Sidewalk Observations, by Skeptical Seeker

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

Here are a few observations that I made this morning:

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

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

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

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

 

Spotlight on Support: A Fund

With reproductive health services under attack, people want to help.  People want to step up to stop the flood of laws designed to keep us from being able to access abortion.  People want to offer support to people needing to terminate a pregnancy.  Every week, new people reach out to us for information about being an escort.  And we love having new faces joining us every week.

But escorting is only one small aspect of the support that people seeking abortion care need.  TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and the distortion of informed consent requirements have created huge barriers that go beyond harassment on the sidewalk outside the clinic.  Lack of money is one of those barriers.

Did you know that in Kentucky, Medicaid only covers abortion in the case of rape, incest, and danger to the woman’s life?  And that even in those cases, the patient has to pay for the abortion ahead of time and try to get reimbursed later?  (Emphasis on “try,” since this is difficult, if not impossible, to do.)

Did you know that, by law, private insurance cannot cover abortion in Kentucky?  That’s right, even insurance companies that cover the cost of abortion in Illinois, for example, are barred from doing so in Kentucky.

Did you know that the cost of abortion care in Kentucky starts at around $700?  TRAP laws that require the clinic to meet unreasonable and unnecessary standards of care are part of the reason the cost is so high.  Most people in need of abortion care don’t have an extra $700 handy.  People deplete any savings they may have, borrow money, pawn belongings, don’t pay the rent, skip meals, and take all kinds of drastic steps to pay for an abortion.  And of course the need is time sensitive.  The longer it takes to get the money together, the higher the cost is likely to be.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that help with funding abortion care.  One of these is A Fund.  As their brochure explains, A Fund, Inc. is a nonprofit organization directed and staffed by volunteers who raise money to help Kentucky girls and women in need of funding for abortion.  They say:

The typical woman we serve is the sole support of two children and knows she cannot afford a third child.  She does not have a credit card.  How can she raise the $600-$750 cash (minimum) needed to terminate her pregnancy?

The volunteers at A Fund believe that no one should be denied access to abortion because of a lack of money.  Last year, they raised about $50,000 and helped more than 400 women.  Virtually every dollar they raise goes directly to help women seeking termination of a pregnancy.

As escorts, we offer immediate support to patients at EMW as they make the trip up the sidewalk to the clinic.  But we recognize that protesters are not the only barrier, and there are lots of other ways to support access.    We want to support the organizations that help reduce other barriers for people seeking to terminate a pregnancy.   So we’ll be spotlighting a couple of organizations that provide help directly to individual women in need, and making it easy to donate to them from our blog and our Facebook page.  A Fund is the first of these organizations.

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To learn more about A Fund, to volunteer, or to make a donation, you can visit their website, or their Facebook page.   Louisville Clinic Escorts are also starting a donation page here on the blog, and will provide a link on our Facebook page.

It is essential that we push back against the loss of rights that we are seeing now.   We invite you to consider supporting A Fund as one way to do so.

(If you want to volunteer to escort, please email us at everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com)

After the Election

“Pro-life” people have been chipping away at abortion access for years. They’ve already made access to this vital healthcare service an obstacle course.  The anti-abortion extremists aren’t satisfied with this approach – they want to stop all abortion now.  They want personhood amendments.  They want to charge women with murder for abortion.  This is not new.

But now?  After the election?  The antis think they’ve already won.

They haven’t.  I know they haven’t, partly because of the amazing surge of support we’ve gotten from you all.  Message after message:

I want to escort.  How can I help?  

When is the next training?  Can I be an escort?  

How do I become an escort?  

It’s been amazing.

So if you want to get involved, start here: How to Get Involved.  Escorting is not the only way to support access, so you may want to look at other options.  Then if you think escorting might be for you, go here:  Trainings for Escorts.   And if you still want to escort, then email us at everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com , and we’ll be glad to get you started on the process.

We’ve scheduled a special training to respond to all the requests – Saturday, December 3.  Email us for location and time.

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If you would like, you can make a donation via PayPal. Just make a “payment” to our email address everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com. If you are not registered with PayPal, we are also registered with Pop Money https://www.popmoney.com You can just make a payment to our email address everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com and it will get to us.

Thank you again for all the support.  It is so very much appreciated.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs…

If you’re familiar with that song, just those few words are enough to get it stuck in your head.  Surrounded by signs at the clinic, it looped endlessly in my mind today.

Signs Signs
Everywhere there’s signs
Fu**ing up the scenery
Breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign

This is where the Catholics keep their spare signs – attached to the fire hydrant.

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 As you can see, they had a few extra today.

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The woman we call the tailgater brings this one.  She sits behind it – yes, sometimes, on the tailgate of the truck.

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This sign has its own rope so you can be a human billboard.  It makes me laugh in a twisted humor way because it’s like letting people know where the clinic is.  fullsizeoutput_1320

This sign offers bloody fetal parts, but hardly recognizable ones.

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Our doctor’s name is at the top of this sign.  The sign says he does this to children.

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  “LEAVE THIS PLACE OF DEATH,” is one of the things the antis yell at clients.  This person stood right at the edge of the property line today.

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“Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess”somehow reminds me of the Puritans and the stocks and scold’s bridles and other instruments of torture.

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I kind of like this one – well, not the fetal parts – but I like that they’re scolding other churches for being incrementalists.

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Of course, they have to compare ABortion and escorts to Hitler and Nazis.  Strange to imagine someone saying, “Oooh, I know – let’s put little fetuses in each corner of this sign – won’t that be cool?”  But they are a nice decorative touch.

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The rest of this verse reads:  “It will be ruined.”   “The kingdom which will not serve Christ will perish.  It will be ruined.”

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THE BODY INSIDE YOUR BODY IS NOT YOUR BODY.  This one creeped me out the first time I saw it, and still does.

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Lots of signs today.  Fetal porn, we call it.  Do you think they think these signs will get people to change their minds?  All it did for me today is get this stupid song stuck in my head… and it’s still there.

Signs Signs
Everywhere there’s signs
Fu**ing up the scenery
Breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign…

 

From the Sidewalk – October, 2016

I know, it’s been a while since I posted.  I guess I ran out of things to say about the chaos on the sidewalk.  And there have been so many new voices talking about their experience as clinic escorts.  I love hearing other perspectives.

But I don’t want you to forget that we’re still here.  And today -it was wild on the sidewalk.

Antis standing in the drop-off zone

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The police asked them to move out of the street, which was helpful, but that was the sweet spot of the morning.

Ky Mountain Bible College showed up. img_1691

Actually, clients came up behind this crew -if they were approaching from the corner on 2nd St.  People coming from 1st were greeted by these folks.

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If you were on the front line today, you got to hear some preaching:

All of us outside of Christ – all of us outside of Christ – are lame and crippled and weak and sick. But we build up ourselves – we have this self righteousness that says we can take care of ourselves, we can save ourselves. There is room at the table for those that are unable to save themselves, which includes all of us. None of us can save ourselves

(With apologies for the music – it helps drown out the noise of the megaphones inside the clinic.  At least it wasn’t polka music today.)

One escort got some special attention:

There is room at the table for all sinners, even you, Sir. Sir, we love you we do, I know you don’t believe that, you probably go home and laugh about this, but we care about you. We do. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I don’t like being out here. I hate it. But we are coming out here to warn you

 End of the morning.  Some escorts talking amongst themselves and  – they laughed.  Spurgeon didn’t like that.  I walked up after he was already on a roll.

JS: WHERE IN THE WORLD – IS IT FUNNY – THAT 25 CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE MURDERED RIGHT HERE?  YOU TELL ME – TELL ME WHAT WORLD THAT IS FUNNY IN!!!  

Escort: I don’t know who you think you are but you need to bring it down because you are incredibly – no – no-

JS: HEY!  YOU BE QUIET!  25 CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE MURDERED IN HERE!!!  

Escort: …you talked enough during the day and I am going to say something

JS: 25 children are gonna be murdered in here and you led them…

Escort: I don’t know who you think you are but do not raise your voice at me like that at all (she continues to say “at all” several times as JS yells over her.)

Anti in the background: We totally raise our voice.

JS: I WILL RAISE – YOU’RE MORE CONCERNED THAT I RAISE MY VOICE THAN THE FACT THAT 25 CHILDREN ARE BEING MURDERED AND YOU LED THEM TO THEIR SLAUGHTER – YOU LED 25 CHILDREN TO THEIR SLAUGHTER!!!  

Escort: …we are grownups and grownups don’t have a discussion like this.

JS: GROWNUPS DON’T LEAD 25 CHILDREN TO THE SLAUGHTER!!  GROWNUPS DON’T KILL BABIES!!!  YOU’RE NOT A GROWN-UP!!!!  

And just in case we didn’t get the point:

Male Escort: Go home, Joseph

JS:  YOU HAVE MURDERED 25 CHILDREN!!  EVERY ONE OF YOU LED 25 CHILDREN TO THEIR DEATH.  THAT’S NOT FUNNY.  IT’S NEVER FUNNY.  I DON’T CARE WHAT YOUR OPINION ON THIS PLACE IS AND WHAT YOU THINK OF ME, IT IS NEVER FUNNY!!  

Female escort:  All right, I think we’re done, let’s not keep giving him the audience he wants… 

At the end of the day, I’m just glad that clients and their companions only experience a minute or two of the chaos on the sidewalk.  It’s like I always say, as we head for the door, “You don’t have to stop or talk to them, we can just keep going.”  And we do.

Like a Morality Play

There’s a property line on the sidewalk in front of EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Traditionally, the protesters don’t cross it.  But lately, the antis have enjoyed mocking this boundary.  They get as close to the line as possible, put their toes across it, and one morning…

IMG_0083 …the anti in the snazzy camoflauge wear maneuvered himself in-between the two escorts right on the line.   With his sign. IMG_0084 Yes, his arm is over the property line.  Yes, he’s almost touching the escort, with his arm, with his sign, and with his body.  And yes, he’s smirking.   He thinks he’s “won” something here.  Well, and he likes the attention of having his picture taken.  Yes, I’m sorry I gave him that pleasure.

But the picture illustrates my point.  Like a morality play, the action in front of the clinic often seems like an allegorical acting-out of the theoretical battle between “good” and “evil.”  A symbolic representation of the conflict between belief systems, it’s played out in dramatic postures, with repetitive scripts, and proscribed roles.

Protesters are convinced they’re the good guys.  They care about the pre-born, “the most helpless and vulnerable among us.”    Protesters want to stop women from having abortions, for their own good, because they really care about them.  They know that escorts don’t care, that we’re evil people who want to kill babies.  And hurt puppies.

Escorts know that we’re the good guys.  We love babies and puppies, and we care about the already-born.   Escorts want all options family planning and a full range of reproductive health care.  Escorts believe in equality and self-determination, while protesters are evil people who want to oppress, shame, and subjugate women.

Right?

Well, no.  No, of course that’s not completely fact-based.  But when I’m on the sidewalk, it’s easy to see it that way.   I fiercely oppose some of the values and beliefs that the protesters represent.   They push us toward a world without birth control or access to abortion, a culture where a women’s worth is inextricably tied to giving birth, and where an embryo is worth more than an already-born woman’s life.   I believe those ideas are dangerous and damaging to us all.

But on the corner of 2nd and Market at 7 a.m., the antis are there mostly for symbolic reasons.   Think about this.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 99% of women who have experienced sexual intercourse have used at least one form of birth control.  Some of those people are on the sidewalk protesting.   The data indicates that one in three women has an abortion in her lifetime – and some of those women are on the sidewalk, holding signs, yelling, chasing, and shaming others.

I used to think this was the most amazingly pure hypocrisy I’d ever seen.  But maybe it’s just the difference between their “real life” and the virtues they’re touting ~ um, representing ~ on the sidewalk.  Do you see what I mean?  I’m not saying they don’t believe what they’re saying – I think they do, in theory.  But in real life ~ well, people need birth control and sometimes they need abortions.  That doesn’t have anything to do with showing up to protest at the clinic.

Ok, yes, that is hypocrisy.  By definition, it is.  But before I start to throw stones at them (figuratively) consider this.   Few of us live up to our own standards all the time.   I believe that climate change is a real problem and that we need to use our resources more wisely.  And I still drive my car everywhere and get my groceries in plastic bags.  I know, I know that’s bad, and yes, I do feel guilty.  But I could still go to some protest against a big corporate polluter and feel virtuous about it.

Trying to escort in a way that adheres to my values is hard too, and I don’t always do it as well as I want to.  When I started escorting, six years ago, I imagined I would be able to stay calm and centered all the time.  Wrong.  300 mornings of watching the protesters preach, scold, shame, harass and harangue the clients has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect.

Figuring out how to do what we do on the sidewalk, without being terrible hypocrites ourselves, is the most interesting part of escorting, for me,  The challenge is different for every escort, and different clinics approach it differently, and it’s all fascinating.  I’ll talk about that more in my next post.

In the meantime, I want to make a personal pledge:  I pledge to donate $5 to fund abortion access every time a protester reminds me that I publicly said on here that I “don’t always live up to my own standards.”   Another $5 if they mention my environmentally-unfriendly flaws.    That’s right – $5 every time they mention either one.   I’m creating win-wins every chance I get…

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The Saturdays before Easter, before Mother’s Day, and before Father’s Day are big days for protesters.  You can help raise funds for escorts and for abortion access by pledging a small amount per picketer, or by pledging a lump sum for the horde of antis who come out to harass and intimidate women seeking legal medical care on those days. We count the protesters each day, but on Pledge-a-Picketer days, it gives us great glee to know that each number ticked off means more money raised to support the very thing they are there to obstruct. We’ll be posting updates after each big day with the total number of antis, as well as any new sidewalk stories that emerge. This form will be included in our posts from now through Father’s Day, but don’t wait til the last minute, pledge now: Pledge-a-Picketer Pledge Form

This is the clinic the Saturday before Mother’s Day in 2009.

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