The Cranky Escort

It was an ordinary Saturday.  Pouring down rain, so there weren’t a whole lot of protesters or a whole lot of escorts either.  Clients came, we walked them in, and we all went home.

I stayed up in the front most of the morning.  I took some pictures.  Did some videos too.  I get annoyed when the protesters stand in the drop-off zone, particularly with their umbrellas up.   Here they are:

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But you’ve seen that before.  Old news.  Taking a picture of them is pointless.  If you’ve been reading the blog for long, you recognize them.

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 There aren’t really as many of them as it looks like.   But that’s what you would see if you were being dropped off.

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it is the drop-off zone.  And no, they’re not blocking it, they’re just making it look hard to get through

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I kind of like the little cradle on the ground though.   (Ok, not really.)

I am annoyed by the preacher guy, who’s so loud and obnoxious.  When I start doing my video, he drops it down a notch or two, but when I quit videoing, he ratchets it back up again.

And you’ve seen him before, or some preacher on the sidewalk similar enough.  Ho hum.

Nurse Betty is annoying.  She turns away when I start to video her, puts her umbrella up between us, but then changes her mind.  Instead, she starts talking about my mama.  Thanks, Nurse Betty.

Of course you can barely hear her.  Drowned out by the preacher guy.  My favorite part is at the very beginning, when she decides not to hide behind her umbrella, but turns and starts fussing at me.  But I also like the part where her friend decides to take my picture.

Whatever.  It’s pointless.  She didn’t know my mama.  She doesn’t know anything about what she thought or how she raised me.  And I’ve already heard all this crap from them.  It was shocking the first time.  Now, it just irritates me.

I leave the clinic annoyed.  On the verge of angry.  It’s like a bad frigging version of Groundhog Day.  Over and over, the same stuff.

And I’m sick of it.

I don’t like the way I feel when I leave the clinic, and it lingers for too long.  Am I burnt out?  Where have I misplaced my zen?

This week, I saw this quote:

“You hold in your hand an invitation: to remember the transforming power of forgiveness and loving kindness. To remember that no matter where you are and what you face, within your heart peace is possible.”
~~ Jack Kornfield

And this one:

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
 C.G. Jung

And even this:

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I feel ridiculous.  Why am I letting them get to me this way?  They’re not effective.  In fact, they’re relatively insignificant, in the greater scheme of things.  So why do I let them bother me?

Oh, wait, I know why!  They’re symbols.   In my mind, they represent the people who have enough power to really do some harm.   The people in  the legislature in Texas.  And Wisconsin.  And North Dakota.  The people who are going to actually restrict women’s ability to access health care, the people who want women barefoot and pregnant.

I feel threatened by them, in a really primal way, in defense of all the women I know and care about it.  But Donna and Nurse Betty, Camera Joe and Mary, are not really stopping anyone from getting an abortion.  They’re an annoyance.

So how do I shift my feelings?  How do I do this without letting it override my own internal balance?  That has always been the question for me, and is part of what keeps me on the sidewalk, trying to figure it out.

I’ve got more to say, but not right now.  Stay tuned for the next episode of The Cranky Escort.

Saturday Stories ~ by KYCat

As I stood this past weekend with my fellow escorts, I lost myself in thought among the surrounding swirl of antis. I had just put in a 12-hour shift at work and was content to stand the property line quietly instead of my normal routine of greeting clients in the $3 parking lot and explaining who we are and what to expect as they walked to their appointment.

Saturday is a busier protester day than the normal weekday I escort. That said, I got to thinking as I watched the antis approach clients and their companions with all sorts of props, literature and even children they bring along with them.  These women coming here for an appointment are someone’s daughter, sister, aunt, wife, girlfriend or mother. How dare they harass them with their own baggage and beliefs?

Even when asked to ‘Please leave me alone’ they persist. The physical trailing, shoving pamphlets into their hands, and waving four-foot tall posters around may end at the property line, but some feel the need to shout comments and condemnation at them as they enter the clinic. The words are meant to shame, humiliate and hurt, not to help.

Research by the Guttmacher Institute has found that over half of all pregnancies to women in the US are unplanned. Four in ten of those pregnancies will be aborted. That’s about one out of every three women of childbearing age who will have an abortion sometime in their lifetime.

Dr Susan Wicklund  in “This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor” shares her life amid the pressures of providing this much needed service for women from all walks of life. She brings readers into the core of this issue with stories about women and the reasons they have chosen abortion. This is not a good vs evil thing that it has been made out to be. There are many shades of gray. One-third of the women you know, or perhaps yourself, will have an abortion. None of them fall into the ‘evil’, ‘sinful’ or whatever label  the antis want to use that day.

It’s not just the protesters outside the clinics that are making it difficult for women to access a basic constitutional right to control their reproductive rights, their bodies, and their destinies. It is restrictive laws that must be followed to the letter passed by anti-choice government officials, the lack of providers willing to offer this service and oftentimes a lack of funds and transportation to have an abortion. Some women will have to travel hundreds of miles for a basic outpatient medical procedure.

The harassment is most in your face on the sidewalk, but it is most dangerous in the government and laws that have been passed recently putting yet more of an emotional and logistical burden on someone who with all the information (and crafty misinformation) out there has decided on the best choice for them.

Would we stand for this so quietly on any other issue? Would we discriminate against a full one-third of the population on any other issue? Would we be ready to stigmatize our friends, our relatives, our co workers, or ourselves on any other issue?

(Example of sidewalk preaching on the property line.  Escort in tan pants and anti in jeans.)

As I stood there that morning listening to a man yell and preach who has never felt the dread of a late period, or held their breath for the agonizing few minutes it takes for an over-the-counter pregnancy test to register, I wonder how he would feel if it was one of the women in his life that venom was being spewed at.  I am sure that if I had asked the answer would have been, ‘None of the women in my life would do such an evil thing.’ Think again, Sir. One in three women do and I bet you know a few. Maybe they are too afraid of being judged, shunned, or lectured by you. You would not stand for someone to treat the people in your life so badly. Why then do you see no problem treating others that way?

After the clients were in for the day, I went across the street to the sandwich shop to get a drink before heading home.  Assembled there that morning where busloads of children and young people from a bible camp a few hours away. They had come to meet with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and the group Catholics in Action.*  They were taking a stand against abortion.  I am sure that was not the ideal way many of them wanted to spend a Saturday; on a field trip to stand downtown in the heat.

Many of them glared at me as I proudly wore my orange escort vest and made my way through the mass of bodies to the shop. I wondered, how many of those standing there that day would I walk with one day in the future, while quietly assuring them that what may seem like the longest walk ever would be just a few more steps to the door? I left that morning hoping safe, legal access would still be a choice for them if they wanted it.

One in three.  I hope they will come to understand how very important this is for so many of us. We are not evil, we are not dammed to hell, we are not outcasts from the righteous and pure. We are human.  We are women. And we do know what is best for us.

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*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.

Meet Mary

Meet Mary. She’s a protester, and a chaser.  If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ve heard me talk about her.  If you’ve been reading a long time, you’ve seen videos featuring her before.  She’s the ones that likes to kidney punch the escorts.

I’ve transcribed it here, but it almost doesn’t make sense because the escort’s words come between the exchanges between Mary and the companion.  And occasionally, you can barely hear Mary talking under the escort.

Escort:  Mary get off of me.

Mary:  Let it live.

Escort:  Let’s go this way, guys.  We’re gonna go down and cross the street, across from these cars.

Companion:  Hey, see that ~ I’ve got kids ~ get away from me.

Mary:  You know this one’s alive too.

Companion:  I’m ~ bye now.   Go.

Mary:  You know in your heart it’s wrong.  Why does this one not deserve a chance at life?”

Escort:  So there’s a really large crowd up here…

{Mary: You know it’s going to end up in a trashcan…}

Escort:  …so what we’re gonna do is come in this way.

Mary:  It doesn’t make it easier when you walk away from this place.  I’ve seen it so many times…

Escort:  Watch out guys, we’re gonna cross.

Companion:  Yeah it does.  My day’s going keep on going,

Escort:  We’re gonna keep on walking

Mary:  Right, you’re outta here, right?  the heck with her, right?

Companion (indignantly)  I’m gonna be right there with her!

Anyhow.  That’s Mary.

For Your Viewing – um, not pleasure exactly…

i have a video today – it’s divided into two parts, just because it was too long to send all together.  I didn’t take this one.  It was taken one morning a couple of weeks ago when there was a group of clients waiting for the doors to open,

This first clip is the man I call Paul.  I have no idea what his real name is – for all I know, it is Paul, but I think I just made that up.

As you can see, he is trying to make the case that if the Bible refers to a fetus as a baby, it means that God is saying a fetus is a the same as an already-born child and abortion is wrong.  The logical errors in that are big enough to drive a truck through.

In the background, you can hear the trio singing gospel, and the buzz of escorts, clients and companions, chatting with each other.

Towards the end of the clip you hear Andrew.  He says, “This is no light matter we’re talking about, this is your son or daughter…”  and then he argues, “If you had a two year old, if someone tried to harm your two year old, would you not stand up for your two year old??”

Um, yes, Andrew, just for the record, if this were my two-year old, I would certainly stand up for them.  But it’s not.

The second half of the video is here:

Paul says  “Ma’am you cannot block it out.  This will stay with you the rest of your life.  We got people that know – we got people that been through it. These ones who are here talking with you will not be here for you when you’re done.”  That’s the line he used on me that day, the one that made me realize how important it is to have a support system for afterwards.

I went to an abortion speak-out for the Roe v Wade anniversary celebration.  One of the women who told her story was about my age, her abortion was probably 30 years ago.  She told me later that she had never told the story before.

She said it felt good to say it, to lay it out to a group who would be supportive.  I’m glad she did, and it makes me a little sad to think she carried it in silence all these years.

One in three women has an abortion.  One in three.  How many of us are walking around holding that secret, clutching it to ourselves?   But we are creating space for women to speak out now –  to push back on the stigma and shame.

It occurs to me, as I watch this video over and over so I can capture their words – I think, if we keep posting videos, eventually, all the antis will be here.  And they say the same things over and over.  So if you’re going to  the clinic, you can come meet them here first.  Get to know them.

Then when you come to the clinic, whether you’re a client or a companion, instead of being freaked out and horrified, you’ll be like, “Oh!!  That’s Paul – just like the video!!  Oh, that’s Mary!  Yep, look, she’s got that little plastic fetus she’s trying to shove in my face! And there’s Donna!”  You’ll say, “I know these people – it’s just like on the blog!”  And their hateful words will slide off you like water off a duck’s back.

That’ll help until we get a buffer zone. Then they won’t be able to get up in your face to yell at all.

Just There to “Help Women?”

This is a video i took last Saturday.

 

Up til now, I’ve been hesitant about posting some of these videos.  I don’t particularly want the protesters to post videos of us on their websites, so  I’ve been a bit careful here.  But if we want to push for a buffer zone or a bubble law, then I think people need to see the unvarnished version of Days on the Sidewalk.

The men featured in this brief clip are well-known to us – Tim and Ron.  I’ve decided to use the names that we know them by ~ I don’t actually know if those are their given names, or just ones we’ve used to identify them.  For some time now, Servalbear and I had been using initials for the protesters, but that’s kind of pointless too.  Whether I call him “R” or Ron, his actions are the same.  However, I won’t publish both first and last names, even if I know them.

The clip starts with Tim yelling at the clinic windows, as the antis so often do, promising the clients the moon if they’ll come out.  Scholarships to UL, places to live, the job they’ve always wanted.  I would be more impressed with that if I hadn’t heard that the benefits only last as long as the pregnancy, and that once the baby’s born, they disappear into thin air, rather like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.

Than we move to Ron, who’s right in front of the clinic door.  A member of the clinic staff is standing in the doorway.  You can’t see her, but he’s talking to her and a couple of escorts. Ron is the one who thought we should give him some of our ginger snaps a couple of weeks ago.  The person he addresses as “Weasel” is one of our escorts.  Tim joins him to help harass the clinic staff person.

While I was watching them, I kept thinking, “And they claim to be here to ‘help women?’   This is an odd way to do it.”  There are no women being helped in this video…  In fact, all of the clients are already in for the morning, and they can barely hear people yelling at the window.

And of course, while i’m videoing them, some of the antis are videoing me. Sigh.  That’s fine.  I can live with that.