Pledge-A-Picketer 2016

We started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser in 2010, and have been doing it every year since then with great success.  It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge whatever you choose for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts and abortion access. Escorts use this fund drive for legal expenses, training costs, safety supplies, parking fees for patients and other miscellany.

Traditionally there are three big event days when a large number of anti-abortion protesters come to the clinic. The Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day and the Saturday before Father’s Day used to be the biggest protester days of the year at EMW Women’s Surgical Center. When we first started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser, we targeted the Saturday before Mother’s Day as the day to count protesters.  As the numbers on this day have dropped, some protesters have attributed the drop to them not wanting to contribute to the success of our fundraiser. I don’t really believe them. I think they are having problems bringing out large numbers because of more public awareness that abortion is part of healthcare and a human right. Plus, the sidewalk anti-abortion people are being viewed as the bullies they are by more people.

Here is the history of their turnouts from the years we counted. Notice the dropping numbers.

  • Easter weekend: From 170 protesters in 2009 to 60 protesters in 2016.
  • Mother’s Day weekend: From 275-325 protesters in 2009 to 100 protesters in 2015
  • Father’s Day weekend: From 300 protesters in 2009 to 108 protesters in 2015

Last year we combined the Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and the Saturday before Father’s Day and called it Spring 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.

The day before Father’s Day remains a large turnout day for anti-abortion protesters, mostly because it is the day the Sisters for Life come out. Sisters for Life members, including their director, Mrs. Angela Minter, do “sidewalk counseling” weekly in front of the clinic. Angela is known to harass people she recognizes and then call their family members to report they went into the clinic. That’s not really counseling, but you can see for yourself. Here is a video of her being carried out of the clinic when she trespassed following in someone she recognized.

 

This is a different Angela than she presents in front of the news cameras or when she endorsed Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

This will be the 8th year Sisters for Life has their fundraising drive of “Fathers for Life Day Walk or Bike.” They charge a registration that gets everyone a matching t-shirt and walk or bike to the clinic to carry signs, sing and block the sidewalk and entrance of the clinic.

A picture and a video is worth a 1000 words. Here’s FML’s article from last year’s demonstration on Father’s Day weekend. We stood in the pouring rain, fighting umbrellas while being sung to over and over. My personal favorites are the songs they make up on the spur of the moment. They don’t always go as intended and are frequently unintentionally funny.

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.

Bowling over barriers to abortion access

Louisville Clinic Escorts will be going balls out to strike down barriers to access at the Kentucky Support Network‘s Bowlathon again this year.

KSN provides practical support to people in and around Kentucky who are seeking abortions and need support overcoming barriers to access. The Bowlathon is the main way KSN raises funds to pledge towards clients procedures, pay for transportation assistance, and cover other practical needs.

If you’re in the area, we would LOVE to see you at this fun event (even if you don;t like to bowl, there will be prizes, entertainment, and lots of awesome folks! here is the link to the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/697645673710272/

Whether you’re closeby or not, please consider making a donation to KSN so they can continue to fulfill this very real need, as restrictions to abortion in Kentucky seem to be the newest trend in Frankfort. Bowlathon pledges can be made through this link:

http://bowlathon.nnaf.org/fundpage.asp?Branchid=88

pick a team, any team! and of course, you can donate any time through the website linked above.

THANKS!

 

 

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.  

IMG_0828

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. 

 

Casey’s Turn

There is a really great article published by Meaghan Winter in Slate this week. It details how the decision by the Supreme Court in 1992 for the case Casey vs Planned Parenthood set the stage for all the restrictions we now face in accessing abortion. Go read the whole article, but here is what I want to concentrate on in this article:

“Yet it’s no wonder the public doesn’t fully grasp Casey’s influence, despite the problems the decision has helped create for women seeking access to reproductive health care. Lower courts have interpreted the decision in myriad and sometimes conflicting ways. Because of the subjectivity of what counts as a “substantial obstacle,” lower court judges have used Casey to justify differing opinions about waiting periods, admitting privileges, and more. Whole Woman’s Health marks the first time the court has had to grapple with Casey, and how the justices define “undue burden” will have a ripple effect on abortion access for years to come. But the challenge before them—to determine just how many obstacles Texas women can face before their burdens are undue—is the result of anti-abortion advocates’ work within the government, patiently, over decades, to dismantle Roe v. Wade.”

What does constitute an “undue burden”? When Casey was decided, the pro-life group Americans United for Life had already been established for 21 years. (1971) Their Legal Defense team started working on templates to give to state legislators about how to restrict abortion state-by-state. That’s why you see so many similar laws in different states. ‘That passed in North Dakota, let’s try it in Indiana’ seems to be the anti-abortion plan. They have been so successful, that reading the Guttmacher State Policies in Brief is a depressing undertaking for pro-access advocates. Many abortion clinics have closed because they couldn’t conform to the TRAP laws in their states. Five states only have one abortion clinic each (Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming) Kentucky came close this month to being another state with one abortion clinic only, but Judge Scorsone ruled the Lexington clinic could stay open.

What does constitute an undue burden then? How far do you have to travel to have it be a burden? How long is too long to wait after making your decision to get an abortion? How much should the cost increase for added regulations that do nothing to protect women’s healthcare to be considered an undue burden? How many restrictions can be added at one time to abortion before it is considered an undue burden? (Indiana)

We have been saying for a long time that these restrictions, especially the Hyde Amendment, penalize those living in poverty the most. The wealthier among us will be able to travel, pay the clinic fees, pay for childcare, hotel bills, etc, even if the travel needs to be eventually to Canada. While those less affluent are forced to carry their pregnancies. So is the test of an undue burden to be applied equally among all income levels, or do we just use our scale to weigh that burden by the ones who can afford to overcome them?

Casey’s Turn has had 24 years to make the Supreme Court ruling ripple through the access to abortion for women in the United States. Even if we replaced all of the politicians who practice medicine without a license in 2016, I predict it will take at least that long for the trend to reverse. That’s another 24 years of restrictions on abortion access. That’s a whole generation of our children who will not know the freedom of access to abortion right after Roe vs Wade was decided.

If you want to scream about how unfair this is, there are two rallies being held on April 9. One is in Frankfort, Ky. One is in Indianapolis. Make a sign and join one.  

Ranting and Raving on Abortion Provider Appreciation Day

Alternate title: Two Facebook Rants that Deserve to be Seen.

But first, for the raving part….

WE ARE SO VERY GRATEFUL TO THE BRAVE PEOPLE WHO PROVIDE ABORTIONS TO THOSE WHO NEED AND WANT THEM!! Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer providers, as abortion access continues to be under attack from anti abortion demonstrators, extremists, and legislators. This is why it is SO important that we show our appreciation to the kind and brilliant doctors, staff, and volunteers who work in the face of perpetual hurdles. The services performed by these heroes literally save people’s lives, and can preserve a quality of life for those who aren’t able to stay pregnant, or become parents (again, right now, or at all). I am not going to take this space to spout about the attacks taking place in our state, and our region right now, ranging from vandalism to lawsuits and more new laws to make it harder to both operate a clinic, and to access an affordable procedure without having to travel long distances. Most of our readers are aware of these matters, and can follow the links to the stories about dwindling access. So, for now I’ll repeat a loud and proud THANK YOU to all of the folks working to provide abortion care. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. WE NEED YOU. PLEASE DON’T STOP.

And now…. For the ranting.

Below you will find separate contributions from two different women. We are friends, but did not collaborate on or draw inspiration from each other’s rants in any way. They both center around privilege (our own, and that of those around us), and are appropriate in these times when there is an unprecedented level of tension, both in this country as we head towards a heated presidential election, and in Kentucky as we feel the impact of our new Governor Matt Bevin, who is doing his damndest to punish and oppress people for being poor, queer, trans, non-white, or any person who wants to practice a variety of religions, or (GASP!) have sex for some reason other than procreation.

The first section is taken from a comment thread on a Facebook post that mentioned voting, and linked this NYT article titled Abortion Witch Hunt. It culminates in a rant. I (the author behind “wench” on esm) made the original post, did the ranting, and have omitted the name of my FB friend.

The second section is a touching poem by a woman I have known for a very long time, and have a ton of respect for. We will call her D. D posted her poem on Facebook and I asked permission to share it here, as I thought it fit nicely. Please enjoy and share!

……………….

Him: Are you guys fighting for Bernie? Because if not $hillary is likely to get smoked in the general election. How’ya like for Trumperific years, or maybe the Cruzinator? BERNIE OR BUST! Times drawing near.

Me: I am voting for Bernie, but I think Hillary will win the nomination. I can’t really get down with what feels like a coercive threat: Vote for Bernie or be punished. I’m also not gonna fight with other Dems / feminists about what might be happening in 2017 when Bevin is actively trampling on the rights of so many KYians today.

Him:  Never mind, I’m not contributing to the abortion witch hunt, sorry to inject something as unimportant as the Presidential election, Furthermore, I won’t say a word about the ridiculousness of anyone considering $hillary a feminist. Lastly, it was no threat, but many Bernie supporters, myself included will never vote for the criminal racket that HRC, the DNC and their mega-money overseers comprise. Bernie beats trump by 8% in the polls right now, $hillary beats him by 4% and while Bernie beats all the other GOP candidates handily $hillary loses to them all. Have a nice day!

Me:  I wasn’t referring to HRC as a feminist. I was referring to her supporters. I truly hope Bernie wins the nomination. If he doesn’t, I’ll do what I’ve done every election since my first when I voted Nader in 2000 and lived through 8 more Bush years. I’ll vote for Not Trump.

I know there are Berners who won’t vote HRC. You may not call it a threat or punishment, but there is a palpable difference between intent and impact there. That’s no way to teach any lessons. That’s your privilege showing.

H: My privilege? I’m listening

M: yes. I’m not sure if you want me to elaborate on the privileges that you enjoy in this culture (the fact that you are seen as an able bodied, strong, heterosexual, white, cisgender man, and all the leeway you get with that… the fact that you and your family members have had access to education throughout your lives….. your ability to gain employment and maintain job security at not one but two well established and highly regarded institutions)…… Or if you’re wanting me to elaborate on the privileges inherent to the concept that by refusing to support a democratic presidential candidate, just because it’s not *your* preferred person, as a way of punishing those of us who you don’t think are fighting hard enough for your preferred candidate, you are teaching us some kind of lesson by making us suffer through Trump (or any republican contender) because you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for the lesser of two evils.

These hardcore Berners you’re aligning yourself with aren’t the people whose loved ones will be deported (or murdered or waterboarded) in the name of immigration reform or anti terrorism efforts. y’all won’t be the ones losing your homes in real estate collapses, then housing project demolitions and section 8 cuts. Your kids won’t be the ones whose class sizes swell well above 35 children per one tired, underpaid adult in schools with no arts programs. Or whose teenagers get charged as adults and shuttled through the school to prison pipeline because they’re seen as troubled at-risk thugs who are a threat to society. The absence of these disadvantages and countless more are some of reasons why the approach of punishing dems for not nominating Bernie is a very privileged one.

That covered some of the class and race privilege in this approach. To make it more personal for myself, as a person who enjoys some privileges as a (somewhat) educated white cis-woman: what might happen to health care? to marriage equality? and i’m not just talking about abortion access… i’m talking about being able to keep my home (or car, or phone) if I have to spend time in the ER or ICU for some reason, or end up needing long term treatment for an ailment. if I could afford, for example inpatient cancer treatment, or hospice care, would a partner who can’t be a legal spouse have rights regarding my care or benefits? going Trump is going backwards, just like we are seeing with Bevin now.

but since it came up, and since the original post was about abortion access, and now we are talking about male privilege… I can’t tell if you mentioned not being in on the abortion witch hunt meaning you’re not taking part in the hunt, or it that doesn’t concern you, but those sentiments both fall under: Your Male Privilege Showing.
Here is just one way men will be affected if Bevin stays his course in eliminating *LEGAL* abortion in KY (note that abortions will happen even if illegal, so here is a freebee example where a mother of 3 leaves behind dad and kids by trying to self abort and hemorrhaging to death) so currently a couple living in Louisville or Lexington can decide to terminate a pregnancy and do so after making a phone call and waiting 24 hours, IF they have $750+ laying around. Bevin has already made it to where two trips to the clinic will be required in addition to the original phone call (this will go into effect this summer). so now imagine if the charge Bevin has filed closes that clinic in Lexington. a couple who lives in a suburb east of Lexington now will have to make two trips to Louisville for the procedure. this will mean two adults taking two days off work, possibly having to pay for childcare both days, plus gas expenses (if there is a vehicle) and possibly a hotel, or more gas…… or stay with friends but that might be uncomfortable, and again is a privilege of knowing people with a big enough home in the city.

so you see, there is a LOT of privilege in thinking it’s ok to choose the option of teaching the milquetoast feminists a lesson by punishing us with trump because y’all can’t bear to support a candidate that’s not *your* candidate.

(end rant. These comments took place over the course of two+ days. There have only been crickets post rant.)

……………………………………..

A rant. By D

My whiteness is a cloak. It is a invisible cloak that protects me from the bigots and fascists. It blocks me knowing. It makes me a party to racism whenever I stay quiet.

I wear it without realizing how much it protects me. I want to rip it off layer by layer so I can become more emboldened to not lie and lay
silent when by its lack of color one believes I am a comrade for hate.

Out of what I was taught to do cloaked and white. I smile and nod confining and defining the very bigotry I claim to hate and oppose. Sweetness is not the antithesis to racism. Racists can be sweet as hell saying “would you like a big ol glass a sweet tea?”

Layer by layer I will take off the cloak and I need to do it with care. Underneath there are the others layers I use the cloak to protect. My lower class background, divorced, in poverty working class self, my queerness, my child’s disability, my families mental illness and suicide history.

None of those things. None of those things. Did I say that? None of those things are as powerful to define me as the privilege of the cloak of this white skin.

For that is my truth.

Because of it I must listen to the ones uncloaked fearless or in fear and learn.

Because of my cloak I must learn to speak to ones who wear it too.

To call them out and ask them to tear my cloak off too.

I will falter and it will hurt but it will never be the pain of those I seek to understand.

It will never be the pain I cannot comprehend.

Growing pains can be hard but I’m taking the step in faith for a world where we all come to a table and our skin is removed.

Blood spills and is mixed. The river of us all renewed.

Spelling Errors vs Reading Comprehension

The words coming faintly through my layers of ear muffs, wrapped scarves and hood sounded whiny and nasal on the cold wind. The ones I heard anyway. “On your vest.” I looked back to see one of our daily protesters with a cold, pinched, disapproving look on her face.

Wonderful I thought, another fashion fail for me, as I inspected my vest to find what the heck she was talking about that was wrong with it. Early mornings as I dress to head down to the sidewalk each week, I have been known to concentrate on dressing for the weather not for style. Mostly it’s a mismatched combination of things meant to keep me warm, dry and comfortable, not for fit and fashion as a few of the antis seem to do no matter the weather.

In the past after a morning of escorting, I have discovered I somehow put a layer on inside out, or backwards. Once much to another escort’s amusement, I looked down to see a dryer sheet peeking out from the bottom of my pant leg. That was a static electricity fail there and I’m not taking the entire blame for that one

So after failing to find any obvious issues with my escort vest I must have had a very puzzled look on my face.  She stepped closer and pointed at me, saying again, ” There’s a spelling error on your vest. It says Pro-Choice but it should read Pro-Death.”   

Thanks to the Clinic Vest Project we are supplied at no charge to us bright neon, highly reflective vests that are lettered with big bold lettering PRO-CHOICE CLINIC ESCORT.

Clinic Escort VestI smiled to myself and thought, poor woman, it’s actually a reading comprehension fail on her part.  She does not understand choice.  By refusing to look at things from outside her own narrow point of view she never will.

Pro-Choice to me is the ability to make whatever decision is best for you, your situation and family regarding a pregnancy. I trust your judgement to make the best choice for you. I don’t know the reasons you are walking with me to the clinic, I do not make assumptions, I do not ask. It is not my place. It is even your choice to walk with me or not. If you say no, I simply tell you it’s the building with the tan painted overhang and let you be.

That’s the difference between escorts and antis. There is only one way of thinking when it comes to them, ” Do it our way.”  They do not respect personal space. They do not listen when asked to go away. They hand out medically inaccurate information and insist on you making a choice they want you to make. That’s not choice. That’s intimidation, guilt, shaming and lying.

This is your journey in life. Make the best choice for you no matter what you choose.  Let no one bully you from the path you know is the right one for you. Whether it is the decision to terminate a pregnancy, to have and raise a child, or decide adoption is what you want. Choice. It’s a powerful word and only you can make the decision. That’s the reason I am all for choice.

So, I will proudly wear my vest that is spelled correctly and continue to respect a  woman’s decision on what she feels is the best choice for her. 

Why I’m Pro-Choice, by AJ

When my husband and I had children we always agreed to be open and honest with our kids. When we ended up having two daughters, my husband informed me that “those talks” were all mine. I’ve always been pretty open about women’s rights and at an early age they had probably heard me rant and rave about things they probably shouldn’t have but looking back on it, I’m so glad they did.

They’re 8 and 10 now and about one year ago they asked me what an abortion was. At first, I didn’t want to tell them anything. I didn’t want to tell them the process of an abortion. They’d never understand. They’d get the wrong idea about what it is because they’re kids. There’s no way they could really process that information. Then I thought back and no one in my family talked to me about periods, pregnancy or birth control early. l wasn’t going to be that mom. I told them about abortion in a very age appropriate way, but the most important part I wanted to make sure they understood was that it was their choice. As I explained to them about the process and asked them if someone else wanted to have an abortion what would you say? They were very sure in their answer, “It’s their choice.” Maybe they just said that because I was pushing that the choice is theirs to make or because they truly felt that it was their choice, but I was pretty sure I got my point across.

Fast forward to one day in January,  the night before my first morning as a clinic escort. We had talked about it all week long because they could tell that I was nervous about it. We talked about what an escort does and how they are there to support the woman. How their job is to walk with the woman and her friends or family from their vehicle to the building because they would be harassed. We discussed the protestors and how they were out there with signs with huge photos of dead fetuses and yelling at the women while they were walking into the clinic. My youngest daughter has always been the one to soak up the most information from me. I put them to bed that night, gave kisses, and kiss fives (kiss your hand, then high five) and tucked them in; business as usual. I went downstairs to go to bed myself and I’m lying there for about 10 minutes and in comes my youngest. She hands me a letter and it said,

Dear Mom,

I hope you can help a lot of women tomorrow(sic).

I’ll miss you and I love you a lot.

Love,

 

Then about 10 minutes later she comes back downstairs and she says, “Oh good, you’re still awake,” and she hands me a picture that she has drawn. As I’m looking at the picture, I’m at a loss for words and I ask her to explain it to me. She tells me that I’m at the top with a lady who isn’t sure about her decision, another helper with a lady who is very scared. I asked her what she afraid of. She told me that she was scared of the protesters. She said that she didn’t draw the protesters because they were not important because they weren’t there to help. I was overwhelmed at her understanding of it all.

 

I made sure that I brought those papers with me on Saturday morning because I knew I had plenty of second thoughts about going. I had seen the protesters from the street so many times before but I had no idea how it would affect me up close. When I approached the clinic from 3rd street, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and tear up. When I got into the parking lot, I almost threw up, but then I remembered the papers in my pocket and remembered that the reason I’m here is to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure my daughters have access to proper healthcare and rights to their own bodies. As their mother, I owe them that.

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What Does Desperation Look Like? ~ guest post by Heather M

The recent headline cases of women who have miscarried or resorted to self-abortion attempts to end an unwanted pregnancy (Purvi Patel , Kenlissa Jones and Anna Yocca) have had many people saying ” How could they?” Some from an anti-abortion stance that seems to value the life of a fetus over the woman carrying it. Others from a perspective of the fact that abortion is still legal and has been legal nationwide since 1973, Why would anyone take such risks when they could just go to a doctor?

Easy. Legal does not mean accessible, or affordable.

This is my story and I am going to smash some stereotypes many associate with a self-abortion attempt. First, I am a white, US-born female, raised in a middle class Catholic family with two parents present. I was raised in the North Eastern US. I finished high school. I was living on my own and supporting myself with a full-time job. I was in a committed relationship and was using birth control the month I became pregnant.

The year was 1990. I was 20 years old. I was working with racehorses as a caretender, a job with long hours (sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week), tons of responsibility and a great deal of personal satisfaction. I was making my bills every month, rent,  utilities, but did not have much money left over for anything else. To make a big or unexpected purchase I either put it off or worked nights in addition to my regular job, as hard and long as I could, to earn what was needed.

Sometime in early March of that year my period was late and I had been sick and struggling under my work demands. After waiting a few more long scary days, I went and bought three different brands of home pregnancy tests from three different stores. I wanted to make sure I did not get an error due to a bad test.

I read the directions over and over as I did not want to waste one by using it wrong. As I took them, one after another showed a positive result: two dots, two lines, a pink window. All horrifying results to me. I did everything right. How did this happen to me? I used the Today sponge and spermicide. I went out and bought another two tests and took them again the next morning; same results. No denying it now. That’s why I had been feeling so sick

I knew immediately that I did not want to be pregnant. I was not going to be having a baby in the fall of that year. Somehow I was going to figure this out. I had already made my decision when I had used birth control and this was like an invader in my own body; alien like and causing me to be physically ill, draining me and robbing me of my ability to provide for myself.

I was living in a state that had multiple clinics available. I picked up the phonebook and started dialing trying to figure out how much an abortion was going to cost, how far I would have to drive and how hard I was going to have to work to raise the money. Then get the procedure done without missing any time from work or I would be fired. I had found two clinics that were about 40 miles away but the procedure cost $400  cash or credit card. I did not have a credit card so I figured up how many weeks working days and  nights it would take me to save the money. Five weeks was my estimate. After that I may be too far along for those clinics and the price, distance and difficulty would rise.

In the meantime I had a plan. One of the racehorse mares I was taking care of was on a medicine to suppress her heat cycles. Without it she was impossible to manage let alone train and race. I had been instructed to let one of the men in the barn dose her everyday as it was dangerous for women to come in contact with that drug. I went to work that morning and quietly read and reread the cautions and warnings in big bold letters on the packaging. MAY CAUSE MISCARRIAGE!  WOMEN OF CHILDBEARING AGE DO NOT HANDLE WITHOUT GLOVES AND USE EXTREME CAUTION NOT TO COME IN CONTACT WITH IT.

I began quietly taking some of the horse’s medication every day hoping to induce a miscarriage that the label warned in big bold letters about. I weighed about 155 lbs and was making sure I took enough for a 1500 lb horse. This I hoped would work. In the meantime, always planning that if the medicine failed I was going to go ahead with the abortion.

I worked for almost four weeks my usual sixty to seventy hours, seven days a week and started taking night work at the racetracks three nights a week to earn extra money quickly. Those days became 20 to 22 hour marathon work stints two and sometimes three days in a row. Sick with morning sickness. Sick with taking medicine for equines in doses over a dozen times what I weighed. Sick from lack of sleep. Still I kept on. I was not under any circumstances going to remain pregnant one minute longer than I had to. Whatever came first, the miscarriage or enough money saved for the abortion I was going to keep working towards it.

Finally, the end of the first weeK of April I  had saved the $400. I called to set up my appointment. I wanted the latest one available in the day as soon as I possibly could. Why you ask did I not want one first thing in the morning?  Because I had to work. I set up for as late as I could one morning. I was told don’t eat anything after midnight. That morning I was at the barn by 330 am so I could rush through my work by mid-morning and I paid one of my coworkers to take care of my afternoon responsibilities. I told them I had an emergency that came up. I did not confide in anyone except my boyfriend, and even then I did not tell him I was trying to induce a miscarriage.  He was fully supportive, but as cash strapped as I was. He helped some, but my pride and my sense of responsibility kept me from asking for more than I knew he could give.

At the appointment I was given forms to fill out, everything was explained in detail and I was asked repeatedly if this was something I really wanted to do. I could take another few days and think it over now that I had been given information about the procedure. “NO,” I fairly screamed, ‘for a month I have been saving and working like mad to gather the money together. I would have had it done four weeks ago if I could have afforded it!!”

With everything that I had put my body trying to rid myself of this unwanted invader that had taken over my life in such a drastic way, the abortion itself was almost anticlimactic. The thing that stands out the most was the warm thick socks they put on my feet. They said the metal stirrups were cold and the walk to the recovery room was on cold tile and they did not want me to feel chilled. I felt cared for and like I could for the first time in weeks let someone else worry for me. A few hours later I was ready to go and called my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The next morning at 7 am I was back at work, moving a bit slow and taking care to not let cramps keep me from being able to get my work done. it was the first time in over six weeks I had not wanted to throw up everytime I wheeled a full wheelbarrow out to dump it. I clung to the horses to steady myself every now and then, but by now they had become accustomed to it. I had been horribly sick for weeks, but not letting on to anyone human at least.

So, almost 26 years later why am I now telling this story?  Because those women are me: every last one of them. Pregnant and not wanting to be. Desperate and willing to try anything to rid our bodies of this unwanted entity. I was fortunate that I lived in a state with access to multiple clinics. I was able to get an appointment within days of calling. I had the ability to eventually earn the money needed for the abortion, even if at  great personal cost of health to myself. I am one of the thousands of women who will try to self-abort. Some succeed and no one will ever know. Others finally save up enough somehow for an abortion. Others yet are like the cases in Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee where things go very wrong for them.

I was lucky. But make no mistake, I would have been desperate enough to do anything even if it meant I died as a result. Do I have any regrets? Only one. That I did not speak up sooner so many others would know they are not alone. I understand. I am you  You are not alone.

 

 

Bathtub Abortions ~ by KYBorn

Bathtub Abortions-by KY Born

I told Servalbear I was going to wait until I calmed down, but I’m not calming down so I’m writing this anyway. It is too close to the person who could have been me. It is too close to where I live part of the year. It is too close to a state being allowed to regulate a woman’s body. It is too close to the fact that women in “red” states have to cough up their own money for an abortion.

I don’t know why this woman got in the bathtub and used a coat hanger to try to end a pregnancy. I don’t care. She was not obligated to be a life support system for anybody. When the fetus was born alive, and thus became an infant, she clearly did no harm since the premature infant arrived at the hospital alive. Sure. The infant will have life-long problems. Most fetuses who become infants at 24 weeks born in hospitals don’t even survive.

Here is what I do know. I had the money and the knowledge to terminate a pregnancy legally and medically safe. Here is what I also know. If I had not had the money and knowledge of resources, I would have done anything to end that unwanted pregnancy.

I wouldn’t have waited so long to start the process. I would have tried medications first, even if they held the risk of death. I would have stopped eating and taken every herb known to man to induce an abortion.

If that didn’t work I would have been the woman in the bathtub. I would have killed myself before bearing that child. If that meant risking or even causing my own death at 20 or more weeks gestation, I would have done it.

So stop. Stop meddling in women’s medical decisions. Let us decide if we want to be mothers (and no, we are not mothers of dead babies if we choose abortion).  Get rid of the Hyde Amendment. Get rid of making abortion anything but what is: a medical procedure. Get rid of assholes who make gauntlets of people “praying for babies” and harassing people outside clinics.

Have your pro-life “clinics.”  Stay inside them and let people come to you instead of trying to lie to lure them to you. If you have to lie to get people in your joint, you don’t have much to say anyway.

Regardless, if all you “pro-lifers” don’t want any more incidents like this then follow my advice. You can pray for those aborted “babies” at home or in your church. You don’t need to make a public display of it for everyone else to hear it.

Bottom line is this woman hurt herself, her own body, but nobody cares about that. They care about a fetus that became a premature infant. What’s next? Shall we charge women who give birth early with involuntary manslaughter?  Why not?  Her uterus expelled a fetus before it was ready?

Ick. I just can’t say any more than make it easier for a woman who wants to end a pregnancy earlier possible.

Most of all, this should never have been a legal issue. It was a medical issue. Period. Shame on the doctors and hospital who even alerted law enforcement to this event. Shame on this community who elected Scott Des Jarlais, a man who was hunky dory with his own wife’s two abortions, and pressured one of his mistresses to abort on while recording the conversation on tape. (He taped the conversation himself, whether she was pregnant, aborted or gave birth is none of anybody’s business but hers).

Mostly, shame on the state of Tennessee. You and the assholes you voted into office caused this, not the poor, desperate woman in the bathtub you have shoved in jail. You and your version of high moral standards you impose on all of us are the cause of this and you bear the shame, and any criminal responsibility. So lock the legislature and governor in jail.

Let this woman go. She did no harm to anyone but herself.

Shame on you all. Everyone who holds up a gross sign. Everyone who blocks clinic entrances. Everyone who follows women for blocks. Everyone who films women entering clinics. Everyone who forces their literature on them. Everyone who misleads them into “crisis pregnancy centers.”  Everyone who votes for people who think a woman has no right to decline to be life support for another not yet human being.

Shame on you all.

You belong in that cell, not her.