Sidewalk Snippet ~ {8/26/13}

I met the client and companion on the corner close to the clinic, explaining to them the clinic wouldn’t be open for about 5 more minutes. As we talked I let them know they could stand by the clinic doors until they opened and the antis would not cross the property line, but they would talk to them. The client said, “Oh no. I don’t want them to talk to me. Can we just walk around?” I said of course, and suggested a bench about a half a block away and the opposite direction of the clinic; letting them know I would signal them when the doors opened.

They said they would do that, but as we were talking D was approaching us. They were waiting for the traffic light to change when D started. The client and companion crossed with the light in an opposite direction just to get away from D. “Just stop it! Leave me alone!” were some of the things the client shouted to D as they crossed the street. Watching them from a distance, I saw they did work their way to the bench we had discussed earlier.

When the doors did open, I walked to the bench and escorted them to the clinic doors. The client was crying and still upset. They said “This is hard enough. I can’t listen to them.”

They thanked me for walking with them and apologized for using foul language earlier. I assured them those words are ones that circle in my mind a lot, but I just don`t say them out loud when I escort. We chuckled a little over that and were almost to the door when D started again. “Don’t kill your baby. You need to be a real man and stand up for her.”

The client got into the door safely, but we could hear them break down crying as soon as they were inside. The curse words circled inside my head again.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {8/19/13}

The client and two companions pulled up to the drop-off zone in front of the clinic a few minutes after 7a. Before anyone could get out of the car, I explained to them the orange vests, antis, when the clinic doors would open and parking with reassurances we would come get them when the doors opened. I explained the antis would approach their car or them and try to hand them literature or talk to them, but this was a place they could be rude and didn’t have to respond to protesters. The driver broke out in a big smile and said, “Thank you! I will just ignore them.” The companion in the backseat of the car said, “I am going to have to start escorting. You guys are such a help.”

They parked without problems. Other escorts walked them to the clinic doors when it was opened with no problems. A short time later one of the escorts who had walked with this client and two companions gave me a handful of change and two one-dollar bills. They said it was a donation for the escorts from the companion sitting in the backseat of the car. This gesture and support is so appreciated. Donations of change and one-dollar bills help us to pay parking for clients who do not have change or only have the exact amount with them that the procedure costs. Most  escorts during the week carry a supply of quarters to feed meters.

To this day’s anonymous donor, I would like to send out a big “Thank you!”

Protest the CPC?

This article was so much fun to read:

Abortion-rights activists borrow technique from opponents in Wichita protest

You can read more here, but the gist of the story is that a group of pro-access folks have been protesting the CPC’s ~ the Crisis Pregnancy Centers ~ the anti-choice-clinics ~ around the country.  Carrying signs and handing out leaflets, just like the pro-birth group does, they highlight the misinformation and outright lies that the CPC’s tell the people seeking help there.

Let me be clear ~ I LOVE that they did that.  And I’ve been pondering whether or not I would want that to happen here.

Part of me is jumping-up-and-down eager for it.  Yes, yes yes!!  Let’s show them what it feels like to be picketed!  Give them a taste of their own medicine, show everyone what liars they are!!  It would just feel good!

This other part of me smiles sympathetically.   Shaking my head.  It is tempting.  But.

It reminds me of how I felt in my earlier days of escorting, when I would occasionally act impulsively.  You know, there was the time I screamed, “F**k you, Brady!” at the protester who used to talk about rape being a choice, how it was the wrong choice, and he would never do it, but it was his choice.

There was the time some church bussed in a load of teenagers.  They were standing across the street from the clinic, maybe 50 or 75 of them.  Dan and I were crossing the street toward them when I commented loudly that it was too bad that one in three of them was going to need an abortion someday.

One of the chaperones heard me, {which I guess I’d intended} and LOST IT.   She started screaming and ranting and carrying on, while I tried not to actually laugh out loud.   There was a police officer there that day, standing outside of his car ~ we exchanged looks, and I shrugged and mouthed, “Sorry…”

I wasn’t really sorry ~ well, maybe a little bit.

Ah, those were the days, my friends…  Dan and I eventually had to agree not to escort together for a while because we were quietly. subtly encouraging each other to act out like that.  Not helpful ways to act, but so much fun.

That’s why I know it’s my “emotional mind” that wants to protest the protesters.  The idea just feels good.

You know, one of the things I talk about in the escort trainings is Marsha Linehan’s* “states of mind.”  She talks about 3 states of mind ~ emotional mind, reasonable mind, and wise mind.  Real briefly, “emotional mind” is our feelings, it’s fast-acting, impulsive, instinctive reactions.   Emotional mind sometimes protects us, and  it motivates behavior.   Acting from emotional mind feels good in the moment, but doesn’t always work out well in the long run.

“Reasonable mind” is that logical “take a step back and consider the consequences” part of our mind.   Reasonable mind weighs the pros and cons, considers, and makes judgements.

Wise mind is what happens when emotional mind and reasonable mind are working together.   Wise mind feels good too, but it doesn’t have the negative consequences that often go with emotional mind decisions.

So my emotional mind totally wants to go picket the anti-choice clinics, the CPC’s.  My reasonable mind says that this isn’t ultimately going to be helpful.  But I don’t think I’ve found a “wise mind” stance yet, because I’m still arguing about it in my head.

How could it help to go picket them?  I play it through again.

Would it really inform anyone going into the clinic?  Of course not.  The people that are doing the protests aren’t even doing it when the CPC is open.  That’s not the point.

Would it change their minds?  No.  Not any more than their protesting changes ours.

Well, it would give them a taste of their own medicine.  Show them what it feels like!  And I can’t say that without feeling all self-righteous and like I should be on the step stool the preachers use for their ranting in front of the clinic.

That’s the real problem.  Acting like the protesters actually makes us like the protesters.  I don’t think we can just pretend to be like them ~ use their strategies ~ without becoming a little bit like them.   I don’t want that.

BUT ~ when the CPC had a fundraiser here, there were some pro-access protesters, and I thought that was a wonderful idea.

So I’m still a bit up in the air about it, letting it bounce around in my mind.  The protesters are bullies and left unchallenged, they become stronger and more aggressive.   Finding ways to push back is the right thing to do ~ but it has to be the right way to push back.

NO ~ wait ~ that’s not right either.  That implies that if we can figure out the right thing to do, the right way to push back, that it will impact their behavior.  And I know better than that.

Protesters do their thing on the sidewalk because they’re bullies and they like doing it.  It is socially sanctioned bullying.  The way to stop them is not by trying to bully them back.

Right?

Shoot, now I have to go do some research on bullying.  What are we teaching kids about bullies?  What are we suggesting parents and teachers do?  I don’t know ~ I don’t work with kids ~ but maybe that’s the path we need to explore…. I’ll let you know what I learn.

In the meantime, I need to remember that the protesters are not the problem.  They’re a symptom of the problem.

The problem is the small group of loud people who want to subjugate women by restricting their options for reproductive health and family planning.  The problem is that this group seems to be making some progress in the legislature.  That’s the real danger, and fighting back against that is where the real energy needs to be directed.

*  Marsha Linehan is the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Behavioral Tech.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {8/12/13}

Saturday mornings parking is at a real premium. Most of the meter spaces on both sides of the street are taken by the antis cars. If escorts get there early enough, we can get a few spaces close to the door of the clinic and then we turn then over to clients as they arrive. That’s what we did this Saturday morning.

A client and two companions stopped around 7a at the street corner and asked about parking. We directed them to parking about a block away, but they had one person who wasn’t able to walk that far. We had them pull around the corner and park while an escort moved a car for them. The escort had the space exactly opposite to the clinic door, so it was a very short trip to walk.

When they had their car successfully parked and knew what to expect from the antis, we went back to the street corner. We watched antis approach their car time after time. The client and companions did not roll down their window, but we noticed they pulled their car forward and backed it up several times.

I went around to the driver’s window and asked the driver if they were comfortable with where they were parked. They said they were okay. And then I commented we had seen them pull forward a few times, so that’s why I asked. “Oh, I was trying to run over their feet. Maybe then they will leave us alone.” I kind of chuckled and said, “Okay, just checking.”

Their plan seemed to work because after a few minutes, the antis stopped approaching their car. We were able to escort them in easily when the doors opened.

First Time Escorting ~ by Wolfers

Today was the first time at the clinic; truthfully the first time being on the battlefront of a sidewalk battle that has its own palpable lines. There are two bunches; in which one is easily identified by the wearing of orange vests with ‘clinic escort’ printed on it and the other having something in their hand, either a bible, rosary beads or signs that one can easily determine being about anti-abortion.

That’s what people would see. Easily for one to interpret from the obvious clues, relying on their own worldview, putting the label of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ on either group.

I see more.

Due to not being able to hear, I rely furthermore on the other senses, especially vision. I’m aware of the surroundings, the shadows and lights upon the environment;  the subtle movements of muscle; the posing of body signals; and  the nuances of facial and body expression that are overlooked for the sake of tone and context of verbal language.

Before today, I knew I had an advantage of not being able to hear what antis repeatedly say to clients or escorts, with using the weapon of verbal abuse, and that would benefit me greatly during the time.

I was wrong. I had more assets than I thought.

What I mean by that is I noticed how each of the groups presented themselves in their own borders; how one group was mechanic and cold, stuck in its own echo, while the other group looked at each other as human beings, with warmth and fortitude.

Let me describe how I observed that in many instances today.

I was standing at the boundary of the clinic, in which antis are not allowed to go across, so they are everywhere  within the peripheral range, mostly. They appear unapproachable, having a robotic, blank expression on their faces- eventually reminding me of the movie, “I, Robot”, the scene at a warehouse where you see a row of robots, still, silent and waiting for activation. They, like the robots in the movie, come alive, when clients are spotted in a distance, on a route that leads them to the clinic. That is when I noticed the desperation.

Desperate to be heard. Desperate to turn the client away from their decision, their human right to choose for themselves. One can observe the frenzy in the hurried pace of the antis, the anxious tension in the body, and the fierce menace in their faces. Even when the clients got safely away into the clinic, some antis stood in front of me and other escorts, invading into personal space. Desperation in their faces, staring at the closed clinic doors, and then the faces were then wiped blank before turning around to look upon their own members, assuming a semi-cheerful mask, with hints of coldness. Quite distorting when one watches.

The unheard shouting, the echoing statements, familiar to escorts, yet nothing to me. I can see their mouths babbling, but I understood nothing they were saying. Some targeted the escort next to me, all because they noticed she was able to hear. I watched the anti Donna talking to the escort, while avoiding eye contact with me. Pretending that I wasn’t existing just because they determined I couldn’t hear them. Their body messages so revealing, not worth their time, no sense in practicing browbeating antics on me. So from this perception, I drew that they are pretty much bullies living in righteous illusion, throwing their strength around, in a sense of giving themselves a futile sense of purpose. Take away the purpose of protesting, who are they then? Hence, their desperation exists.

On the other side, on the escorts’ side, there’s warmth. Amiable chatter, even when I don’t understand what was said, I can still pick up the sincerity in the face muscles, the affection between escorts. To empower us all, they got someone who can sign, ensuring that we all were able to talk. Welcoming friendship, unconditional. Reassuring and nonjudgmental in the relaxation of the body. The subtle nuance of genuineness in their movements. I noticed some escorts expressed concern yet giving space when clients seek shelter, pretty much like mother hens. Protective postures, sheltering the clients in an intense pace, pretty much a shot of flame through a cold tunnel, its unwelcome aura and reproaching echoes.

Being deaf, hence having a different language, different in human experience, the escorts distinguished me as a human being, a person of my own. Despite the limited communication, smiles were given to link humanity. Efforts to communicate through signing, paper and texting were their effort to say to the world, You’re here. I see you. The very same unspoken message they say to each client seeking a safe path to the clinic.

And that’s the difference between the antis and escorts from a deaf volunteer- and I can tell you safely, that’s what clients also pick up on when they are at their most vulnerable. That’s what we look for, to be recognized for who we are, during our most vulnerable moments, to be reminded we’re human beings with a right to our own choices.

Parking Wars ~ by Skeletor

There were hints at the coming tempest. A couple of the escorts had interactions with a dude in a pick-up truck over the past week or so. He claimed to own the $3 pay lot where we direct clients to park, but anybody can say anything they like when it is shouted from a pickup truck window, that doesn’t mean it is true.

Every six months or so this happens, some dust up over where clients are allowed to park means we have to figure out where else we can refer people to park. Those meters can get pricey, not to mention someone has to go plug them every two hours. That’s a whole lot of quarters! (And nickels and dimes.)

During the most recent interaction, the dude shouting from the pick-up truck had a company shirt and company car for the parking management company that runs the $3 lot. We respected his request that we remove our orange cone (that we were using to help clients find the lot more easily, as it sits next to a monthly-only lot) and that escorts not be on the parking lot property. Okee-dokee, pick-up truck dude. You got it. (Nevermind that antis were going up to all the cars in the lot, looking inside. Apparently he was okay with people snooping through his customers’ cars.) I hope you don’t need the revenue that the clients provide you, ’cause your normally full lot on a Saturday morning looked like this:

EmptyLot

See that yellow sign? Yeah, that’s new. It basically says stuff you’d expect from a lot, like you’ll be towed for parking askew and taking up two spots or not paying. “Unauthorized vehicles” can also be towed. We’re not sure exactly what that means, but we’re guessing he would use that clause to have clients’ cars towed from the lot, if he really does have any authority and isn’t just jacking with us.

Ah, the Parking Wars. It’s just another weapon the antis are using to make it difficult for women to obtain access to medical care. Previously, in parking wars, one escort was blocked from plugging the meter by antis, who were all the while trying to get the meter maid to write a ticket. No, really. The antis blocked the escort from the meter, the escort standing there with money in hand; antis trying to get a ticket written. One anti who is very cozy with some of the meter maids has had her unmetered car bypassed while other cars were ticketed along the street.

Of course antis don’t mind parking illegally. If they are parking for Jesus, it’s okay. For example, this anti, who chose to ignore the “No Parking” sign. That’s her CHOICE.

IllegallyParked

And then there’s the protestor, who had some real doozies to shout to the clinic windows, who pulled into the $3 lot and parked without paying.

ProtesterCar

See, pick-up truck dude, this is what your lot looked like as we were leaving on Saturday morning. This lot is normally nearly full by this time on any given Saturday. That’s a full day’s revenue for 12+ cars lost. And the one, lone car? That’s owned by the protester who didn’t pay.

Remind me not to hire you as my business manager, pick-up truck dude.

LoneCar

Sidewalk Snippet ~ by Anonymous ~ {8/05/13}

Any escort who spends time standing at the front property line of the clinic will soon become familiar with the scripts that one of the protesters chooses to recite day in, day out.  I get the sense that she memorized these words years ago.  Whenever she begins one of the scripts, it’s as if she hits “play” on a tape recorder.  The same exact words.  The same old tired arguments.  The same pleading tone.  I have (not intentionally) memorized many of these scripts and can follow along in my head.

Most of the time, this protester sticks tight to her scripts, never deviating. So whenever she breaks script and pulls out what I like to call a “(protester name) original”, you never know what’s going to come out of her mouth.

One morning, this particular protester got a little desperate that her scripts weren’t working.  I could sense the frustration in her voice as she struggled to find something shocking to say.  She finally burst out – “You’ll be trapped down there!  At least in a back alley abortion, you could run out of the alley!”  It was a struggle for me not to roll my eyes.

Another morning, I heard the sound of the clinic doors unlocking right at 7:30.  I walked to the curb and gave the signal (a thumbs up) to the escort standing in the lot across the street.  This protester walked up behind me and startled me a bit as she exclaimed, “You just gave the wrong signal!”  For a brief moment I thought she meant that the doors weren’t actually open.  But no, she was about to break script with a real gem.  “You gave a thumbs up.  But you should give a THUMBS DOWN!  That’s what the Romans did whenever they were about to kill someone.  Thumbs down!”

Well…at least these little off-script gems break up the monotony of the same tired arguments!

Sidewalk Snippet~by Skeletor {07/29/13}

It was a small group one morning, not many antis and not many escorts. A couple of clients had already pulled into the pay lot, though the clinic doors weren’t yet open, when one client came walking up by herself. There were so few antis that she snuck onto the property with no fuss. I was able to let her know the situation pretty easily, without too many people shouting at her from across the property line. She thanked me and then buried her face in her phone and I stepped back to the property line. This is a common defense mechanism of clients who wait at the door before the clinic opens – and a smart one, I would add. Bring headphones too.

D stepped up beside me at the property line and began talking to the client in her “I’m just a sweet old lady” voice that she invokes at the beginning of many confrontations. The client was going to have none of it and, after repeated requests to stop talking to her, the client wheeled on D and started giving her a piece of her mind. The other escort and I weren’t sure whether to step in and try to distract the client to de-escalate, or to let her go. After all, we really wanted to give her a fist bump and a couple of “Hell yeahs!”

As the conversation/debate/verbal brawl continued, D dropped the little old lady act, as she is often want to do, and took on her very comfortable tone of disapproval and reproach. The client was really giving D a piece of her mind, but it was so carefully thought out and calmly worded that D quickly became flustered. D and the other antis are used to being able to bully clients into dumbfoundedness, but this client had just turned the tables.

In the middle of this tete-a-tete, the clinic doors were unlocked. The other escort and I kept trying to find a moment to interrupt to let the client know she could go on in. When we did catch her eye and motioned to her that she could go in, she finished her thought to D and stormed into the clinic. D was left stunned and, now, she was the one who was dumbfounded.

So many times, the bullying tactics of the antis cause such distress that clients retreat inward. It was pure gold to see a client call out an anti – any anti – but this anti, in particular, for their hypocrisy and shameful behavior.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {7/22/13}

There were several clients waiting by the door before the clinic opened. Of course, they were the focus of the antis’ attention for the entire time they were there. They were preached to, pleaded with, insulted and harassed while they waited. Offers of help with housing; offers to adopt their babies; offers to teach them the love of Jesus Christ were rapidly said by a series of antis from the property line.

R was there and said something I had never heard before. When I asked some of the long-term escorts about it they all said, “Oh yeah. I have heard him say that.”

“They are going to throw your baby in the garbage. Then they are going to send it to be burned up with all of the other trash. If you are going to kill your baby, bring it back out to me so I can give it a decent funeral. I will make sure it has a respectful service.” He repeated it twice to make sure they all heard him.

This is a step beyond offering to pay for their attorney fees for adoption. It was so very creepy. How would this really be accomplished? R and all of the antis are gone by 830a. Should the client just call R? Why would they entrust this to someone who has just been screaming at them about how evil they are?

What the antis don’t realize is that some women do have respectful services and make a time to say goodbye. We have had readers who have been kind enough to share their stories with us and have read articles about others.

It is an idea only an anti would come up with to say in an effort to upset clients as they wait by the door.

Stranded in the Street ~ by Skeletor

A very nice car pulled into the pay lot and I approached, wondering if it was, in fact, a family of antis new and late to the protesting party that morning. It wasn’t the car, it was something intangible about the people in the car that made me suspect they might be new protesters. Nonetheless, I walked up to the driver’s side and asked my standard opening questions, “Are you here for the abortion clinic?” and also, “Would you like an escort to walk with you?” The people in the car answered yes to both, and I quickly ran through the information about parking; that they could or could not speak to, or accept materials from, the antis. I could see the antis swarming toward the car.

I don’t use that word lightly. They were swarming.

As soon as the client and companion exited their car, antis were mobbing them –again, I do not use that word lightly, they were mobbed – berating the couple for their choice while alternately pleading with them to do the “loving thing,” to “come next door for a free ultrasound, they will charge you for an ultrasound.”

Let me be clear. A Woman’s Choice, the crisis pregnancy center next door to the EMW clinic, will offer free ultrasounds under certain circumstances, but that ultrasound will not be accepted by any medical professional. You will have to pay for an ultrasound later, whether you continue the pregnancy or terminate it. Also, I am always puzzled as to why the protesters think paying for services rendered is one of the evils of the clinic. I expect to pay for medical services and I would hope that the doctor and his clinic are financially solvent; I consider that to be a good thing.

As the antis turned the screws on the couple, I fought the urge to correct the lies that they were hurling with abandon. It is the choice of the client to engage with the antis or not. I am not there to correct misinformation, much as I may want to do so. At one point in this melee, I realized that the antis had flanked me and turned the lot of us into a barricade, preventing the people in the car from moving forward. Stepping back so as not to be another body in the blockade, looking for a way to throw the couple a line, I finally raised my voice over the antis to ask if I could put the money in the box for them, hoping that would give them permission to push through the antis and to be on their way.

And then I saw the child.

The client and companion had with them, a young girl. Children are not allowed in the clinic, and I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should address this with the couple before walking with them across the street. As ferocious as the antis were being, I decided it would be best to help this threesome get into the clinic and let them sort things out with the staff once inside; in a calm environment.

I positioned myself as best as I could between the antis and the young girl, talking about the bumpy sidewalk and puddles, joking with the other escort – anything to give the girl something to listen to other than the rhetoric from the antis.

As we crossed the street, the antis formed another barricade from the street to the sidewalk with their bodies and umbrellas. The companion was able to get through, and I chose to position myself between the antis gruesome poster and the girl. There were just two escorts on the curb, but they were able to provide an orange cordon through the antis to the clinic’s property line. Unfortunately, in the confusion, the client and the young girl darted away from the orange cordon, around a tree, and wound up completely blocked from the sidewalk and surrounded by antis. The poster bearer swiveled around so that the young girl got a face full of repulsive and untruthful gore shoved in her face.

As an aside, I would like to say that the antis’ “CHOICE” poster has the most riduculously false looking “fetus” soaked in more corn syrup blood than a Freddy Kreuger movie. It looks like a prop from a bad Area 51 movie. However, it is shocking when you first see it. And gross, even if it is fake. I don’t want my own child seeing that, much less someone else’s. And the antis CHOSE to shove this picture in the young girl’s face. That is their CHOICE, reprehensible though it may be.

So, with the woman and child surrounded, blocked from getting properly onto the sidewalk, much less onto the clinic property, the antis rained down a cacophonous chorus of rebukes and protestations on the two females. Repeated, stern statements of, “Excuse me,” were completely ignored as the antis chose to block the woman and child, closing in on them and trying to squeeze me out. It was claustrophobic in the middle of all of it; not a single thing the antis were saying could be made out over the others, except that these people clearly were unhappy with this endeavor. Finally, we were able to get the woman and child across the property line and rejoined with their companion.

Shaken at the most aggressive confrontation I had been a part of – and I can only imagine how the threesome felt – I asked another escort what I could have done differently. She shrugged, offering that sometimes, there is just nothing else we can do. I guess it’s true, sometimes the protesters’ behavior is so beyond the pale that there is no way to predict what they will do.

And perhaps, she added, it was the child who was the client. If there is one thing I learn time and again on the sidewalk, it is to not make assumptions. It never occurred to me that the young girl would have been the client, but it is absolutely possible that she may have been.

I have replayed that scene in my head many times, trying to figure out what I can do more efficiently or what to watch out for more keenly in the future to prevent that from happening to another client. In my reflections, I have become increasingly appalled that, with all their talk of loving children, the antis CHOSE to keep a grown woman and a young woman standing on the street so they could volley antagonisms – to achieve what, exactly?

The antis make such grand assumptions about the clients and their companions, but none of us knows anything about the people walking through those doors. And, more importantly, it’s none of our business.