An Exercise in Futility

Things were a bit ramped up here recently – an adult couple  arrived at the clinic with a young person.  One of the protesters – Ron – decided the young person must be a 10 year old girl who’d been raped.  Yes, he just made that up, but he was sure that was the story, because protesters know these things, right?

He decided that meant that we – the escorts – were protecting the perpetrator of the crime.  Yes, I know that’s an astounding leap outside the bounds of anything resembling logic, but there you go.  It went downhill from there.

From the comfort of my own home now, I can see that it might have been more helpful if I had ignored him, but he was all ramped up and raving and I might have gotten a bit ramped up myself.  So when Ponytail guy said it was probably one of the escorts who raped her – well, I might have said something a bit inappropriate.  Yep.  I did.

I know, it wasn’t helpful, just like it wasn’t helpful to ask Ron to explain how it would be better for a 10 year old to actually have to be pregnant and  have a baby.  He didn’t answer that, and I didn’t expect him to.  He just kept asking why we would protect the perpetrator.

Such nonsense.

I need to make sure I’m wearing my cloak of disengagement from now on.  I need to remember that Ron, and the other forced birthers, don’t have any actual power, which is why they spend their time trying to bully other people.

On the other hand, wasn’t there some state that tried to pass a law making it illegal for someone to help a minor who who was a rape victim get an abortion?  Some stuff about it “destroying the evidence?”  Good grief, do they not realize you can get DNA evidence from the aborted fetus if they needed to?  Oh, that’s right, science is not their strong suit.

Plus, as someone pointed out at breakfast, this is one more example of the way the antis distrust women.  It’s not enough for someone to say they were raped and name the person who raped them.  No, they need to have the rapist’s baby so we can make sure who did it.  Really.

Oh, but wait – if you get raped, you can’t even get pregnant, right????  Don’t we just “shut that whole thing down??”  Hmmm, this forced birther logic is so hard to follow!

Oik, enough of that, it’s not really funny, although we laughed about it a bit later.  At the time, it was ugly, and next time I’ll try to walk away sooner and ignore them harder.  Like Servalbear’s button suggests, I’ll ignore them so hard they’ll start to wonder if they exist.

Last week I posted the video of Chad preaching and said there was another video that gives a good perspective on what it can be like up by the door.  I transcribed it this week – actually the last couple of minutes are the same as last week’s videos so you don’t need to watch the whole thing.

There are three people talking/preaching at once, so I’ve used different type for each one – Chad is regular print, another preacher (I think he’s one whose nickname has the initials RFN, but I’m not sure) is in all-caps, and a third anti, a man in a red jacket, is in bold (which is ironic, because he’s talking really softly.)

Here’s the video:

And here’s the transcript:

IT IS YOUR CHILD

… that they may live.

AND YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE

That’s the book of Deuteronomy.

FOR THIS CHILD.

And not only does he want us to choose life,

NO MATTER WHAT YOU DECIDE TODAY YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THE MOTHER OF THIS CHILD

he has given us a way to choose life eternally, Eternally.

SIR THIS IS YOUR CHILD, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THE FATHER…

Jesus said he comes to bring life and life more abundantly.

I ENCOURAGE YOU THIS MORING TO CONSIDER THE FACTS. CONSIDER THE TRUTH TODAY.

DON’T BE DECEIVED. THIS IS A CHILD. YOU ARE ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS CHILD.

Jesus said that. Jesus said he comes to bring life and life more abundantly.
Not abundantly in the sense that you get to have riches and wine?

YOU MAY SAY, “WE’RE IN A TOUGH SPOT, WE CAN’T HAVE THIS CHILD”

Abundantly in the sense that you can live and worship him in eternity.

IF YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS CHILD, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE WILLING TO ADOPT IT, IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO CARE FOR IT

Live in the Glory of God, in the light of his son Jesus Christ for eternity.

AND YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO ALLOW IT TO GROW AND DEVLOP AND THE ABILITY TO BE BORN. JUST LIKE YOUR PARENTS GAVE YOU THAT SAME ABILITY TO GROW AND DEVELOP AND BE BORN.

Folks, that’s good news, That’s what the gospel means. You and I deserve eternity in hell. Eternity in hell and the fires that will never quench. That’s real friends. It exists. It is real, more real than our existence right now.

MA’AM AS YOU WALK THROUGH THAT DOOR, PLEASE CONSIDER SIR YOU HAVE TO OPPORTUNITY TO EVEN STILL THIS MORNING.

Hell is real. Jesus preached about hell,

Do you want to make a thousand angels in heaven rejoice? (This is the man in the red jacket. He’s talking to some young people who are escorting today, particularly a couple of young women.)

Jesus warned us about hell more than he preached about the Kingdom of Heaven.

How do you get a thousand angels to rejoice? How do we get a thousand angels to rejoice?

So friends, be prepared,

Anybody wanna rejoice?

he wants us to avoid that place

you know how to do it?

and the way to do that is to repent and be saved. believe on the Lord Jesus Christ today. Believe on him. Put your faith and trust in the Lord who is worthy to save

All of the lambs who (something) is worthy to be saved

Who wants to get saved today?

Repent.

You’ll make the angels rejoice…

This is the lie you guys are believing.

(Can’t tell what Red Jacket is saying…)

This is what happens to those babies. Period.

A thousand angels will rejoice…
Sir, but that’s exactly what happens. a lot more children That’s what you’re supporting, you’re an accomplice to this. And that’s what you’ll stand and be accountable for on judgment day. Unless you repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ and your sins are washed away. That’s what you’re going to have to stand up and face. This is true. This is what abortion is. This is what (something)

It’s the murder of an unborn child. The massacre of babies and it looks just like that. I hope you’re happy about that, because that’s what happens.

you need to repent. You all need to turn from your sins and believe the truth about abortion. Here’s what it is- plain and simple – here’s what abortion is – here’s the truth of abortion – death destruction killing and destruction. That’s of satan that’s what god hates and he wants you to repent he wants you to turn from your sins – to choose life, he wants you to choose life so your children will live He commanded us to go forth and multiply and to fill the earth…

And that’s where the videos I posted last week start, so I won’t add those transcripts here.  I can’t promise I got all the wording right, but it’s close enough to give you the idea.

It’s interesting how their words overlap sometimes, as if they’re bouncing thoughts off each other, but really each person is intent on his own presentation.  Red Jacket is brand new to our sidewalk and I hope he won’t be back.  He really was only talking to the young female escorts who were standing on the property line.  Yep, just a bit creepy.

This week’s post is strictly a “for my own emotional well-being” one – I just needed to describe what it was like that particular Saturday morning at the clinic.  There’s no particular point – no point in trying to reason with Ron, no point in getting upset with Ponytail Guy, no point in lots of things happening on the sidewalk.

But the whole point is being there for the client.  That’s the point of escorting.  When I remember that, the rest of this really does fall away.  And I’m ready for another day on the sidewalk.

Thanks for listening…

Have Soapbox, Will Preach

“Soapbox:  A temporary platform used while making an impromptu or nonofficial public speech.”  (according to the Free Online Dictionary)

Last week, for the first time in quite a while, one of the preachers (we call him Chad – don’t know if that’s his real name or not) brought his step stool, and his microphone, and preached to us.  He preached to us for a full hour and fifteen minutes, leaving some of the other preachers on the sidelines.

I thought I’d share some of that pleasure with you.

Transcript:

…so your children may live.  He commanded us to go forth and multiply and fill the earth.  That’s what he commanded us to do from the very beginning – he told Adam and he told Noah to do the exact same thing.
Come on, people!  Come on!  We’re in America!  We don’t need to do this!  If someone said, “Well, I can’t have a  baby because I can’t do this or I can’t do that or I don’t have a job or whatever,” – there’s no excuse in this country today for doing this (waves his arm at the fetal porn)  There are adoption agencies – people waiting in line to adopt babies – there is someone – someone wants to help you in this situation.  If you don’t have a job, someone will find you a job.  If you don’t have a home somebody will find you a home.  If you need money, clothing, shelter, food, there are people in this country who will help you in an instant.  And they don’t even have to be Christian or religious.  There are secular groups that will help you in this country today.
You don’t need to do this!!  (Pointing at the fetal porn.)  This does not need to be done!!

Just a couple of comments – notice that “He told Adam and Noah to do the same thing” about going out and multiplying – no need to mention Eve and Mrs. Noah, right?

Servalbear says her favorite line is “Come on, people!  We’re in America!”  and I agree, that has a nice ring to it.  But I think my favorite line is in this one:

Transcript:

…so you can live the gangster rap life.  This is what murder is.  This is what happens.  We don’t need to do this in our country today.  There are people who want to help.  So the excuse, “I’ve got no other choice,” DOES NOT HOLD WATER!  Not with me.  Not in America.  I know what happens in this country.  There are people that wanna help.  Let them help you!!
Let them help you do something that’s right!  Let them help you find a home for your baby!  Let them help you find a job!  Let them help you find a way to do something that’s right instead of doing something that’s wrong.
And THIS is wrong!  THIS is wrong!  (Pointing to the fetal porn)   Turn from your wickedness and turn from your sins today.  Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  And if you don’t…

Ok, it’s kind of repetitive, but worth it for the line “…so you can live the gangster rap life.”  Really, Chad?   That’s classic.

Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the part where he says “there are no intellectual arguments that support evolution…” and “…there are no scientific facts that supports feminism, evolution or abortion. They are all sins against god.”  No intellectual arguments – no scientific facts- good grief.

We do have a longer video of him and other things going on at the same time that gives a really good picture of what it’s like in front of the clinic, but it’s tough to transcribe.  I may work on it though.  It’s such a lovely cacophony – Chad and another preacher both preaching at the same time, and red-jacket guy wandering over to some young escorts to talk ask if they “want to delight a thousand angels…”  Yeah, I may have to work on it.

But I post this today to highlight the privilege and the arrogance that the antis bring to the sidewalk.  I think Chad says it all when he proclaims that “your excuses DON’T HOLD WATER.”  You need to know that your “excuses” for your life decisions don’t hold water with Chad.

Doesn’t that kind of say it all?

Points of Unity ~ Part I

Escorts are a group of individuals who volunteer to accompany patients and their companions to the clinic.  The Points of Unity define what we do and hold us accountable.

We’re not an organization.  The clinic doesn’t train us.  We don’t sign up to escort and we aren’t scheduled for particular days.  People start coming when they feel the urge.  They come when they want to, for as long as they want to.

If someone quits coming ~ gets too busy, moves away, has a work schedule that interferes ~ they may still “be an escort.”  They’re just not spending time on the sidewalk right now.  If they don’t want to “be an escort” anymore, then they aren’t.   It’s that simple.

The Points of Unity are what hold us together.  In any situation, if we’re not sure of the “right” thing to do, the Points of Unity guide us.

At the training we’re doing May 9th in preparation for Mother’s Day, we’re going to review the Points of Unity.  I love doing this in a group of escorts, because they mean something a little different to each of us.  We’re not going to get into all that at the training ~ I promise ~ but it did get me started thinking about  how I interpret them.

So I’m going to do a series of blog posts unpacking them, exploring what they mean to me.  I invite my fellow escorts, who will see shades of difference, to share their thoughts as well, either in comments or a blog post of their own.

The first point of unity is:

* Escorts must gain consent from every client every time.

On a concrete level, this means that every time I approach a car with a client in it, I say something like, “Hi, I’m a volunteer with the clinic.  Would you like us to walk with you?”

Different escorts have their own variations on that, for well-thought-out reasons, but we each say “Would you like us to walk with you?”  And we wait for a response.

We ask the client rather than the companion whenever possible, and we look to the client for the response.  Sometimes the companion will say, “Nah, we’re fine,” and the client will be frantically nodding her head “Yes!!!”   Guess what we do when that happens.

Yes, of course we walk with them, unless the client takes the consent back.

But if the client says, “No, we’re fine,” then what do you think we do?  Yep.  We step back so they can walk without us beside them.

Sometimes we have to follow a little bit behind them, waving off other escorts who would otherwise step out to accompany them.  So it can be an interesting sight.

The client and the companion walking with several chasers attached to their sides, us a little bit behind them, and a series of escorts who walk toward them, see us waving them off, and step back to leave them alone.

Sometimes, part way up the sidewalk, the client or companion change their minds and ask us to join them.  It may be just a panic stricken look and a quick, “Yes, we do!”  Of course, then we step forward and join them.

Other times they walk to the door apparently quite comfortable, clearly unscathed by the scolding, shaming strategies of the chasers.   That’s kind of a warm-fuzzy moment for us.

Those are the technical aspects of getting consent.  On a more abstract level, “consent” is what most separates us from the antis ~ and from rape culture.  We’ve written dozens of blog posts about this because it is at the heart of who escorts are and what we do.

Most of the stories we tell involve the lack of consent from clients to the approaches of the protesters.  If the clients wanted to be lectured at as they walked to the clinic, if they welcomed the protesters, if they said, “Oh, yes, please share your religious beliefs with me during this part of my life journey,” then there would be no need for escorts.

{And I have to pause a moment to laugh at that mental image.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  if all the clients one day, as the chasers approached, greeted them, welcomed them, let them babble on, and strolled into the clinic untouched by their poison ~ can you imagine?  How baffled the protesters would be!

Ok, never mind, I’m sorry.  That was a moment of complete insanity on my part… now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.}

But you get my point, right?  I  won’t tell more stories about consent here ~ all of our stories ~ what we do ~ is based on the fact that the antis interact with clients in intrusive, invasive ways without their consent.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to be there.

Now ~ because pictures are powerful ~ here’s another image from the Saturday before Easter.  At this point, most of the clients were in the clinic.

The woman holding the sign, who’s a regular, kept saying, “Be careful, don’t block the whole sidewalk, you can’t block the whole sidewalk or they’ll call the police.”  You can see another, smaller prayer circle gathered under the awning up the sidewalk.

I’m reminded of the morning a new anti approached us and announced that he wanted to pray for us.  He wanted to know if there was something we wanted him to pray for, for us.   It kind of amused me, like I would ask him to pray for me?  But I guess that was his idea of getting consent.

We said no.  But in retrospect, I guess I could have asked him to pray that all the antis left the sidewalk and went to do something truly helpful for humanity.  Or would that have been one of those snarky comments that I’m better off not saying…

Anyhow, if you’re interested in escorting, particularly if you’re willing to hold space on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, don’t forget the training on May 9th at 6:00.  It’s not required, but it’s helpful.

REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Sunday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 

The Anti’s Talk On {Part II – The Rest of the Story}

So this was two Saturdays ago now, and i was still feeling good about how L and I had ignored the talkative protester until he went away.  I walk another couple of women up the sidewalk.  As I come back down, I see L and R, both female, who are half-surrounded by the group of male newbie protesters.

I hear R say, “NO!  NO!! NO ~ we DON’T have to talk to you!  We were having a private conversation ~ WE were,” and she points from herself to L and back again, “and you rudely jumped in…”

And one young guy protester says, “You’re the one being rude, you won’t listen to us.”

I think that R might explode with anger, but she just says, “NO!  WE were talking.  WE were having a conversation.  YOU interrupted.”

Another young protester guy says, “Well, but there’s no reason we can’t talk to each other,” and I realize he’s the same one who wouldn’t leave me alone a couple of weeks ago.  “I mean, we’re both out here on the sidewalk…”

“NO,” says R, and L chimes in, “WE’RE having a private conversation, we don’t have to talk to you…”

and he continues, as if they haven’t said anything, “We’d LOVE to talk to you about the gospel of Christ,”

and I just shake my head.  Good grief.

“We’ve tried moving away from you,” says  L, “and you’re following us.  That’s harassment. If you keep it up, we’re going to call the police.”

Several other escorts are close by now, and T, who is a young male escort, gets out his phone.  I was going to call, but it would have taken me five minutes to peel off my layers of gloves and mittens to use the touch screen.  T hands me his energy drink to hold, and quickly calls.  He calls the police department directly, not 911.

As T talks, or tries to talk, the protesters continue, loudly insistent that we need to talk to them, need to listen to them, need to not be rude to them.

L and R move away again.  The protesters follow.

Another couple who actually have an appointment at the clinic come around the corner; D and I break away to walk with them.  I realize I have T’s energy drink with me, but it’s too late to give it back.

We walk up, and make it back to our corner pretty quickly.  T is off the phone, and I give him back his energy drink, which he he takes from me like it was his long lost lover.  “I just looked up,” he says, “and it was gone!”  He adds reproachfully, “I thought, ‘damn, can’t trust anybody these days!'”   I have to laugh.

The anti’s have stepped away a little bit, and I join L and R, ’cause now I want to hear the conversation they were having.

But R’s still in mid-story when the police show up.  Two police cars, and the officers get out right away.

R and L explain what had happened, and the one guy, the one who’d been the pushiest, is right there ready to argue.  But one of the officers moves away with him, and steps around the corner to talk to him and the other new protesters.

The other officer stays to remind us that they’re limited in what they can do, although they agree, the protesters can’t follow us around trying to talk to us.  If we say no and move away once, they’re supposed to leave us alone.

Which we already knew, although we don’t mind hearing it again.  We point out that these guys are new, and don’t know the rules yet – and for sure, won’t listen to us!

I don’t hear what the police say to the protesters, and don’t need to.  Whatever they say, it’s enough.   This group of anti’s leave us alone the rest of the morning.  Which was all we wanted in the first place.

So I’ll say what I was thinking that first week, when new guy insisted on talking to me.  This is a good example of rape culture.

No, it’s not rape, and I’m not suggesting it’s like being raped, because it’s not.  But clearly it reflects rape culture.

The protesters believe that what they want carries more weight than the fact that we don’t want it.  That their urge to talk to us is more important, that it takes precedence over us saying ‘no, leave us alone.’

They believe that they’re entitled to insist on getting their way no matter how many times we say no.

That’s how rape culture works ~ consent is not a factor, and my “no” doesn’t mean “no” to them.

*********************************************

So, here’s the thing about escorting  ~ one of the things about escorting.  Just when I’m feeling comfortably self-righteous, something busts my bubble.  If I had only published this before last week, it would have been great.

But last week, i watched one of us, an escort, someone I like and respect, get so angry that they buttonholed a protester ~ it was A, the seminarian ~ and insist he answer a question.  My friend kept talking to him, ignoring his relatively polite efforts to end the conversation.

Sigh.

It’s what I love and hate about escorting.  It constantly calls me to check myself.  ‘Cause it could just as easily have been me transgressing the points of unity, there on the corner.  Trying to talk to a protester isn’t my style, but I’ve been known to yell at them ~ not lately, thank goodness, but it could happen again.

More often, I’ll make a really snarky comment about them while they’re close by.  Yeah.  Intended for them to hear.  It’s not helpful.  Feels real good in the moment, but not helpful in the long run at all.

Maybe I’ll give that up for Lent…

Reproductive Justice is the Antidote to Rape Culture

Recently there has been a lot of attention paid to a tactic a group of anti-choice protesters outside of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY is using to deceive the clients trying to access abortion services. Louisville’s Clinic escorts (volunteers provide emotional and tactical support to clients entering the clinic) wear orange vests that say ‘Clinic Escort’ identifying themselves to clients. In the last month the anti-choice protesters have begun wearing remarkably similar vests, the only difference is the wording on the vest: ‘clinic escort’ vs. ‘life escort’. In this post I want to explore the intersection of Rape Culture and anti-choice activism highlighting the places were reproductive and sexual health meet the reality of our cultural norms.

Louisville's Clinic escorts vests

liar

Rape culture is defined as the cultural normalization of sexual violence. We see this in the social context of blaming the rape survivor for the rape; they were asking for it because they attended a party or had a few beers. Our court system routinely blames survivors of domestic violence for staying in abusive situations without providing viable options for those seeking refuge. Melissa McEwan has an awesome Rape Culture 101 post with lots of examples of what rape culture looks like including this gem of a paragraph.


Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”


An example of rape culture being utilized as social control against women and LGBT people can be seen in the 2009 horrifying gang rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, an out lesbian footballer in Kwa Thema, a suburb of Johannesburg South Africa.

The motive for the attack was “corrective” in nature, that is, culturally sanctioned sexual violence in order to enforce heteronormativity. The Guardian reported “What we’re seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them,” said Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle. The goal of the rapists is social conformity to the broader misogynistic paradigm, or in other words the heteronormative, enforced gender binary with women’s bodies and supporters of women’s bodies the target of socially condoned sexual violence and intimidation.

Dr. George Tiller

Now, let’s turn to the sidewalk in front of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY. Five days a week, protesters chase women and their families from their cars to the door of the clinic, yelling at them, calling them murders and whores, in general harassing them. The anti-choice protesters view themselves as peaceful, information bearers. They genuinely believe they have been ordained/ instructed by God to minister to these women. And while they certainly have the right to speak their mind and oppose abortion, we move squarely into the realm of rape culture when there is no place between the interactions of anti-choice protesters and the women to consent to the interaction. We move even further down the continuum of disempowerment and social control when women clearly DO NOT CONSENT to the interaction. Routinely clients will say something along the lines of “Please Leave ME ALONE” and the anti-choicers continue to aggressively impede their progress, thus crossing the line between free speech and assault.

white male privilege says "yes, you can and are"



The first week the anti-choice protesters showed up wearing their very deceptive vests one of the regular chasers told a group of escorts they (the anti-choicers) were simply trying to “level the playing field”. Which I feel is one of the most disgusting displays of social privilege I have witnessed in my 10 years of escorting in Louisville. What I think this young woman was trying to get across is that they feel entitled to the time and attention of the women entering the abortion clinic for reproductive health care services, and that if it is necessary to be physically imposing to do so, obfuscation and misinformation are appropriate tools to such an end. This entitlement is at the core of rape culture. The attitude that the bodies of women and queers are fair game as a battle field for social conformity is exactly the place where reproductive justice and rape culture intersect. Eudy Simelane and Dr. Tiller’s bodies were destroyed in attempts to isolate and stigmatize the ‘other’.

Tim Tomeny and another bully stand as close to the door as they legally can. from these posts they jump out at clients, shove or trip escorts and sometimes snap pictures. nice guys, real nice.

Well, we are all the ‘other’. There is no ‘other’. Rape Culture hurts us all. Rape is a tool of war. Gender equity is destroyed by rape. And the only way to combat these evils is to fight for the autonomy and empowerment of all people.