Who are the Legal Observers?

Image

Who are the Legal Observers?

Many people have noticed Legal Observers on the sidewalks around EMW Women’s Surgical Center over the past 3 years. They are wearing caps and/or badges that say, “NCAP Trained Legal Observer”. They carry cell phones and take notes. Who are these people? What are they doing? Are they taking photos of people who have appointments at EMW?

NO, they are not taking photos of people going to the clinic. They adhere to strict guidelines not to take photos of any patient or companion. If you see them with their cell phones up, rest assured they are not taking photos of you entering the clinic. They are taking photos of the protesters and escorts. They do not carry any other cameras either.

The Legal Observers are not connected to any escort group. They are present at the invitation of the clinic staff on the recommendation of the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP). Their focus is the safety of the patients, their companions, clinic staff and escorts.

They will not approach patients for conversation and cannot act as an escort for any patient and/or companion.

What are they doing then?

The Feminist Majority Foundation established NCAP in 1989. It was modeled on the observers for the National Lawyers Guild. These observers are documenting interactions of everyone on the sidewalk. The documentation is reported to the clinic, LMPD and NCAP with their notes on any threats or violations of laws.

Why won’t they talk to me?

The Legal Observers are neutral observers at all times. They have pledged to be strictly non-engaging with anyone on the sidewalk while observing. If someone asks them persistently what they are doing their standard reply is, “We are legal observers. We are not reporters. We are just observing and not interviewing. We don’t want to discuss anyone’s viewpoint.” If they are asked what NCAP stands for, they will reply, “Google it.” Then they will walk away and not have further discussion with the questioner.

When are they present?

Legal Observers are present each week and sometimes a couple of times a week. They are only on duty in the early morning. The clinic relies on their surveillance cameras when they are not present. The Legal Observers are an extra layer of protection for people wanting to exercise their right to an abortion.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {1/7/13}

The client and companion pulled to the curb. They were immediately approached by two of the many antis out that day. I was able to explain the orange vests and antis. We talked about their parking options and they decided to pull across to the $3 lot. I walked over to assist them with parking and paying.

We started walking towards the clinic. One of them looked at the antis grouped around the clinic door and said, “There are so many people out there.” I agreed and said we would just walk past the protesters. The companion remarked, “Well, since you are security we will have protection.” I immediately said, “I am not security. We only volunteer to help create a space for you when you walk to the clinic. The protesters will just talk to you and try to hand you pamphlets. You don’t have to talk to them or take anything.”

They gave me a surprised look and said, “I hope that works.”

It did.

————————————————————————————–

REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

On the Sidewalk with FML – Things that make me Laugh, 9-25-10

Today, I was standing on the corner of Second and Market for quite a while.  That’s a good spot.  Several of us were there so we could see scrums coming down the sidewalk from any direction and help if they needed us to.  The blondish preacher guy was standing there too, reading the Bible outloud and harranging us.   This is the one who claims to have been cured of being homosexual – you know who I mean.   His son was there today too, which makes me feel a little sad, just because – how strange must that be for him, the son?   But anyhow.

You all know that one of the goals of the protesters is to talk the client into going to the fake clinic so they can either:

a)  Convince her not to have an abortion or

b)  Delay her so long she misses her appointment or

c)  Get her to eat something so she can’t have the procedure.

That isn’t something I’m making up to be mean, this is what they’ll admit they do.

Anyhow, we escorts were talking to each other, and trying to ignore preacher dude, although we did get sucked in occasionally.   I was particularly annoyed with myself a couple of times, like when I heard myself arguing with him about what God wants.  I had to walk away and calm down, but I came back and worked on ignoring him.

A car stops at the light;  the passenger rolls the window down.   She’s a woman, maybe in her fifties; the driver looks like her husband.  I think it’s the matching t-shirts that gives me that impression.

Anyhow, D, an escort, leans down toward her, she asks him about where to turn for the Heart Walk they’re doing this morning.   The one way street system is complex, and I hear D say, “Well, if you want to go east, you have to go this way,” pointing down the street the clinic is on.

They begin to make the turn, slowly, and Preacher dude yells at them, “DON’T DO IT!  THEY’RE TRYING TO DIVERT YOU!  THAT’S THE ABORTION CLINIC!”

I swear, it takes 5 seconds for that to register.  Then it hits me.  Don’t do it – we’re trying to divert them TO the abortion clinic?  This 50 year old woman and her matching husband?  And I start to laugh.

“Omigod” – I’m giggling – “Omigod, he did not just say that.  We’re trying to DIVERT them, for what?  to go have an abortion?”

Giggling too,  someone else says, “No, we just hate the heart walk – we don’t want them to raise money for that, right?”

Laughing harder now, I say – “But doesn’t he know – doesn’t he know – that if you’re going to have an abortion – you have to BE pregnant?!!!  I mean -” I’m bent over now – “you can’t just PICK somebody off the street and DIVERT them to the clinic for an abortion…omigod…”

“Well,” another escort says, “He is the one who thinks you can cure homosexuality, maybe he DOESN’T know how it works.”

And you know, that sounds crazy, but I still don’t know – after all, why on earth did he say that?  “They’re trying to DIVERT you…”   And it still makes me smile…

On the Sidewalk with FML – Things that make me Sad, 9-25-10

Today, I was walking with what we call a scrum – a group of escorts circled up around the client and her companion – moving along the sidewalk.

I’m talking to the client, a young woman; she keeps her head down.   It’s a loose scrum, there’s space between the escorts, we aren’t holding hands.  I see M2, a tall, fairly aggressive woman, coming up fast on my right –  she’s talking, “Don’t do this – don’t do this – don’t go in there, it’s murder, it’s a baby, you’re killing your baby”  and –

– I try to move closer to the client.  But M2’s been a chaser for years, she’s too quick for me. She shoves her body between me and the client, a little in front of me, which pushes me back.

Faster than I can say it, the client looks up, back toward me – a little panicky – so I move forward more quickly, my shoulder pushes M2 out of the way.  Just as quickly, M2 turns, throws her arm out, between me and the client, open-handed, she thrusts a plastic fetus in the client’s face.   I move forward again, knocking M2’s arm with my shoulder, moving it out of the way – she shoves back.   I stumble —

–and step on the client’s shoe.  Cute little flip-flops with sparkly things on the straps.  She stumbles, I apologize, we keep moving.  But I’ve broken the side thong.   She’s half-limping, trying to keep the shoe on – chasers swarm around us – and I apologize again – and again.

I wish we got do-overs.  That’s really all I can say.  Sure, we made it to the door.  No one got hurt.  It wasn’t completely my fault.  I’m not even sure I could do it better if I had another chance.   But somehow – the shoe lingers with me.   A little black flop with sparkly things, broken.  I’d just like a do-over on that one.

I’m Just Not That Nice – by FML

 He was tall and slender. The video camera hid most of his face. I noticed the camera first as we came down the sidewalk with the patient, a young Hispanic woman. The camera was pointed straight at her and her companion, at the center of the “scrum,”* in the middle of the sea of orange vests. It pissed me off. 

This is a scrum, from the back. Camera man would have been on the other side of us.

We left the patient and her companion at the door, the clinic wasn’t open yet. I was glad she didn’t speak English, couldn’t understand everything the protesters were saying. Although, she couldn’t help seeing and hearing the man who jumped out of the prayer line to scream, “PLEASE DON’T KILL YOUR LITTLE BABY!” 

I approached the man with the camera. He was still shooting, standing off to the side of the door. “Don’t take pictures of the clients,” I said. “It’s really rude to take pictures of clients.” 

He started to say something, but I talked over him. “It’s rude, and it’s just wrong, and you should leave them alone.” I was angry. I don’t know if that’s exactly what I said, but I was just angry, and I said something like that.

 I wasn’t trying to be nice. There he was, this six foot-something white man with gray hair and a fancy video camera, and how dare he?  

Oh, I’m not… it’s ok…” he said soothingly, and that just made me angrier.

 “No, it’s not ok,” I said. “It’s rude You’re violating their privacy!”

 “No, I’m not I’m – come here,” he said, “Come here,” motioning with one hand for me to come closer to him, and I thought, oh, right, no way. I shook my head, disgusted; they always want to preach at you, the protesters do, get you off to the side to preach and lecture at you. “No,” I said. And I walked away, back to the door and the Hispanic woman.

 I tried to practice my pitiful Spanish on her, and actually almost made her smile. I’d already said, “Non hablo Espanol,” and then I said “Hablo Italiano, un poco,” and she nodded and I said, “Ustedes, non habla Italiano? And she shook her head and almost smiled at this goofy woman asking if she spoke Italian.  

Then I looked up and he was there, with his camera, motioning ‘come here’ again. I moved toward him a little, but he moved closer to me too, til he was just a couple of inches away from me, all up in my space. I’m short, I’m five foot, and he was at least six foot, maybe more. I wanted to back away from him, but I didn’t, I wouldn’t.

Come here, “ he said, in a low voice. “Listen, come here,” and I thought “here, where? For what?”

 I was afraid, I think. Don’t ask me why, we were right there in public. But he was all up in my space, I couldn’t even see his face without tilting my head way back, so I was looking directly into his chest.

 Then I looked down and saw that he’d stepped over the magic line in the sidewalk, and I said, “You’re on private property. Step back.” He looked surprised, and I said it again, “You’re on the clinic’s property. I’m a volunteer with the clinic. You’re not. Step back.”

 And he did step back. Which made me feel pretty good. And I think he was still kind of saying, “Come here,” and motioning to me, but I really didn’t care. I went back to talking to the Hispanic woman.

 A few minutes later, I was out in the parking lot; I was standing near the light pole. A young woman with dark hair approached me. I didn’t recognize her, but when she stepped into the light, then I noticed her jacket had a logo with, “Channel ***,” on it, and I kind of thought, “Oh, shit.”  

Sure enough. She lowered her voice, like this was confidential, which confused me a little, but sure enough, he was her cameraman, she said, and they were going to blur the faces of the patients and it was all ok. She said all that in a reassuring whisper that made me feel like she was trying to placate me, and that annoyed me.

 “He was still rude,” I said, thinking about him stepping up to me by the door. “And the patients don’t know you won’t show their faces.” I was still angry, maybe angrier, because with all his gesturing and “come here,” I guess I was supposed to know he was going to tell me he was with the media?

Oh, I know,” she said, “We want you all to tell them. When you go to the cars, you tell them we won’t show their faces.” I nodded. Sure, we could do that.

 But I was still pissed.

 The morning went on. There weren’t a lot of us escorts so we were working on moving around to cover the space we needed to, and doing pretty well. The group of escorts right across the street from the parking lot were stationed so they could cover the sidewalk on their right or groups crossing the street directly across from them. Some escorts were stationed in the back of the parking lot.

 A group of escorts had just left the parking lot with a patient when a truck pulled in. I approached it, along with a bunch of protesters who were actually wearing orange vests too. The frigging weasels, trying to look like escorts.  Liars and deceivers. I liked to say it loudly when they could hear me.

 But we approached the truck, and of course it scared the young couple in the truck. The driver was getting ready to park but he pulled out again and moved to another space. This time when I approached, I pointed to the words on my vest, “Clinic Escort,” and he rolled the window down.

 I could see her on the passenger side of the truck, shaking, tears in her eyes. She looked fragile, beautiful and scared. He looked a little shaken too. “Where can we park?” he asked, “Is there somewhere we can park where they’ll leave us alone?”

 I shook my head, “Not really,” and added, “But – if she’s ok with it,” then looking at her, talking over him, “If you’re ok with it, he could drop you at the door.”

 He pulled out then, another escort approached the truck as he was pulling out – L maybe or T. I walked toward them in time to hear her suggest it too, that he drop the patient at the door. He looked at the other escort, and at me, and he said, “Will you be there?” Of course, we said yes, and headed across the street to the door while he drove around the block.

When we got there, I realized we hadn’t been able to hold the opening in the sidewalk this week. The priest, with his Roman collar, and a couple of other men, were blocking it. Next to them was a three foot pile of snow. You couldn’t get to the clinic from the street. You would have had to walk through them or the three foot pile of snow just to get to the sidewalk. That made me really angry too.

 
 

Ok, the door wasn't as blocked that day as it is in the picture. But I'm sure it felt like it to the woman and her companion. Can you imagine having to get through that crowd?

The police officer was new, he’d never been at the clinic before. He was standing by the door, looking nervous. I pushed through the men blocking the sidewalk. “There’s a woman coming up, she’s going to get dropped off,” I told the officer. I gestured. “She won’t be able to get through. Will you make them move so she can get through?”

 He look a little confused, so I said, “The men – see the men there?” pointing, “They’re blocking the way, she won’t be able to get to the door,” and then he nodded.

And he did help, when the truck pulled up and she got out, looking so scared and fragile, he made his way over and just his presence was enough to create an opening and then she was over the line and in the door. I smiled.

In moments like that, I felt like a warrior. Or something powerful. A goddess, maybe. Maybe Uadjet, the cobra goddess, aggressive defender of the pharoah in ancient Egypt. The idea made me smile more.

As I crossed the street, I saw the camera man, and was feeling so good, I had to laugh. “Did you see that?” I said. “Did you see – it took the police to get them to move so she could get through? Jesus!” I shook my head. “Talk about FACE act violations!” And he shook his head too.

Later the camera man came over and was talking to me. He was being really nice, said he understood that I was there to protect the patients, and all that. Said that the patients probably had so much going on that they didn’t even notice him with the camera.

I said, “Yeah, maybe sometimes they don’t, but sometimes they get tears in their eyes and say, “Why is he doing that? Why is he taking pictures?” all panicky.”

Don’t worry,” he assured me, “we blur the faces, make sure they know that, ok?”

But much later – ok, it’s not much later, it only lasts about an hour, hour and a half all together, it just feels like much later – he came over again, the photographer. He stood real close to me again, but by then I didn’t care. He sort of apologized, it was one of those, “I’m sorry I upset you even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong” apologies, but that was ok. He was sincere about it.

We talked about how his camera and clothes didn’t have any marking to show he was with the media. We talked about how hard it is to be “the good guy” at the clinic. We shook hands.

And he said he knew we felt protective of the patients – he understood that. “But,” he said, “You-all might want to think that when you come across ‘like that’” (like I had, you know, although he didn’t quite say that) “that when you-all come across real harsh, it doesn’t help, it might just make you look bad. So, you know, when you don’t know why someone’s there, you might not want to come on so strong with them.”

And I thought, well, you’re probably right. But really, as C said later, “if you want to see me nice, meet me somewhere else.”

I almost just nodded in agreement anyway, and then some super-empowered part of me kicked in, and I said – really calmly and nicely, “You know, that’s a good example of white male privilege – the belief that if you show up somewhere, you’re entitled to be there and everyone else should accept that and adjust what they’re doing to accommodate you.”**

 I said it and my heart was racing, I couldn’t believe I’d said it, even though I knew it was true.

To my amazement, and his credit, he looked surprised, but then he nodded, “That’s right,” he said, “You’re right, it probably is.” We left it at that. 

****************************************************************************

 Months have gone by since I wrote this. The same photographer was out for Mother’s Day, and we were like old friends. Strange how that happens.

I don’t feel like a cobra goddess so much anymore. I’ve moved away from being a protector, now I aim more at being a presence. I can’t protect anyone from anything out there, but I can be with them. It is closer to the mindfulness idea, “don’t just do something, sit there.”***

And really, that sounds a whole lot more Zen than I can actually pull off. If you show up down at the clinic, you’re just as likely to find me ranting at someone about something, or walking away to cool down. But I keep working at holding on to that calm inner peace, on the sidewalk, every Saturday morning.

 ****************************************************************************

*scrum – a football term. We use it to refer to the formation made by the group of escorts who surround the patient and her companion, as we move down the sidewalk with them.

**The following observations are from my friend D., who proofed my post, found some typos, and made some suggestions. He said:   “Overall, I think your most powerful message to get across in this essay is the point about white male privilege.  What do you think about spending a few more words on that and really emphasizing it?” 

And then he went on and did it for me:   “Through the whole story, that’s the thing that kept nagging at me about his behavior, even though I didn’t know it until you said it. The whole idea that it’s ok for him to be filming because he was going to blur their faces was ridiculous. Even if we tell the clients that, that friggin’ camera is still extremely rude, intrusive, and scary. What if the woman was an illegal immigrant? She would have run scared and not gotten her abortion. It’s NOT ok to just film people and put them on the evening news, blurred faces or not. His privileged white background completely ignores all those scenarios and keeps him from being able to see just how rude he is. It’s the same with all those idiot protesters and chasers. They really can’t see how what they do is rude and intrusive. Their background only let’s them see how wonderful they are for what they endure to get their message across.”    (Thanks, D.!)

** “Don’t just do something, sit there,” is a Buddhist concept, and has been used in a variety of contexts, with slightly different connotations. One of my clinical psychology teachers in graduate school used it often to discourage new therapists from rushing to “fix something” when the client made an important disclosure. When something painful is under discussion, it’s easier to act quickly in an effort to make it go away, but often more helpful to just experience the feeling and let others “sit with it” as well.

Trespassing and Invasion

I was back at the clinic this morning after quite some time away – time off was very good. It gave me a chance to just not have that racket in my head for a while. I had the opportunity to see the clinic for the first time in a while, with semi-fresh eyes, and to notice some things that come to seem very normal after seeing them happen so regularly.

I hadn’t engaged with any protesters at all until about 8:00. And then Stephanie happened. You may remember Stephanie – she used to be one of the jackass chasers in the orange vests. Now she is a jackass in a yellow vest. Andy wrote a FABULOUS response to an e-mail she sent. You can read that conversation here: https://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/dear-stephanie/

Particularly striking, to me, is this part:

“Your faith in god does not change the fact that you are in that moment no different from a rapist. To be clear I am simply making an analogy: person A says no to a certain type of interaction, person B does not accept those boundaries and forces themselves upon person A.”

That piece focuses mainly on the emotional trespassing done by protesters, and it is very eloquent, so I will simply second what that post says. We have also discussed many times on this blog the physical trespassing that happens – pushing into clients, pushing INFANTS into a client’s path, shoving handfuls of literature at clients and into their purses and bags… And of course, there’s trespassing onto clinic property.

This morning I had been walking in with a few client/escort groups, and after one I turned around to see that Stephanie had followed us onto the property line. WELL onto the property line, several feet in from both directions – this wasn’t toes over the line, this was trespassing onto private property very intentionally.

I was pissed. I told her to move, that she was trespassing, that she was on private property… She told me that it wasn’t MY property (well duh…) and that I had no authority to tell her to move. I will be the first to tell you that I cannot control what Stephanie does. No matter how thoughtless, rude, cruel, ignorant, etc. her actions and words may be, I have no control over them and cannot make her stop. But I can call people out for doing fucked up things. We ended up very close to each other, me yelling at her to get the fuck off of clinic property and what the fuck was she thinking, her yelling that I had no authority to tell her what to do and that it wasn’t my property… Finally I turned around and backed her off of the property.

I could write a lot about about how weird it is to get as worked up as I did, about how little sense it makes to trespass onto clinic property and then act like it’s totally ok… But it basically boils down to how shocking it is to see these ridiculous things happen after taking some time off, and how insolent and childish it is to trespass onto clinic property and act like you can do no wrong.

Let’s get real. What happened was not ok.

I am in no way saying that I handled things in the best possible way. But, the threat of having a protester invade a safe space for clients and escorts got to me. I got defensive and protective, because the one place where I should be able to count on having my own personal space was invaded. The space where clients should finally feel secure before their steps through the clinic door was invaded. The space that used to be patrolled by police officers that knew what they were doing (who’s mere presence would have almost certainly stopped these things from happening) was momentarily no longer a safe zone, and that is not acceptable.

While I am surprised by how upset I got, how aggressive I felt, I am not sorry for yelling or moving Stephanie off of clinic property. I hope to not get to that place again, to be able to control my feelings when my buttons are pushed like that, but I an not apologetic for my actions. Part of escorting is maintaining safe spaces, and when those spaces are invaded, I don’t think I can sit back and watch that happen without doing anything.

I cooled down at the corner and talked with another escort. As it got to be time to head home, we walked towards the clinic doors and passed Stephanie, who, making no eye contact with me, told us to have a nice day. How sweet.

Update: Stephanie commented to say I’m lying about most everything in this post.

Shout out to Stephanie: you still owe the escorts an apology. I don’t know how you remember things, but my account is from very shortly after this all happened. While I know human memory can be altered (I listened to a podcast about it just last night), I am not a liar, and I stand by what I have said here. You are allowed to have your version of the “truth” but it does not change the basic facts of what happened. Whether or not you honestly think you “accidentally” trespassed onto private property, we both know that you WERE on private property. We both know that you did not move when you realized what had happened. You still have some apologizing to do.

Moral Reasoning, Kohlberg, and Escorting

A few escorts and myself have been talking about moral development for a while now. Basic psychological theories of moral development go from very basic levels of thinking (Will I get punished? Did someone tell me this is right/wrong? Will I get what I want?) to higher levels of thinking (What’s the context of the situation? Regardless of whether I was TOLD this is right/wrong, is it?). One theory that I particularly love (and keep coming back to) is Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. I’ve thought a lot about where I fall on this scale, and where others at the clinic fall on this scale.

Kohlberg’s stages go from pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional, with six stages that fall into those categories. Kohlberg discussed the idea of regressing from higher to lower stages and had other important insights, but I won’t go into all of that here.

Pre-conventional: Common in children, but exhibited in [many] adults. Judge morality based on direct external consequences.

  • Stage One: Obedience and punishment driven. Individuals in stage one consider the consequences of their actions on themselves, and usually think that the worse the punishment, the worse the crime, morally speaking.

  • Stage Two: Self-interest driven. Individuals in this stage wonder what’s in it for them, and define right behavior as whatever is in their own best interest. Limited concern for the needs of others (except in the context of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”). Lacks societal perspective.

Conventional: Typical of teenagers and adults. Judge morality based on societal views and expectations, and accept social norms concerning right and wrong. Major concern for “the rules.”

  • Stage Three: Conformity driven. Individuals in stage three consider the consequences actions might have on their relationships and are concerned with social roles/living up to expectations of others. The intention behind actions becomes important (whether someone means well or not), and there is a desire to maintain rules and authority.

  • Stage Four: Authority and social order driven. This stage focuses on laws, social conventions, and above all maintaining a functioning society. Often a central idea guides judgments of right and wrong (perhaps religion), and morality is dictated by an outside force. Views breaking a law as morally wrong (and potentially leading the way for others to follow, which would break down social order)

Post-Conventional: Recognizes that different individuals will have different perspectives, and these people live by their own (abstract) principles about right and wrong. View rules as useful but changeable (not absolute, not to be obeyed without question). Post-conventional moral reasoning is less common. It is worth noting that “Because of this level’s ‘nature of self before others’, the behavior of post-conventional individuals, especially those at stage six, can be confused with that of those at the pre-conventional level.” (That was a concern for me, honestly.)

  • Stage Five: Social contract driven. Individuals in this stage view the world as full of different opinions, rights, and values, and feel that these should be mutually respected. Laws are viewed as social contracts, and those that don’t promote general well-being should be changed to do the most good for the most people.
  • Stage Six: Universal ethical principles driven. Moral reasoning in this stage is based on abstract reason, using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only if they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws (I love that!). This stage involves imagining what you would do in another person’s place. Individuals in this stage act because it is right, not because it is legal or expected.

Ok, so all of these stages are lovely and great, but how do they tie in? Well, as adults who are doing something we believe in (which applies to most of the protesters at the clinic, not just the escorts) we have to have used some method of reasoning (moral and other) to conclude that what we are doing is indeed right.

To me, it seems fairly obvious. It seems clear that many (many, not all – this is a generalization) of the protesters are hung up in stage four. Which is where many people are – I’m not using this as a fancy (long winded) way to say that the protesters are stupid, just that our thought processes are very, very different. Consider the criteria for stage four in the context of the clinic. So often I hear arguments about how god has told us what’s right and what’s wrong, and god has said what to do and what not to do. But those arguments don’t seem to go much further than “Because god says so.” I don’t care of the law or god or aliens tell me if something is right or wrong, it’s still up for question if it doesn’t sit with me, and if it doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of people in general.

As for the escorts, I think that many of us have had to think deeply about escorting, abortion, and the situation at the clinic. It’s not a matter of someone having told us to do this, or someone telling us that abortion is right and us blindly obeying. It’s something that we had to tease out for ourselves, from our experiences, beliefs, intuition, and the world around us. I think that escorts tend to feel a commitment to justice, even when that includes doing something that our families, friends, parents, teachers, peers, and on and on, might take issue with. We feel a commitment to justice, even if that means doing something that can be potentially dangerous. We honor this commitment, even when it means being harassed and bullied. We honor this commitment because we see how important it is, and because we see that the rules and laws may not be doing the trick. Those of us who are at a place where we are able to escort (because there are many factors that make it impossible, and for some it is not the best place to direct their energy)  honor this commitment because once we’ve seen the necessity we realize we cannot ignore it.

Dear Stephanie

As a comment to the post “Not Making Things Worse” I got this:

Andy,

I am a life escort and I escort almost every Saturday morning. And I realize you probably won’t post this on the blog. But I do want you to know that there are quite a few of us who do not wish to hate or speak hateful words to you, any escorts, or any clients. I know that there is a good chance that we will never really find much common ground on this issue. But Ken did say something to me last week about both the clinic escorts and life escorts that I believe is true. He said that we are essentially all there for the same reason…to show compassion. I believe he could not have been more right. I read about the compassion you have for clients almost every week.

I respect you for being so honest in this post. Believe it or not, I too have felt much the same way as you have. I too have been pushed around and hated especially on Saturday mornings. And I too have had a hard time controlling my tongue. And as a result, I too have said and done things I have regretted. And I too have not wanted to apologize for them. But the Lord compelled me to do so. I did apologize and seek forgiveness from that escort I wronged. And here is the part where Stephanie feels the need to tell me all about how I was hurt by my ex, she can empathize, knows what it is like to be me and god can fix it and how great he is for a paragraph or two.

Blessings,
Stephanie

And here is the response I sent her via email today.

Stephanie,

To clarify, I did not write the post about de-escalating. ESM is a collaborative blog and several people write for us. I also want to point out that while you may be able to identify with something that is written here, please do not assume you know about the lives of the escorts and especially the lives of the clients. What is shared here is limited, and certainly not the whole story.

You are correct that I will not post your comment in its entirety. But not for the reason you think. I am not a Christian. I have no desire to hear about your god, beliefs or opinions about the lives of others based on the lack of compassion you and your friends show the rest of us.

I understand you disagree with me and feel like you show nothing but compassion.

We feel judged, harassed and most importantly disempowered by you and yours.

There is a huge difference between intention (what you think you are saying/showing/acting) and perception (what I feel/perceive/interpret).

It is not up to you to tell me that I should not be offended by you if I am in fact hurt by the way you push your opinions on me.

Escorts are a motley bunch with beliefs ranging from very devout Christians, Jews and Muslims to atheists and pagans, but mostly we are people who are just willing to admit we do not have the answers.

We have in our culture a great respect for the faith of our citizens and thus give massive latitude to religious speech. As a person in the cultural majority (Judeo-Christian world view) you may not be able to see that your faith colors every aspect of my life.

And I object.

The protection that grants you the right to speak your faith limits my right to set boundaries rejecting it. This is clearly the Right to Free Speech v. the Right to be free from Harassment social dichotomy acted out everyday in front of the clinic.

And so, this is my blog, and I will not provide space for you or anyone else to prosthelytize.

We know.

We have heard you tell us all about your faith and god ad nauseum.

And the fact that you REFUSE to accept no for an answer puts you in a position as the aggressor. I do not want you to aggress against me or the clients or my escorts any more.

As women we are taught No means No.

I am saying to you, and the clients say to you NO all of the time.

Your faith in god does not change the fact that you are in that moment no different from a rapist. To be clear I am simply making an analogy: person A says no to a certain type of interaction, person B does not accept those boundaries and forces themselves upon person A.

Lastly, I want to point out to you that to escort someone is to safely ensure they arrive at their intended destination.

You do not escort anyone anywhere.

You literally chase people, who are telling you to leave them alone, down the street.

While I understand the literary point you are trying to make, it falls short in every way. You and your friends are engaging in deception.

Your orange vests cause more confusion than they create calm.

I was told the first morning you all showed up in those vests you all were trying to “level the playing field”.

It seems you all view this as a game to be won, strategy to be put into place, and no matter how you spin that statement, I think it was very honest.

And disgusting.

I disagree with Ken on this point.  I don’t think any of you care about these women and the torment you put them through by your actions.

You may disagree with the choice they are making, but many of these women are caused 100% more hurt by you than the abortion will ever cause them.

I know you disagree with me. Which is your right.

But the reality is that this is a choice they must make and live with.

It does not matter one little bit if you and I disagree. What matters is that in my 10 years of escorting I have spoken with thousands of women and most of the ones who talk to me about their decisions are confident they are doing the right thing. And none of the ones who were not sure felt like you all were really there to give them a better option.

I trust you speak with women who are grateful for your services, and while I find the services provided at AWC to be dishonest and disingenuous, it is not my choice make. And I will ALWAYS provide support to every person regardless of what I think about her decisions. This is not the same for you and your friends.

The climate on the sidewalk in front of the clinic is more than just the words we speak.

Can you even imagine what it must be like for women to be surrounded by 15 people, half of them shoving lit in your face, calling you a murderer, shoving in front of you to block you from taking another step?

Your words are the smallest of the ways in which you and your friends intimidate and cause fear.

We are all human and say things that we regret. There are always better ways to interact. But I can not stress enough that you contribute more to the hurt that women feel through your disempowering actions than anything else they are dealing with that day.

I don’t want to be your friend. I certainly do not want to develop a relationship with you so that you can have secret, or overt for that matter, plans to save me. I don’t need saving nor do any of the escorts or clients. Please leave us alone. In the end, all anybody wants is a little privacy to live our lives the best we can.

Andy

abortion is not a dirty word.

Escorts, escorts everywhere!

October 24, 2009

Escorts: 70ish

Protesters: 60ish

Cops: 1 County Sherriff, 3 LMPD patrol cars with lights



This week we expected to be bombarded with anti-choice protesters. The Kentucky Right to Life conference was in town and usually that means an up tic in protester numbers. So we made the call out to our regular Louisville folks, those brave souls who come out on Mother’s Day and Easter to help people navigate their way through hundreds of anti-choice protesters to enter the clinic.

We especially love our friends of faith who come out to show that not all people of faith choose to express that faith through judgment and condemnation.

But what made this past Saturday a little extra special is that we also had a crew of escorts come in from out of state, multiple states in fact. We had escorts from South Dakota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey. Many of these intrepid travelers had participated in the defense of Dr. Carhart’s clinic in Bellevue, NB. They met some of the Louisville’s clinic escorts there and thus the national networking of reproductive justice supporters began.

After plane rides and 15 hour drives, we all met for food, drink and a little southern hospitality, before descending into the work of a mini training of escorting tactics for the following morning. And while we are aware of the aggressive climate here it is often hard for people new to the scene to believe what actually happens to women trying to access abortion services.

And after a far to short sleep we were up and ready to go early. Wanting to be in place early, we all showed up around 6:45am. We began to create our walls of escorts to hold the door space around the door from the anti-choicers who like to crowd the clinic entrance. We also created a human door way from the street onto the sidewalk in front of the door to allow clients to bypass the gauntlet of protesters down the sidewalk. And by the time our regular prayers showed up there was a solid block of clinic escorts to provide a little bit of personal space for clients. And we waited for the extra anti-choice protesters to show up.

But they did not materialize. In fact, we had a really small crowd of protesters, fewer than most Saturday mornings. Where we usually see 40-70 regular protesters, this morning’s measly 60 did not impress, especially with folks in from across the state for their annual convention. I suppose one might argue that they were busy setting up for the conference, and maybe they were. But let me tell you, we had more escorts than protesters for possibly the first time in my 10 years.

This does not mean however that it was not a rough morning. With so many escorts and so few protesters our regular chasers were feeling a little under pressure. Mary was especially rabid this morning. She was really pushy approaching cars before clients were able to get out, blocking their doors and really getting up in their ways. It took our most skilled escorts to maintain any kind of personal space for the clients with her in pursuit. Larry David (the guy who trapped a client’s friend in the bathroom at White Castle, banging on the door yelling at her not to kill her baby) was very much his usual unhinged self, chasing clients and shoving escorts.

But over all it was a pretty typical morning at the clinic, escorts escorting, anti-choice protesters screaming and pushing, women making their way through crowds of people yelling at them every Saturday morning.

This may have been a typical morning at the clinic, but this is not normal.

Normal looks like women accessing abortion services just like any other medical services.

Just like regular people.

One of our vising friends writes for World Can’t Wait,  and this is the piece they wrote Zombieland, USA. It’s a great piece and I highly recommend the read.

 

 

 

 

Archbishop came and went, abortion still a woman’s choice

Saturday October 10, 2009

Escorts: 30 (rocking it out ya’ll)

Protesters: 120ish

Cops: 1 regular sheriff deputy, 1 police escort for the Archbishop and one random cop driving around the way.

This piece is posted over at rhrealitycheck.org and well worth the read about our lovely visit with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. Thank you Shannon, you are awesome!

Here are a few videos from that day.

sure does inspire one to faith, all that mournful singing.

the regulars were a little wound up what with the Archbishop coming and all.

All in all, the day was a bit anticlimactic for us as escorts. We had fewer anti-choice protesters show up than we expected and for the most part it was a ‘normal’ Saturday at the only abortion clinic in Louisville Ky.