Why I Support Federal Buffer Zones (and Why Antis Should Support Them As Well) ~ by KyBorn

By the time this is published, this may very well be a moot point. As I am writing this, most reproductive justice advocates and anti-abortion activists have their eyes eagerly focused on a Supreme Court decision regarding buffer zones around reproductive health centers that provide abortion. Right now, those that exist are mostly local along with a few statewide buffer zones or bubbles. I think we can and should do better. I’m going to stay positive and presume the Supreme Court will see through the paper-thin veil that has been thrown in front of gory signs, roving bands of stalking, yelling fanatics and screaming, screaming everywhere. In spite of Scalia’s simpering and having the poster child being a “plump grandmother” who only wants to lovingly “counsel” these poor wayward girls, most images of antis outside a clinic are anything but.

So, hopefully the time has come to push our federal government to do something about the threats, harassment and stalking that happen every day outside doctors’ offices in America. We need a federal law standard for several reasons:

  1. Access to medical care should not be based on geographic area. We are, after all, citizens of the United States of America and should be guaranteed the same safety and rights throughout our country, regardless of which state we live in. We all know that most of the South is not exactly progressive or pro-active when it comes to protecting a woman’s right to make her decisions regarding pregnancy. A national standard is key.
  2. Antis don’t like to play by the rules. We have rules, both formal and informal, written and unwritten, about how we are expected to behave in society. While it varies over time and in different cultures, these expectations generally keep us from getting all Lord of the Flies when we have to be together in a small space. When I was out eating alone a month or so ago, I had the pleasure of being approached 6 or 7 times by the same gentleman (Hi Floyd) who tried to insist on buying me a drink, sitting at my table, getting my phone number even after I politely said no, I’m married, I’m trying to work and please go away. Finally, after time number 7, when he stood by my table lecturing me about how disappointed he was that I didn’t let him buy my drink, I lost my temper and told him to go away with many 4-letter words in the same sentence. Antis are the Floyds of the sidewalk. The only difference is nobody would disapprove of me getting angry when a man kept trying to insert himself in my space after being told “no” politely. If I was a woman on the sidewalk trying to get to the clinic, not only would Floyd’s behavior have been celebrated and encouraged, but it would also be filmed. Then, some extremist from Abolish Human Abortion would put it up on YouTube labeled Pro-Abort Violence and clinic harassers the world over could cluck their tongue about how persecuted they are. A buffer or bubble zone would give women space and hopefully the opportunity to lose some of the stalkers who have surrounded her and refuse to take no for an answer. We need a very specific, nationwide law that is enforced the same way in all fifty states.
  3. It’s not safe for anybody right now. What makes me think of this is the time I took my friend to clinic that fortunately had a fenced in lot. As I went to pull into the lot, two antis continued to walk aimlessly back and forth across the parking lot entrance, forcing three or four cars to slam on breaks as traffic backed up in a fairly busy street. They were supposedly just “crossing” in front on their way to the other side of the sidewalk but they took about 5 minutes to cross. What they were doing was causing traffic to stop so their preteen children could run in front of cars and shove packets of literature under the windshield wipers of the car, thus blocking the driver’s view. A five foot buffer around driveways would stop this completely while still allowing protesters to do their thing. If anybody actually wants the literature, they are free to park and go get it without forcing people to drive with part of the windshield blocked. In some locations, small children are left to play near busy roads or used as props to be thrust in the faces of unwilling women. Antis can continue to guilt, shame, yell, scream, wave their fetus porn and in general be huge jerks from 50 feet away. If women want to talk to them, (and why would they), the women can talk to them. The fetus porn will not be right in anybody’s face and the children will hopefully not be drug out as props when they can’t be shoved directly under the noses of women trying to visit their OB/GYN.

I’m pretty sure most antis stopped reading when I said that they should support a federal buffer zone as well. I wasn’t just poking them with my title, I actually have several reasons why they should support a federal buffer zone as well.

  1. Having a consistent standard nationwide benefits everybody. I know some of you antis are mobile. You shouldn’t have to learn new laws from clinic to clinic or state to state. If there is one, nationwide federal law, you can use time you would have spent researching buffer zone laws lying to women in CPCs.
  2. It would protect you from any violence aimed at clinic escorts or employees. There seems to be a theme running through the anti communities that many are concerned about having to take a bullet or some similar garbage for a clinic employee or escort when some wronged man who was not allowed to force his partner to give birth. or when some woman, so overcome with anger and grief because volunteers and medical professionals provided her with the health care she needed. will come back with guns blazing. Now, I think this is mostly garbage for a number of reasons. This has happened exactly never. When bullets fly outside an abortion clinic, they are coming from the gun of an anti-choicer. Also, these people haul their small children down to the front of these clinics where they claim deadly violence could erupt any second. I would call this child neglect or abuse. So please, if you really and truly believe a gun battle is about to begin, call CPS to remove the children of these parents who think that is an appropriate place for small children. But, if antis must persist with this silly myth then at least they should feel safer behind their buffer zones because it will be obvious who the evil “pro-aborts” are when all those people suffering abortion regret come to kill us.
  3. Antis might, just might, actually be able to counsel somebody rather than screaming, shouting and intimidating. I would think that antis would know by now that all their big, photoshopped fetus porn, even though it looks like B-grade horror movie fake blood is scary to most people, as is having to walk a gauntlet. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to want to stop and talk to you in the midst of the tunnel of terror you guys form in front of clinics. In fact, women are far more likely to run away from you into the clinic. Maybe if you had buffer zones, sat up tables and actually allowed women to come and talk to you there, they would feel like they had a little privacy and be a few feet away from screaming preachers waving fetus porn. On that note, you are probably also going to stop trying to herd women into your anti-choice clinics if you want to talk to them. They have made their own bed of deceit, lies, violations of privacy, stalking and broken promises that many women are naturally going to avoid them (and they should). If somebody is an anti-abortion protester who really is interested in talking to people on the sidewalk then they should want the chaos of fetus porn and trying to herd women off the sidewalk into a CPC far, far away.

Look, I get the argument that freedom of speech is a precious and protected right. I agree. We certainly don’t want to become a nation where people are afraid to voice unpopular opinions. I don’t think antis need to be confined to free speech zones like protesters were during the Bush II era. Well, I do think antis want us to become a nation where pro-choice people are silenced by law or by threats, but that’s another argument. That aside, we constantly balance the rights of freedom of speech against the right of everybody else to go about their life. I am not allowed to stand in the middle of the road and sing “My Old Kentucky Home” at top volume at 2 AM. I can’t write things that are clearly libelous or say things that are slanderous. I am not allowed to tell others about the private medical information of patients because it violates HIPAA. I can’t stand on the lawn of my friend’s cheating ex-husband and yell at him to stop screwing around and pay his child support.

Just as important as somebody else’s right to tell me I am a lying baby-murdering violent whore pro-abort bound for hell is, is my right to walk away from them and tell them to leave me alone. Freedom of speech also means that private citizens have reasonable freedom from unwanted speech, unwanted attention and unwanted physical contact on public streets. Usually, this is accomplished by walking on down the street from a stationary zealot screaming about the end of the world or women out whoring. However, when the zealots become mobile and follow you, or obstruct your right to move about as you please, we have a problem. When we start patting the Floyds of the world on the back instead of calling them out for being jerks, we have a problem. Actually, the Floyds of the world and their supporters have a problem and they are making more problems for all the rest of us.

None of what we are doing is working. FACE was a good law for stopping those stupid “rescue” people who chained themselves to clinics. They moved away from that nonsense to a more insidious plan of scaring women away. We in the pro-choice/pro-access camp do what we can by serving as escorts, writing our politicians, voting, giving money to abortion funds and taking friends or strangers to the clinic.

On the flipside of this, none of this garbage is working for the anti-choice crew either. Women are running away from them instead of to them. They have to lie and mislead women to even get them to darken the door of their Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Numbers of abortions are down but I don’t think anybody has shown a link between fetus porn, sidewalk bullies and unconstitutional legislation in lowering the number of abortions. I’m sure there a few good-hearted people out there who really do just want to talk to women they think are making a mistake and want to encourage them to choose another path, or people who want to kneel and pray quietly. These are the people who should be screaming, yes screaming, for buffer zones because they are the only thing to cut down the chaos, screaming, crying, stalking, pushing and harassing that currently goes on.

The Floyds of the world need to understand the word “no” and if they don’t, the law needs to make them understand the word “no.” And for the record, I don’t believe some random anti-choicer would so much as take a nap for me, much less a bullet.

Good grief. For the safety and sanity of us all, please give us a federal buffer zone.

And the Results Are…

Yes, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the results are in – the head count for Pledge-a-Picketer!   Drum roll, please…

Protesters – 103.  

Escorts – 60.

Yes, you read that right.  There were *only* 103 protesters at the clinic on Saturday.  And 60 escorts.  Not even a 2:1 ratio.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it was all fun and games.  We had a relatively new protester preaching at the front door.   She didn’t like it when she realized one of the escorts was videotaping her.  (Thanks to wenches for the video.)

*transcript at the end of post

I have some other video of her, and it made me sad, listening to the things she said to the clients.  She was so sincere about sharing her experience – apparently, she changed her mind about having an abortion, and has been glad of that.   Because of that, she assures the clients that having this baby won’t ruin their life, they’ll still reach their goals.  How does she know?  Because she did. She tells them:

I know your life will turn around because my life turned around. When me and my husband made the decision to keep our child, it was the best decision we ever made in our life. Keep your child today. And to this day, I am still married to the same man. And to this day, we get to experience the love of our child that we did not kill, that we almost killed. Don’t kill your child today. Hear a mother talking to you – don’t kill your child today. It still affects me today – that I almost killed my child. Don’t kill your child today. But I get to kiss my child, I get to hug my child…

It seems so naive to me, the belief that because that worked out for her, it will be the same for everyone.  As if everyone has exactly the same issues she had, the same resources, the same choices.  It seems naive and cruel, cruel in the same way as Andrew telling everyone how excited he was about his unborn baby.   As if the antis can’t quite comprehend that their personal experience is not normative.

Anyhow.

The fundraiser was a great success. We received 30 pledges.  We received pledges from 3 countries (US, Canada, Australia). We received pledges from 8 states in the US (KY, IN, OH, VA, CA, MD, TX, AR)   And despite the poor turnout of protesters, we raised $1,043 so far, but the final total will be more than that as some late pledges come in.  Those funds will be split between escorts and Ky Support Network, an abortion fund acting as a program under Ky Health Justice Network.

We were surprised how (comparatively) few protesters came out.  But we figured a lot of the protesters chose to stay home because of the rain.  {Ok, we may have made some snarky comments about that among ourselves, but I’m not personally judging anybody’s commitment to “saving babies” based on their willingness to stand in the pouring down rain – or lack thereof .}

However, one of the protesters explained it differently to one of the escorts, when he commented on the low turnout.  She said:

“Yes, we planned it that way, so you won’t get as much money,”

to which the escort joyously replied,

“YES! Our plan is working!”

The protester looked a bit crestfallen.  As you can imagine.

But that’s been the point all along – the ultimate win-win for us – and the clients.  If the protesters show up in huge numbers, we make more money for vests and trainings and direct funding for abortion access.  If they don’t show up – well, it’s a victory for the clients who don’t have a to walk a 300 person gauntlet, and yay for us.

It’s always a relief – another Mother’s Day under our belts.  Thanks to the new escorts and occasional escorts who came out for Mother’s Day, thanks to the folks who pledged money, and thanks to everyone who supports the right to a full range of reproductive health services.

*Transcript  of the video:

You wanna take a picture of me? You videotaping? What are you doing? What are you doing? God bless you. God loves you. God loves you and I pray that you never come on this sidewalk again. Because he does not want you to do this. You don’t realize that you’re leading the mothers off to kill their babies to the slaughter. They’re actually taking them down into the basement and they’re actually sucking the baby out of the womb. Out of the womb and throwing the baby in the garbage. The baby is a human being. (turns away.) Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.

 

Have you pledged yet?

As you may know, we are in the final days of our Pledge-A-Picketer drive, and we are hopeful that you, kind reader, are feeling generous and willing to make a pledge to benefit groups working on the frontlines everyday to improve access to abortion in Kentucky.

Please find a summary of how the fundraiser works below.  You can donate by filling out the form linked in the text if you want to pledge per protester this coming Saturday, or you can donate a flat amount with an easy click here:

 

Pledge-A-Picketer details:

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You pledge so much for each protester who shows up on the day before Mother’s Day (historically one of our largest protest days), we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts {vests, training costs, and other miscellany} and abortion access.

Make your pledge here. Donate.

Antis Say the Darndest Things

I was reminded of a joke recently that goes something like this:

Q: What do you call that fleshy thing that surrounds a fetus?
A: A woman.

Get it, cause you start thinking uterus, womb, etc. and I think sometimes that’s where the antis stop. They forget all about that other thing surrounding the fetus, but until science takes a few steps forward, you can’t have a womb without a woman.

Why was I thinking of this, you ask? The other day on the sidewalk a protestor and escort standing beside me were having a conversation. The protestor was saying he had four questions that would change the escort’s mind about abortion. Question #1: Do you think it’s ok to remove an elderly person from life support? Because if you don’t think it’s morally alright to do that then you can’t abort the fetus because, and I quote, “it’s the exact same thing, they’re both on life support, it’s exactly the same!”

The most charitable thought I can possibly give is that he doesn’t have a good grasp on the English language and confused exactly with not even f*#^ing close to. But then I thought of that joke and realized that he just didn’t see any difference between a life-support MACHINE and a female BODY. So for anyone else out there who might think his was a slam-dunk question, let me help you out with the subtle differences that make the situations so different as to not be in the same hemisphere.

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Really I believe I could have stopped at the photos. I think most people would look at those and go “Yeah that’s not the same thing at all,” but we’re not dealing with most people here. We’re dealing with people who focus solely on the fetus; the woman, if she enters into it at all, is just the means to an end. They have to throw in a few “we understand, we’re not judging you”s for the sake of appearance but in the end it’s statements like the one above that lay bare the true point of their mission.

I have no idea what questions #2 through 4 were because I had to walk away. I figure the protestor was so far off the mark with the first question (and that’s what he was leading with) the only thing that was going to change was my blood pressure number.

For the protestor, if you’re reading, you didn’t change my mind on abortion, but you had a huge affect on my view of your intelligence, compassion and understanding of the English language.

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REMINDER: It’s time for Pledge-A-Picketer!

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You know how it works, right? You pledge so much for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts {vests, training costs, and other miscellany} and abortion access.

Make your pledge here. Donate.

A Numbers Game

The escorts and clients hear lies coming from the anti’s all the time. The breast cancer link that doesn’t exist, the “fact” that 20% of all women who have abortions attempt suicide, the curious item about how the equipment the clinic uses is 27 times more powerful than your home vacuum cleaner (although the anti recently upped that to 29 times, I guess people weren’t being properly scared at the lower number). The list goes on and on. These are all attempts to scare and unnerve the clients but are easily dispelled with a little Google-fu. Lately though there have been a couple of examples of the antis lying to their own flock.

In a recent article by Matt Damico in the Southern Seminary Magazine he said “There are a number of Catholics and other individuals who also do sidewalk counseling – although the number of escorts usually outnumbers the pro-life volunteers . . .” (emphasis mine). I admit I was shocked to learn this, because I’ve been doing this for a while now and I could only remember a handful of times that the escorts weren’t outnumbered. Were my eyes deceiving me? I’ve been able to count for a long time now and am usually pretty adept at it, but why would this christian, who is so adamant that we follow God’s laws, bear false witness about what’s happening on the sidewalk.

Another escort noticed a Facebook post on the Abolitionist Society of Louisville, KY on Feb 1 that said “S4U [Speak for the Unborn] sidewalk counselors outnumbered deathscorts this morning at the child sacrifice center (a very rare thing).” (emphasis mine). This person nicely loopholed their way to get the numbers the way he or she wanted by counting only a specific group of anti while counting all of the escorts. This, of course, is a meaningless distinction to the clients. I doubt they arrive and notice the specific differences between the protestor factions. Like “wow, thank goodness the catholics/abolitionists/whatever group wasn’t protesting today or that would have been tough. Luckily all these other people yelling at me are like fluffy bunnies.”

Maybe this was a case of observational bias on my part though. Maybe I see more antis than escorts because of how it feels personally. So I decided to check the claims of these righteous people. Luckily for me the escorts keep a count of the number of escorts and the number of protestors that show up each day, so the information was readily available. I jumped in and started inputting the numbers and was unsurprised to learn that the opposite of what is being promoted here is true. I have gone through each month in 2013 (charts provided*) and found that out of 261 days that the clinic was open the escorts outnumbered the antis a whopping 11 days. Even when you add in the days when there were even numbers or when I didn’t have data to input (N/A) the difference is 205 to 56 days. So the “usually” and “rare thing” is actually the exact opposite of what was being put forth to the people reading these posts.

 

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 I think the reason for the lies still comes down to the same thing though – fear. Just like they try to get the clients to fear the procedure, fear the doctor, fear the “consequences” of the abortion, these people are lying to their own to get them to fear the scary evil deathscorts and give an impression of an oppressed, outnumbered, intimidated “sidewalk counselor”. To rally the troops and have a revival meeting on the sidewalk. After all, as I heard one protestor say, it’s not harassment if you’re doing it for Jesus. If you can harass with impunity it’s not a huge leap to justifying lying for Jesus.


 

*Monthly Charts

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Common Ground

 

On Twitter, there was a discussion about finding “common ground” with anti’s. An anti, who bills himself as a person who “helps pro-lifers be more persuasive and less weird when they communicate with pro-choice people” started this discussion.  

Some of the questions he was asking went along the lines of, “Is it right for boyfriends and parents to pressure women to have abortions?” and, “What do you think about abortion if the unborn has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome?” and, “Would you prefer that there were fewer abortions?”

Of course my response was, anyone who wants an abortion should have safe and legal access to it, period. His response, “Well, its hard to have a conversation about abortion if you start by assuming it should always be available.”

What?

Mr. Pro-Life speaker, you want to have a conversation on limiting abortion access and ultimately ending abortion. I do not.  We have no common ground.  We don’t have to have common ground.  It is OK.

More to the point, here are some pretty big reasons why we will never have common ground.

1. You want to make abortion illegal.  I do not

2. You want to put stipulations on abortion.  I do not.

3. “Counseling” is not a pro-active thing.  If you were really interested in counseling, a client would seek you out and come to you with questions and wanting to talk about options besides abortion.  We all know that isn’t how it goes. You chase clients down the street and shove flyers at them.  You yell at companions and (when applicable) insult their “masculinity” by telling them to “man up” and “bring your woman out of there”.  That isn’t counseling.

4. You want to make “pro-life people less weird”.  That is impossible.  Even if you rounded up all the anti-choice protesters and made them sit through one of your presentations, there would STILL be protesters that don’t listen and do what they want. There would still be protesters that get in people’s faces, stalk, and get physically violent. The harassment and the intimidation would continue, unabated. Therefore, common ground is pointless.

5. Something that may actually help “counselors” do some actual “counseling” on the sidewalk is a buffer zone. A buffer zone may discourage harassing behavior, while still allowing clients TO APPROACH YOU instead of the other way around when they want to talk about options.  That would be real counseling.  I wonder how many “pro-life counselors” would be ok with that type of arrangement?

At the end of this twitter exchange, the pro-lifer said “I’m just saying that on the night that the #abortionchat topic was on common ground, I found a ton of CG with @LouClinicEscort , but he or she couldn’t find one iota of common ground with me :-/”

My response was this “Anti’s like to make themselves victims on the sidewalk, even as they are harassing. But no, you are the victim here”.  Of course, it was all about his feelings.  Even as people that he supports push and yell and scream and don’t listen to constant, “NO, GO AWAY, LEAVE ME ALONE”. Of course, its MY fault that we couldn’t find any “common ground”

I don’t have any common ground with pro-lifers, much like I don’t have any common ground with rapists.  Stop harassing clients. Stop the guilt and shame.  Leave people alone to go to the doctor.  Period. Just go away.

(BTW, if you want to see some of the things we discussed on Twitter, I tweet @LouClinicEscort.  The “pro-life speaker” in this exchange was @JoshBrahm.  Or you can check out the hashtag #abortionchat)

Subtle, but not very….

Emotions can run high on the sidewalk, even though it may not always be outwardly visible.  If anything, escorts do our best to keep things “normal”.  “Normal”, at least in my estimation, is walking to the doctor’s office with as little drama or personal space violation as possible.  You  know, like walking down any other sidewalk on any other street would be. That is the goal.  Minimal nonsense and maximum expediency to the door for the client.

Enter the anti’s.  Their goal is disruption.  Their tools are harassment, shame, and outrageous statements, but their main goal is to stop the client from walking into the abortion clinic. The shame and nonsense that comes out of their mouths is their most obvious weapon. “Don’t kill your baby. That baby will look just like you.  Young man, we are called to protect women, stand up for her.”  The litany goes on and on. Their most subtle, and in my opinion the most insidious thing that anti’s do is they themselves get “emotional”.  Their voices rise and their voices break and they beg and cry and implore.  They also put their bodies in front of the clients and the escorts to impede walking down the sidewalk. “But this is a BAAAAAYYYBBEEEEEEE” is a favorite of the anti that we call “The Cryer”.  She often trails behind the clients and wails at their backs. As soon as the client is in the clinic, however, she and others are back on the sidewalk chatting with their fellow protesters.  It is so ridiculous for them to be so dialed in and emotional one second, then completely composed the next.  It seems fake and a pantomime of someone who actually cares.  Not only faking the emotion, but then throwing it into a strangers face.

Another “tactic” that the preaching protesters like to use is while crying and wailing for the unborn, they assign innocence or guilt to a fetus that deserves neither.  They plead constantly for the “innocent baby that you are going to kill” and in the next breath “God will judge you guilty of murder”.  They talk about the “innocence of the baby in the womb” then “At our birth we are bound for hell.” The double talk that goes on with the sidewalk preachers is constant and ridiculous.  Save the baby so it will be bound for hell unless it does what we say.  Yeah. Subtle, but not very.

Back on the Sidewalk Again

I’d been gone for three Saturdays in a row, so I was (almost) glad to be back on the sidewalk.  I had missed my escort friends, and the satisfying sense of doing some good work.

I had not missed this:

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It’s hard to see (it was dark) but you may notice that the uterus holding that fetus is apparently free-floating.  I didn’t know they could do that, I thought they had to be inside a woman, but perhaps I was wrong?  After all, we are just hosts for the fetus, right?

Host:  2.  An animal or plant on or in which a parasite or commensal organism lives.

Commensal organism:  1.  A symbiotic relationship between two organisms of different species in which one derives some benefit while the other is unaffected.

Parasite:  1. an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.

Sigh… it really creeps me out.

Then I look across the street and see this:

IMG_3303Yes, that’s the Kentucky Bible College, coming on down to share their gospel music (almost on key today) and their fetal-porn signs.  Here they are, at the end of the morning:

IMG_3306And here:

IMG_3305Fetal porn at its best/worst.  They are facing the window of the clinic waiting room, right by the property line.  See how their feet line up behind that one row?  The guy whose feet are just a tad in front of the others felt compelled a couple of times to hold his sign over the line – petty bullish*t.

The blogger we know as Eeyore comments that:

The bible schoolers seem to have decided that if a companion has their arm around a client or helps them to the clinic door it is coercion and the client is being forced to get the abortion. One kept saying “If you’re so alright with what you’re doing why won’t you look at my poster, why are you hiding?” I found that to be rather arrogant, like every eye on the sidewalk should focus on him or it’s a sign of their guilt. No, maybe people just don’t care about you or what you have to say.

The “why are you hiding” guy is REALLY loud.  In fact, the Bible-schoolers dominate the sidewalk by the door, leaving our regulars, like Donna, relatively quiet.  Well, with some exceptions.  For example, Ron (the one who read my mother’s obit to me) is always active. Eeyore says:

Ron gave me and couple of other escorts “a stern talking to about how we’re so negative all the time, why don’t we try to be positive and uplifting.” He had to pause a moment to tell a woman she was a murderer and going to hell.

Then there were some new green-vested-chasers (sounds like a bird, doesn’t it?) but they were quieter than the old hands and not quite as obnoxious.  Some protesters had questions –

“How much do you get paid to do this? How much is your soul worth?”

That one makes me laugh, since you couldn’t pay me to do this, I would only do it for free.  As for my soul – I’m earning points for heaven, showing compassion and care for the clients at the clinic, don’t ya think?  So whether I believe in God and heaven and hell or not, I’m not worried about it.

The question of the day, however, was “What if…?”

What if your mother had aborted you?

Do you have children?  What if you had aborted your children?

Hmmmm – thinking, thinking, thinking – oh!  I know the answer – me, me, call on me!

If my mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t be here to worry about it!  And the sun would still rise and set, the world would still be spinning on its axis, and that would be ok.

If I had aborted my children – um, they wouldn’t be my children.  My life would be different, the sun would still rise and set, the world would still be spinning on its axis, and that would be ok.

That just seems silly to me, you know?   Do they think I’m suddenly going to have a revelation and say, “OMG!  That could have been ME????  Or MY CHILDREN????  THAT would have been a tragedy- so NO one should EVER have an abortion, because (if everything were different,) it could have been ME or MY children?”

Good grief.

Backwards-walker likes to point out that if my mother had showed up on the sidewalk at the clinic, he would have argued with her to save me just as strenuously as he does everyone else.  That makes me smile.

Um, am I supposed to be grateful that he wouldn’t have wanted my mother to abort me?  Or impressed that he’s so “Christian” he would want even (evil, baby-killing) me to be born?  Oh, but wait – he wouldn’t have known it was “me,” so – nope, that doesn’t even make sense.

Oh, that’s right – it doesn’t have to make sense…

Yep, it was good to be back.  Most of the nonsense rolled off me today.  The antis were glad to see me back (not) but they did notice – I heard Ponytail Guy mutter something about “Satan’s Little Helper is back,” which is about as warm and fuzzy as you can expect a protester to get.

At the end of the day, I noticed this sign, also from AHA (Abolish Human Abortion)

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And I thought, yes.  So true.  I could have mentally added some sarcastic comments, but I’ll let you make up your own…

I thought I was going to blog about some other stuff today.  I could have talked about how it seems like things are heating up on the sidewalk.  I could have talked about the Right to Life convention that’s coming in June, or the 40 Days for Life thing that starts next week.   I could have promoted the National Bowl-a-Thon fund-raiser that’s coming up in April, and encouraged you to start a team or make a donation.  But really, I think just talking about my first day back was quite enough…

Clinic Escort Stories (FtBCon2)

Groups of clinic escorts are popping up all over the country.  The ESM group in Louisville has been here for a long time, other clinics are just now getting escorts.   We are beginning to work together – comparing notes, problem-solving, and supporting each other from New Jersey to Louisiana, Kentucky to California, and many places in between.

At this year’s FreeThoughtBlog virtual convention, a group of clinic escorts get together to talk about their experience on the sidewalk.  The Louisville escorts aren’t at the table in person, but Brianne Bilyeu (who has visited us before) uses the game one of our escorts created to structure part of the discussion.   If you haven’t read – or played – Sidewalk Bingo yet, I encourage you to check it out.

And enjoy the video:

{We’re working on a transcript of the video.   It’s a 50 minute video – we have 25 minutes done, and I’m hoping to do another five minutes tonight or in the morning.   If you want to contribute a little time as a transcriptionist, let me know and I’ll assign you a 5 minute segment (more or less, depending on your preference.}

Assumptions

I’ve been a clinic escort for almost a year now. In this time, I have heard a lot of assumptions being made on the sidewalk. Protesters frequently make assumptions about clients and companions based on their age (assuming that the youngest woman in a group is the one obtaining the abortion), ethnicity (assuming that a client doesn’t speak English because of their appearance), and clothing (one protester routinely shouts “God is watching!” to women who enter the clinic, but shouted “Allah is watching!” to a client who was wearing a head scarf). Protesters also make broad assumptions about the reasons behind a client’s behavior. If a woman is crying, they assume that she must be crying because she knows that abortion is wrong, or because the escorts are making her cry. I would argue that it’s more likely that she’s crying because the protesters are crowding up next to her as she walks down the sidewalk, saying cruel things to her, or holding up graphic signs. The reality, however, is that none of us except the client knows why the client is upset. It’s best to not make assumptions.

The protesters’ assumptions range from infuriating (such as the ones I described above) to ridiculous (my favorite assumption is that the female clinic escorts are lesbians who have had abortions). One morning, I overheard one protester making some wild assumptions about probability. She rattled off the figure that one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage[1]. And then she said that since there were four clients standing in the lobby (you can see where she’s going with this!)…that one of them must be miscarrying. A few fellow escorts and I had a good laugh about it later. How silly this protester was to extrapolate a finding (one in four pregnancies) to women (one in four women), and then to extrapolate even further to make a bold claim about a specific group of four women who were standing in the clinic!

But wait a minute. Isn’t it time we turned the mirror back on ourselves (pro-choice individuals) and examined our own claims to see if we might be making similar assumptions?

That’s right – I’m talking about the “1 in 3” slogan: “1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime!” If you’ve been involved in discussions about abortion, you’ve probably heard this figure. A quick Google search reveals an entire website devoted to this figure. I’ve heard fellow pro-choice individuals quote this figure or even use it to make generalizations about particular groups of women, such as suggesting that one-third of a given group of women will have an abortion.

I’ll be honest – things that fit nicely into a sound bite make me skeptical. So I did some investigating.

The “1 in 3” figure comes from a very legitimate, well-conducted study that was published in an peer-reviewed scientific journal. However, a close reading of the study reveals that there are very important caveats that are associated with this figure. This is true of any scientific study! I am not implying that the findings from this study are false or fraudulent in any manner. Rather, I am emphasizing the need to speak appropriately about the study’s findings, and not extrapolate too far.  Otherwise, you get this:

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http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1174

So, what does this study actually say? The researchers report that the data were collected by surveying women who were obtaining abortions during a particular time period. Because it’s impossible to survey every single woman who obtains an abortion, they (carefully, and appropriately) surveyed a large sample of women from clinics so that they could make inferences about a population (women in the United States). The researchers used estimates of first-abortion rates within specific age groups to estimate the lifetime incidence of abortion. To quote: “The cumulative first-abortion rate increases with age, and women aged 40 and older had a rate of 300.9 per 1,000 women. Put differently, an estimated 30.1% of women aged 15–44 in 2008 will have an abortion by age 45 if exposed to prevailing abortion rates throughout their reproductive lives.”  The researchers appropriately highlight the limitations for this finding: “Underreporting of abortions is common on nationally representative surveys of women. Our analysis assumes that women obtaining abortions were more likely to report previous terminations, but even in this clinical setting some patients may have failed to report them. This would mean that the estimate of the lifetime incidence of abortion is artificially high.” (Emphasis added by me, not the researchers).

Hm, that’s a lot to digest. It’s hard to imagine quoting the entire above passage when having a discussion about abortion prevalence. It’s a lot shorter to say “1 in 3 women will have an abortion.” And I understand – caveats and limitation aren’t sexy. It’s tempting to want a sound bite, something that surprises people and makes them sit up and pay attention. But misusing research findings, even unintentionally, does nothing to further our cause. It is misleading to assume that one-third of a given group of women (such as a group of female protesters standing on the sidewalk) will have an abortion, or that one-third of your friends will have an abortion. I am not implying that anyone who has used the “1 in 3” figure when discussing abortion has been intentionally trying to twist the facts or mislead people. What I am saying is that there are a lot of critical limitations to consider with research – things that don’t fit cleanly into sound bites or onto posters.

So what CAN we take away from this research? Rather than use the findings from this study to estimate how many of the women in our lives will have an abortion, perhaps it is more important (or more productive) to highlight the study’s finding that abortion is not limited to a specific group of women. These data reflect what escorts see on the sidewalk – women from all walks of life have abortions. Married women and unmarried women, women from various ethnic groups, women who are very young and women who are not so young, women of various socioeconomic statuses, women who already have children and women who do not have children. And women of various religious affiliations have abortions; the majority of women who had an abortion 2008 were religiously affiliated (yes, this even includes individuals who identified as Catholic and fundamentalist/born-again Protestant!). These findings resonate with an escort’s goal to not make assumptions about the cars who pull up to the curb at the clinic. Even if there is a pro-life sticker on the bumper, or a rosary hanging from the rear view mirror, the passengers in the car may still be seeking an abortion. Abortion is something that is chosen by a wide variety of women. Therefore, it’s certainly possible that someone in your life has had or will have an abortion, regardless of their life circumstances or demographic. You just can’t say (with certainty) that one-third of the women in your life have had or will have an abortion.

Finally, I want to make one additional point. In my reading of the study, there is one finding that truly stands out to me, but that seems to have been overshadowed by the “1 in 3” estimate. Although overall abortion rates declined approximately 8% from 2000 to 2008, there was one subgroup of women for whom abortion rates increased (by approximately 17%): women living in poverty. Given the significant financial burdens associated with abortion, we should be alarmed by this finding. The researchers suggest that legislative action aimed at restricting access to contraception, including abortion, may have an especially detrimental impact on women in poverty. I agree.

Anti-choice individuals make more than enough assumptions when it comes to abortion. We don’t need to be making any more. I propose that we extend our “don’t make assumptions” sidewalk policy to our general conversations about abortion. We will be most effective when we speak clearly and appropriately about the research on abortion – no assumptions needed.


[1] I was curious about the “one in four” claim and dug a little further.  It seems that estimates of miscarriage rates vary a bit, and recent research suggests that it’s fairly nuanced.