Control Issues ~ by Ferret

I am something of a control freak, and the offspring of a line of control freaks. We used to joke that if one were to look up “Control Freak” in the dictionary, one would find a picture of my grandfather.

In my battles with depression over the years, I realized that being a control freak was contributing to my depressive state. I worked hard at becoming less of one in part to lessen the effect on my mien, with mixed results.

At one point in my life, I was invited to attend a twelve-step group based on Alcoholics Anonymous, called Emotions Anonymous. Either through that group or through my sessions with the counselor who introduced me to it, I learned the idea that while I couldn’t (by their definition) control my emotions, I could control how I expressed those emotions and which of those emotions I focus on at any given time.

I also learned that if I release control of others to those others, I am more able to do what I need to do to control how I present myself.

That led to an interesting revelation~one that I’m sure many have reached: I’m not responsible for any other person’s emotional state. Because I am not responsible for that person’s emotional state, I get to retain responsibility for my own emotional state and whether/how I express it.

This expands to all sorts of realms. Because I wish autonomy for myself, I cannot assume control over others’ autonomies. I have to accept that they will act in what they think is their own interests.

There are limits, of course, as the classic example of freedom to swing one’s arm illustrates: My freedom to swing my arm ends before impact with another person’s face. I don’t have the right to harm others, save for circumstances of self-defense, and even then the force I may use is somewhat limited. I cannot bring harm to you for endangering me once the danger has passed, for example.

The reason I mention all this at the moment has to do with the social discussion around abortion and related women’s rights.

Yeah, who am I, a white male, to talk about women’s rights?

Call me something of an ally.

And call me one who recognizes that, because I insist on autonomy for myself, I believe it is no business of mine whether a woman chooses to abort a fetus. Because it’s not my business, it’s also not the business of the government that allegedly represents me. It’s a decision for her to make, along with people she chooses to consult. Sidewalk “counselors” (religious bullies, for the most part) aren’t part of that circle. Congress Critters/Gynoticians* are not part of that circle.

Does that mean I favor abortion? Whether I favor abortion is immaterial. As I mentioned, I’m a guy and recognize that I have the privilege of not having to face that decision for myself. It means I recognize that her decision is hers to make. I have to assume that she will consider whatever options are valid in her situation.

And there may not be any viable options other than abortion. Sometimes the pregnancy is such that continuing it at all would put the mother at grave risk. In some cases, the fetus can never become viable. Since the percentage of times those happen is non-zero, and since I cannot know the exact situation (indeed, the exact situation is not my business), I cannot assume that any one woman’s situation doesn’t include elements of those factors. I’m not willing to put limits on abortion based on such factors either. It would be heartbreaking enough to have a wanted pregnancy result in such a situation without having to prove such to a gynotician* before earning a pass to have one’s abortion labeled “acceptable.”

* Per the Urban Dictionary: “A politician who feels more qualified than women and their doctors to make women’s health care decisions.”

 

 

Pledge-A-Picketer – The Official Count!

Since the clinic was closed on Derby Day, which was also the day before Mother’s Day we decided to have the Pledge-A-Picketer target date on Saturday, June 18. This is the day before Father’s Day and is one of the days of the year we normally see more protesters at the clinic. The official count of protesters for the day is 45.

We did publish an article on the Every Saturday Morning blog when we launched the fundraiser with the information and why we were especially targeting the Sisters For Life annual fundraiser march to EMW Women’s Surgical Center. If you didn’t see it, here’s a link.  

This article was more successful than we ever imagined! The Sisters For Life changed their march to end at the new Planned Parenthood location in Louisville. That means all 46 of those marchers were not there to harass patients at EMW!

To us it was a definite win-win-win situation.

  1. The patients weren’t faced with large numbers of protesters and we still were able to raise funds.
  2. The 45 who turned up at the clinic were a far cry from the 300 who were there in 2010 or even the 108 who were there last year.  
  3. Their march was postponed long enough so that some of us were able to counter-protest at the Planned Parenthood site when they arrived.

We think this was a very successful year for the Pledge-A-Picketer campaign. We want to thank everyone who pledged and donated to help the volunteer escorts.

Our supporters make us strong!

 

What’s The Point?~by KY Born

I don’t even escort.

We luckily don’t need them at the two clinics in the city I live in and the next closest clinics are over 3 hours away from me. We have antis, but they are pretty well contained by a fence and actually mostly just pray. At one of them where the CPC is in the building next door, they run up and down the fence screaming crap like, “This might be your last chance to be a mother.”  They write down license plates and film, but I don’t think they post on the Internet. I’m probably on some anti film being played in church as an example of a demon-possessed “abortion-minded mother,” when all I was doing was taking a friend to the clinic.

One of the men commented, in addition to the motherhood comment, that if I could afford that car I could afford a baby. I was already pissed off because they shoved their “information” under my windshield wiper since I had to slow down because they were in the drive entrance. Since everybody was still waiting in line outside, I went over to the fence to let the dude know that I hoped I never got pregnant again (I wasn’t the one pregnant) because I didn’t want to have to come back to get an abortion and listen to him yapping again. Oh, and I used a lot of profanity. Manly man jumped back from the fence as if I was going to be able to walk ten feet, scale a six-foot fence in three seconds and somehow do him bodily harm. So much for manly men and doing anything to save babies.

I don’t know how people do it week after week, day after day. I don’t know how they deal with being called nasty names in the name of religion. I don’t know how they stand to walk past the signs all the time without laughing. I don’t know how they deal with seeing patients reacting with terror at people who claim to be helping them. I admire them, but I don’t know how they do it.

Sometimes I think “I couldn’t do that every day,” and then I think of the patients. I think of the patients I used to work with at a very difficult job that most people can’t handle. Their stories haunt me. I know the stories told to escorts haunt them. I think about the patients, not abortion patients but patients with horrible stories and medical issues, and how I dealt with that. That makes me think I can escort but I’m glad our two clinics don’t need them for now.

Of course, we may not have any clinics in the next year. This is the negative me talking. This is the part of me that says, “What’s the point?”

I wonder if we are all just tilting at windmills. Are we fighting an imaginary battle that is already lost and we just don’t know it? Has the fate of reproductive rights in this country already been decided by a bunch of old white men, a few loud women who never worried about paying the light bill, women who made bad medical decisions for themselves, and people who drag their many small children and brainwashed teens to stand outside clinics?

It feels that way, and then I remember that we are not tilting at windmills at all. We are fighting a real battle that is still going on. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The right of a woman to privacy when making medical decisions was decided before I was born. For years, I took it for granted. I remember the occasional talk of those “rescues” before the FACE Act. They seemed like something off-kilter that only happened in far-away places. Places I thought I would never go. Places I thought I would never need.

That was back when they were called protesters and liked it. That was back before the Internet gave them a free platform to spew their hate, so that it seems like there are only a handful of pro-choice people who huddle in little groups while the country is filled with anti-choice people. Of course after FACE, which they do still violate, they call themselves “counselors” and “abolitionists,” even though they are mostly doing the same old thing. Stalking, fear, guilt, shame, stigma, violation of privacy, lies and outright threats, both physical and more subtle, like threatening to tell somebody’s boss or mother, still abound.

There seem to be so many of them even though there aren’t. It’s like standing outside the closed door of the toddler room at a daycare on a bad day. You are sure there are 1000 small people in there all crying, screaming and trying to make the most noise to get the attention of one harried person. Then you open the door and find that there are only four or five of them. I think antis are those toddlers, just seeing who can scream the loudest and get the most attention. Sometimes they even fight over who has the best toys.

This is quite funny to read about or see, but it is unlikely funny to the patient who has to wade through the sea of fetus porn and baby murder signs. It doesn’t matter to the patient who has to walk through the gauntlet of people who recite their prayers the loudest for the patients walking by before they get back to the regular gossip. It doesn’t matter to the patients who lose all privacy as nosy people film them, take pictures of their license plates or car, or even tell their stories using real names without permission. To top it off, they post all of this on the Internet for the world to see. Right to privacy, my ass.

It is violated every day, just like entirely too many women and men are physically violated only to be dismissed as either making it up because of bitter break-ups or profit, or blamed for dressing the wrong way, having the wrong sexual orientation, going the wrong place or drinking the wrong thing. If you are lucky, and you are the right kind of victim you may be believed, but even if you get pregnant against your will it is a beautiful “gift from God,” so you can just suck it up while your body is violated daily for the next nine months.

That is part of the point. My rights, your rights and everybody’s rights are being violated by people who want to legislate who we marry, if we marry, when we have sex, if we have sex, if we use birth control, what kind of birth control we use, what kind of sex is legal, how we plan our families, what is a family and how we handle the results of trauma.

I could go on, but that is the point.

We must fight back. We must be louder. Not when the patients are around of course. They don’t need extra chaos. I know some of you reading are exhausted, and you are thinking “but I already help by escorting, what else you want me to do, bossy woman?” If you are just plain burnt out, or over-extended, or doing all you can, I am not talking to you.

I am talking to anybody who has the time and energy, or who can gather up what is left of it, to fight these battles that are seemingly endless.

I am asking you to raise your voices. I’m not in any way saying we should become the screaming toddlers the antis are, but I am saying it is time that everybody who is pro-choice or pro-access raise their voices in other ways, calmly but still louder than the few screaming toddlers in the room who need to be hushed by the teachers.

I don’t think antis need to be hushed by censorship as that would be a violation of their constitutional rights. OK, I admit I fantasize about laws that hush them completely, but I know that this isn’t legal. In fact, that would make me a lot like the antis to want to control their speech.

What I do think is that pro-choice and pro-access people need to let their voices be heard. This can happen in many ways. Write, call or email your elected officials about reproductive rights, even if you think it won’t help. Vote, even when it seems pointless. Protest bad laws, if you are so inclined. Organize groups that support reproductive rights. Write on blogs. Complain to social media outlets that are used to stalk and violate the privacy of patients by individuals and groups. Talk about your own experiences as escorts or patients. Encourage patients who are interested to pursue legal action against those who have violated their rights and have the information they need on hand.

Now I can already see you thinking I’m a hypocrite because I am telling you all to raise your voices while I type behind an alias. I do this for several reasons and I’ll flat out say that some of them are practical, like not wanting it to impact my career prospects. Most of it is the strong emotional need for my own privacy and to protect the privacy of my family and friends. While I don’t think anti harassment would bother me beyond tolerance, I refuse to let my family and friends be drug into my fights, as we all know antis are more than willing to do this.

So maybe I am hypocrite, but I am doing my best. It is why I write for this blog. It is why I finally told my rape and abortion story by putting it on virtual paper and posting here. When I write, I hope people who read not just my stories about reproductive issues, but everybody else who puts it out there understand they aren’t alone. I know finding this blog made me know I wasn’t alone in knowing we had major problems with reproductive rights in this country, so when I was asked to write here it was one of the ways of raising my voice.

So when I think that there is no point in continuing this fight, I remember that scared young woman who went alone for her abortion. That was me. I remember the families who have had their privacy violated in order to bury their family members while vocal antis gleefully crowed about their death, or mourn the death of a fetus incompatible with life, but not the life lost months before. I remember the woman who was followed to her hotel and had to face protesters who had posters with her name on it. I remember the antis who scream and lie both virtually and in real life at patients who think, feel, love, cry, hurt and who have hopes, dreams and problems that aren’t solved by a pack of diapers and supplies that are only given to those who attend Bible classes, plus empty promises of housing or money. I remember the people I will never know or see who go through hell to access legal health care. I remember the people who can’t scrape together the money or take time off work so they, at their own peril, try to terminate the pregnancy by themselves even though it risks their lives and health. I remember the young faces of the supposedly pro-life generation forced on the sidewalk by parents and schools with their signs and realize that some day a portion of them will need access to the very health care they hold signs up against.

I know if you are reading this you are tired. Probably tired of listening to me ramble on. Probably tired of being told to do more than you already are. Tired of this fight that shouldn’t be happening in the Land of the Free in 2015. Maybe you are even feeling that this fight is pointless. Maybe you feel it a little or maybe you feel it a lot. Maybe you are like me, and have to turn off the TV, put down a magazine or click off an article or post because you are overwhelmed by the steady stream of anti-choice messages, anti-choice spew not backed by science and plain out flat lies told by antis about weeping women overwhelmed by guilt, infertility, breast cancer and trauma of a pregnancy termination that occurred in a blood-soaked room after she was forced to abort by those evil, money-hungry doctors.

I know I am. I also know that if I give up the fight, I can’t complain because I stood by and let my Constitutional rights to a private medical procedure be stripped away by people who are basically trying to be voyeurs into the lives and bedrooms of strangers. I know the more of us who refuse to stand for this kind of violation, who speak out on a lot of fronts, both now and in the future, will have a great impact on the direction reproductive rights take in this country.

When I started this rant I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. I know I wanted to express how those who are silent need to speak up and encourage and thank those who do far more than me. I wanted to find a reason for myself to continue to be involved in this fight when there are so many things that are more fun to do. I found it here, and am feeling a bit renewed in my urge to do more, to speak louder and over the small band of loud antis, whose volume make them seem much more numerous than they are really.

We are losing our rights to a small, loud minority and it has to stop.

That is the point.

What To Do When They Come To You~by KYBorn

Some months ago, I had the pleasure of having an article from ESM picked up by She Who Shall Not Be Named and the other one who likes to run around investigating child sexual abuse at abortion clinics, but never Catholic Churches. Against better advice, I slipped on over to both sites to read exactly what they thought of me and my opinions. It doesn’t matter what they said. Most of it has dissolved into a blur of useless stupidity that floats through my mind once in awhile.

One thing that was said, and I will admit imagining her making this comment in a snotty, high-pitched superior voice, was that when the great fall out comes and a woman finds herself pregnant or a man or woman regret an abortion they KNOW they won’t come to us pro-aborts. They will of course throw themselves on the mercy of those blessed saints at CPCs who will guide them through a healing process, even though they don’t have any legit counseling credentials. Now, not that you need these to run a peer support group. If these people were up front about this being peer counseling the same way AA is then I wouldn’t criticize them. OK, I wouldn’t criticize them as much.

But, back to the topic at hand. Most antis seem to think that the second a friend confides in an unwanted pregnancy we tie her up and drag her off to the nearest abortion clinic when we all know this simply isn’t true. I have had many people, close friends and not close friends, come to me with “crisis” pregnancies (many of which were carried to term with exactly no help from the local CPC even when asked),.I wanted to share a few of the things I have learned from this process, as well as what I have learned for those who deal with regret after an abortion

When talking about an unexpected pregnancy, these are things I learned:

  • Find out if this is a wanted pregnancy right away. Some women know they want an abortion the second that test shows two lines. Ask her directly. Reassure her that you care and want to help regardless. Tell her you are not there to judge but you are there to help as little or much as she wants.
  • Let her take the lead. It is her body, her pregnancy and her life. Maybe she needs some time to think before she talks anymore. If she reaches out to you for a hug or wants to cry on your shoulder, let her.
  • If she tells you right off the bat she doesn’t want to be pregnant, start helping her look for resources. Realize, especially in a rural area, this may be more difficult than a quick walk down the street. Start looking for a clinic right then. Familiarize yourself with restrictions because they vary from state to state. Talk about how she is going to meet other obligations while she is away and not feeling well a few days.
  • Encourage her to read about the procedure from a legitimate medical site so she knows what to expect. There are several sites on the Internet that give accurate, nonjudgmental information about pregnancy and/or abortion. Three sites are: Web Md with separate sections about pregnancy and abortion facts; Planned Parenthood that also has separate sections on pregnancy and abortion facts; and Backline that lists resources for more information and provides all options, anonymous counseling over the phone. Sources from most educational institutions should be accurate. Avoid any websites that link to a CPC, describe what “the baby is doing” at any one gestation period, or mention health risks that have been proven untrue, such as the link between abortion and breast cancer. If the clinic has a website or escorts have a site, encourage her to read it.
  • Make the appointment as soon as possible

It is quite possible that she does not want to be pregnant, but is not comfortable with abortion. Tell her this is OK as well. In fact, she may be sad about the pregnancy but has already decided to carry to term. If this is the case:

  • Congratulate her. Offer to help in any way you possibly can. We all have our limits. Don’t make false promises.
  • Start looking for resources right now. If she doesn’t have health insurance, tell her she needs to get down to her local Medicaid/Passport office the next day. In some places there is a lengthy wait to see an OB/GYN and you want her to have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Encourage her but be realistic. You don’t have to do this all at once. You have nine months, but it is best to start the planning early. After medical care, other things to think about are adequate housing, adequate transportation (sorry, car seat ain’t going in the back of that Mustang).
  • Talk to her about realistic support services. If she is going to depend on her mother to watch the baby while she works, she needs to ask her mother and clear this up right now instead of the day after the baby is born. If she is going to need money from her parents/family/church, she needs to let them know now, not 2 weeks before the hatchling emerges. That is unfair to the people in her life.
  • Make her aware that not everyone can do everything she may need. Know your own limits. Tell her she must accept the limits of everyone else without anger or entitlement. Offer to do what you can and be upfront about what you can’t. For example, I am not a person who would be comfortable or competent babysitting. It’s OK for me to be this way and it is OK for me to tell her upfront.
  • Throw her a kick-ass baby shower, as much a finances allow. Do encouraging things during the pregnancy, especially if the sperm donor is not around. Be happy to feel when the baby kicks even if it grosses you out. Send her cards or e-mails that are encouraging. Celebrate just as you would a wanted, planned and expected pregnancy because she may not be getting much support from family, friends or church. They may view her as an evil, single whore who shamed everyone she knows (shockingly, some of these will be the same people who protest abortion outside clinics or “counsel” on the sidewalk).
  • Reassure her when she feels down. This is a hard thing she is facing. If you haven’t been through it, don’t make pointless statements like “I understand,” because you don’t.
  • Most important, LISTEN when she talks. This is the problem with CPCs. They don’t listen. They are on a mission to save the fetus. Period. Make sure you always let her know she is most important, even late in the pregnancy.
  • If she changes her mind and decides to terminate, support that as well
  • Don’t take her to a CPC. They don’t care about the woman in spite of what they spew. The sole goal of a CPC is to get that baby born. Once they realize she isn’t having an abortion, most help will vanish.

What to say when she regrets an abortion:

  • Tell her you are sorry she is hurting. Listen to her. Let her take the lead in how much she wants to share, how much physical comfort she needs and how much she needs to cry. Let her know that this is about her.
  • Encourage her to speak to a licensed psychologist and a psychiatrist because this may not be about abortion at all. It may be about a medical condition that needs to be treated with medication. It may partially be about the abortion, but there may be many other issues that need to be dealt with by a professional. If she simply MUST go to one of those healing religious retreats that never seem to heal, then encourage her to get checked out for other conditions before it’s off to the guilt classes.
  • If she wants to go back and talk about how she could have had the baby, remind her that it is easy to forget just how hard her situation was when the decision was made. Ask her to talk or think about how she would have handled all the issues that would have come with going to term.
  • Listen! Listen! Listen! and remind her that she is not a bad person for taking care of her own health care needs. Remind her that even if she really, honestly regrets the abortion that very few of us get through our lives without regretting major life decisions. It’s part of the human condition.
  • Let her talk as much as she needs to and as much as you have time to listen. Also remind her that many people don’t regret the abortion, but regret the events that led up to the abortion (like going home with that dude from the bar that night and failing to use a condom).

No, no I have not forgotten about men.

I know there are men who regret that their pregnant partner had an abortion or that they participated in it. Yes, I have actually had these conversations with male friends, although I admit my knowledge is less than dealing with women. Mostly my advice is the same here.

  • Tell him you are sorry he is hurting. Listen to him. Let him take the lead in how much he wants to share.
  • Remind them of the things that were going on in their life at the time that would have made having a baby an unwise idea.
  • Tell them that there is no such thing as a “they” who are pregnant, only a she. While he may have been stuck with child support, he doesn’t do anything when it comes to gestating and birth. This means that the ultimate decision belongs to the person who has to do the actual work.
  • Listen to them as much as they need. Again, encourage them to see a licensed psychologist and a psychiatrist. It may not be the abortion they are mourning. They may have other medical issues that need to be addressed with medication, or they may have other issues along with the abortion regret that need to be dealt with by a professional, not some other dude working out his own guilt by leading a group where more guilt can be heaped on the man.
  • Encourage them in the future to discuss this issue with their potential partner ahead of time. Is it awkward?  Yup. It was for me and I was a silly 19 year-old college student who had to initiate this conversation with a grown man years older than me. Both the man and woman should be honest. If abortion is not acceptable to a man then he needs to say so up front and not have sex with this woman. Same thing for the woman. On the other hand, if the conversation goes like mine did, which basically consisted of me telling him there was no way I would jeopardize my future with a baby when I probably didn’t want kids at all, then you also don’t have sex. If one party can’t accept the other’s choice, it’s time to go home and masturbate because there is either an abortion or a baby when a pregnancy occurs. There is no compromise.
  • Remind the man to use birth control-EVERY SINGLE TIME-until he is at a point where he and a woman have agreed it is time to have a baby. This will help him avoid the situation in the future. It is perfectly fine to be sympathetic and honest at the same time.
  • Remind him that regardless of what is said, promised or agreed, it is always her choice. Always. If he can’t accept this fact then he needs to not have sex.

I make no claims of having any sort of professional credentials. My advice is nothing but my free advice, which means it is probably worth what most free things are. Nothing. I’m sure the antis will froth and moan because my answer to every unplanned pregnancy is not to rush them to a CPC. I’m sorry. I think those places prey on women. I think they barrage them with guilt and religion when what they really need is somebody to listen and help them reflect.

The (almost) last thing I will say is, and this is just a personal thing for me, I never answer the question “what would you do if it was you” with what I would do. I am not them. I will never be them. I will never live their lives. I will never have their problems. It doesn’t matter one rat’s ass what I would do for the above reasons. Helping somebody work out a solution is a great thing, but trying to tell them what to do, or what you would do, or what your great aunt’s cousin’s dog did is not helpful.

The only person that any of us should be concerned about when they come to us with an unwanted pregnancy or abortion regret is that person. They are the only ones who have to live their lives, and no, I don’t think religion-based guilt trips are the answer to any of the above problems.

Pearl-clutch away antis. You aren’t the only people with answers to unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. You aren’t the only people who are sought out for advice. In fact, I think most of the time you don’t have any answers besides just have the baby and feel guilt for the rest of your life if you have an abortion.

 

Buffer Zone Laws

I’m sure you already know the Supreme Court is debating whether or not buffer zone laws are legal for abortion clinics, or if they violate the First Amendment.  I’m a bit disheartened and already tired of reading about it ~ tired of worrying about it.

I am afraid we’re going to lose this one.

Not that it makes any difference, here in Louisville.  We don’t have a buffer zone , and absolutely no expectation of getting one.  So my level of frustration and anger about the way this is going may be inordinately high.

It’s frustrating that the media acts like the protesters are just a few elderly women, gently “counseling” the clients as they pass by.  Maybe that’s what it’s like in Massachusetts.    In Louisville, we don’t just have a couple of “harmless old ladies.”  In Louisville, even our “old ladies” aren’t particularly harmless – they can be mean, nasty and physically aggressive.  The rest of our protesters are the poster children for “Reasons to have Buffer Zones.”

350-reasons-why

If the buffer zone law is overturned, think about how much louder, more verbally aggressive, and more obnoxious our protesters may become.  I know, that’s  hard to imagine, but it could happen.  And they’ll be cocky about it.  You know they will.

Sigh…

But that’s not what really gets me.  What really gets me is that IT’S NOT FAIR!  People SHOULD NOT have to put up with being harassed and being intimidated on the way to the doctor.  It’s WRONG!!  They should feel safe – and be safe!  The court is SUPPOSED to PROTECT people!!

{I think I mentally stomp my foot a couple of times while I’m thinking that, which is about as close to a tantrum as I get.  In real life, I might throw in the F-word too. Supposed to FRIGGING protect people!!}

Then this annoyingly reasonable voice in my head says, “Right, it’s not fair, life’s not fair, the fair comes in August, blah, blah, blah.”   That same voice says, “It would be nice if the court were able to protect people, and keep them from being harassed and intimidated, but that may not happen.  If it doesn’t – if they overturn the buffer zone laws, what can we do to push back?”

Sigh.  Ok, if I have to be reasonable… here’s what we do.

We keep working on the laws.  We keep fighting the injustices that are introduced in the legislature over and over.  We keep finding ways to support people who need abortions, financially, by helping with transportation and interpreters and childcare.  We keep speaking out to reduce stigma.

But on the sidewalk (where it’s going to be a delightful 19 degrees tomorrow morning) how do we stay focused, how do we continue to be ok, no matter what happens?  What do we offer the clients ~ the ones who pull their hoods up, the ones who cry, the ones who laugh, and the ones who yell at the protesters as we walk with them?

Sigh…

We do the same thing we’ve been doing; we offer the same thing we’ve been offering.  A calm, supportive presence.

It doesn’t matter what they do.  It doesn’t matter if there are buffer zones or not, it doesn’t matter if the protesters are meaner, uglier and nastier than they’ve ever been before.  All we have to do is be there.

All we have to do is hold space for the clients to be empowered as they walk to the clinic.  To work to de-escalate situations.  To stay calm, purposeful and focused.    Just like we try to do every week.

I’ll carry those words tomorrow like a mantra.  Hold space for the client to be empowered… De-escalate situations… Stay calm, purposeful and focused…  It won’t be easy, but I can do that.

Rethinking Rainy Days

Rainy days are usually a challenge for escorts. There always seem to be a lot of antis who like to come out and carry their umbrellas. We dodge the pointy accessories as much as we can, but it can involve tricky maneuvering.

It was pouring down rain one morning recently. Escorts had on their raincoats, rain pants and ponchos. It was surprising to see D as the only anti there for almost 30 minutes and she was sitting in her car.

We were able to approach three cars without any interference before 715a. Then we got really lucky and the doors to the clinic were opened early. They were opened as a kindness to the clients so they wouldn’t have to wait in the rain. The added bonus was we were able to bring more than half of the clients for the day into the lobby before the other antis showed up with their umbrellas.

There were 11 antis there without much to do since we had been able to do so much escorting before they even got out of their cars. Of course there were the usual speeches from the regulars, but it was actually funny to watch them lower their umbrellas to stand under the overhang. They grouped around under the overhang talking to each other and trying to engage escorts.

Then they would see a client and raise their umbrellas and start off. We just walked out into the rain and met the clients first.

I may have to revise my thinking about rainy days. They are not so bad after all.

Keeping Score

We published an article last September titled “Myths About Escorts.” One of the myths we examined was the one where escorts keep score of clients entering EMW and celebrate a “win” when a client leaves AWC (the CPC) next door. I pointed out D is the one who carries a handheld tally counter daily.

Hand Tally Counter

It still isn’t a sport where points are won depending on the count of clients entering a particular building. Reproductive rights are not a game. The decisions people reach about a pregnancy will impact their lives and the lives of their families. Abortion is just one of the decisions clients may make about their healthcare. Escorts try to make access to abortion easier for clients, but we do not try to persuade anyone to make a decision based upon our beliefs. This is a concept the antis never seem to grasp.

One day last month a client and two companions entered the clinic without incident. Shortly after 8a they all came back out. They walked to their car parked close by at the curb, but before they could reach it the anti MW stopped them. Then we saw MW put her arm around the client and talk to her. They talked for a couple of minutes before all three walked back up the sidewalk and into AWC.

During the approach by the anti and the walk back into AWC, the escorts did not interfere. We just observed what was happening without comment. We respect the client’s right to have a conversation without interference.

We left for the day shortly after they entered AWC. When I got into my car D yelled into my closed window, “You lost one.” Her look was triumphant and volume was loud.

This always gets to me. D had just dehumanized the client by converting them into a score in a game only one side is playing. Her unspoken message I heard was, ‘you lost by one point.’ Even though D keeps a counter at hand to tick off the clients going into the clinic and keeps her own score, it still isn’t a game.

We don’t know why the client left the clinic and neither does D. Maybe their mind was not made up and they needed more time to think about their decision. Maybe they didn’t have all of the paperwork they needed. Maybe….maybe….the list could be long. Only the client knows why they left.

I am not sure why, even though D has witnessed similar scenes many times, she doesn’t realize yet it is all about choice for the escorts. We support any client in any decision they make about their pregnancy. The last thing any escort would want to do is coerce someone into doing something they are not sure about. We realize clients are capable of making their own decisions, including deciding who to talk to about their pregnancy.

We respect and support whatever decision they make.

Sidewalk Snippet ~ {8/26/13}

I met the client and companion on the corner close to the clinic, explaining to them the clinic wouldn’t be open for about 5 more minutes. As we talked I let them know they could stand by the clinic doors until they opened and the antis would not cross the property line, but they would talk to them. The client said, “Oh no. I don’t want them to talk to me. Can we just walk around?” I said of course, and suggested a bench about a half a block away and the opposite direction of the clinic; letting them know I would signal them when the doors opened.

They said they would do that, but as we were talking D was approaching us. They were waiting for the traffic light to change when D started. The client and companion crossed with the light in an opposite direction just to get away from D. “Just stop it! Leave me alone!” were some of the things the client shouted to D as they crossed the street. Watching them from a distance, I saw they did work their way to the bench we had discussed earlier.

When the doors did open, I walked to the bench and escorted them to the clinic doors. The client was crying and still upset. They said “This is hard enough. I can’t listen to them.”

They thanked me for walking with them and apologized for using foul language earlier. I assured them those words are ones that circle in my mind a lot, but I just don`t say them out loud when I escort. We chuckled a little over that and were almost to the door when D started again. “Don’t kill your baby. You need to be a real man and stand up for her.”

The client got into the door safely, but we could hear them break down crying as soon as they were inside. The curse words circled inside my head again.

Birds of a Feather?

I was going to do a whole blog post about abortion and depression and the fact that there is no such thing as Post Abortion Trauma Syndrome.  I was going to talk about the research review by the American Psychological Association that shows that most women experience relief and happiness after their abortion.  I was going to cite some data and talk about the factors that contribute to risk for psychological problems after abortion.

I wanted to start with a video of Donna saying this line she uses.  I’ve quoted it here before ~ it is one of my very favorite “most horrible lines I’ve heard.”

So I was delighted when the escort who took this video gave permission to use it here.  It does, indeed feature Donna, and she says her line right away, as if she had agreed to perform for the blog.

But then she goes on to say so many other things, by the time you get to the end, you may have forgotten the beginning.  It’s a long video ~ 3:45 ~ which shows you the reality of the sidewalk.  Periods of silence broken by Donna talking at the door of the clinic or lecturing the silent escort videotaping her.

Do you remember the beginning?  At the very beginning, Donna is talking to the client ~ or to the door the clients have gone through.  She says:

“Honey, they only want your money.  They’ll take your money, kill your child, and turn you loose to a lifetime of regret.”

Sweet, huh?  And here’s the kicker.  One of the four risk factors for experiencing emotional distress after an abortion is exposure to anti-abortion picketers.  Big shock, right?

I always thought that might be the case.  That these so-called sidewalk counselors were actually causing harm ~ and they are.  Not just in my opinion, not just from what we know intuitively, but also based on the data.

Let me back up ~ actually, the best predictor of whether or not someone will have psychological problems after an abortion is how they were doing before the abortion.  If you already had mental health problems before, you’re more likely to have them afterwards.

The research shows that most people are relieved and happy after an abortion, with a minority who experience depression and guilt afterwards.    And there are four significant risk factors for that ~ I’ll just mention them here, because when I learn something, I like to make sure everyone else knows it too.  According to the APA,  ” …the most methodologically strong studies…showed that

~  interpersonal concerns, including feelings of stigma,

~  perceived need for secrecy,

~  exposure to antiabortion picketing, and

~  low perceived or anticipated social support for the abortion decision

negatively affected women’s postabortion psychological experiences.”1(p. 92)

And really, those things are all common sense.  But it’s still nice to know that the data supports what seems likely.

Donna, of course, doesn’t stop with her first line in the video.  She goes on to have a little chat with the escort who’s doing the video.  Wait, not really a chat with her, more like a chat at her, if you know what I mean.  But in a soft voice, as if it is an intimate chat, Donna says:

“Remember when I told you how your persona would change?  You’ll be looking like these old women.  You’re young, honey.  Think for yourself.”

Right.  Listen to Donna – that’s thinking for yourself.  And what old women is our young escort going to look like?  I’m a bit offended ~ was she talking about me???

But Donna goes on:

“Don’t give in to this culture of death.  Use your brain.”

Then she talks about the fetus dolls and the picture of the supposedly ten week fetus.  “Is your heart so hard already that you can’t even think straight?” she asks.

There is a silence ~ that’s how it is on the sidewalk after most of the clients are in on weekdays~ long silences  punctuated by one of the antis talking at the escorts or at the wall.

The video moves to Camera Joe, who is taking pictures of the escort taking pictures.

Donna says, “You don’t have to ever come back here again.  Is this what you do for socializing?  Is this the “birds of a feather?”

“You don’t have to waste your time or your film on me.  There’s enough film existing on me to do a two hour movie.”

Now there’s a thought, right?  A two hour movie of Donna on the sidewalk.  What would we call that?  But she goes on.

She says, “Think for yourself.  Don’t buy into this culture of death.”

“Look at this little baby at ten weeks,” and she holds up the fetus doll.”  “How can you deny that these are children being murdered in here today?  And you’re a party to it.  You are aiding and abetting the death of unborn children.   It’s very sad.  Think for yourself.”

The video ends on that note, although I’m sure Donna went on.  There are all kinds of things I could say ~ funny commentary on her little lecture, speculation about the title of a 2 hour movie featuring her ~ but I won’t.

Instead, I want to go back to the beginning of the video, and the risk factors for psychological problems after abortion.   It’s clear that the protesters on the sidewalk are actually causing harm to people seeking abortion.  But it’s also clear how we can help.

Every time we publicly express our support for abortion access, we reduce the stigma.  By stepping forward to say we’re in favor of women making their own decisions about reproductive health, we can actually increase the perception of support, and by doing that, reduce the risk of psychological difficulty afterwards.  Our willingness to speak out can make a difference to the 1 in 3 women who will access abortion in their lifetime.

Letters ~ and More

In my last blog post, {not the last one posted, but the last one by me} I mentioned the letter that had been published in our local newspaper, and our response to it.  Kirsty wanted me to share the letters here, and I’m glad to do that.  Here’s the letter originally sent in:

CIVIL DECENCY

There may be no more contentious place in our entire city than on the sidewalk of Second and Market streets every Tuesday through Saturday morning. Before the sun even peeks out from the eastern horizon, locals begin converging in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center. There they take their positions in what has become a nationwide culture-war for over 40 years. They come at 7 a.m. because the abortion issue means more to them than sleep, convenience or blissful apathy.

But far too often, proponents on both sides arrive with scowls of anger and moods that in their younger days would have required extended periods of “time out.” Simply put, these principled agitators come cranky, and they often stay that way. I will readily grant them their right to act like spurned adolescents in public — even in the name of truth or justice; but I cannot pretend that forgetting the meaning of the word “civil” in civil society furthers either cause. Perhaps we didn’t really learn everything we needed to know about life in kindergarten…

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013307130039

When I first skimmed through it, I really was convinced he was just talking about the protesters, but then someone pointed out that he says: “proponents on both sides arrive with scowls…”   AND he said that we come “cranky,” which ~ you know ~ being the author of The Cranky Escort, I sort of took personally.  Besides which, I don’t arrive cranky, if crankiness happens, it’s after I’ve been there for a while.

So we put together a response.

CIVILITY AND COMPASSION

In response to the July 13 letter about civil decency, we, who wear orange vests emblazoned with “Clinic Escort,” want to explain why we come to the sidewalk at 2nd and Market streets five days a week. We come not to agitate, but to provide safe passage for women and their companions who are seeking reproductive health services. We come to create a space on the sidewalk that is not blocked by people or signs. We always ask permission to walk with the women and never assume that they want us or need us beside them.

Our goal is to de-escalate the atmosphere on the sidewalk. In that spirit, we prefer not to engage in conversation with the protesters. We try to ignore the comments and taunts that are leveled at the women, their companions and us. Our goal is to be a calm buffer when the protesters yell at the windows and doors of the clinic, wave pamphlets in the women’s faces and broadcast their sermons on amplifiers.

We are not on the sidewalk to make a political statement. We are not there to engage in discussions of reproductive health issues. We are not there to change anyone’s opinion. We are on the sidewalk to support the right of women to access safe and legal reproductive health services. Our goal is to do this with civility and compassion.

Our hope is that one day we will not be needed on the sidewalk at 2nd and Market streets. Until then, we will be there five days a week, 52 weeks a year for the women and their companions who come to the clinic.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130719/OPINION02/307190031/Letters-Civility-guardian-angels-Trayvon-Martin-case-Yum-Center

Thirteen of us signed it, although they could only publish one person’s name.  Interestingly, it  didn’t generate a lot of hateful responses, and it felt good to respond and see it published.

In other updates, I participated in FtbCon, the on-line conference, and think it went well.  Here’s a link to the part we were involved in, just in case anyone wants to watch it:  I have to tell you though ~  we had a technical glitch ~ Bree and I were presenting together, and so we met at my house for the actual event.  My microphone wouldn’t work right ~ which was really annoying, because I’d tested it ahead of time and it had been fine.

So in a moment of near panic, {on my part anyhow}  we realized that her mike was picking up my voice, and we just ran with that.  What we didn’t think about was that this strategy meant it looked like she was talking when it was really me.

But there were some interesting other panelists and I think our material was good ~ we were examining the protesters claims that abortion causes psychological harm or that “women always regret their abortion.”   I may write about that too sometime, it’s interesting research.  But not today.

Finally ~ the last post I wrote was right after the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict on George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin.    I didn’t mention that in my post that day.  And it might seem like it doesn’t have anything to do with reproductive rights or escorting.  But it does.

Misogyny ~ the War on Women ~ and Racism are a result of the same patriarchal power structure.   They are inextricably bound, and first of all, I want to acknowledge that ~ it’s the least I can do.  Those issues are part of a larger tangle of social justice that includes classism and  marriage equality and able-ism, cisgender privilege and a variety of other issues, all of which involve one group of people telling another how they “ought to” live, or one group setting the standard for what’s “normal.”

There is so much more I could say ~ about my own privilege, and how that contributes to the problem, about intersectionality and the importance of recognizing it, and about the ways we can take action.  But that’s way beyond my scope today, and maybe not ever for this blog.

Today, i just need to acknowledge that what happens to Trayvon Martin, and how we respond to George Zimmerman, affects us all.  And I want to provide this link for other white people who are also interested in using our privilege to stand against racism.  It’s the least I can do.