Is Kentucky really in the “Bible Belt”? When the state has the nation’s only Creation Museum* and plans to build a Noah’s Ark Theme Park*, complete with a full-scale replica of the ark, do we really need to question how firmly we are in the “Bible Belt?”
The real question relating to escorting is how much does that change the tactics of the antis in Louisville compared to other parts of the US?
The antis we face daily use all of the national pro-life talking points. They have the same signs that are used nationally and internationally. In my opinion, the real difference is in the amount of personalized aggression we see in the antis facing us every day.
We published an article this week that drew attention from at least one anti. We have called her Nurse Betty in the past, but that isn’t her real name. Nurse Betty is always telling us how she works in the medical field and knows, really knows, that we are lying and misleading clients. If we would only listen to her, we would know the truth.
Nurse Betty objected to a comment by another escort on our article. She composed a comment filled with invective and advising us to watch “180”*, the anti-abortion movie to see the error of our ways. We deleted the comment without publishing it. This was followed by another comment demanding to know why we didn’t publish the first comment. We sent Nurse Betty a polite email stating the comment did not comply with our comment policy and included a link to the policy. This spurred another comment from Nurse Betty filled with more demands, more statements about how awful we were and another recommendation to watch “180.”* This comment was deleted as well.**
The next morning after this exchange of comments, I joined other escorts on the sidewalk. There were not many clients this morning and the antis were looking for something to do. Nurse Betty was there and came up to me right away; standing right in front of me and demanding explanations. The aura of offended entitlement was coming in waves.
This is part of our conversation:
NB: Are you one of the ones who write for the blog?
Me: I don’t talk to protesters.
NB: You are protesting too. Do you write for the blog?
Me: I don’t talk to protesters.
NB: Well, I want to know why you don’t want to listen to the truth. You didn’t post my comments. That’s not right to just present one side of the issue. You need to let people know the truth.
Me: This conversation is over. I don’t talk to protesters.
NB: Well, you can evidently hear me since you responded. You need to just listen to me. You are going to hell for what you are doing. You need to see the truth. You are helping to kill babies. You need to watch “180” and see what you are doing.
Nurse Betty soon got tired of me not answering her and moved on to the escort standing beside me. This was a long-time escort and is known to many of the antis. They know his name, where he worked and that he immigrated from another country a long time ago. Since this escort is outspoken against the anti tactics, he is a frequent target of their wrath.
Nurse Betty started the conversation by telling the escort where he worked, where he was from and hinted that there were “bad things” she knew about him. Then went on to say:
NB: I heard you say the other day that babies are not real people until they have a Social Security number. You didn’t get a Social Security number until you came to the US. Does that mean you weren’t a real person before you got your Social Security number? …I am not going to say everything I know about you, but I know. I want to show you how wrong you are.
With that, Nurse Betty went to her car and retrieved some color graphics about 11”x 20” of what we call fetal porn. They are the photos supposedly depicting fetuses at different stages of development. They moved away from the clinic doors and continued to argue about what Nurse Betty did or did not know and what the escort should believe.
When we were ready to leave, the escort came back to the clinic doors tearing up the pamphlets Nurse Betty gave to him to read. We have seen them all before; many times. She moved to the other escorts on the sidewalk to display her photos. We never found out the supposedly “bad things.”
This is a common maneuver of our Louisville antis. They pretend to know personal things about escorts. Sometimes they do know our names and other personal information, but usually they are on fishing expeditions to see if we will give them more information than they have in order to shame us. Once they learn our names, they use them frequently. Sometimes they will threaten, “I know where you live,” or “I know where you work.” Their aim is to use any bit of information they can glean to intimidate us. That is just one of the reasons I always refuse to respond to their questions. If they are going to use information against me, I want them to have to work for it.
The antis in Louisville scold us, threaten us with hell fire, plead with us, all from inches away from our faces. It is really surprising more confrontations have not taken place between escorts and antis. They seem to feel empowered by their belief and the knowledge a lot of the community around them is made up of fundamentalist Christians who support their views. They feel free of any social stigma to come out daily to harass clients coming to their doctor’s appointment.
Clients and companions are not so lucky. They are surrounded in the “Bible Belt” by the shame and stigma associated with sex, contraception and abortion.
This week Women’s Medical Fund Wisconsin posted an article on their Facebook page with the comment:
- “Melinda McKew of the Georgia Reproductive Justice Action Network has written a moving essay about the impact of stigma on women’s experiences of abortion, including the experience of a woman she helped recently – and also her own experience as a teen.”
Melinda McKew’s article is powerful and points up the force of stigma and shame, especially in the “Bible Belt.”
- I share this story because it highlights the impact abortion stigma has upon individuals having abortions as well as persons who are in any way associated with abortion—clinic workers, abortion doctors, abortion rights advocates, among many others.
- I know this is stupid, but… do you think God will take away any of my children because I’m getting rid of this one? I’m just so worried that I’m going to lose one of my children now as punishment for my abortion.
- After the procedure, my mother made me vow to never speak of my abortion to anyone—not my father, not my family, not even my close friends—lest they discover my shame.
Please read the whole article. It brought tears to my eyes because we see and hear these things from clients every day.
Escorting in a “Bible Belt” state presents its own unique challenges. We are lucky in that we have more support for pro-access in Louisville than there is in rural areas of Kentucky.
*All links to anti-abortion websites have been omitted purposely. Please use Google or message us separately if you would like a citation for sources.
**Since the original comments and email, we have received multiple comments from Nurse Betty on different articles and pages of our blog. These comments still have not adhered to our comment policy. They have all been deleted without publishing them.