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.

 

Not in My State! ~by KYBorn

So, I’ve been gone for a while.  I have a good excuse that circles back to the title if you can hang in there long enough.

I had an unexpected illness that required multiple surgeries, a long ICU stay and a month long stay in my home state since I could neither stay alone or travel

Anyway, after the insurance sorted out all the things they would pay for I ended up back in my home town doing outpatient therapy.

Being back in my home town for an extended stay brought back a lot of memories. It didn’t take long for me to be reminded of the desperation felt by women who had a 90-mile drive and a time zone to cross. It reminded me of high school girls who went to a subpar practitioner in Lexington because he didn’t check IDs.  It reminded me of why I didn’t have sex until I was over the age of 18 and free to dispose of unwanted products of conception as I chose. Sure, the town had changed in a lot of ways. Heck, they even have a Mexican restaurant that serves margaritas that actually contain alcohol and a Super Wal-Mart. What they didn’t have and still don’t have is reasonable and affordable access to safe pregnancy termination.

I was born and raised in rural Kentucky. I spent part of my adulthood living in a less rural part of the state. Both places lacked convenient and affordable access to abortion care, but most women knew that as long as they were 18 they could go to Louisville, even if at great cost, to terminate an unwanted pregnancy or a wanted pregnancy gone wrong. None of us thought it was right that we should have to travel so far to get legal health care, not to mention walk a gauntlet intended to shame us that has only become progressively worse. I had already left the state before the worst of the TRAP laws that have been thrown down as barriers for all women, but can be particularly difficult for rural and low income women became law. I read as two of three clinics were closed, but at least there was one that had been standing for years. At least there was one clinic left in the state.

Then I read that the new Governor Bevin is ordering it shut down on a technicality. Yes, I got angry enough to throw my shoes. Hard.

Since I would likely be arrested for screaming on my front lawn, I’ll scream it here.

Not in my state!

It was bad enough before with underage girls sneaking to back alley butchers and only the wealthy being able to afford to take the time off to usually spend the night (due to time change, or two nights in the case of a two-day procedure) without choosing between rent and health care.  It was bad enough when women had to walk an oversized block filled on both sides of people shouting obscene dialogue of hellfire, waving fetus porn and surreptitiously directing them to “the clinic next door” where they got everything BUT the abortion they were seeking.

So, I don’t live there anymore.  I can drive and easily pay for an abortion in two locations.  I can get on a plane and use my health insurance at one of over 10 clinics to pay for abortion.  I know who and how to get misoprostol to induce a miscarriage without walking a gauntlet of shame as now required in Kentucky. I wouldn’t be one of those women who ended up dead due to infection from a botched abortion by a quack or ended up poisoning myself by consuming herbs or plants that are supposed to induce abortion. There are a lot of places in the world where desperate women are harmed by resorting to desperate and unsafe measures. The United States is rapidly becoming one of those countries and certainly Kentucky is on the forefront of denying safe abortion care.

Of course, Governor Bevin wants to shut down the last place in the Kentucky where a woman can walk a gauntlet of shame filled with fetus porn, stalkers and statues of the blessed virgin.  No.  It isn’t enough to shame women but they must be denied care they are obviously desperately seeking at all. He wants Kentucky women to be regulated to the status of second-class citizens in a third world theocracy.

NOT! IN! MY! STATE!

This is not what most people want or care about.  They want better education, better job opportunities and training, dealing with drug overdoses rising out of control and better support for women who choose to go to term.  Mostly, they want the government out of their bodies, just like I want the government out of mine.

But it isn’t going to happen in my state (or commonwealth, if you prefer).  The doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate is nothing more than biblical anarchy.  This is what the Governor is buying into.  It may be crap, but your state tax dollars will pay for it while boxes of rape kits sit untested in a basement because that money has been allotted to defend unconstitutional laws and regulations based on religious beliefs.

So now is the time.  To steal a bit from the Reagan years, “Just Say No” to shutting down the last abortion clinic in Kentucky.

 

Bevin Threatens Last Clinic in KY – by MAP

The EMW Women’s Surgical clinic on 2nd and Market is the last abortion clinic in Kentucky and the threat of closure is imminent because of our Governor Matt Bevin. This is a threat to reproductive justice and abortion rights in our state, restricting access to abortions, creating more barriers for clients to face. Every person should be able to choose whether they are ready to parent a child. Attorneys at the ACLU have filed a federal lawsuit so the clinic can stay open. For more information please go to the links provided below.

Want to know how you can help?

Come rally with us Sunday, 2:00 p.m in front of the Clinic!

Rally for EMW

Donate to the Kentucky Health Justice Network Bowl-a-thon

Kentucky Health Justice Network bowlathon donations

Articles with more information

Courier Journal 

ACLU

Herald Leader

CNN

Insider Louisville

 

The Day the Circus Came to Town ~ by Penny

Escorting is always a high-tension job, even on a relatively normal Saturday.  Saturdays always bring out the highest numbers of protesters, and the larger their numbers, the greater their escalations.  This past weekend came with new and frustrating challenges – the whole circus came to town.  

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Operation Save America rode into Louisville this past week in a cargo van emblazoned with headstones and some favorite graphic “dead baby” imagery, with a few lies about breast cancer sprinkled in for variety.  While the clinic was only targeted on Friday and Saturday, the protesters did their best to cause as much disruption as possible during their stay. 

An hour before the clinic opened on Saturday, they set up two large speakers (each on a six foot tripod) along the edge of the property line just outside the waiting room.  Cords were left dangling between these without a care in the world for the trip and fall hazard this creates in a very highly-trafficked area – because nothing says pro-life like harming people.  

As soon as the setup was finished, escorts holding the property line were treated to some Christian-soft-rock at a volume which could be clearly heard around the entire block.

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And again, an entire hour before the clinic even opened its doors:
16559425_2351336238425900_1400690639_nAfter the warm-up tape ran its course, OSA members went on to take turns haranguing escorts and clients about our sinning and iniquity as per usual.  

The rhetoric itself is not what made Saturday special.  When a national, well-funded group like OSA comes to town, our regular cohort of sidewalk “counselors,” sign-wavers, and other motley shamers gets all stirred up.  More of them come.  Many of these unfamiliar faces are not familiar with the property line, the FACE Act, or, it seems, common decency.  Their heightened sense of importance and urgency, combined with the extra crowding and assaulting volume from the speakers, made it a very nervous morning. There were places where the sidewalk was nearly entirely obstructed, either by too many bodies or so that OSA could make room for the props they brought along for extra “poignancy.”

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This is the corner of 2nd and Market – this is what clients had to walk through before even being able to see the clinic’s doors.


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And for reference, here is the view around that same corner.  See the speakers taking up half the sidewalk?  Can you imagine the courage clients and companions have to summon to get through this mess?  Can you think of any other medical practice where this intimidation is tolerated?

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Yes, the picture above is of a tiny white coffin, complete with plastic fetus dolls along the top in a row, on a tray table pushed out into the path of clients on their way in.  

One begins to wonder, looking at their van, their sound system, their tiny caskets – how many women could this money have really helped, if they cared as much as they claim to?  How many meals could this have made for a food-insecure pregnant person, how many nice outfits to go on interviews, how many hours of childcare for the babies already in this world?  If this weren’t actually about controlling the minds and bodies of women, how much of that lobbying power could they throw behind paid medical leave for all new parents?  Looking at the fancy equipment, and the van that’s certainly much newer than any vehicle I’ve ever owned, I have to wonder:  what do they believe their GoPros, amplifiers, custom paint jobs, and bags of tiny plastic fetuses are accomplishing?  

 

 

Control Issues ~ by Ferret

I am something of a control freak, and the offspring of a line of control freaks. We used to joke that if one were to look up “Control Freak” in the dictionary, one would find a picture of my grandfather.

In my battles with depression over the years, I realized that being a control freak was contributing to my depressive state. I worked hard at becoming less of one in part to lessen the effect on my mien, with mixed results.

At one point in my life, I was invited to attend a twelve-step group based on Alcoholics Anonymous, called Emotions Anonymous. Either through that group or through my sessions with the counselor who introduced me to it, I learned the idea that while I couldn’t (by their definition) control my emotions, I could control how I expressed those emotions and which of those emotions I focus on at any given time.

I also learned that if I release control of others to those others, I am more able to do what I need to do to control how I present myself.

That led to an interesting revelation~one that I’m sure many have reached: I’m not responsible for any other person’s emotional state. Because I am not responsible for that person’s emotional state, I get to retain responsibility for my own emotional state and whether/how I express it.

This expands to all sorts of realms. Because I wish autonomy for myself, I cannot assume control over others’ autonomies. I have to accept that they will act in what they think is their own interests.

There are limits, of course, as the classic example of freedom to swing one’s arm illustrates: My freedom to swing my arm ends before impact with another person’s face. I don’t have the right to harm others, save for circumstances of self-defense, and even then the force I may use is somewhat limited. I cannot bring harm to you for endangering me once the danger has passed, for example.

The reason I mention all this at the moment has to do with the social discussion around abortion and related women’s rights.

Yeah, who am I, a white male, to talk about women’s rights?

Call me something of an ally.

And call me one who recognizes that, because I insist on autonomy for myself, I believe it is no business of mine whether a woman chooses to abort a fetus. Because it’s not my business, it’s also not the business of the government that allegedly represents me. It’s a decision for her to make, along with people she chooses to consult. Sidewalk “counselors” (religious bullies, for the most part) aren’t part of that circle. Congress Critters/Gynoticians* are not part of that circle.

Does that mean I favor abortion? Whether I favor abortion is immaterial. As I mentioned, I’m a guy and recognize that I have the privilege of not having to face that decision for myself. It means I recognize that her decision is hers to make. I have to assume that she will consider whatever options are valid in her situation.

And there may not be any viable options other than abortion. Sometimes the pregnancy is such that continuing it at all would put the mother at grave risk. In some cases, the fetus can never become viable. Since the percentage of times those happen is non-zero, and since I cannot know the exact situation (indeed, the exact situation is not my business), I cannot assume that any one woman’s situation doesn’t include elements of those factors. I’m not willing to put limits on abortion based on such factors either. It would be heartbreaking enough to have a wanted pregnancy result in such a situation without having to prove such to a gynotician* before earning a pass to have one’s abortion labeled “acceptable.”

* Per the Urban Dictionary: “A politician who feels more qualified than women and their doctors to make women’s health care decisions.”

 

 

Governor Bevin and Angela

What do they have in common?

…an inability to see the difference between serving their religious beliefs and serving all Kentuckians without discrimination or, in short, harassment behavior.  In order to explain myself, a brief summary of Governor Bevin’s actions regarding the University of Louisville within the last 8 months is needed.

First, a definition, a public university board, such as the U of L Board of Trustees, has governing power over the associated university: the power to approve or reject budget plans, tuition increases, approval authority of new degree/certificate programs, selection of certain award recipients, and other student affairs.  KY law gives the current Governor the authority to nominate replacements when a board member is removed or resigns.

However, in June 2016, Governor Bevin abolished the entire previous board, without just cause for each individual and without a hearing.  He cited that the board was dysfunctional and out-of-compliance with diversity requirements (not enough minority representatives and majority democratic affiliation).  The board at the time had five vacant seats that could have been filled to resolve this issue.  Instead, he chose entirely new members and reduced the number of members from 20 to 10.  A case was opened in the Circuit Court of Franklin Co. against Governor Bevin for removing members without cause or hearing.

In July 2016, the Franklin Co. Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a temporary injunction that re-instated the previous board until a final decision could be reached.  The final decision came in September 2016, and ruled that Governor Bevin had, indeed, overstepped his authority.  The case was appealed and sent to the Kentucky Supreme Court where the case is still open.  The previous board remained in power.

In January 2017, Kentucky legislature approved Senate Bill 12 giving Governor Bevin explicit authority to disband the previous board and select new members who will then be confirmed by the KY Senate.  When new members are needed for a public university board, the Governor of KY must contact the Governor’s Postsecondary Nominating Committee.  This committee is made up of 7 members, all appointed by the Governor, and their sole responsibility on the committee is to gather a list of potential nominees for a public university board.

All of this brings us to Angela Minter.

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Yes, the same Angela who illegally trespassed to harass a client at the Louisville clinic; the same Angela who berated an escort with racially-barbed insults; the same Angela who refers to all fetuses as, “pre-born babies”; the same Angela who attempts to humiliate clients by contacting their families, churches, and communities because of an abortion, the same Angela who will go to any length to stop clients from having an abortion even though she had two abortions, herself.

Governor Bevin has appointed Angela Minter to this committee.  Despite the fact that her primary, and possibly only, qualification and experience is operating a zealous pro-life religious organization, and despite the fact that she routinely harasses Kentuckians from all over the state for seeking a legal medical procedure, Bevin would trust her judgement in suggesting potential new members for the Board of Trustees?  Is this what it takes to be qualified in Bevin’s administration?  Are religious/political beliefs the primary deciding factor?  And will those same religious/political beliefs be the primary deciding factor for the upcoming board members?

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The committee, including Angela, submitted a list of 30 names on January 13, 2017 to Governor Bevin for consideration.  Let us hope that Governor Bevin shows better judgment in his choices for the Board of Trustees.  Let us hope that Bevin remembers his oath to support the Constitution of the United States and to be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The constitution requires separation of church and state.  The commonwealth includes a significant amount of people who’s beliefs are different from Bevin’s.  Will he use his political power to push a religious agenda?  If the past two weeks is prologue, it doesn’t look good.

One definition of harassment is, “to make repeated attacks against (an enemy)”.  Angela repeatedly harasses clients.  Her enemy is the autonomy of each and every client.  Angela wishes to subvert the choice of a client with her own decision about what is best.  In a similar fashion, Bevin is making repeated attacks against the autonomy of U of L. He believes he knows best and is subverting the processes that were in place.  There’s a phrase for this… something about birds and feathers….

Anger at the Clinic ~ by Stella

Have you ever been angry? I mean really Mad? I mean Enraged!!! Suddenly. Immediately. Without warning. Something happens. Someone does something and – BOOM – steam is streaming out of your ears. It happens. But – it isn’t supposed to happen when you are an escort at the local abortion clinic.

But it does. It did. To me. The signs, the 4-foot tall signs with abortion porn should not have to be seen by anyone, much less little children. So when a gentleman holding the hand of a little girl walked out of the clinic, and one of the male “counselors” moved his sign so that the little girl would see it, I stood in front of the sign and blocked it from being seen by the child. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t review in my mind my goals for being there. I saw someone trying to abuse a child and acted. It made him angry. I didn’t care about his feelings. I cared about hers and the confusion it could cause her.

I cared about a little girl in the midst of screaming adults with ugly signs. I was not just angry, I was enraged. I didn’t say anything, I just moved in front of his sign each time he moved it until the little girl was out of sight.

I consider his behavior child abuse, emotional child abuse. And worse than that, is that parents bring their own little children down to the clinic to hold signs they are too young to read, to listen to threats of hell and worse, to see all those abortion-porn signs. And they are proud of themselves for doing so. They are exposing their kids to emotional abuse and they don’t see it as a problem.

Adult issues don’t belong in the world of children. What kind of people think such actions are okay? What kind of people think they are doing anything right for their kids?

They make me angry too. But not enraged. Mostly I just feel sick seeing so many little people with their parents making them hold signs, be out in the weather without proper clothing, stand for long periods of time without playing.

When anger goes past enraged, it becomes sadness, sadness that is deep and painful; and there is no way to change the behavior which causes it. Because those people think differently, behave differently, and cannot understand the consequences of their behavior.

So anger is not really uncommon to escorts at the clinic. We just usually handle it well. We don’t lash out, we don’t verbally respond, and we try hard not to laugh – or even giggle at some of the goofy things the “counselors” say. But sometimes, we lose it. And then, we have to depend on the other escorts to help us, to hear us, to hug us if necessary, and to remind us that no one is perfect and that it is all right to walk away and regain our composure.

So yes, I can lose it, but I can trust my fellow escorts to help me do what is best for the clients – which is why we are all there, day after day, each of us doing what we can to support choice for women as they make decisions about their own lives.

My Version of Pledge-A-Picketer

Pledge-A-Picketer is just a few weeks away!! Do you know that in years past there have been over 300 protesters that have showed up and we count them to raise money for abortion access?

Since we have been doing this for a few years, they have caught on and some have stayed home so they won’t be counted and help raise money for escorts. Soooooo, that’s why this year I am doing my donation on a sliding scale system. Yes, the more aggressive, the louder, the larger the graphic posters they carry, the more shaming they do, the more money they will help raise.

Some protesters bring children to use as their visual props. Many children are holding signs and parroting adult words and phrases at clients, companions and escorts alike.

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Others just like to come out and shame strangers with their words of condemnation and hate.

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A few make this a big family production and have every member, no matter how young, playing a role to shame and guilt people making a very personal decision not to continue a pregnancy. The person making the decision for their own very valid reasons doesn’t need to hear a crowd of strangers’ opinions about their decision.

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I have thought for some weeks on the amount I would like to donate. I have decided to leave it up to the protesters. Yep, you heard me right. They will personally decide how much money each one of them is going to add to the funds for abortion access.

  1. $0.10 for every adult
  2. $0.25 for every child preteen or younger
  3. $2.00 for every person dragging around a huge cross or oversize sign
  4. $3.00 for every person preaching on a ladder or stool
  5. $10.00 for every person preaching on a microphone
  6. $10.00 added for every protester reported blocking the entry to the clinic in violation of the federal law FACE Act.

Now, putting my pen to paper and doing some adding there are one or two individuals who will raise TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS just for showing up and doing what they do every week.

So, fair warning antis, if you want the money to be less, or not at all then stay home. This is not your platform for harassment and shaming. This is heathcare.

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REMINDER: Pledge-A-Picketer 

This year we are targeting the Saturday before Father’s Day as the only day of the campaign. Father’s Day is June 19, so our campaign will be on Saturday, June 18.

How can you pledge? Go to this link and fill out the simple form. When you fill out the form it will record your pledge to help us reach our goals. You will receive an email from us within 24 hours confirming we have received the pledge.

We will publish the count of protesters shortly after Father’s Day along with instructions for payment.

How can you help? Share this with your friends, or anyone you think would be interested.

 

Shining A Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for updates on how it goes.

Documenting Fear

There have been so many articles written about abortion, abortion access, clinics, anti-abortion protesters and reproductive justice issues in the past five years. It’s not surprising, because since 2010 states have considered almost 400 abortion restriction bills and have adopted 288 of them. Most of these restrictions were TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). It doesn’t seem that any of the GOP legislators are listening to anyone except their anti-abortion constituents.

This week the Town Hall meeting with Chris Matthews gathered enormous news coverage when Donald Trump said he believes if abortion is legally banned, women should be punished for an abortion. Of course, when the media storm broke over his comments there was a “misspeak” retraction. What I found most interesting was the flurry of articles stating women are already being punished for abortion and it is still legal. They are punished by those TRAP law effects and the anti-abortion protesters present every single day in front of clinics around the country. Their Freedom of Speech rights allows the protesters to call women murderers, follow patients to the door at abortion clinics, harassing and bullying them. Every. Single. Day.

The Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law in 2014. Since that decision, buffer zones have either not been proposed or have been revised downwards in several cities. The court decided in the case of Massachusetts, the 35-foot buffer zone law they had was too big and impeded the grandmotherly “sidewalk counselors” in exercising their First Amendment rights.

However, the idea has still percolated that a smaller buffer zone might work for everyone. The anti-abortion protesters will have to yell across a shorter space and can still hand out pamphlets, but they will not be able to block the entrances or stop patients from entering an abortion clinic to exercise a legal health care procedure.

Louisville Clinic Escorts have been working with the National Clinic Access Project and the staff at EMW Women’s Surgical Center for the past few months to document the type of intimidation experienced by patients entering the only full-time abortion clinic in Kentucky. We have started by presenting anonymous questionnaires to the patients on what they experienced from protesters on their arrival at EMW Women’s Surgical Center for their appointments. We have gathered the questionnaire answers for a month and the results are interesting.

I would like to focus on just a few of the answers, but the full results are at this link. Be sure to read the comments. They are from truly frightened people. 2016 March Monthly Report-EMW Client Questionnaire

This graph has some answers to some of the questions we have about the potential for violence in front of the clinic.  

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If over 50% of the patients say the protesters made them feel scared and nervous, it isn’t counseling. It is intimidation. If 38% of patients say they thought about confronting protesters and 12% of them did, it isn’t counseling. It is harassment. What happens if all 38% confront the anti-abortion protesters? Do we have assault and counter-assault charges being filed against the protesters? Does it escalate into violence in an instant? If 50% say the noise level bothered them very much, it isn’t counseling. It is intimidation. What other medical practice is it allowed for protesters to step in front of patients and block their entrance 41% of the time? That is a violation of the FACE Act.  

Are you listening to us? Is it time to say, enough? We need a buffer zone in front of the clinic in Louisville. 15’ would be wonderful, but even 8’ would allow patients to enter a safe space before they walk into the clinic. When is it time to truly protect our citizens instead of proposing TRAP laws that pretend to be for the pregnant person’s health, but really have the end goal of stopping legal abortion?

We will continue gathering the questionnaires. We will continue to document the harassment, intimidation, violations of city and state ordinances, and incidents of violence. I dream of the day when we don’t have to fight daily battles in the struggle to access abortion.