VAWA versus NASCAR

We collectively breathed a sigh of relief after the election. Barack Obama won another term. A record number of women were elected to Congress in both houses. It still isn’t 50% of the representatives, but progress was made. Maybe we can relax and the War on Women will be a historic footnote.

You might  think the forward motion and election returns would diminish the anti-women rhetoric and some positive changes in human and reproductive rights would move forward. You might think that, but you would be incorrect. The first bill introduced to the 113th Congress was presented by Michelle Bachmann. It was a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act; even though similar bills have been voted on and defeated 33 times by the 112th Congress.  I for one, do not hold a lot of hope for forward motion in these issues this year.

The 112th Congress left unfinished business. They were too busy fighting over the Fiscal Cliff deals to consider the bills for relief funding for Hurricane Sandy victims or the Violence Against Women Act.

There have been really a lot of articles written since April about the VAWA. The bi-partisan revised act passed by the Senate in April was written to include LGBT, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans. The revision was too controversial for House Republicans. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor described the revisions as “issues that divide us,” and the House revised the bill to exclude those groups of people. And then it languished; pushed aside for other issues.

The VAWA expired on January 1, 2013 for the first time since 1994 when it was first enacted. People for the American Way simply state:

  • Now the new Congress will have to start the process of reauthorizing VAWA all over again. Until they do, women across the country will be left without the safety net that VAWA provides.

What has funding the VAWA actually done since 1994? The National Network to End Domestic Violence has a detailed breakdown on their website about what the funding has covered. It covers multiple services to victims, training for detection and prevention, prosecution, transitional housing, childcare, and workplace response training. This statement particularly caught my attention:

  • Programs are reporting significant increases in requests for help including crisis calls to hotlines, relocation assistance, counseling, shelter beds, legal services, transitional housing and childcare.  The National Census of Domestic Violence Services found that on one day in 2010, over 70,500 adults and children in America received support and services from local domestic violence programs.  Yet, on that same day, over 9,500 requests for services went unmet because of a lack of resources.  Every day, shelters and service providers must turn away victims and families in danger.  When victims take the difficult step to reach out for help, many are in life-threatening situations and must be able to find immediate safety and support.  Given the dangerous and potentially lethal nature of these crimes, we cannot afford to neglect victims.  Federal funding is now more essential than ever to ensure that programs across the country can keep the lights on, answer crisis calls, and provide essential services for victims fleeing violence.

As of today there is no official funding for those services, but some funding will continue through appropriations. There will be no funding available for improvements or the expanded coverage of LGBT, Native Americans and undocument immigrants. The 70,500 calls placed in 2010 could go unanswered in 2013.

Do we really need VAWA and those services? One article I read argued there would be coverage by other laws in existence, such as assault, murder, or kidnapping. However, since the VAWA has been enacted in 1994 (pdf) there has been a reduction of violence by 63% and an increase in reporting by 51% for women and 37% for men. The act is directly responsible for these changes.

  • VAWA has been the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in this country.”Debbie Segal, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence

One article on the history and impact of the VAWA is by Abigail Collazo published on January 3, 2013. It is thorough and she states about the refusal to vote on the act:

  • “And like the rest of society, the House of Representatives chose to not provide additional help and support to female survivors of violence for one reason – they don’t recognize it as a real problem.”

There has been no truce declared in the War on Women. If anything, the war has been expanded to include other groups.

What about the groups that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor feels are too divisive to include in the act? Doesn’t everyone deserve the right to protections from domestic violence? Who decides which person is “deserving” and which is not? Eric Cantor? Tea Party Republicans?

The Atlantic offers this idea for the failure to vote on the Senate version of the VAWA.

  • They may not realize that American Indian women are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime as the general population, but less likely to find an attorney willing to take their sexual assault case. They could be unaware that incidents of LGBT intimate partner violence increased by 18 percent in 2011, and people of color within that group were nearly four times as likely to experience physical violence.

While they did not have time to consider the VAWA, the 112th Congress was able to insert tax loopholes for favored corporations inside the Fiscal Cliff bill. One in particular caught my eye:

  • One of the more unusual tax benefits in the fiscal cliff legislation is a longstanding carve-out for racetracks used by NASCAR.
  • Supporters in Congress and industry groups have argued that the tax break is necessary to “maintain the current standard expected by our competitors and fans.” According to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the so-called NASCAR loophole will cost taxpayers $46 million this year and an additional $95 million through 2017.

How many calls and services could enactment of VAWA provide with the accelerated depreciation given to NASCAR? What about the other corporate perks placed in the Fiscal Cliff bill at the behest of lobbyists? Saving lives is not a priority with the current members of Congress.

My thoughts keep going to the thousands of unanswered calls and victims with no place to turn for help. We need to demand better from our government. I encourage you to sign petitions, call your congressional representatives and make our voices heard.

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REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

Little Choices

Escorts try to follow our Points of Unity every time we are on the sidewalk. We aren’t perfect so sometimes we follow them imperfectly, but we always try.

FML has been writing thorough articles to break down what the Points of Unity really mean in practice. I have been thinking a lot about the explanations for the first two.

  • Escort 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?”
  • Escorts are present to support people and create space for them to be empowered while accessing reproductive healthcare.
  • Whatever we say, with our physical presence, and with our words, we create space that helps put distance between them and the protesters.
  • And the point of putting space there, the point of putting space between the client and the protesters, is not to protect, to rescue, or to defend.  The point of putting space is so the clients themselves can be empowered.

The first one of gaining consent to talk and walk with a client is an easy one to always get right. It becomes part of the first things we say when we greet clients. When we are told, “No,” we walk away.

The second point is a little trickier for me. Our presence on the sidewalk creates space, but we try to find the words to say that empower a client. How do you empower clients in just a few minutes walking on the sidewalk past antis wanting to distract?  In my opinion, it starts with little choices.

‘Where do we park?’ is met with two choices. ‘You can park here at the meter or across the street in the public parking lot. You can decide which you prefer.’ We follow up with details of cost and time.

‘The clinic isn’t open yet, but you can wait by the door or you can wait in your car and we will come get you when it is open.’

When we are walking across the street from the public lot, ‘Would you mind if we jaywalk across the street or would you prefer to cross at the light?’

When we are walking clients from the covered parking lot, ‘We can go two ways. We can cut through these buildings or walk around on the sidewalk.’

‘Will protesters hurt or touch me?’ This is always answered, ‘No,’ but then we give the client the choice to talk to antis or not. ‘They will talk to you and try to hand you literature. You can talk to them if you like or you can just ignore them.’

You will notice my examples all contain two choices. More choices become confusing in a stressful situation. If we gave clients five choices, they wouldn’t be thinking about the antis as much but they also would have too much information to process in a short period of time. This can add to their stress and confusion instead of empowering them.

Every little choice adds to the empowerment of the client. It is their appointment with the clinic and they are deciding the details of the visit. It is surprising, or not, how these little decisions will add to the client’s confidence. They add space and empowerment for them.

At the same time we are giving the client these little choices, we shouldn’t be asking them questions all of the time we are interacting. Smiling and talking about neutral subjects are a way to create space for the client. I have been known to talk about traffic, weather, sidewalk conditions, road construction, movies, how much I would like a cup of coffee, city events scheduled for the day, or anything interesting we see on the sidewalk as we walk to the clinic.

Like the article says, “The point of putting space is so the clients themselves can be empowered.”

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {07/02/12}

Have we mentioned it is never a good idea to engage with antis? At least 1,000 times? Even if it doesn’t have anything to do with abortion? It never is. I’m constantly reminded of this non-engagement fact.

We were standing by the clinic entrance and the antis were lining up on the property line. One of the men who regularly comes out on Saturday took his position right beside me.

He pointed to another man walking the sidewalk and started telling me about his friend who was stung by a bee right beside his eye. They were cleaning out around some bee hives and the man was stung while he was mowing around the hive. I commented, “That’s sounds really painful.” “Yes, it is. I’ve been stung before too. You know, it is only the female bees that sting?” This last was said with a laugh.

He liked his joke so well, he started repeating it to all of the antis standing on the property line. The other antis “got” the joke and laughed along with him.

The point of the joke? Females=bad. Sigh. This thought even carries over to the insect world.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {6/25/12}

The car pulled to the curb after the doors of the clinic had opened.  I approached the client and companion to ask if they wanted us to escort them.

The client said they just wanted to sit there a minute and talk, saying, “We may have a change of heart and want to talk to the other clinic.” I let them know that was fine and pointed out the AWC building before walking away.

This scenario happens in slightly different ways occasionally. Clients will tell us, ‘We want to just sit here and talk for awhile.’ They tell us when they are ready to walk to the clinic or they may talk to the staff of AWC.

We do not interfere in these conversations with antis. We back away until they indicate they want to talk to us again.

Escorts do not try to influence a client’s decision. We always accept a “No.” We always respect their judgment about what is the best choice for them.

I think this is the primary difference between escorts and protesters. The antis never to seem to back off and give clients the space and time they need sometimes.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {6/18/12}

Some clients are so powerful and sure in their decision to choose an abortion.

The client arrived a little early at the drop off zone. We advised them the clinic door would be open in about 5 minutes and they could stand by the door, but the antis would talk to them. The response was, “I don’t care about them. They won’t bother me.”

As predicted, as soon as the client stood by the door they started. When the antis wouldn’t listen to the client’s, “Don’t talk to me. I know what I am doing,” an exchange of words was started. The client moved close to the property line and faced the anti yelling things at her.

Anti: We just want to help you.
Client: You don’t know me and you want to tell me what to do with my body?
Anti: There are loving families who would adopt your baby.
Client: So you want me to carry this pregnancy and then give the baby to you? I don’t think so.
Anti: You would rather kill the baby?
Client: It’s not a baby. It is a fetus. It’s just a clump of cells.
Anti: You will still be a mother, just a mother of a dead baby.

The exchange ended with the client saying, “You aren’t listening to me. Don’t talk to me any more.” The client then turned away and walked close to the clinic doors. Shortly after the doors opened and the client was able to enter the clinic.

Empowered clients are beautiful to watch in action.

Trust

Abortion is not a dirty word. Escorts emphasize this all of the time when talking about the clinic. The reason we need to keep repeating it is because there are so many ways abortion is stigmatized.
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Clients are exposed to the myths about abortion daily. These myths are repeated in the pulpit, the nightly news, TV shows, movies, books, magazines and blog articles.
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These myths range from  judgments about who does or doesn’t have an abortion. Along with these myths of who and why people get abortions are inaccurate statements about health risks of abortion, including risks of breast cancer, future sterility, post-abortion syndrome and medical risks of the procedures in an abortion.
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The truth is not always easy to find in the flurry of myths. You have to be determined in your research to find out one out of three women will have an abortion by the age of 45, that 61% of women having abortions are already mothers, and it is one of the safest medical procedures in the US today.
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Most clients have researched the issues and weighed their decision according to their life situation. Many have discussed their decision with friends and family members. These clients have weighed their choices and have chosen abortion.
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We see supportive companions walking with clients through the gauntlet of antis. These clients have decided to trust their own judgment about what is best for them. The companions have decided to trust the client.
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We constantly hear comments from clients and companions about antis, ‘Don’t they realize I have thought about this before coming here?’ ‘They don’t know me. They don’t understand why I need this abortion.’ The clients aren’t trusting what a stranger screams at them from the sidewalk. They have already done their research. The yelling doesn’t make them waver in their decision.
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Trust Women is the slogan of many reproductive rights activists. It is in honor of Dr. George Tiller. He was murdered May 31, 2009 because he was a doctor who performed abortions. Dr. Tiller wore a button with those words on it. Trust Women is a powerful statement. Trust women to make the reproductive choices right for them. Trust women to make decisions for their families. Trust Women. Period.
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Escorts respectfully approach clients and trust them to make their own decisions.

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Bloggers United for Human Rights is a community of bloggers dedicated to the principle that all human rights are inalienable. Not to be voted, or debated, or negotiated. Blog with us on 2/15 to support Women’s Reproductive Rights.

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REMINDER: The next escort training is February 25,  9:00A to 10:00A.

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Registration will start at 8:30A. The subject of the training is Legal Discussions.  If you want more information about the training you can email us at:  everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

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Boundaries

Our world is filled with boundaries. They seem to be something we humans are particularly fond of. We have divided the globe into geographical and political regions, defined their perimeters, named them, claimed ownership of them, and defended them to our deaths. We put up fences around our yards to define our space, limit our children and pets, protect our belongings, and keep strangers out. We obviously put a lot of effort into clearly delineating that which is yours and that which is mine.

We set, maintain, and respect our boundaries for very good reasons. Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  You may not know the poem, but the concept is well-known and easy to understand. Our boundaries allow us to practice our own personal idea of freedom as long as it doesn’t harm or infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others. Knowing our boundaries keeps the peace in this crowded world and allows us to pursue our own personal happiness within them.

The boundaries which I find most intriguing are those we have learned from our social interactions. From the time we become aware of ourselves and others in our first year of life we begin to learn and establish our behavioral boundaries. Through trial and error we learn what gains us favor among our families and peers and what gets us into trouble. We learn which subjects not to discuss publicly, how far to stand from the person we’re talking with, and how loudly we can speak in various environments. We learn not to touch people we don’t know, and when we do touch people, we know what kind of touching is appropriate. The list goes on and on. While most of these boundaries can be simply described as “good manners,” at their core, they are built upon respect, for both self and others–respect for the boundaries between courtesy and offense. We “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

By their simple nature, we can naturally expect unpleasant things to happen when boundaries are crossed. By extreme example, people who crossed the Berlin Wall were shot on sight. Similarly, intruders on private property can be arrested. On the social level, we see children who sass their parents or wander out of the yard get punished, and rowdy patrons ejected from the premises. Scolding another mother’s child will likely result in your own scolding, and questioning the integrity of a friend may find you minus a friend.

Living within our physical and social boundaries allows for a generally peaceful life, but some of us choose to occasionally dwell right on the edge of boundaries. I’m speaking, of course, about those of us who escort and protest at Louisville’s abortion clinic. Life at the very edge of boundaries can be precarious. Your every word and movement is carefully watched and scrutinized by your opponent who is ready to defend their territory at the first hint of a border crossing. Any participant on the front lines of this raging cultural war over abortion will attest to the truth of this. Cross words and threats are exchanged for the tiniest of infractions of the physical, social, and philosophical boundaries we are all there to defend, and any hope of maintaining any kind of peace and order relies entirely on respect for those boundaries.

Most abortion clinics in this country are able to establish solid and obvious boundaries between their clients and those who would oppose their choice with fenced, private lots, parking garages, and the like. Some cities have stepped up and defined boundaries between clients and protesters, maintaining a physical distance between them with bubble laws or buffer zones. But at Louisville’s abortion clinic, no such thing exists. The opposing participants mingle.

The boundaries between protesters and clients, and the escorts who walk with the clients, are defined by nothing more than the “good manners” of the participants. Even the one, single, obviously defined, physical boundary–the indentation on the sidewalk which supposedly marks the boundary between clinic property and the public sidewalk–is subject to the practice of good manners as it cannot physically bar anyone from crossing it. So, in reality, our boundaries are defined by our morals, our principles, and our self-control–basically, those behavioral boundaries we’ve been learning since we were toddlers. Luckily, the majority of the participants at the clinic know these boundaries well enough, and are able to avoid the more drastic forms of violence and aggression. But, we are not good neighbors. There are gaps in our fences. There are boundaries that protesters fail to acknowledge, and breach routinely.

There are two boundaries which, for escorts, basically define our presence at the clinic. The first is personal space, that comfort zone we each establish in the physical space around our bodies and claim as our own. I briefly mentioned this previously in noting how most of us know how far to stand from the people we’re talking to. The boundary of this comfort zone fluctuates based on things like who is approaching, where the encounter is occurring, and who else is present, or one’s current state of mind, current activity, the other’s motivation, and so on. The other boundary, personal privacy, is a social boundary which fluctuates similarly to personal space. We are willing to share and discuss our personal matters with others based on the same who, what, where, when, and why criteria. Crossing either of these boundaries steals away a person’s comfort. It can make them defensive, even fearful, but always raises their stress level. Crossing this boundary by mistake is regretful, but doing it purposely is an attack on human dignity.

These are the two boundaries that clinic protesters, or as they like to call themselves, “sidewalk counselors,” cross continually as they approach complete strangers (the clinic clients), walk shoulder-to-shoulder with them, and discourse on subjects like the client’s sex life, the state of their reproductive organs, mate selection, life choices, and many other intimate subjects one simply doesn’t discuss with strangers. I always marvel at how these otherwise decent people who were raised in the same culture as the rest of us, completely lose their sense of good manners and acceptable social behavior, and present their opinions so rudely. Don’t they understand that putting people in defense mode cancels out their message?

If you read the previous blog entry entitled “Trespassing and Invasion,” you’re familiar with the story of Stephanie, the protester who recently found herself on the wrong side of the clinic property line. She crossed a boundary that is acknowledged and generally respected by protesters. She argued, she lost, she was physically coerced to the proper side of the boundary and peace was restored. Her disrespect for this boundary and her willingness to cross it are duly noted. Defending the property line boundary is important, but her infraction was minor when compared to the continual assaults she and the rest of the protesters inflict upon the women who have come to the clinic for private medical attention that is none of anyone else’s business. This is the reason we escort: to uphold women’s dignity as they seek essential medical care. This is the boundary we defend. Approach this boundary and we will watch you like a hawk. Cross it and we will do all we can to neutralize your threat, while taking care to stay within the boundaries of good manners.

Written by Dan

Trespassing and Invasion

I was back at the clinic this morning after quite some time away – time off was very good. It gave me a chance to just not have that racket in my head for a while. I had the opportunity to see the clinic for the first time in a while, with semi-fresh eyes, and to notice some things that come to seem very normal after seeing them happen so regularly.

I hadn’t engaged with any protesters at all until about 8:00. And then Stephanie happened. You may remember Stephanie – she used to be one of the jackass chasers in the orange vests. Now she is a jackass in a yellow vest. Andy wrote a FABULOUS response to an e-mail she sent. You can read that conversation here: https://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/dear-stephanie/

Particularly striking, to me, is this part:

“Your faith in god does not change the fact that you are in that moment no different from a rapist. To be clear I am simply making an analogy: person A says no to a certain type of interaction, person B does not accept those boundaries and forces themselves upon person A.”

That piece focuses mainly on the emotional trespassing done by protesters, and it is very eloquent, so I will simply second what that post says. We have also discussed many times on this blog the physical trespassing that happens – pushing into clients, pushing INFANTS into a client’s path, shoving handfuls of literature at clients and into their purses and bags… And of course, there’s trespassing onto clinic property.

This morning I had been walking in with a few client/escort groups, and after one I turned around to see that Stephanie had followed us onto the property line. WELL onto the property line, several feet in from both directions – this wasn’t toes over the line, this was trespassing onto private property very intentionally.

I was pissed. I told her to move, that she was trespassing, that she was on private property… She told me that it wasn’t MY property (well duh…) and that I had no authority to tell her to move. I will be the first to tell you that I cannot control what Stephanie does. No matter how thoughtless, rude, cruel, ignorant, etc. her actions and words may be, I have no control over them and cannot make her stop. But I can call people out for doing fucked up things. We ended up very close to each other, me yelling at her to get the fuck off of clinic property and what the fuck was she thinking, her yelling that I had no authority to tell her what to do and that it wasn’t my property… Finally I turned around and backed her off of the property.

I could write a lot about about how weird it is to get as worked up as I did, about how little sense it makes to trespass onto clinic property and then act like it’s totally ok… But it basically boils down to how shocking it is to see these ridiculous things happen after taking some time off, and how insolent and childish it is to trespass onto clinic property and act like you can do no wrong.

Let’s get real. What happened was not ok.

I am in no way saying that I handled things in the best possible way. But, the threat of having a protester invade a safe space for clients and escorts got to me. I got defensive and protective, because the one place where I should be able to count on having my own personal space was invaded. The space where clients should finally feel secure before their steps through the clinic door was invaded. The space that used to be patrolled by police officers that knew what they were doing (who’s mere presence would have almost certainly stopped these things from happening) was momentarily no longer a safe zone, and that is not acceptable.

While I am surprised by how upset I got, how aggressive I felt, I am not sorry for yelling or moving Stephanie off of clinic property. I hope to not get to that place again, to be able to control my feelings when my buttons are pushed like that, but I an not apologetic for my actions. Part of escorting is maintaining safe spaces, and when those spaces are invaded, I don’t think I can sit back and watch that happen without doing anything.

I cooled down at the corner and talked with another escort. As it got to be time to head home, we walked towards the clinic doors and passed Stephanie, who, making no eye contact with me, told us to have a nice day. How sweet.

Update: Stephanie commented to say I’m lying about most everything in this post.

Shout out to Stephanie: you still owe the escorts an apology. I don’t know how you remember things, but my account is from very shortly after this all happened. While I know human memory can be altered (I listened to a podcast about it just last night), I am not a liar, and I stand by what I have said here. You are allowed to have your version of the “truth” but it does not change the basic facts of what happened. Whether or not you honestly think you “accidentally” trespassed onto private property, we both know that you WERE on private property. We both know that you did not move when you realized what had happened. You still have some apologizing to do.

Moral Reasoning, Kohlberg, and Escorting

A few escorts and myself have been talking about moral development for a while now. Basic psychological theories of moral development go from very basic levels of thinking (Will I get punished? Did someone tell me this is right/wrong? Will I get what I want?) to higher levels of thinking (What’s the context of the situation? Regardless of whether I was TOLD this is right/wrong, is it?). One theory that I particularly love (and keep coming back to) is Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. I’ve thought a lot about where I fall on this scale, and where others at the clinic fall on this scale.

Kohlberg’s stages go from pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional, with six stages that fall into those categories. Kohlberg discussed the idea of regressing from higher to lower stages and had other important insights, but I won’t go into all of that here.

Pre-conventional: Common in children, but exhibited in [many] adults. Judge morality based on direct external consequences.

  • Stage One: Obedience and punishment driven. Individuals in stage one consider the consequences of their actions on themselves, and usually think that the worse the punishment, the worse the crime, morally speaking.

  • Stage Two: Self-interest driven. Individuals in this stage wonder what’s in it for them, and define right behavior as whatever is in their own best interest. Limited concern for the needs of others (except in the context of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”). Lacks societal perspective.

Conventional: Typical of teenagers and adults. Judge morality based on societal views and expectations, and accept social norms concerning right and wrong. Major concern for “the rules.”

  • Stage Three: Conformity driven. Individuals in stage three consider the consequences actions might have on their relationships and are concerned with social roles/living up to expectations of others. The intention behind actions becomes important (whether someone means well or not), and there is a desire to maintain rules and authority.

  • Stage Four: Authority and social order driven. This stage focuses on laws, social conventions, and above all maintaining a functioning society. Often a central idea guides judgments of right and wrong (perhaps religion), and morality is dictated by an outside force. Views breaking a law as morally wrong (and potentially leading the way for others to follow, which would break down social order)

Post-Conventional: Recognizes that different individuals will have different perspectives, and these people live by their own (abstract) principles about right and wrong. View rules as useful but changeable (not absolute, not to be obeyed without question). Post-conventional moral reasoning is less common. It is worth noting that “Because of this level’s ‘nature of self before others’, the behavior of post-conventional individuals, especially those at stage six, can be confused with that of those at the pre-conventional level.” (That was a concern for me, honestly.)

  • Stage Five: Social contract driven. Individuals in this stage view the world as full of different opinions, rights, and values, and feel that these should be mutually respected. Laws are viewed as social contracts, and those that don’t promote general well-being should be changed to do the most good for the most people.
  • Stage Six: Universal ethical principles driven. Moral reasoning in this stage is based on abstract reason, using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only if they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws (I love that!). This stage involves imagining what you would do in another person’s place. Individuals in this stage act because it is right, not because it is legal or expected.

Ok, so all of these stages are lovely and great, but how do they tie in? Well, as adults who are doing something we believe in (which applies to most of the protesters at the clinic, not just the escorts) we have to have used some method of reasoning (moral and other) to conclude that what we are doing is indeed right.

To me, it seems fairly obvious. It seems clear that many (many, not all – this is a generalization) of the protesters are hung up in stage four. Which is where many people are – I’m not using this as a fancy (long winded) way to say that the protesters are stupid, just that our thought processes are very, very different. Consider the criteria for stage four in the context of the clinic. So often I hear arguments about how god has told us what’s right and what’s wrong, and god has said what to do and what not to do. But those arguments don’t seem to go much further than “Because god says so.” I don’t care of the law or god or aliens tell me if something is right or wrong, it’s still up for question if it doesn’t sit with me, and if it doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of people in general.

As for the escorts, I think that many of us have had to think deeply about escorting, abortion, and the situation at the clinic. It’s not a matter of someone having told us to do this, or someone telling us that abortion is right and us blindly obeying. It’s something that we had to tease out for ourselves, from our experiences, beliefs, intuition, and the world around us. I think that escorts tend to feel a commitment to justice, even when that includes doing something that our families, friends, parents, teachers, peers, and on and on, might take issue with. We feel a commitment to justice, even if that means doing something that can be potentially dangerous. We honor this commitment, even when it means being harassed and bullied. We honor this commitment because we see how important it is, and because we see that the rules and laws may not be doing the trick. Those of us who are at a place where we are able to escort (because there are many factors that make it impossible, and for some it is not the best place to direct their energy)  honor this commitment because once we’ve seen the necessity we realize we cannot ignore it.

Dear Stephanie

As a comment to the post “Not Making Things Worse” I got this:

Andy,

I am a life escort and I escort almost every Saturday morning. And I realize you probably won’t post this on the blog. But I do want you to know that there are quite a few of us who do not wish to hate or speak hateful words to you, any escorts, or any clients. I know that there is a good chance that we will never really find much common ground on this issue. But Ken did say something to me last week about both the clinic escorts and life escorts that I believe is true. He said that we are essentially all there for the same reason…to show compassion. I believe he could not have been more right. I read about the compassion you have for clients almost every week.

I respect you for being so honest in this post. Believe it or not, I too have felt much the same way as you have. I too have been pushed around and hated especially on Saturday mornings. And I too have had a hard time controlling my tongue. And as a result, I too have said and done things I have regretted. And I too have not wanted to apologize for them. But the Lord compelled me to do so. I did apologize and seek forgiveness from that escort I wronged. And here is the part where Stephanie feels the need to tell me all about how I was hurt by my ex, she can empathize, knows what it is like to be me and god can fix it and how great he is for a paragraph or two.

Blessings,
Stephanie

And here is the response I sent her via email today.

Stephanie,

To clarify, I did not write the post about de-escalating. ESM is a collaborative blog and several people write for us. I also want to point out that while you may be able to identify with something that is written here, please do not assume you know about the lives of the escorts and especially the lives of the clients. What is shared here is limited, and certainly not the whole story.

You are correct that I will not post your comment in its entirety. But not for the reason you think. I am not a Christian. I have no desire to hear about your god, beliefs or opinions about the lives of others based on the lack of compassion you and your friends show the rest of us.

I understand you disagree with me and feel like you show nothing but compassion.

We feel judged, harassed and most importantly disempowered by you and yours.

There is a huge difference between intention (what you think you are saying/showing/acting) and perception (what I feel/perceive/interpret).

It is not up to you to tell me that I should not be offended by you if I am in fact hurt by the way you push your opinions on me.

Escorts are a motley bunch with beliefs ranging from very devout Christians, Jews and Muslims to atheists and pagans, but mostly we are people who are just willing to admit we do not have the answers.

We have in our culture a great respect for the faith of our citizens and thus give massive latitude to religious speech. As a person in the cultural majority (Judeo-Christian world view) you may not be able to see that your faith colors every aspect of my life.

And I object.

The protection that grants you the right to speak your faith limits my right to set boundaries rejecting it. This is clearly the Right to Free Speech v. the Right to be free from Harassment social dichotomy acted out everyday in front of the clinic.

And so, this is my blog, and I will not provide space for you or anyone else to prosthelytize.

We know.

We have heard you tell us all about your faith and god ad nauseum.

And the fact that you REFUSE to accept no for an answer puts you in a position as the aggressor. I do not want you to aggress against me or the clients or my escorts any more.

As women we are taught No means No.

I am saying to you, and the clients say to you NO all of the time.

Your faith in god does not change the fact that you are in that moment no different from a rapist. To be clear I am simply making an analogy: person A says no to a certain type of interaction, person B does not accept those boundaries and forces themselves upon person A.

Lastly, I want to point out to you that to escort someone is to safely ensure they arrive at their intended destination.

You do not escort anyone anywhere.

You literally chase people, who are telling you to leave them alone, down the street.

While I understand the literary point you are trying to make, it falls short in every way. You and your friends are engaging in deception.

Your orange vests cause more confusion than they create calm.

I was told the first morning you all showed up in those vests you all were trying to “level the playing field”.

It seems you all view this as a game to be won, strategy to be put into place, and no matter how you spin that statement, I think it was very honest.

And disgusting.

I disagree with Ken on this point.  I don’t think any of you care about these women and the torment you put them through by your actions.

You may disagree with the choice they are making, but many of these women are caused 100% more hurt by you than the abortion will ever cause them.

I know you disagree with me. Which is your right.

But the reality is that this is a choice they must make and live with.

It does not matter one little bit if you and I disagree. What matters is that in my 10 years of escorting I have spoken with thousands of women and most of the ones who talk to me about their decisions are confident they are doing the right thing. And none of the ones who were not sure felt like you all were really there to give them a better option.

I trust you speak with women who are grateful for your services, and while I find the services provided at AWC to be dishonest and disingenuous, it is not my choice make. And I will ALWAYS provide support to every person regardless of what I think about her decisions. This is not the same for you and your friends.

The climate on the sidewalk in front of the clinic is more than just the words we speak.

Can you even imagine what it must be like for women to be surrounded by 15 people, half of them shoving lit in your face, calling you a murderer, shoving in front of you to block you from taking another step?

Your words are the smallest of the ways in which you and your friends intimidate and cause fear.

We are all human and say things that we regret. There are always better ways to interact. But I can not stress enough that you contribute more to the hurt that women feel through your disempowering actions than anything else they are dealing with that day.

I don’t want to be your friend. I certainly do not want to develop a relationship with you so that you can have secret, or overt for that matter, plans to save me. I don’t need saving nor do any of the escorts or clients. Please leave us alone. In the end, all anybody wants is a little privacy to live our lives the best we can.

Andy

abortion is not a dirty word.