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.