One week after the murder of Dr. Tiller

Saturday June 6, 2009

Escorts: 20+

Protesters: 25-30

Cops: 2 on hand with extra patrol drive bys

In the eternal words of my grandmother, “life goes on”. Everything changes, but then it really just stays the same. I have spent the week almost obsessively reading, watching and listening to every scrap of media coverage regarding Dr. Tiller, the funeral, Scott Roeder and any other related topic I could get my paws on.

I attended a small vigil in honor of Dr. Tiller and listened to local activist  Carla Wallace reference Louisville’s  Unity Rally in 1997.

For those who are not familiar, the KKK decided to hold a rally in the middle of downtown Louisville complete with hoods and banners and such. Many people in the community, including the mayor,  said “ignore them”, “don’t give them the attention”, “they are dangerous, it is not safe to oppose them”, when counter demonstrations were organized. But tons of people would not let it go. And so more than 1,000 people showed up to counter the 35 or so klanspeople. We were loud and determined to make sure everyone knew racism was not welcome.

We understood that not a single lynching was ever averted with silence.

Not one oppressive act was ever derailed because no one spoke.

“Silence is a position”, Carla said. When we fail to speak out against injustice we condone it. When we fail to work towards empowerment and equality, we perpetuate oppression and intolerance.

Laquetta Shepard 2002 KKK rally in Louisville KY.

Laquetta Shepard 2003 KKK rally in Bowling Green, KY.

And Dr. Tiller’s murder is no different. Violence and intimidation will not keep me or my ilk from getting up and helping clients into the doors of our abortion clinic.

And so we showed up. Almost as many escorts as protesters.

I was unsure how our local protesters would respond to the national storm. As physically aggressive as they are on a regular basis, most of our protesters are not interested in this kind of violence, they are bullies, nothing more.  But I just did not know if they would be quiet and not push any buttons or if they would be out looking for a fight.  I saw equal opportunity for genuine humility and sadness for the loss of life or conversely self-righteousness and stepped up agro behavior. And as most Saturdays, the group reaction is not homogeneous either.

Gratefully,

It was quiet.

I don’t pretend to know why the protesters were almost tolerable. I don’t have any idea if they were being respectful or simply wishing not to be antagonistic. But I do know that I was damn happy to see a strong show of escorts, who were ready to take what ever fire was coming down the pike. Last week a man was shot to death for showing up and supporting families in really rough spots. James Barrett, a clinic escort, was murdered in 2003 with Dr. John Britton by Paul Hill in Pensacola Florida.

These things, they happen.

In the last ten years we have had a lot of violence in Louisville. An 80-something regular escort was shoved to the ground, an escort’s ankle was broken in a skirmish. Protesters have been arrested for punching client’s friends.  And we have to physically cut a path through a crowd at the door most Saturday mornings.

And don’t forget the Clients.

They have been called sluts, murderers and degenerates. Clients have been described as heartless, and nazi like. They are told they will anguish in pain and depression eventually dieing of cancer after their abortions. They are physically hassled and emotionally berated as they make their way into the clinic doors.

Violence at the only abortion clinic in my city happens every day.

And so with great sadness I mourn the loss of Dr. Tiller. But violence will not work to intimidate us. We need Reproductive and Sexual health care.

And we must speak loudly, clearly stating that abortion is part of our lives and we will have quality access.

Mother’s Day at an abortion clinic Saturday May 9, 2009.

Escorts: 70-80

Protesters: 275-325

Cops: 6 or 7 LMPD, 1 Jefferson County Sherrif

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Mother’s Day has come and gone, and as I reflect on the happenings of the last few weeks what stands out to me is the intersection of privacy and stigma. We see these two ideas embodied by two groups of people on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, the protesters and the media (specifically an ABC crew of 5, doing a special on teen pregnancy). In this article I want to discuss the way in which people trying to access abortion services are completely ignored by these two political participants.

In our story, Stigma is represented by the protesters on our sidewalk. As a group the message is that there is something inherently wrong with the decision to have an abortion utilizing guilt and shame as tools of persuasion. Using the strength of hundreds of protesters to overwhelm the visual landscape; dominating the sounds of the morning with blow horns and a cacophony of prayers, protesters attempt to emotionally bludgeon clients with fear and confusion.

Our next character in this story is Privacy, being played by ABC media. One of their news programs is working on a story about teen pregnancy, following several young women as they make choices during this period in their lives. One of the crew had stumbled upon the escorts some months back and came to film several times before Mother’s Day. When she tried to get the escorts involved in the project we were reluctant, identifying three major concerns to her:

Client privacy. We spoke extensively about the history of the anti-choice movement’s use of photography and public shaming campaigns to intimidate both abortion providers and clients.

Chaotic environment. Escorts tried to express how crazy it gets with 200-300 protesters and that we could not stop them from doing their story, but that we were concerned that camera crews could become an obstacle to getting clients in the door.

Using the meme of the abortion debate as a wedge issue. On the sidewalk we try to minimize the cliché’ debate regarding abortion, recognizing that each client is an individual with a unique set of circumstances. Politics is completely inappropriate on the sidewalk, this is about peoples’ lives.

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I asked the escorts to write about their experiences this Mother’s Day and without exception they commented on the media, here are a few excerpts.

Ken wrote:

“The ABC crew was on hand to capture what was happening. They turned into more of an obstruction than most of the protesters. I look for their piece on teen pregnancy to be overly-sensationalized and skewed toward whatever slant ABC brass wants to spin”.

Aryn wrote:

“I bring this up because this week we had a 5 person TV crew from ABC filming at the clinic. The clients that I escorted into the clinic were more concerned about the three cameras and the big sound boom than the 250 protesters. One of the cars that I approached left because of them”.

Josh wrote:

“The news group on the other hand were horrid.  “K” (the news crew’s contact) seemed to handle herself with compassion, was discreet and level-headed, and generally blending in and allowing us to do what we do.  The same could not be said of the male salt and peppery anchor and his helper, who were pushy, obnoxious, and did more to bother, hinder, and distress the clients and fellow escorts than many of the protesters.  They did nothing but aggravate the already dodgy situation, and nothing what-so-ever to contribute positively.  Worse, I believe they shot for extremism, and if the broadcast shows footage from this, I think it will have a negative effect on reproductive freedom and the future clients of the clinic”.

Frances wrote:

“Early on, before things even got going, the camera people came by and started asking us questions. With no press pass, we refused. They weren’t pleased, but come on! They were being quite pushy, using their equipment to break through our linked arms. It was ridiculous. On top of that I felt that they were violating people’s privacy, and certainly not making it any easier for the people going in. They were worse than the protestors in some ways,and didn’t seem to understand why we weren’t ok with them pushing through our wall without showing us any ID”.

Entitlement is a major component of both the media and the protester’s perspective. The media thinks they have the “right” to get the story and it does not matter who they have to step on in the process. The protesters think they have the “right” to impede a person in their decision to terminate a pregnancy. Both groups of people believe they are in the “right” thus giving them latitude to act aggressively in this situation. The result is that individual people are lost in the mix.

The pro-choice movement has historically fought for abortion to be a private and individual matter. That certainly has its merits and no one that has an abortion should feel like they have to tell anyone a single thing about it. Abortion is without question an individual matter and each person’s reasons for having an abortion are unique and can not be generalized. However, the driving presence of privacy doesn’t do anything to lift the ever present stigma surrounding abortion; instead it seems to reaffirms it. We say ‘ it’s OK to make that choice but please pretend that you didn’t. We are OK if you do it but not if you talk about it.’

Abortion is a normal part of our collective sexual and reproductive experiences and we should begin to treat it as such.

We support anyone having an abortion whatever their reasons and would like more people to talk about it. However, facing a national TV news network is daunting. Going in for a medical or surgical procedure is stressful and thinking that your first grade teacher, your ex and or boss are all going to be watching you do this is pretty invasive. We feel the TV crew’s presence was every bit as oppressive and irresponsible as the protesters’.

The media can be a powerful tool in exposing cultural issues that need attention, but here, individuals who had not consented to being exposed, were. To be fair, ABC committed to obscuring client’s faces. But they did not approach each client telling them this. They did not gain consent from the clients to film them, nor did they take pains to be unobtrusive. The behavior of the film crew was in many ways as shame inducing as those of the protesters. Privacy allows us the practical space to make decisions regarding our own well being. The way in which they approached the situation showed no concern for client privacy.

It is this lack of concern for privacy prohibits us from seeing clients as individuals. This disconnect from our need for autonomy is where we begin to advance towards sensationalism. The story becomes the most important thing. We stop talking about a person’s life and begin to talk in themes. We attribute our own biases to people we have never met. One of the protesters tells women ‘come down to this other clinic, we can help you make a better decision’. Without ever even introducing himself to a client he tells women they are wrong. He begins to shame them by projecting his world view onto their lives all the while feeling entitled in doing so.

We escorts want to loudly state that abortion can be a healthy and responsible decision.

We escorts affirm the rights of all people to decide when, if, and how many children they have and whether or not to parent.

We encourage people to tell their stories if they can. But we honor and respect the need for privacy.

People of all ages, racial and ethnic groups, people of all socio-economic status, mothers (61% of women having an abortion have one or more children) and people with no children, single and partnered people, queer and straight people all have abortions. If all of these people are having abortions, why is it so stigmatized? Humans are faced with tough decisions every day, but few are scrutinized more than when a woman decides for any number of reasons, that now is not the time to have a child. We must identify and then address our assumptions regarding abortion if we are ever to have honest conversations about our reproductive and sexual lives. And the intersection of shame and privacy seems like as good a place as any to begin tearing down those social constructs.

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Mother’s Day, at an Abortion Clinic | RHRealityCheck.org

Mother’s Day, at an Abortion Clinic | RHRealityCheck.org

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Don’t forget tomorrow is the Saturday before Mother’s Day. This is the single largest protest day of the year, with as many as 500 protesters lining the streets, making access difficult.  Come out early and work with your community to protect and support a person’s right to choose.

When: Saturday May 9, 2009

Where: EMW Women’s Surgical Center 138 E. Market St, Louisville KY 40202

What time: 6:15 am

Who: Anyone interested in supporting people accessing Reproductive Health Care in Louisville.

Please remember we escort in the street, so dress appropriately for the weather.

Hope to see you there.2-15-09 8

Feb 15, 2009 by andy

Feb 15, 2009

Escorts: 13

Protesters: 90-100

Cops: 1

“The bond that links a true family is not one of blood, but of joy and respect  in each other’s lives;  rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof”

Tales of a Reluctant Messiah

by Richard Bach

I showed up at the clinic Saturday morning and at 7:00am there were between 50 and 60 protesters lining the gauntlet before the clinic doors opened. The weather was almost not cold and I guess the protesters were feeling froggy.

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We had a few chasers this morning, Angela being the main culprit, but in addition to her there was a new young couple out getting up in the mix. The guy mostly took pictures and talked to Zen Master D. The young gal on the other hand was very assertive chasing clients from their cars trying to hand out lit and redirect them.

Rick from the Creepy Crew was out lurking as usual in the parking lot.

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And sometime around 7:45 am Mary and Mike march up 2nd St and onto Market across from the clinic door with another 35-50 people. They stood around completely blocking the sidewalk for the rest of the morning saying the rosary.

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The happenings this morning that stick out in my mind the most however, came from a family of 5 I have never seen at the clinic before. The parents were in the late 20s or early 30s and had three small children ranging from maybe 3 to 7 years old. They stood at entrance to the parking lot and as clients walked the mother would push her children into the path of the client and escorts offering to speak with the client about family.

Now I have seen the protesters use almost every tactic I can think of to persuade pregnant people that to give birth to a baby, but this takes the cake.

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CHILDERN ARE NOT POLITICAL TOOLS.

They should not be used as props to intimidate, shame, guilt and distract women.

There is nothing wrong with having an abortion.

And instead of dragging children out into the cold on a Saturday morning to use them as happy, white, heteronormative examples of a socially constructed familial paradigms, Stop and recognize that all kinds of families make the decision to have an abortion.

Many people make the decision to have an abortion to preserve their family’s well being.

The assumptions made by these protesters about the family structures of women choosing to have an abortion belie the complex reality we, as whole and unique individuals, exist in.

And until we are able to break through the socially constructed heteronormative family as our default interpretation of family we will continue to miss out on the vast beauty of what family can really be.

Inclusive, supportive, loving, tolerant, real, strong and unconditional.

Clinic Escort Training

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Clinic Escort Training

When: Saturday January 31, 2009 9am

Where: 4th Ave. United Methodist Church 318 W.  St. Catherine Street

Who: Anyone who is committed to ensuring empowered access to the only abortion clinic in Louisville Ky

Why: Every Saturday Morning 30-60 protesters show up to EMW Women’s Surgical Center and harass clients entering the clinic

What: Learn techniques to provide tactical and emotional  support for clients and their support persons on the public street

coffee and sweets will be provided by KYRCRC. Thanks to all our supporters.

12-28-08-3

Again with January 17 and January 24 by andy

January 24, 2009 by andy

Escorts: 14

Protesters: maybe 30

Cops: 1

It was in the low 30s this morning, not too bad over all. And for the most part it was a regular morning, with pushing and yelling. Mary was wound up and being extra preachy at the escorts. She accused us of thinking we know everything. This allegation is silly since it is the escorts that recognize that we do not have enough information to make informed decisions regarding anyone’s choice to obtain an abortion. She is the one that thinks diapers and computer classes will fix every problem pregnancy.

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But over all it was nothing special and we had way more escorts than we could have really put to good use. Thanks for coming out everybody. After last week we wanted some back up and we got it in spades.

I am going to write about this week in another post, because I have more to say about last week.

I would like to say again that we got our collective asses run all over the place by the protesters. They were physically aggressive and very intent on impeding the ability of clients to enter the clinic. Mary, Mary2, some semi-regular prayer, both Angelas (Catholic and Pentecostal) and the fake clinic staff were all up in the mix. We had no police support until the very end, and then he escalated the problem.

In the same scrum I wrote about last week, there was another side to the story that I did not tell.

The semi-regular prayer, we’ll call him “Buck”, got his panties twisted into knots so tight he began flailing at clients.

Over my back, around the other escorts, thrusting lit at the client in a manner that can only be described as threatening.

The client’s boyfriend (?) was trying to make space through the mob of Mary and the other 4 or 5 protesters, who were surrounding us and really making the trip from parking lot to door cumbersome.

The father was trying to keep the family together and holding onto the client as we walked.

We finally got across the street and onto the sidewalk, where the cop was standing watching.

As Towanda was being stepped on by Buck, she yelled to the cop “Are you going to do anything about this?” and his response was to hook her by the shoulder, headed in the opposite direction dragging her out from under the protester and away from the pack. He then motioned for Buck to follow. They all went across the street and were lectured.

Buck was shamed pretty well, the cop said that he looked like an upstanding citizen and that he should know better than to act like “that” (an over grown bully).

He told Towanda that she was the problem, that she should not respond to the protesters aggression and that she is too emotionally involved (because the thugs for a loving jesus are paragons of rationality and even tempers).

He threatened to arrest everyone if there was more pushing.

Really?

Again we see the status quo perpetuated; women are not entitled to be free from harassment if they are having an abortion. This is a charged issue, we must let the protesters speak their mind, and clients should understand that it is going to be like this.

Bull shit.

Access means more than just being able to get in the door. Access includes being free from judgment and harassment as one handles ones own business. Access includes being treated as a whole person with feelings, thoughts, hopes and wishes as complex and valid as those of the protesters. To be free from intimidation and coercion regardless of the choice being made.

We as a society do not stigmatize anyone as thoroughly as we do people who have abortions. We think there are two types of women, those who have abortions and those who have babies. This is just not the case. The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that “about 60% of women having abortions have one or more children”; and that about one third of all American women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

With this in mind I contend that abortion is a normal part of our reproductive lives. We as female bodied people are empowered to care for ourselves and our families and we must not tolerate this kind of moralistic fervor. We must stand up for ourselves and acknowledge the realities of our live.

So make some noise.

Take a radical stance.

Empower yourself and others.

Trust each other.

January 17, 2009 by andy

January 17, 2009 by andy

Escorts: 7

Protesters: about 65

Cops: 1

1-17-09-7Jesus, Mary and Joseph it was colder than a witch’s tit out there this morning. It was 6 degrees at dawn with a wind chill of -1, we were out there for almost an hour before the sun came up. And it was as aggressive as it was cold. For the week before the Roe v. Wade anniversary and the week before the inauguration of Barak Obama, the anti- abortion crowd is feeling a little like a cornered animal.

And they are lashing out.

At the women.

Isn’t that christian of them.

I was late of course, with a car full of escorts. When we turned onto Market St. there were two groups of protesters, one on the north side of the street (across the street from the clinic door) and the usual gauntlet on the south side. There were chasers aplenty as the fake clinic had extra people out to as well as Angela (Catholic) and the creepy crew.

Mary and Mary2 were both rabid today, crying and pushing and running and wailing at every client.

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We had several young clients this morning and these wackos think if they just scare her enough she will change her mind.

One of the last clients I walked in this morning was a female bodied person with her parents and either partner or brother. This family was completely unprepared for the venom they received from Mary. As they were all getting out of the car and getting their things protesters approached them from the rear of their car with a van next to them, blocking their path. The girl was crying and trying to hide her face from them in her parent’s arms. Her parents were both wide eyed but kept it together.

Mike and Mary

While they were gathering their wits and things about them Mary was yelling at them from around the front of the car. She yelled at the girl that they [her parents] couldn’t make her do this, and that if she wanted help they would help her get away from them. She said the girl would never forgive her parents and they would all hate each other for ever. She admonished the parents not to damage their daughter with this kind of abuse. She called them all abusers and murders. This family held on to each other and put one foot in front of the other through a scrum of shoving protesters, across the street, past Mike wielding his video camera in her face and down the gauntlet past protesters trying to step in her way and yelling at her.

We finally made it into the clinic anteroom, and the girl went straight to the corner and began to sob. Her parents and partner all held onto her and cried. The father grabbed my arm and held on as he held his family. I affirmed the young woman’s autonomy, expressed my faith in their familial strength and tried to offer some kind words.

I have no doubt that this family was going to be ok. They were together and even though this is hard, they had each other.

What an amazing difference unconditional love and kindness makes in a hard situation. My wish for every person who obtains an abortion is to have as strong a support as this family demonstrated.

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Instead of these condemning, judgmental, voyeuristic, hateful, busybodies.

Happy Roe v. Wade day every body. Tell the people in your life that have had an abortion that you love them and are proud of them. Tell the people in your life that support other who have abortions you appreciate them. Tell the a-funds, nurses, doctors, escorts, pharmasists, doulas, midwives, techs, educators, and others involved in providing support and access to reproductive health care they are acknowledged, empowered, needed, loved and supported.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

January 9, 2009 by andy

January 9 2009

Escorts: 10

Protesters: about 55

Cops: 1 and he stayed warm and dry in his car parked at the corner of 2nd St. and Market were he could not see either the door of the clinic or the parking lot.

1-09-09-21 It was rainy and in the low 40s this morning, just lovely.

We were busy this morning; we escorted approximately 20 clients in  an hour and a half. The protesters were behaving badly all morning.

Angela again recognized the support person of a client this morning. She apparently knew the niece of this woman and began calling out  “S_____’s aunt, come out of there, I’m calling S_____ and we can talk about this”. Angela then called this woman’s niece and they began trying to figure out who the client was. When Angela got off of the phone it sounded like the niece was going to try to call the support person. I went inside and spoke with the intake nurse letting her know that this woman may need some extra support. The intake nurse said she already knew and they were talking with the client and the woman. I can’t begin to describe my disgust at this behavior. I have never seen anyone be so disrespectful and intrusive into other people’s lives as Angela is on a regular basis. There are so many things wrong with this scenario, it is hard to know where to begin, but I will start with:

First if this young woman had wanted S __ to know she was having an abortion, she would have told her.

Second it is not Angela’s right or responsibility to out this woman to her family. Angela has no idea what family dynamics are involved.

Third this act is intended to intimidate and shame this young woman as well as her support person. The impetus behind this type of invasion of privacy is to dominate the decision making process with fear and concern for what others will think.

This type of power dynamic creates an environment where the 1 in 3 American women who will have an abortion in her lifetime, is made to feel the need to hide this normal part of her reproductive life from the world.

Make no mistake, this is about power.

Who has the efficacy to make decisions in women’s lives? Do we allow people like Angela to harass and instigate familial discord? Why is she allowed to even be close enough to the door of the clinic to be able to pick out an individual she may know? This does not fall under the heading of speaking one’s mind. This is not about protecting Angela’s right to free speech. This morning I saw a woman’s privacy be violated by a stranger on the street.

This is one of the moments where a buffer zone could have allowed some privacy to this woman; privacy for women to be free from the disdainful need of busy bodies to stick their noses into other people’s business.

The woman who can not seem to dress her five children appropriately for bringing them out into inclement weather was again present with her shivering wet brood. Again the young priest came to the rescue and let them use his umbrella. One would hope he will eventually make sure this family has the resources to dress the children for weather.

I hope eventually they will realize the clinic is not an appropriate place for children. Because letting them observe the actions of people like Angela teaches them great lessons in autonomy. Oh wait they are catholic, they don’t believe in autonomy, never mind. I guess this family just gets its jollies from being cold and wet.

The chasers from the fake clinic across were out this morning and attempted to confuse a non-English speaking client by telling them their appointment was in the wrong clinic. This is a regular tactic of the fake clinic crowd. We have gotten reports from the clinic of clients reporting mistakenly going to the fake clinic and being told a translator was on the way, only to be left for hours waiting, thus missing their appointments. Classy deception.

Good thing our escorts are on top of things and were able to appropriately direct the client. However, this does illustrate an ongoing issue on the sidewalk, we are always in need of those persons with language skills. On a regular basis we encounter clients who speak a myriad of languages and we are generally unprepared to communicate with them. We have several Spanish speakers who are semi-regular escorts, but other than that we must hope that we can adequately convey the reality of the situation to them.

1-09-09-6The last thing I saw as I was driving away from the clinic was Angela laying hands on a young man. I had watched her chase after him as he was walking to his car. I didn’t hear any of their interaction, but he deffinately did not seem excited about talking with her and tried to walk away from her on the sidewalk. But as I turned the corner onto 1st St, there they were. I slowed down and Towanda got this picture. We then yelled out the window asking if he was ok. He gave us a slight nod, and made the you do what you gotta do shrug that indicated to both of us, if this is what it took to get this crazy woman to leave him alone then fine. Again, I have to point out Angela’s complete disregard for personal space. She chased this man down an entire city block and around the corner so that she could accost him and lay on hands.

WHY IS THIS NOT HARASSMENT? Coercion is as much a method of intimidation as out loud condemnation and often more insidious.

Anyway, by the time I got home it had stopped raining, of course.

Deccember 20, 2008

So it is now January, and I am just getting caught up on posts for the clinic.

As I said before, I was in New Orleans Dec 20 and the report from that week was great.

It was really cold, in the single digits with a gnarly wind. Towanda, one of our regular escorts for the last decade, said it was one of the most calm mornings at the clinic that she had ever seen. There were no protesters chasing clients from their cars to the clinic door; most weeks we have as many as 6 chasers. There were 10 or so escorts and just a few (25) protesters praying.

As I was not there for tis week I don’t have much to say other than:

Good work escorts for being so dedicated to showing up at 7 am in single digit cold to encourage and validate female bodied people’s access to abortion and other reproductive medical care. I am eternally impressed by and grateful for your strength.

Dec 6, 2008

Escorts: 7

Protesters: about 40

Cops: 2

Ohmygod it was cold this morning, 20 degrees with a wind chill of 16 and flurries throughout the morning. We have been a little short on escorts the last few weeks cause life happens. Good for us, the fundies have not been getting out too much either.

Mary was all worked up this morning. The first client I walked in was a young woman and her mother. Mary was pulling on one of the other escort’s arms and trying to grab the coat of the client waving around a flier with the images of ” dead babies”  around. She [the client] clearly said to Mary “No thank you, please leave me alone”. Mary then tried to shove the escort so she could pass by along the fence.

At this point the escort and I were on either side of the client and her mother. I hear the escort yell at Mary to let go, and they ended up aginst the fence. I didn’t see what happened, and kept on with the client. As we walked down the sidewalk, I saw Mike, Mary’s Hubby, running past me videoing.

The client was a little freaked out as we began going down the gauntlet.

The protesters have begun this new tactic of stepping out of the prayer line towards the client and yell at her, all the way to the door. There have always been one or two to do this occasionally but not like this.

One woman at the end of the line would say “adoption” as we walked past. Others yell “don’t murder your baby”, or whatever, at some point it just becomes loud. And with all of the people stepping in the way, there was no way to keep walking without having to go around them.

Finally, we almost get to the private property line, and Donna, Angela and Straw Beard all attempting to hand the young woman and her mother lit while blocking their path . There are two escorts by the door. One stepped out onto the sidewalk and created space for the client to walk through. As the pair walked up the escort stepped aside so they could get through the protesters. The other escort opened the door for them and we all walked into the clinic anteroom. Both the client and her mother had tears in their eyes and were a little shaken. They both expressed their dismay at how loud and aggressive the protester were. I let them know that most if not all of the protesters would be gone when they were on their way home. And tried to give them a little encouragement.

Back out on the streets, a bunch of the fundies were yelling at the cops that the escort needed to be arrested (I find this always gets me what I want with cops). Eventually it all died down with no arrests, the cop told Mary to quit shoving people and back off.

At some point later in the morning, the cop said to the escort in question that if she would stay home the protesters would not act so aggessively.

Way to excuse the perpertrator of their bad behavior.

So this escort began having the same conversation that we always have with the cops regarding the clinic.

We train our escorts in conflict mediation, de-escelation tactics, providing emotional support and discourage interations that would engage the fundies.

This is not the culmination of our “Pro-Choice” activism. We work all over our region with lots of people to improve the definitions of access and empowerment in our community through reproductive and sexual justice.

My thoughts this week have been occupied with ideas of defining access in my region and what do I want access to mean? Undue Burden has been so watered down that we expect to have to fight to get in the door. The threshold of burden is so high that we take for granted that access is so much more.

Emotional intimidation is undue burden.

Harassment is undue burden.

Having to beg, borrow and roll pennies to afford the cost of an abortion is undue burden.

Verbal abuse and name calling is undue burden.

A Waiting Period is undue burden.

Having to drive 3 hours to a clinic is undue burden.

All of these things hurt all of us. And why can’t we recognize that Reproductive and Sexual autonomy are not privileges granted to those who can afford them? or to those who have the ability to jump through hoops, or push past protesters or what ever else gets in the way of medical care…