Surgical Center rely on volunteer clinic escorts to assist their clients into the clinic past protesters. Volunteer escorts are proud to wear their orange vests as they walk people past anti-choice protesters. They know the clinic staff all realize abortion is healthcare and once the client is in the door, they will be greeted by non-judgmental, empathetic staff who will treat them professionally.

One client shared this comment with us this year. Even though 4 years have passed, they still remember the kindness offered to them.

I went to EMW in May 2016, and I am forever grateful for the strength and support provided by the clinic escorts. I didn’t take my decision lightly, but if I had not had an abortion I would have brought a child into a life of poverty and instability. The protestors were horrible and insulting and they don’t seem to care about the circumstances of the woman going to the clinic. I have zero regrets for my decision, and I appreciate every single person who gives their time to protect the safety and freedom of any woman who makes the choice to go to EMW. Thank you

TOEtel

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In our short two weeks of counting intentional trespasses, we documented multiple incidences over the property line.

They were repeatedly defiant of common courtesy and boundaries that are clearly marked and indicated. Painted boundary lines and closing in on personal space, leaning in inches from clients while shaming them were seen. Even when asked repeatedly to back off, get out of their face and don’t block forward progress.

They use their size to crowd, loom and intimidate individuals accessing reproductive healthcare.

The clinic was open 10 days for this fundraiser. Here are the results:

  1. 37 times a foot was over the property line. That’s a 185 toes!
  2. 5 people stepped over the line on 5 different days.
  3. One protester put toes over the line 21 times!

We thank all of the protesters for raising funds for abortion access.

We will be sending you the total due for your pledges, whether you pledged by the toe, the person or the day. Let’s get those piggys in the bank!

Oh Noes!! Whose toes are those?

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As the petty behavior and willingness to push civil boundaries of our protesters ramps up, they have taken to boldly standing on the clearly marked and painted “No Trespassing” property line. Asking them to respect personal space and private property is something they do not understand. They always reply trespassing is not important compared to their mission, but they also always make a point to do it daily. If it’s not important to them, why do it?.

They love to play their little games. But you know what they hate? What they really, really hate? They hate raising money for abortion access!

Knowing this about them, I’m going to pledge a dime a piggy for each toe over the line. Only one foot, that’s five toes! Darn only $0.50. Some of them love to plant both feet, and those are the ones that are going to put their feet into action to raise money for abortion access in Kentucky.

This photo was from a recent morning.

This individual raised a dollar for abortion access.

We have quite a few individuals who like to do this. As the pictures get documented, I will make sure to keep a running tab on whose feet won the race for the top money raised.

If you would like to Pledge Trespasser Toes, please fill out the form at the link below. All donations will go to the Louisville Clinic Escorts for supplies. There will be a follow up blog article at the end of the month with the count, some photos and information on how to pay your pledge.

2020 Pledge for Trespassing

Minority Report: POC Experiences on the Sidewalk – by Roxanne

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This may not be immediately obvious to some people reading this, but I’m black. Just thought I should get the formalities out of the way before we move forward. If you want to get technical, I’m biracial, mixed with black and white, but for all intents and purposes surrounding my experience as a volunteer clinic escort-I am a black woman. I’m about 6 months into volunteering as a clinic escort at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only abortion provider in the state of Kentucky. In the beginning, I thought that I would simply show up for a few hours on Saturdays, do my part, then go back home. Nothing more, nothing less. However, that thought was long gone before the clinic even opened for business on my first “Sidewalk Saturday” last summer.

While there are several contributing factors that drive my newfound passion and activism, the one that has remained my top motivator is knowing that my presence can be a form of comfort and security for some brown or black clients and their companions. The walk from the parking garage to the front doors of EMW is brutal for anyone. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s hard to even put into words-but I’m sure you can imagine what it’s like. Just trust me when I say that it is absolutely gut-wrenching. Now I’d like you to try and imagine having to walk through that hostility and harassment, but not seeing anyone who looks like you that also supports you and your right to choose.

We’re given lots of helpful information and education regarding the terrible things that antis may say to us volunteers, but I don’t think one can ever be “ready” to experience a person (a stranger, nonetheless) being so unapologetically vocal with their racism. Anti-choicers will say anything they can think of to bully escorts, clients, and companions. Most often it’s merely speculation that they concoct on their own with absolutely no facts or truth. However, if your skin is brown; that’s an obvious physical characteristic that can’t be masked or hidden by our practice of nonengagement.

Though I do get my fair share of racist comments from antis, their bullying isn’t just reserved for us volunteers. If the sidewalk gauntlet isn’t bad enough, when a client rounds the corner to the front of the clinic…it gets worse. When approaching the front doors of EMW, clients are likely to encounter cameras, loudspeakers with microphones and amplifiers, children, large graphic posters, bible readers and even the occasional opera singer. Add in a few MAGA hats and one man who always insists on showing us that he openly carries AND conceals firearms. Because that’s a totally normal thing for people to do at 7:00am on Saturday morning outside a healthcare provider’s office, right?

As ridiculously overwhelming as that sounds, it doesn’t end there for our black and brown clients. Just when you think you’re through the worst of it, nearing the waiting area located on the opposite side of a set of glass doors, you hear someone shout at you, “Black Lives Matter, even on Saturdays!! Maybe not to you though!” That comment never fails to send a jolt through both clients and companions alike. Sometimes I actually can see a person’s body begin to tense in anger. Other times, they’re so caught off guard that a random white man would have the audacity to use something created FOR and BY us as an opportunity to push their own agendas and hate.

I’ve heard antis say some of the worst things imaginable, just to list a few:

“This place is a KKK Paradise! A black doctor killing black babies! I bet the KKK loves that!”
“Honey, don’t you know that this place is the leading killer of your people? They kill more black babies in there than guns.”
“Doesn’t this remind you of slavery? This place kills the most Afro American people!”
“You’re not standing with black women, you’re leading them to murder their babies and have guilt for the rest of their life, you’re just wicked.”
“Sweetie, do you know who Margaret Sanger is? You should Google her.”
“See, that’s why most of you black people are ignorant.”

On one occasion an anti randomly and rather loudly shouted the n-word (Yes, a HARD R) with absolutely no context whatsoever. Six months in and I am still baffled by their antics every single time I step onto that sidewalk. I regularly remind myself that they choose to spend their time harassing and shaming people who are simply attempting to access care that they are entitled to as an autonomous person.

A few weeks ago, a fellow escort paid me what I consider to be the greatest compliment I’ve received in the time that I’ve been volunteering. This escort was my walking partner on that chilly December morning, and together we walked a handful of clients through the 3-ring circus that I have described in this article. As we were returning to our station at the parking garage, my fellow orange vested friend said:

“I am so glad that we have you here. The immediate connection you have with clients of color is an awesome thing to witness. I felt like I didn’t need to say anything at all because it was obvious that there was an unspoken trust between the two of you. That is something most of us will never be able to provide, so thank you for being here.”

And that, my friends, is why I will continue to proudly put on my orange vest for as long as I am physically able. I like to tell clients as we’re walking “If they’re here, we’re here” just so they know that we’re there for them, and I am confident that every single one of my fellow escorts share that commitment. If me simply being present helps ease anxieties or provides a sense of comfort to a person while they are exposed to that level of harassment—how could I not?

Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon! We’ll take a candid look at intersectionality and explore ways to best approach the issue of underrepresentation by POC within the Reproductive Justice space, specifically clinic escorting.

Sidewalk Snippet – Show and Tell

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CW: contains potentially disturbing images

Over the years I have seen some interesting, graphic and unusual props anti-abortion protesters will bring to the clinic.
Of course there’s the usual graphic posters enlarged thousands of times for maximum visual effect. And the ever common plastic fetuses, sometimes in an array of colors to represent all races.

On some of the bigger protester turnout days I have even seen a casket with a baby doll on display.
One protester wanted to get in on the visual prop parade so bad it seemed he plucked a picture off his living room wall before he came down to the clinic.
Today was a first. It was a plastic replica of a femur taped to the sign pole outside the clinic.
We even got a detailed explanation on what it represented. More on that this weekend. I have a longer blog post to write about it so it all makes sense to those that were not present this morning for the wild explanation.

Sidewalk Snippet – It’s Always Something

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Glad You Asked

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It seems everyone today has an opinion on reproductive health choices and access to legal abortion.

Escorting at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, assisting clients get to their appointments with as little interference/harassment from anti-choice protesters as possible, my mind is constantly engaged and thinking. So when this screen capture taken off a video Operation Save America posted and I read that comment from a viewer, I pondered on it.


What was I thinking as I calmly stood there that Friday morning, while Rusty Thomas of OSA (in town for a federal court appearance) bellowed, roared and shamed clients, companions, and escorts alike that morning?

I thought back to May 13, 2017 when this man in front of me chose to break federal law and cross the property line, sitting down with about a dozen followers blocking the entry doors until eventually peacefully removed by LMPD after many polite requests and invitations by the officers went unanswered.

I thought about the dynamics I was watching that Friday morning among the anti-abortion protesters. I watched when the cameras came on and when they had an audience, they kicked it into high gear, yelling shaming, preaching.

I thought about theatrics they love to present: escorts as stone-hearted, cold, uncaring people and themselves as poor put-upon saviors.

I thought about the perception their viewers must have when they watch these videos. I wonder if viewers know how much of a show it is to recruit donations and support?

I thought about the distortions they offer, the narratives they speak when they claim a save. In reality sometimes clients or companions tell them just what they want to hear so they will be left alone.

I thought about clients having to come back for a second appointment because they were tricked into the CPC next door and missed their originally scheduled one.

I thought back to last July when we had a very temporary buffer zone and Federal Marshals on hand. How much safer clients felt when they did not have anti-abortion protesters in their face, blocking their path, leaning over and separating them from their companions.

I thought about Rusty Thomas’ court appearance that Friday morning. I wondered if a federal judge would even think about weighing a First Amendment right to free speech versus the safety of citizens trying to just go to their doctor’s appointment?

I thought about how difficult and how politically weaponized someone who wishes to maintain their bodily autonomy and access the legal right to terminate a pregnancy has become.

I thought about the many difficulties people who choose this option overcome just in getting to the clinic.

I thought about the spectacle to have a small strange man in a cowboy hat yelling at them as they approached the doors, shaming them for the decisions they choose to make for themselves.

I thought about if we accept one person’s decisions and choices in life may not be ours, but those are decisions that must be left up to each individual, what they feel and know is best for their family.

So yeah, thanks for asking. I wish you’d take the time to think it over as well. Too many times one only sees what’s presented, not the whole picture.

On the possible parole of Dr David Gunn’s killer.

Last week, a call to action went out asking Clinic Escort groups, and other abortion access supporters to write letters expressing concerns ahead of the upcoming parole hearing for the anti-abortion extremist who murdered Dr David Gunn in Pensacola FL in 1993. David Gunn Jr and family are petitioning the Parole Commission in Tallahassee on November 1, 2017.

Michael Griffin also shot a clinic escort when he killed Dr Gunn. Of course we wanted to write a letter.

 

Here is the letter we sent to the Parole Commission:

To: Parole Commission, Tallahassee FL

From: Louisville Clinic Escorts

October 26, 2017

Dear Parole Board,

It’s come to our attention that the United States Parole Commission will be reviewing the case of Michael Frederick Griffin on November 1, 2017. We want to take this opportunity to express concerns about his possible parole.

This letter is from individuals who volunteer as clinic escorts in Louisville KY. We have first hand experience with truly frightening people who hold extreme beliefs about justifiable homicide, or stopping abortions by any means necessary. Staff and volunteers at clinics everywhere endure verbal aggression and physical threats daily from people who draw inspiration from Michael Griffin. To them, Mr. Griffin is a hero for shooting Dr. Gunn, and a clinic escort in 1993. For that reason we want to submit a firm request to this parole board that you consider the implications of a ripple effect that could be triggered by an early release of this murderer, who may appear reformed before your panel, while in fact being poised to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Already, we’ve seen extreme behaviors from followers of Griffin, and a willingness to break the law up to and including murdering doctors. In 2009 Scott Roeder murdered George Tiller with a bullet to the head in his church in Wisconsin. More recently in 2015, Robert Dear invaded Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains with explicit intent to kill people there with a personal firearm, as well as home-made explosives. In the spring of 2017 we saw members of extremist group Operation Save America intentionally violate federal law at our one Kentucky clinic to test the DOJ’s willingness to persecute FACE Act violations. We know that copy cats like Roeder and Dear draw inspiration from Griffin, and we would see it as Mr Griffin’s responsibility – if reformed – to denounce these behaviors publicly, specifically to anti-abortion groups and individuals. We would ask the parole board to consider Mr Griffin’s perceived willingness to do exactly this and incorporate this demand into potential parole terms.

We also ask that you consider how Mr. Griffin may be accountable for his actions going forward, considering that the approach of restorative justice asks perpetrators to repay their debts by repairing the damage done to those who suffered due to the actions of those who are supposedly reformed. We ask that if Mr Griffin is released, he make a commitment to ensure that others do not draw inspiration from his crime.

Mr Griffin’s actions caused irreparable harm to the friends and family of Dr. David Gunn, as well as clinic staff and volunteers everywhere who’ve had to ask if this work is worth risking our lives, considering that the mindset of extremists like Griffin cannot be jailed. In our minds, justice has not been served for the Gunn family.

In addition to the pain and suffering felt by Dr. Gunn’s family and colleagues, there has been immeasurable impact to countless individuals who did and would have sought care from Dr. Gunn, who were instead forced to seek care from another provider, or go without.

We believe that people can change. If Mr. Griffin has truly had a change of heart, perhaps an adaptation to the original life sentence given to him is reasonable. The responsibility of this parole board in determining whether or not Mr. Griffin is a threat to society is a great one. We ask that any terms of his potential parole be proactive to prevent further damage by actions similar to Mr. Griffin’s.

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some dangerous results that could be triggered by Mr Griffin’s release, even if he himself is not a threat at this time.

Signed:

Louisville Clinic Escorts

everysaturdaymorning.net

Michael Griffin’s actions didn’t happen in a vacuum, and extremist beliefs cannot be jailed. We think that if Griffin is reformed, there is responsibility beyond being locked up if justice is going to be served, so that people will be able to provide and obtain safe, legal healthcare without needing to worry about personal safety.

For Such Time as This!

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This clinic stays open.
Every client made it to their appointment.
Our doctors, nurses and staff made it to and from work safe and sound.
Every escort made it home.

July 22-29, 2017 EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY was inundated by fanatic, anti-choice activists. Because of amazing organizing by Louisville Clinic Escorts, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Abortion Federation, plus coordination between federal and local law enforcement and EMW, no one was denied an abortion. We saw the sidewalk blocked, sound systems turned up to full volume and every attempt made to thwart the work of supporting folks, simply trying to live their lives.

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Pledge-A-Picketer has been one of our tools since 2010 when we began to see increased protesters at the clinic on weekends like Easter, Mother’s and Father’s day. As the crowds increased we decided to monopolize on their organizing efforts.

It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge whatever you choose for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts and abortion access. Escorts use this fund drive for legal expenses, training costs, safety supplies, parking fees for patients and other miscellany.

And here are the daily protester totals:

Saturday 7/22/2017: 75 protesters
Tuesday 7/25/2017: 175 protesters
Wednesday 7/26/2017: 100 protesters
Thursday 7/27/2017: 115 protesters
Friday 7/28/2017: 200 protesters
Saturday 7/29/2017: 155 protesters

Which gives us a grand total of: 820 protesters.

Based on the pledges that came in from our dear supporters, that will bring in a total of $13,975 for abortion access in Kentucky! WOOOOW!!!!

Emails are going out to those who have already pledged. If you would like to contribute, you may do so through Paypal using everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com.

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Sidewalk Snippet 07/06/17

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Our local antis routinely shove literature into the hands of clients and random pedestrians alike. Social conditioning and not wanting to appear rude, many people accept the handouts and move on.

Most times it is discarded within a few minutes of receiving it.

Sometimes they just throw it in a trash bin on the way past. Other times it’s handed to escorts and they ask us to please get rid of it. When that happens the antis accuse us of taking the pamphlets to prevent clients from learning the truth.

No, our goal is to keep them from being thrown out randomly littering downtown.