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.

 

Old Friends

You say to a person leaving the clinic, “Hey, would you like for me to walk with you to your car?” And they’re like, “Sure. Did you go to ____ Elementary School?” And you’re like, oh my god do I really look the same as I did in 5th grade? “Yep!” And now there is a protester tagging along, so you can’t remind them of your name or ask their name, but you vaguely recognize them too. And you don’t want to be like, “You’re such a good friend!” or “Are you ok?” or “I hope the harassment wasn’t too bad on your way in,” or anything where you’re making assumptions or making the situation weird. So you just pretend you’re at the grocery store (and there’s a guy harassing you both?) and try to be normal and make normal small talk without acting like they’re a hero or victim or whatever, for whatever reason they are there, which is really no one’s business. And you are very conscientious to not say something mildly stupid like, “Great to see you here!” or “Have a great day!” which might seem a little… unaware. But it’s cool that they even said anything, because you would have never recognized them, and it’s a very Louisville kind of thing, and you’re really glad they recognized you. As they get into their car they say thanks for being there and you’re feeling like, well, I never would have guessed we’d both be here today but I’m glad. And then many hours later their name will finally pop into your head.

Where Would They Go? Part 1 – The Antis

Louisville has anti-choice protestors that have come out 5 days a week for decades. What would they do if they actually achieved their goal and completely removed abortion access in KY? If the clinic staff locked the door for the last time and the escorts put away their vests for good, where would the anti-choice protestors go?

Maybe they’ll amp up their random street preaching. Those who work in downtown Louisville might be familiar with the sight of Operation Save America KY preachers outside the courthouse. The close of KY’s last remaining abortion clinic could provide a recruitment boom for OSA and they could protest downtown every day.

Perhaps their protests would migrate to a fertility clinic. Pro-Life Action League has already staged anti-choice rallies at a clinic that provides In Vitro Fertilization. IVF involves the disposal of unused embryos unsuitable for implantation. It’s a logical extension of the anti-choice mindset to view discarded embryos as equivalent to murder and fertility clinic employees as murderers.

Or perhaps they would start congregating outside your local pharmacy. Abortion is the most controversial form of birth control so society affirms their right to harass and intimidate patients as free speech. Would the same excuses be made when they come for Plan B or monthly oral contraception? Anti-choice groups are also opposed to “The Pill” and could mobilize their members to move outside a CVS or Kroger. Maybe they’ll create “Wanted” posters for pharmacists or managers who refuse to stop selling contraception.

Maybe they’ll go even broader and harass children outside public schools. We’ve already seen this in practice when OSA held their national leadership conference in Louisville in February. Anti-choice groups certainly find the public school curriculum to be too secular. This past week, Governor Matt Bevin signed a Bible Literacy Bill into law, “allowing” the teaching of bible classes in KY public schools. The hardline members of the groups we see every week won’t stop until these classes are mandatory. Maybe they’ll create websites containing the photos and addresses of principals and teachers who stand opposed to their curriculum.

These far-right extremists slowly chip away at rights. Look at the slow rollback of abortion access that has happened in the past 40 years. Post-Roe, KY had 17 clinics performing abortions; now 1 remains. TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) have been incredibly effective at destroying abortion access at a slow and steady pace. If you give these people an inch, they’ll take every mile of road you have. Currently, that KY road starts at the toes of Louisville’s clinic escorts. We’re doing our part to hold space and advocate for abortion access because who knows what the extremists will take next.

Please read Part Two – the Patients, and Part Three – the clinic staff as well.

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Hard Hearted and Homely

Protester to newer escort: Don’t do this, you’ll become hard hearted and homely like the other women here.

Different protester to different newer escort: Young lady, don’t follow these older women down this path, don’t let them trick you into doing this.

Escorts show up independently, for a wide variety of reasons, but never because the older women in our lives are dragging us out there. I do love the concept of a coven of witches leading the escorts, and I get why protesters think the escorts who are older women are the leaders. But escorts have no leaders and are simply individuals who work together towards common goals with a few binding principles. (Meanwhile I find concern regarding the physical appearance of any escort unnecessary and offensive.)

The biggest thing I hear in these comments is… fear? admiration? bitterness? from the protesters towards older women. Throughout my life I have admired and gravitated towards women who are older than me – women a few years older than me and women a few generations older than me (and now women who are not older than me but just seem that way because I think of myself as a years younger than I am). I grew up with a mom with amazing women friends. Women who were midwives, women who worked at abortion clinics, women who taught dance classes at juvenile detention centers. It’s the same characteristics that make older women seem like leaders that draw me toward them. I see actions driven by compassion and respect for others, carried out with a sense of self-assuredness, assertiveness, and self-respect. So yes, sign me up to be a hard hearted, homely, older woman escort if that’s the price you pay for those qualities. You can also sign me up for the secret coven, and give me my crone card. I’m in.

Creating and Affirming Their Own Narratives

Anti’s love to “argue” with escorts and clients, but it isn’t a typical argument.  After the client has gone into the clinic, the anti’s will (using amplification) have an
argument with them.  The anti’s play themselves and the client.  They speak for the client, then knock down their made up client’s concerns with their own ideas.  They
do this with escorts too, since we won’t engage with them (see the Points of Unity).  We aren’t there to debate with anti’s, so anti’s create an escort argument that they
can “win” over. They also get really upset that we won’t talk to them.  “Will you get in trouble if you talk to me?  Why won’t you debate me?  You have no argument against
what I am saying?  Why can’t we dialog and reason together?”.  As if the personal medical choices of a third-party would be up for debate by two strangers on a sidewalk.
Talk about bad logic and reasoning.