Pledge-A-Picketer 2016

We started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser in 2010, and have been doing it every year since then with great success.  It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge whatever you choose for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts and abortion access. Escorts use this fund drive for legal expenses, training costs, safety supplies, parking fees for patients and other miscellany.

Traditionally there are three big event days when a large number of anti-abortion protesters come to the clinic. The Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day and the Saturday before Father’s Day used to be the biggest protester days of the year at EMW Women’s Surgical Center. When we first started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser, we targeted the Saturday before Mother’s Day as the day to count protesters.  As the numbers on this day have dropped, some protesters have attributed the drop to them not wanting to contribute to the success of our fundraiser. I don’t really believe them. I think they are having problems bringing out large numbers because of more public awareness that abortion is part of healthcare and a human right. Plus, the sidewalk anti-abortion people are being viewed as the bullies they are by more people.

Here is the history of their turnouts from the years we counted. Notice the dropping numbers.

  • Easter weekend: From 170 protesters in 2009 to 60 protesters in 2016.
  • Mother’s Day weekend: From 275-325 protesters in 2009 to 100 protesters in 2015
  • Father’s Day weekend: From 300 protesters in 2009 to 108 protesters in 2015

Last year we combined the Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and the Saturday before Father’s Day and called it Spring Pledge-a-Picketer. This year we are targeting the Saturday before Father’s Day as the only day of the campaign. Father’s Day is June 19, so our campaign will be on Saturday, June 18.

The day before Father’s Day remains a large turnout day for anti-abortion protesters, mostly because it is the day the Sisters for Life come out. Sisters for Life members, including their director, Mrs. Angela Minter, do “sidewalk counseling” weekly in front of the clinic. Angela is known to harass people she recognizes and then call their family members to report they went into the clinic. That’s not really counseling, but you can see for yourself. Here is a video of her being carried out of the clinic when she trespassed following in someone she recognized.


This is a different Angela than she presents in front of the news cameras or when she endorsed Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

This will be the 8th year Sisters for Life has their fundraising drive of “Fathers for Life Day Walk or Bike.” They charge a registration that gets everyone a matching t-shirt and walk or bike to the clinic to carry signs, sing and block the sidewalk and entrance of the clinic.

A picture and a video is worth a 1000 words. Here’s FML’s article from last year’s demonstration on Father’s Day weekend. We stood in the pouring rain, fighting umbrellas while being sung to over and over. My personal favorites are the songs they make up on the spur of the moment. They don’t always go as intended and are frequently unintentionally funny.

How can you pledge? Go to this link and fill out the simple form. When you fill out the form it will record your pledge to help us reach our goals. You will receive an email from us within 24 hours confirming we have received the pledge.

We will publish the count of protesters shortly after Father’s Day along with instructions for payment.

How can you help? Share this with your friends, or anyone you think would be interested.


Saturday before Father’s Day 2015

It rained.  Not the whole time, and not a downpour, but it rained steadily.  That cut back on the number of protesters – at least I guess it was the rain that kept some of the regulars at home.

But ~ to make up for that ~ the Sisters for Life came down earlier than usual this year.  Their numbers were down a bit too, but there are enough of  them to block the sidewalk effectively.

From across the street:


(Image is of a crowd of people facing away from the camera, toward the clinic, stretching three or four car lengths down the sidewalk. Many of them hold umbrellas. You can see a child’s wagon, with an umbrella just above it.  A couple of escorts in orange vests are visible.)

Clients have to make their way through this:

(Video pans on the sidewalk, shows a bunch of people standing as close together as their umbrellas allow.  If you remember Dominic {he wears camouflage clothing, holds a sign, and yells “Murder!  Murder in the First Degree!!”} you can see him from the back.  One woman’s voice can be heard preaching loudly, but I have trouble distinguishing the words.  My best shot at transcribing them: ” …dead.   We’re out here (something) for you… God…taking your heart…out here in the name of Jesus… Thank you, Lord, for you have already done according to your word…)

Or this:

{A few voices singing “How Great is Our God”)

Or even this:

(Female voice, VERY loud:  He gave you WILL, not a woman’s CHOICE but WILL ~ to make the right decision ~ That is to CHOOSE LIFE ~ for your PRE-BORN BABY! Choose life for your pre-born baby! There’s help for you!

It’s an ugly morning.  A few protesters use their umbrellas to “accidentally” poke or hit escorts standing on the property line.  Some clients and companions have to shove their way through the crowd as the protesters yell at them.

I’m walking with a client when one of the chasers steps on the back of her flip flop.  Yes.  The client is walking to her doctor’s appointment at the clinic.  A young woman in a green vest is chasing her, begging her not to ‘kill her baby.’  This chaser gets so close up behind the client that she steps on the client’s flip flop.  Fortunately, the client’s foot comes out of the flop, so she doesn’t end up face down on the ground.  But she has to hop a step or two in the rain back to retrieve her shoe, while the chaser continues to preach and lecture.

It’s ridiculous and outrageous.

We call the police to clear a path to the door.  We’ve called the police out more than once lately.  Two Saturdays in a row, two different white male preachers blasting their words at over 100 decibels, which violates the noise ordinance (and can cause damage to your hearing.)  There is privilege inherent in being able to call the police with an expectation of help (although we’re never quite sure what the response will be.)

Escorts calling the police when it’s a predominantly black church group  is uncomfortable.  It doesn’t make me feel like a good ally.  That’s a whole other aspect to consider, and it takes us a while to decide to call.

The police come just as we’re almost done – the clients are already in.  The officers don’t think they can do much of anything to help – First Amendment, they have a right to be here – and of course that’s true.*  They don’t realize they’ve already helped just by showing up.  Just their presence changes the behavior of the protesters.

An escort who had been standing on the property line with her back to the protesters describes it.   “…you could feel the difference in many small ways that added up to me being able to take a deep breath and wonder why things felt better. The sounds weren’t in my ear, I couldn’t feel body heat anymore, nothing had poked or jostled me for several minutes. I actually didn’t know that that was when the police had arrived until after. I could never even see them, actually. Even just from the sidelines, they changed total chaos into a five-foot gap between me and the protesters.”

I’m glad the police came; glad they are low key.

And I’m a bit disheartened by an officer who, when an escort expresses concern that the protesters might hurt someone, responds, “Emotions run high.  That is the chance you take by being out here.”

As if the sidewalk is a free-for-all zone for the protesters and the escorts.  Sigh. The sidewalk is a sidewalk, the path that clients and companions have to travel to get to their doctor’s office.  It’s not a battleground.  And this is not a battle between us and the protesters.  It’s about the client.

The protesters want to stop the clients from getting an abortion.  We want to support the client’s decision.    The protesters are a distraction from our reason for being there, and when we focus on them, we risk losing sight of the client.

It’s so hard to remember that.  And so important.

We have to deal with the protesters – that’s unavoidable.  We need effective ways to de-escalate the variety of situations they present.  Sometimes we ignore them.  Sometimes we call the police.  But if we let dealing with the antis become our main focus, the client loses, and so do we.

It’s a lot to process, a lot to think about.  And it’s not why I started this post.

I started this post because this Saturday – the day before Father’s Day – was the last of the Spring Pledge-a-Picketer days.  How many protesters were there this week?  That’s the big question.  And the answer is….

Drum-roll, please…. 108 antis

(and 75 umbrellas…)**

Easter was 79, and Mothers’ Day was 100, so that gives us a grand total of 287.

Thanks to all of you who pledged – we’ll have financial results in soon.  In the meantime, here’s what it was like walking from First Street to the clinic this week.

*Blocking the entrance and intimidating clients may be a FACE act* violation, which the local officers aren’t prepared to enforce.  They might even be unaware of the law.

**No, I didn’t count the umbrellas.  I just made that number up – it’s a “seems like” number.  Seems like there were 75 umbrellas…

Father’s Day 2014

Today, we had 35 escorts (a nice sea of orange!) who escorted clients past 17 Catholic pray-ers, 7 sign-holders from Kentucky Mountain Bible College, 14 Immanuel yellow-vesters (aka Chasers) and, because it is the day before Father’s Day, 115 red-shirted Sisters for Life (SFL) people.  The SFL group arrived about 7:35 and included quite a number of children, from babies to teens.  About 35 Catholics on Parade arrived around 7:45 and stood by the convention center, looking confused by all the activity.

It looked like this, approaching from 2nd Street:

There is no transcript for the video – it’s just a long walk up an empty sidewalk.   To the left, across about 6 lanes, are the group of Catholics on Parade, and then you turn the corner into the crowd of folks, mostly in red shirts, by the door.

Here’s what it looks like coming from First Street:

Again, a long walk up the sidewalk, past some fetal porn, past a few chasers, who are uninterested in an escort doing video, but would be all over you if you were a client, then into the mess.

And here’s some video from when the SFL group first arrived.

In this video they are singing enthusiastically about shouting for God and the Victory.

I can absolutely not imagine walking through that mess to go to the doctor.

But it happens every year.  They get a parade permit and here they come.  This year, they called it a “Walk or Bike for Life”  and charged a fee to enter.   It is their 6th Annual.

In 2009, the first Father’s Day for the blog and the SFL,  (and before my time on the sidewalk) we were not expecting them.  300 protesters showed that year, and the escorts were up to the challenge.  Here are some pictures from that year.  In 2010, Dan shared his thoughts about escorting, and we have more pictures.  In 2011, we did our pledge-a-picketer event on the Saturday before Father’s Day, because the clinic had been closed Mother’s Day weekend.   In 2012, we just have a video of them singing in front of the clinic.  In 2013, we posted video, and I told a story about a little girl who’d gotten caught up in the mess.

And here we are.  2014.  Same story, different year.   Maybe we can work on a buffer zone?  I’d like for 2015 to be different.









Father’s Day: Dan’s thoughts

When I was young, Father’s Day meant telling dad to have a good day, or giving him a present, or making/buying him a meal, or any of those other things we do for our fathers on this day. Now that I’ve advanced through fatherhood to grand-fatherhood, I’ve got a new perspective on the day.

I enjoy thinking about my children and grandchildren, spending time with them, giving them hugs, telling them I love them. I like to reflect upon my relationships with them and the roles I’ve played in the lives of these new people I helped bring into the world. Such contemplations can be both rewarding and humbling. I am so proud of all my children for who they have become and it’s wonderful to consider how I may have influenced much of that.

But there are always those memories of the mistakes I’ve made as well, and the embarrassing traits I passed on unwittingly, as I see my own imperfections showing up here and there in my childrens’ angry response or impatient quip. We’re all still pretty young and inexperienced when we’re raising children, and I wish I had known then some of the things I know now. I could have done so much better as a dad. But that’s part of the beauty of grand-parenting. We get another chance to influence a new generation.

One Saturday morning last fall, I discovered a new role of fatherhood. As a clinic escort, I spend only a few minutes walking with women during what is for many of them a very emotional and traumatic march from their car to the front door of the doctor’s office. Because it is assumed they are all having frivolous abortions, they are subjected to comments of judgment, guilt, accusation, condemnation, insult, disrespect, and disregard from the misogynist, anti-choice, Christian protesters who line the sidewalks and shout at them, or follow them and continually hound them every step of the way. And sometimes they intimidate quietly with overwhelming numbers of disapproving faces staring at them.

On this particular morning last fall, the Men’s Prayer Group from Southeast Christian Church decided to visit the clinic to show their disapproval. Southeast Christian is our local megachurch with a weekly attendance of 18,000 or more, and it is well-attended by many of the city’s elite, privileged, and powerful families. Over 100 men, mostly older men from their late thirties and up to their seventies, lined the sidewalk across the street from the clinic. Even I, a 53-year-old man, could feel the oppression the minute I climbed out of my car.

A view from the side.

The very first woman I escorted into the clinic that morning was young, perhaps late teens or early twenties, and accompanied by another young woman of about the same age. Some women of that age are bold and rebellious, thick-skinned, and unaffected by the opinions of their elders, but many are still dependent upon their parents and families and very sensitive to disapproval. I don’t think this young woman was of the former set. She clung to my arm, the arm of a complete stranger, and as we got closer to the door, as the condemnations got stronger and louder, she buried her face in my shoulder, and after a few more steps, I heard sobs.

As escorts, we played our roles well and got her to the door without misstep, but her sobs had reached a place deep within me. I will carry them the rest of my life. I did not behave well the rest of that morning. Normally very tolerant of the protesters and respectful of their rights to bad opinions, I ended up lashing out at them time and again, marching among the ranks of the Southeast Christian Men’s Prayer Group and calling them oppressors, cussing at their retorts, and claiming aloud my newfound hatred of Christians. I was acting very out-of-character and aroused the concern of numerous fellow escorts, including my own daughter of the same age as the client I had escorted and our beloved and perceptive mentor Drew.

It took about 9 months of soul-searching to finally release my hatred and regain my peace. My first step was to identify my emotions and find where all that anger came from. It was those disapproving men–fathers, grandfathers, and uncles–disapproving of women who could be their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, or even their wives. Disapproving men, withholding their love and attention, ignoring the needs of their young charges who look to them for guidance, look to them for the unconditional love and acceptance expected of a father, look to them for comfort at their times of greatest need. Disapproving men willing to abandon their daughters during their moment of deepest emotional distress, embarrassment, and fear, and leave them to walk through this gauntlet of hatred with a complete stranger, a man who will be in her life for only a few minutes, but is willing and able to be her surrogate father.

I wasn’t the best surrogate father I could be that day. It was the first time this had ever happened to me and I wasn’t prepared. I wish I had put my hand on hers as she held on tightly to my arm. I wish I had spoken softly to her to tell her it would be alright. I wish I had walked right in through the clinic door with her. I wish I could have given her a proper hug once inside. I would have known to do that with my own daughter, but this girl I didn’t know. WHERE WAS HER FATHER, DAMN IT! Was he just like those disapproving men across the street? He should have been at her side instead of me. Sometimes a girl just needs her daddy, no matter the circumstances!

While this holiday called Father’s Day only comes once a year, every day I escort at the clinic is a potential Father’s Day for me. Now that I understand the role of surrogate father, I am ready and willing and, hopefully, better prepared. I no longer hate Christians and have regained my former tolerance, but I have replaced the hatred with pity and shame for all those fathers, grandfathers, and uncles who are willing to condemn rather than to love their daughters unconditionally.


Additional pictures from Father’s Day weekend

blow horns are an excellent tool for conveying compassion.Blow horns are an excellent tool for conveying compassion.
Lady quit following me.

Lady quit following me.

The clear and unobstructed path to the clinic door, down the gauntlet.

The clear and unobstructed path to the clinic door, down the gauntlet.

FACE act, what is this Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of which you speak?

FACE act, what is this Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of which you speak?

For more information about FACE.

Because the most important person in an unintended pregnancy is the dude. Right?!

Saturday before Father’s day. June 20, 2009.



Cops: 1 with extra patrols

I know it has been a few weeks since Father’s Day weekend, but it has been a little crazy around here, and I really wanted to write about the morning. So please forgive the delay.

When we showed up to the clinic around 6:50, there were 30 or so protesters in their usual spots, starting the rosary and in general milling about. About 7:10 or so the Sisters for Life, Angela’s group, marching around the corner. By around 7:30 there were close to 300 protesters outside the clinic.

Most of the protesters stayed very close to the door, creating a gauntlet on both sides of the over hang. Those around the door were singing and praying loudly, Angela was using a blow- horn directing the protesters. With approximately 200-250 protesters on the clinic side of the street, they spilled out into the street.

There were also another 25-30 protesters standing in the parking lot across Market Street. These protesters were mostly people we had not seen before from Sister’s for Life and the usual protesters from A Women’s Choice, the cpc down the street; these are the guys that do the majority of the chasing of clients from their cars to the clinic door.

There was a very different tone around these protesters as opposed to our regular crowd, they were very verbally aggressive making statements like “you will find great pain in the judgment of the blood of the babies on your hands” to the escorts. I heard that one a lot from a very tall, lanky man, wearing the pink Sisters for life tee-shirt. He was holding onto a 3 or 4 foot ‘Malachi’ sign and really yelled at clients getting as close to them has possible. Often we get called ‘deathscorts’ and vultures. We often get preached at and condemned, but I have rarely been so often told of my certain evilness and a complete de-humanization of my fellow escorts.

Another unique aspect of this protest happened at the door. Commonly, the Catholics say the rosary at the door with a person or two stepping out of line to talk at a client coming through, but mostly they stay in line and focus on their prayers. The Sisters for Life group would stop praying or singing to yell as a group at any client walking by. Squeezing into the area in front of the clinic doors, protesters attempted to impede clients walking forward from the street onto the sidewalk. Protesters we also trespassing onto clinic property throughout the morning and Officer R spent much of his morning keeping protesters on public property.

One client came out of the clinic to yell at one of the Sisters for Life protester for calling and waking up her mother to tell her she was at the abortion clinic.

Our escort training encourages escorts to refrain from engaging protesters in most cases. We try to keep lines of communication as open as possible without entering into heated debates or arguments with the protesters. Often escorts have to walk away from protesters as they attempt to engage us. This Saturday we had several protesters who attempted to talk to the escorts well after the escort made clear their desire not to engage. On one occasion, the protester, an older white male, grabbed the elbow of a younger white female escort as she attempted to disengage from the conversation by walking away. She became very upset and turned around yelling at him not to touch her. He immediately denied that he had touched her and began to argue with her about it.  Several escorts intervened and gave her the space to walk away from the protester.

Around 8:15 or 8:30am the protesters began having speakers use the blow-horn to speak to the crowd right outside of the clinic doors. Several men got up and spoke about how the abortions of their partners and wronged them, emphasizing their lack of inclusion in the decision. This all went on until close to 9am, when they marched off as quickly as they arrived, chanting and dancing off to a good old camp style call and response spelling Jesus as they went.

The morning was probably one of the worst I have seen in a while. We were not prepared for the large number of protesters, nor the overall aggressiveness from people we have never seen before. It was a rough one. But as usual, the escorts stepped up, dealt with the situation in front of us and remained as calm and composed as possible.

I continue to be amazed at the positive attitude of the escorts.

Please make sure to read the note a client posted about her experience entering the clinic this morning, posted below.