Sidewalk Observations, by Skeptical Seeker

I went out to the EMW Women’s Clinic this morning to help escort. It’s not my first time on the sidewalk, but it has been a while — about 8 or 9 years.

Here are a few observations that I made this morning:

It didn’t seem as chaotic to me as it used to. Maybe it’s because I have prior experience, or maybe it’s the training I attended before returning to the line. Maybe it was a strong and organized showing of escorts today. At any rate, this time I had a much better idea of our goals and knew what I needed to do. So I picked a spot at the property line in front of the door and held that space.

Second, I never used headphones before but I found that they are great for staying entertained and for blocking out anti-chatter and rosary repetitions. Also hearing the soapbox preachers set to a dance beat can be fun at times.

I didn’t feel as stressed out on the sidewalk today as I have while escorting in the past. I think a large part of that is that I am now more secure in my convictions. Since the last time I escorted I have been pregnant twice — the first time ending in miscarriage (discovered at the 8 week ultrasound) and medical termination at home. Though that sad experience I discovered first-hand the vital importance of support and empowerment and a good doctor who informed me of all my options and encouraged me to choose the one that was best for me. Happily my second pregnancy resulted in a beautiful, wanted, and loved little girl. In spite of the very different outcomes of these two pregnancies I felt the same vital importance in both cases of empowerment and support though-out pregnancy and birth and new parenthood.

So some things on the sidewalk have never changed, but stand out to me much more starkly now. On the sidewalk you see the sharp difference between those who lecture and shame and assume and try to control, and those who support and make space and empower. I know what side I will be on.

 

Changes on the Sidewalk

Remember Nurse Betty?  Yes, Nurse Betty, the protester.  And Donna, the little red-headed lady who shows up 5 days a week to harass the clients at the clinic?  You know that they have been some of the most persistent and bothersome protesters.  Well, along with Ron and Ponytail Guy and Andrew and Angela, and some of the other regulars.

But Donna, with her refrain of “You’ll always regret this, your life will never be the same.” was super annoying.  Doing her little “come here” hand gesture, as if this invitation would be irresistible to clients waiting to check in for their procedure.   “Did you know they take you in the basement?” she would say.  “If this place caught on fire, you wouldn’t be able to get out!”  Because fire safety is your primary concern when you need an abortion.  Donna.  Annoying, but laughable.

And Nurse Betty, with her laminated page of graphic fetus images.  She would thrust it at people – escorts, clients, whoever – exclaiming, “Look at this!!  Look at this!!  Do you know what you’re doing?  Do you see what you support?”

She still has that page, Nurse Betty does.  She was clutching it today, ready in case she had the opportunity to thrust it at someone.  But you know what?  That laminated 8 x 10 sheet of graphic fetus images just doesn’t have a lot of shock value anymore.  Because this:

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doesn’t carry much weight next to this:

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Or this:

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31 x 48 inches – 2 1/2 feet by 4 feet – that’s the size of the posters.  Over four times as big as Nurse Betty’s little piece of paper.  It almost makes me feel sorry for her.

And let’s talk about sound.  Once upon a time, we could hear the Catholics saying the rosary.  We’d hear Donna’s comments, maybe Andrew, exhorting the clients and escorts, talking about his own pre-born child. Then Angela might show up, and we’d think she was loud.   Yep, Angela seemed real loud, yelling and preaching at the door.

This video is ridiculously long, but kind of great because you can see and hear Joseph, one of the AHA (Abolish Human Abortion) guys, talking directly to an escort (not using his amplifier, although sometimes he does use it even when he’s that close to someone)  He’s saying things like this:

You have to put your faith in Jesus Christ, he is lord and savior He’s your king. one day you will bow down before him … will you do that willingly?  we’ve been praying for you…  I pray for you by name – your name is escaping me right now – but i pray for you by name… There was a time in my life when I laughed and mocked… every knee will bow… I want you to have grace, i really do… At one time we considered black people not persons… The same court that held that black people were not persons are holding that babies are not persons…   Why not repent while you have time… The bible says today is the day of salvation. Repent. Turn to Jesus”

In the background you can just barely hear Angela yelling at the window.  She’s saying things like this:

Don’t go in that abortion mill.  Don’t do it.  Come out right now You think that abortionist is going to solve your problem, you don’t want to have a baby, but you already have a baby. Right now, you’re a mother right now you’re a father right now you are already a mother.  You’ll just be the mother of a dead baby.  Come out!”

You can hear the Catholics saying the rosary and at the end, another preacher chimes in.  And you can hear them all.

Or here – here’s Donna and her plastic fetus dolls (from 2013):

Innocent, defenseless, unsuspecting child. Abortion is the ultimate act of terror. Look at these little babies – seven to ten weeks Put that up on your website. Might change the hearts of some of these folks.

But now listen to this:

“Turn back to God and become the man that God intended you to be! Don’t stand up th~~ Take off your orange vests, men, and pick up your Bible {thumping on the Bible} and read it! And heed it! That was God’s intention for you! That was God’s intent! He said for us to rule this world – subdue the planet – to control it!!”

Or go back and listen to the video I posted in “Don’t Be a Mocker.”  The sound level has increased exponentially.   The Catholics can barely hear themselves praying anymore.  The AHA preachers with their loudspeakers drown out other voices, and they only grudgingly let the other street preachers like Angela take a turn.

Nurse Betty and her little paper, the chasers with their pamphlets and brochures, are ineffectual now.  Even Donna’s little fetus dolls seem pale and – well, almost boring.

Then a few weeks ago, this happened.  It’s Joseph again.

J:  “You can be sure they’ll have a home that loves them.   Please.  Please let me adopt your child. Please. (comes off stool toward the clinic)  Allow me to adopt your child please. (He crosses the property line, escorts begin to say, “You’re trespassing. You’re trespassing)  Just allow me to adopt your child.  Allow me to adopt your child please.  (You’re trespassing.)  You don’t have to call the police.   She needs to allow me to adopt her child. Please allow me to adopt your child Please allow me to adopt your child
I was asking.
Clinic staff:  I’m calling the police.
J:  I’m not blocking anybody, not breaking any laws
Clinic Staff:  You are trespassing this is our property.
J:  You need to stop killing children. (steps off property) You need to stop killing children. Allow me to adopt your child please.

Dominic yells:  “You had an option ma’am. That’s what it is, Murder in the first degree.”

J:  You are a murderer you need to repent and turn to Christ. (Escort:  “go away”) You need to repent of your sins. (Escort:  Go away) You need to repent. i’m just trying to talk to some someone and offer to adopt their child.   You can get mad all you want sir, but you are a murderer, you’re a hateful , you’re a hateful murderer   You don’t care about these people. You do not care about these people.

Another protester (to the escort):  And you’re a coward.  Because if you were a man, you’d be standing up for these babies.

Escort: (scoffing)  If I were a man like you?

Protester.  “No not a man like me.   A man like Jesus.”
J:  i was offering to adopt her child  (To the escort) don’t be a coward, sir, speak up, stand up for your convictions
Escort:  I am!
J: Well then tell me, what’s wrong with trying to adopt someone’s child? (Unintelligible)  In this building they will murder children,”

This week, Joseph slammed his sign into an escort standing on the property line at the clinic.  He apparently thought she was standing where his sign should have been.  The sign is almost as tall as she is, and he shoved it into her.

Even one of the Catholic protesters thought that was out of line.  She told him his rudeness “was putting a bad face on pro-life.”   His response?  He turned away from the woman confronting him, and said to an escort, “I can do whatever I want to.”

Let me be clear.  Joseph, the AHA guy does not care about the escort he slammed his sign into.  In his mind, his mission trumps her right to stand on the sidewalk.  He thinks a woman he doesn’t even know should change her entire life, carry a pregnancy to term, and give him – a stranger, literally someone off the street – her baby.   Because he wants her to.

In the same way, the anti-abortion people no longer care if a woman’s health is at risk. They are not worried about women’s well-being, or even their survival.  The fall-out from the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood have exponentially increased the damage the anti-abortion groups are doing.  Women’s access to any reproductive health services is at risk, especially women who are living below the poverty level.

“Pro-lifers” have been chipping away at abortion rights until they are almost gone.  Now these new groups plan to swoop in and impose their radical religious agenda on everyone.  They do not want women to be able to use birth control, practice family planning, or exercise bodily autonomy.  I don’t know how far they’ll get before people wake up and  stop them.

In the meantime, we just keep escorting.  Supporting women seeking a common medical procedure.  Trusting women to know what’s best for themselves and their families.  Holding space for clients and their companions on the sidewalk.

What They Said…

Our newest fund raiser – Antis Say the Darnedest Things – ended Saturday.  Remember?  Some of us pledged money for every time a specific protester said a specific thing, only we couldn’t publish which ones we were tracking ’cause then they might quit saying that thing.  Well, here’s what they said.

Donna:

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(Picture shows Donna in a light blue coat, arms folded across her chest, disapproving look on her face, saying YOUR RELATIONSHIP WILL NEVER BE THE SAME}

And Dominic:

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{Dominic is in his camoflauge gear and holding his “Before I formed you in the womb….” sign. He says: MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.}

Keep in mind that Donna is at the clinic every, single day.  Dominic is generally only there on Saturday.  So how many times did they say their thing?

Donna –  Your relationship will never be the same – 21 times

Dominic – Murder in the First Degree – 29 times

Amazing.

We are still tabulating results for the pledges, but I understand that Donna has raised $208 for us all by herself.  Funds will be used for a variety of needs – winter supplies like salt for the sidewalk or hand and foot warmers; breakfasts for escort trainings, help with parking expenses and other miscellaneous needs.  Often, we share the funds with one of our sister organizations who provide hands on support for abortion access.

I’ll let you know what the total is for Dominic when I know.  Thanks to him and Donna for helping us, albeit unintentionally, as we support people seeking access to abortion, .

In the meantime, the first results are in from our Springtime Pledge-a-Picketer fundraiser.  You know, once upon a time (um, last year) we just did this fundraiser for the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  We used to have hundreds of protesters show up – really, hundreds.  But the last few years, the turn-out for that Saturday has been kind of pitiful.  Last year, they had a huge turn-out for the Saturday before Easter, and sometimes they show up in droves for the Saturday before Father’s Day.

So we began to wonder if they were purposely staying away because we do the fund-raiser.  Seriously.  It seemed like the other days got bigger and Mother’s Day kept shrinking.  So this year we decided to combine them all.   That way, if rain or sleet or hail  – or the knowledge that abortion access is improved by their presence – keeps them away from one big day, we’ll catch them on another one.  So – drum roll please – on the Saturday before Easter there were  ~~ 79 protesters.

Yeah.  That’s it.  A weak turnout.  Maybe they’ll have a better showing on May 9th.  I won’t say I hope so – if they don’t show, of course that’s good for us too, and even better for the client.  What a terrific win-win.

Finally – I have to say this here so I don’t say it on the sidewalk.  This is really to Donna:

“Your relationship will never be the same???  What are you thinking?   Do you think their relationship will be the same if they go ahead and have this baby???   Cause I’m pretty sure that’s gonna be a HUGE frigging change!!  What are you thinking?”

Oh, that’s right, she’s not.

Ok, whew, I feel better now that I’ve said it.  Thanks.

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And it’s not too late to pledge for Pledge-a-Picketer.   You know how it works – you can pledge a certain amount per protester, or just pledge a set amount regardless.  Here’s the link to make a pledge.

Pledge-a-Picketer