The Pendulum Swings..

It is things like this from the Wisconsin legislature:

“Under penalties of up to $10,000 in fines for failure to do so, a physician performing the ultrasound must verbally describe the number of “unborn children” present in the image, the location of the fetus or fetuses within the woman’s uterus, and provide a medical description of the dimensions and visible characteristics of the fetus. They must also provide a means for the woman to visualize the heartbeat of the fetus, if one is detectable by the type of ultrasound chosen by the woman.”

that lead to things like this from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

Doctors’ Group Slams Anti-Abortion Laws For ‘Imposing A Political Agenda On Medical Practice’

The group’s Executive Board has issued an official statement opposing all laws that “unduly interfere with patient-physician relationships” and compromise patients’ health care for political gain.

“Given the relentless legislative assault on the patient-physician relationship that we’ve seen in the past few years — and unfortunately continue to see — we were compelled to issue a formal Statement of Policy,” the group’s president, Dr. Jeanne A. Conry, explained in a press release. “A disproportionate number of these types of laws are aimed at women’s reproductive rights and the physicians that provide women’s health care services.”

So the more of these extreme {ridiculous} laws we see, the more likely people are to push back.  We can even hope that eventually rulings like this one from the Colorado Supreme Court:

Supreme Court Lets Stand Order Blocking Graphic Anti-Abortion Signs in Presence of Children

The Supreme Court will not intervene in a Colorado dispute over barring anti-abortion protestors from displaying graphic images in places where they may be seen by and upset children.

will lead to less of this:

IMG_1806

at least during marathon season when lots of families with children are all coming down to watch the race.

It’s consoling to remember that the more extreme things get, the sooner the pendulum will swing back.

Family Event Photos

The Saturday after Mother’s Day still saw a lot of anti-abortion protesters at the clinic. There were about 200 of them.  At one point another escort asked me what one anti’s name was and I answered, “I don’t know. That is one I haven’t seen, but I can’t remember all of their names. There are a lot of new ones out today.” An anti overheard me and said, “Yes, and there will be a lot more of us from now on. Get used to it. You aren’t going to win.” Psychic predictions from the sidelines.

Among the new groups was one of young people carrying shiny, new fetal-porn posters. I noticed a lot of Operation Rescue labels in the bottom corner of these new posters. This particular group had brought at least twelve posters, about four feet wide by two and one-half feet high each. All of them, old posters and new, displayed a graphic image of what was supposed to be an aborted fetus or sonogram pictures of a developing fetus. One person could carry each poster and after all of the clients entered the clinic, they lined up across the property line facing the waiting room windows. There were so many of them and the posters so large, they had to stand three deep and raise the posters up so all of them could be seen.

I know I should have taken a photo of them for you guys, but I neglected to do so. You will have to  just imagine the spectacle spreading across the sidewalk just beyond the clinic entrance. The sidewalk was so blocked, escorts discussed strategies for moving around them in case any clients arrived late. Luckily, we didn’t have to implement those plans.

This May 19th article by Robin Marty in RH Reality Check caught my attention. It was published the next day and described exactly what we are seeing at EMW. Marty describes this tactic perfectly:

  • Public protest of abortion using graphic material has been a staple of the anti-choice movement since the early ’80s, when activist Joe Scheidler advocated it as a means to engage in protest and “sidewalk counseling” in his handbook Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion. From fliers with graphic pictures that were handed out at public events and marches to larger photos outside of clinics where women would be terminating pregnancies, Scheidler was an enthusiastic advocate for the power of a gruesome image, although he did recommend that the ones at clinics be positioned away from the person doing the actual “counseling” of women prior to their entrance into the clinic in order to not scare them. He also encouraged the use of such photos at pro-choice events or when picketing the homes, private offices, clubs, and places of worship frequented by providers.

And, the new twist in those plans is:

  • Still, for the most part the target remained adults, and adults in places where anti-choice advocates assume the majority would support abortion rights. That is beginning to change as more protesters are seeking to give the photos wider distribution, and directly affect those under the age of 18. High schools  are becoming a favorite protesting place of late, with one “truth truck” driver stating that the giant photos of “dismembered fetuses” displayed on the side of his truck are the only way to get the message across.

Bringing the graphic photos to public events where young people are expected has backfired for the extremists more than once. Parents object to the politicizing of school events or family-friendly events. They object to their children being exposed to the photos. When and if a parent talks to their children about reproductive issues and abortion should be left up to the parents’ judgment. It is just one more way the anti-abortion groups prove they do not respect anyone’s right to decide unless it is to agree with their anti-abortion views.

Almost two years ago, protesters targeted a child’s middle school back-to-school night. Why was this child a target of their signs? The father of the child is the landlord for an abortion clinic in Germantown, MD. After public outcry about the graphic nature of the protests, this landlord decided to fight back. Voice of Choice was formed to help others targeted by these extreme tactics. 

The antis do not seem to listen to public outcry or reason. They are stepping up the in-your-face efforts at locations that have nothing to do with reproduction or abortion. This week in a Texas high school, abortion photos were found in the girl’s restroom. The… “material was scattered all over the restroom.”

The US isn’t the only one to see this uptick in distribution of fetal porn. In Calgary this month, 50,000 photo postcards were distributed in an effort to “reopen the debate on abortion.” Their target audience are residents in the ridings of “MPs who voted against a motion to study when life begins.”

  • Melanee Thomas, an associate political science professor at the University of Calgary, questions the organization’s tactics.

  • She says the postcard campaign may be aimed at young people.

  • “Part of it is to try to convert the young to a very particular way of seeing this issue, one that is, I ought to say, not legally balanced and not constitutionally balanced with the way that we have the Charter set up in Canada.”

Targeting the young is not a new tactic for the antis. They bring their children to protest at the clinics. It is their idea of a family event and it is a learning experience for their children that frequently reverses in adulthood. This story is only one example of how minds change from our childhood adherence to our parents’ doctrine to our own viewpoint through discussion, research and reading non-religious and/or scientific articles of the facts surrounding abortion.

Marty believes the distribution of fetal photos to the young seems to be about this message:

  • The message implied is clear: If you want these pictures to go away, ban safe abortion. Until you do exactly what they say, they will continue to bring their protests everywhere people gather. Especially family events involving children.

Good luck with that plan. Fostering outrage against your group rarely seems to sway people to a particular viewpoint.

We need to broaden access to abortion not ban it. We need to broaden access to birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies, not make birth control harder to obtain.

We need to support individual reproductive choices.

And the Number Is…

315.

Three hundred and fifteen.

That’s how many protesters there were.  What does that look like?

IMG_20130511_073450_315

Yes, that’s a stroller ~ lots of families packed up the babies and came on down.  We’re heading up from 1st Street – the clinic is at the awning off in the distance there.  As we keep walking:

IMG_20130511_073505_000

Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, near the $3 parking lot is this:

IMG_20130511_073133_393They used to park this billboard right in front of the clinic, but we make a real effort these days to get there early enough to take up those parking spaces.  One year, we succeeded in leaving him nowhere to park.  That was lovely.

If you’re coming around the corner from the 2nd street side, it looks like this:

IMG_20130511_073620_155

Which is not quite as daunting as walking up through the whole gauntlet from 1st Street.  But regardless of which direction you come from, at the door, you’re greeted with this:

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An excellent example of fetus porn.  And this:

Yes, the “preacher”in this video chides the escorts for “how they treat the women who come there… patting them on the back…”   But I heard another protester say “the women are dumped out at the curb and the escorts drag them into the clinic,” ~ an interesting interpretation of events.

Watching the video, you can tell a client has come around the corner.  The woman in red springs into action.  “You don’t have to kill your baby, someone can help you, PEOPLE WANT YOUR CHILD!” she screams.

Something about that creeps me out, it is as if the client has ceased to exist and is purely an incubator.    I might have thought that was the most chilling thing I heard, if I hadn’t heard a mother talking to her son on their way back to their car.

The woman was clearly pregnant.  The little boy was about five, walking beside and slightly in front of her, holding her hand.  I don’t know what he said, but she replied in that extra sweet voice we sometimes use with our children when we know someone’s listening.  She said, “I know!  It is scary!  I don’t know how these people can want to kill little babies.”

All I can do is shake my head.  And hope that when he’s old enough to understand, someone can explain to him why his mother would want to take him around people that she believes want to kill little babies.  Cause I sure don’t get it.

Blog Comments ~ by FML and Servalbear

Ever wonder why your comment doesn’t always post right away? We have a closed system for comments. We try to get to them quickly, but every comment is reviewed before appearing on our site.

We have a Comment Policy in order to have a safe space for readers to interact with our authors. This safe space is important because feelings are strong and tempers flare easily when we write about abortion and other reproductive justice issues.

We’re not alone in this problem. Most blogs about reproductive justice, political and human rights eventually post something about the comments their articles generate. It may be like Shakesville’s “Short Rules: Be nice. Be thoughtful.”  The policies may be long and detailed so there isn’t any doubt as to why a comment is rejected.

In any case, no matter how general or detailed the rules, there are usually people who feel entitled to make comments against the stated policies. Called Internet Trolls, they “…post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

They may be offensive, abusive and threatening. They all come packaged with a sense of entitlement. Their comment is an exception to the rules because they want a voice ~ their voice ~ to be heard, no matter how unwelcome it is.

Trolls can be exhausting.  One of our favorite blogs about violence toward women and rape no longer exists.  The stress of reading these comments was overwhelming for the author. So even if those troll comments aren’t posted, there is a human being who reads them; someone who internalizes the whole venomous scope.

We attract our own trolls. Depending on the article, there can be a lot of them or just a few. Every week ~ just about every single week ~ we get five or six comments from a particular anti.  Every comment from this person gets deleted.

A Huffington Post article April 1st by Colleen Glenney Boggs asks:

  • Must trolls — those posters of negativity and vitriol — be part of the Internet public sphere? Must we accept them, or can we do something to improve Internet culture? How do we banish the trolls without closing off the dialogue that is so vital to our democracy?

No, we don’t have to accept posters of negativity and vitriol. We screen comments and bar the trolls. We do not have to allow them to derail our conversations. We can foster courteous, safe conversations with our readers.

On our blog, comments that go straight to the Trash may be:

  • Anti-abortion, derogatory to groups you don’t derive your personal identity from, personally attacking an author and/or other commenter, or ~

  • If it includes arguments invoking the words Hitler, Holocaust, slavery, eugenics, genocide, Margaret Sanger, abortion mill, murder, deathscort, God, Jesus, sin or Bible.  We are not going to get into the same argument we have had a thousand times before.

Several of us discuss any comments that may be in question. We will make a group decision to publish or delete a comment. We may go back to the commenter and ask them to clarify their comment if we are in doubt.

To sum up:  this is a clinic escort blog.  It is a collective effort with many authors contributing. Sometimes we get things wrong and we encourage conversation and input from our readers to set us straight on facts. We encourage personal stories and interaction between authors and readers.

Trolls are not welcome here.  We are not tired of deleting the comments of our persistent troll, and we’ll continue to delete them ~ well, forever, I guess. It is time well spent.

This blog is written for the readers. This blog is written to raise awareness of the continuing struggle to make reproductive choices accessible to everyone.

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday 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:

 

 

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Sidewalk Snippet ~ {3/18/13}

There are times a client and/or companion is so empowered they instantly gain my admiration.

The companion got out of the car first. E was hovering right behind me ready to start shaming. I was able to explain the vests and offer to escort them before he began his spiel. E handed the companion some literature. When I explained he was a protester, they handed it right back to him.

The companion and I escorted the client down the sidewalk. We were in a line: E, companion, client and me. E started with “Women regret their abortions. Don’t lead her into this place.” The companion waved dismissively at him and said, “Oh, I know all about abortion. I have had 10 already.” There was a pause then E leaned over towards the client and said “You don’t have to go into that place.” The client turned to me and said, “I am not listening to him.” I replied that was best.

We walked to the clinic entrance with E talking the whole time, but nobody was paying any attention to him.

It was great to witness these two completely ignoring the words meant to hurt and shame them. They are just words. The antis don’t know anything about the clients and why they made the decision for abortion. I felt privileged to witness this calm confidence.

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REMINDER:  Kentucky Support Network’s 2013 Bowl-a-Thon is April 19

There are many ways to get involved:

    • Captain a team, set a fundraising goal, and recruit 4-6 other bowlers to work together to meet that goal
    • Join or donate to an existing team
    • Show your support by attending the event
    • Share this information with your friends, family, coworkers, and networks via email, Facebook, Twitter, other social media, or good old-fashioned word of mouth!

However you choose to get involved, know that your support is invaluable in helping people from all walks of life realize their reproductive rights!

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Saturday 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:

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Kentucky Support Network is Bowling!-Guest Post

What do reproductive rights and bowling have in common? (Yes, you read that correctly!) A fundraising event that will change lives: Kentucky Support Network’s 2013 Bowl-a-Thon!

The Kentucky Support Network (KSN), a program of Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN), is a community-based, volunteer-driven service that works to connect Kentuckians to reproductive healthcare information and services. Established in 2010, we assist Kentuckians in overcoming barriers to accessing abortion, such as transportation and language access.

Your support is needed now more than ever, as political attacks on abortion access in this state and across the nation increase the barriers to abortion, especially for low-income people and people of color.

This year, KSN is joining abortion funds across the country in celebrating our first local Bowl-a-Thon, which will take place on the evening of April 19 at Vernon Lanes. Our goal is to raise $6,000 to sustain and expand the efforts of the Kentucky Support Network, and enable us to offer financial assistance to people seeking abortion.

There are many ways to get involved:

  • Captain a team, set a fundraising goal, and recruit 4-6 other bowlers to work together to meet that goal
  • Join or donate to an existing team
  • Show your support by attending the event
  • Share this information with your friends, family, coworkers, and networks via email, Facebook, Twitter, other social media, or good old-fashioned word of mouth!

However you choose to get involved, know that your support is invaluable in helping people from all walks of life realize their reproductive rights!

Email kentuckysupportnetwork@live.com if you have questions. And thanks in advance for pitching in!

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Saturday 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:

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National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers

Sunday, March 10th is National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. The dedication of providers and their staff make it possible for abortion to be accessible for those who need it.

Why March 10th?

  • The National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers is recognized every year on March 10th, which was the anniversary of the day in 1993 when David Gunn, MD, was murdered by an anti-choice extremist.
  • Dr. Gunn was the first to be killed in the United States for providing abortions. In 1996, pro-choice organizations designated March 10th as the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Including Dr. Gunn, four physicians have been murdered since 1993 because they provided abortions, as well as one clinic escort, two receptionists, and one security guard. The total death toll is eight.

The National Abortion Federation has detailed information about clinic violence and the FACE Act signed into law in response to Dr. Gunn’s murder.

  • The abortion debate first turned deadly in 1993, when Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed by an anti-abortion zealot in Pensacola, FL. In addition, twelve arsons, one bombing, and 66 blockades were carried out against abortion clinics during that year.
  • In response to this unprecedented act of political assassination, and with the support of pro-choice groups, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The bill was signed into law by President Clinton in May 1994.

Despite the FACE Act, clinic violence by anti-abortion protesters remains a reality. Imagine the stress of going to work every day by a different route to be sure you aren’t followed, checking your car for explosives every time you get into it, checking your work area for explosives, being trained to carefully open mail at work, screening phone calls for serious threats, and being alert to any person entering the clinic for potential violence.

Families of workers can be targeted for harassment. Voice of Choice was established in response to the bullying by anti-abortion extremists of the landlord of an abortion clinic in Maryland.

What can you do to let these abortion providers know you appreciate their sacrifices?

  • Send cards and letters of appreciation to your clinic
  • Send flowers or other small factory-sealed gifts to the staff of your clinic
  • Volunteer to be a clinic escort
  • Donate funds to help provide access to abortion. (Our “How to get involved” page lists some suggestions)
  • Raise your voice publicly by writing letters to the editor of your newspaper, writing your legislators and
  • Most importantly by voting for pro-access candidates in the elections.

Join us March 10th in thanking abortion providers for their dedication. 

Where Do I Park?

The client and companion pulled into the drop-off zone to ask where to park. It was about 30 minutes before the doors of the clinic normally open. We discussed options and I gave them directions to the $3 parking lot. Before I moved away from the car, I warned them about the antis not wearing orange vests and that they may approach them to talk and give out literature.

They were starting to pull over to the lot when D approached their car. She was talking to them when I re-approached the car to let them know she was a protester. D turned to me and said, “You are so rude. You had your turn to talk to them. Now it is my turn. You say you are pro-choice. They need to know their choices.” Since I had said what I needed to let them know, I  backed off and let her talk.

Escorts watched as the car drove down the street and turned the corner, bypassing the public parking lot. I alerted another escort to the fact they might have been diverted to the AWC lot by D. This is a common tactic we see. They offer free parking in their lot, but it comes with a lot of talking about the “right choice.” It is usually easier to pay for parking than hear the words meant to shame and coerce clients into their clinic.

The other escort was able to stop them just before they parked in the AWC lot. The companion told the escort the woman (meaning D) said they would have to pay for an ultrasound at EMW, but they could get it from AWC free. When it was explained to them that they didn’t have to pay extra for the ultrasound at EMW*, the free ultrasound performed at AWC would not be accepted by EMW* and they would just have to have another one, and AWC was an anti-abortion clinic, they parked their car in the public lot as originally planned.

D arrived at the AWC parking lot just as the client and companion were pulling away. She approached the other escort and asked, “If you die tonight, do you know where you are going?”

The companion was really upset when I went over to help them with the payment box. We discussed what had happened to them. They were mad they were lied to by D. I explained we cannot control what the antis say, but agreed it was frustrating.

As I was leaving, I warned them about the antis approaching their car even in the parking lot and suggested they did not need to roll their windows down if they didn’t want to. I told them we would come get them when the clinic doors opened.  Sure enough, shortly after I left the lot four antis surrounded their car trying to get them to roll their windows down. The antis began sticking literature on their windshield without permission.

The companion called the police to report their harassment. Two squad cars arrived within minutes and spoke to the antis. The four antis moved to the corner of the lot and stayed away from the car after their conversation with the officers. We did not hear what was said, but we were able to escort the client and companion without further incident.

When I went into the lobby of the clinic a short while after they entered, the companion asked me why the protesters were allowed to go right up to clients. “There should be a distance they have to stay away. This isn’t right.” I agreed and explained there was no bubble/buffer zone in Louisville. The companion expressed their anger over the whole situation.

I have to agree, lying, shaming, judging and harassment from the antis just makes the day more difficult than it has to be for everyone.

*The ultrasound at EMW is included in the procedure fees. There is no association between EMW and AWC. A procedure done at AWC will not generate a discounted fee from EMW. It will just cause the client to have duplicate procedures.

What Is a Picture Worth?

I was taking pictures again last week. It wasn’t a “big” week, nothing special about it.   But I’m tired of my own words ~ I’ve been blogging about being an escort and the walk up the sidewalk for a long time now.  I’m tired of talking about it, I want to show you.  I want you to take the walk with us.

This is a video of the gauntlet – it’s not a great video, but better than nothing. The person in the green vest is a protester.  They are walking up the way you would come if you were coming to the clinic.   One day soon, I’ll videotape it from that perspective, but today we have this:

(My videos tend to be shaky – I apologize for that.  Well, and they’re not great videos.)

So you can hear them saying the rosary, and in the background, you can hear one of the preachers.  I think it’s actually Andrew, who’s not officially “a preacher” for our purposes because he doesn’t take a turn on the step stool that serves as their soapbox.  But he preaches for sure – to the escorts as much as the clients, I think.

If you were coming up through the gauntlet, you’d start way down at the end of the block and come all the way up, and then the clinic is on your left.  As you walk up, you’d be facing this:

IMG_1965

Right before you get to these folks, you would turn left.

Now, in the video, on the left as you get close to the clinic doors, you see this group of men, lined up on the curb.  Here they are, and Mary on the end with the big green bag over her arm, the orange vests of escorts standing in the street:

IMG_1969

If you decided to avoid the gauntlet by getting dropped off at the door, right there is the only space where there isn’t a car parked.   It’s not the official Saturday “drop off” spot, because there was a car in the drop-off space last week, but if the car hadn’t been there, they would have filled that area too.

As you get out of your car, they look like this:

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But the escorts are to the side of them.   We hold some space there so we can move to let you come through that gap, or we’ll ask them to step aside so you can get through.

As you come through the gap, the signs greet you:

IMG_1973Of course none of this is actually impassible.  They aren’t locking arms so you have to fight your way through.  They’re just trying to intimidate and shame you.

Fortunately, just because they’re selling that crap does not mean you have to buy it.  They don’t know you, or your situation.  You can walk around them, you can ignore them, you can tell them to get out of your way.

Personally, I want a buffer zone – both a fixed one and a floating one.  I want the protesters to have to stay 100 feet away from the clinic, and 10 feet away from a client.

I don’t think that’s asking too much.