Who are the Legal Observers?

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Who are the Legal Observers?

Many people have noticed Legal Observers on the sidewalks around EMW Women’s Surgical Center over the past 3 years. They are wearing caps and/or badges that say, “NCAP Trained Legal Observer”. They carry cell phones and take notes. Who are these people? What are they doing? Are they taking photos of people who have appointments at EMW?

NO, they are not taking photos of people going to the clinic. They adhere to strict guidelines not to take photos of any patient or companion. If you see them with their cell phones up, rest assured they are not taking photos of you entering the clinic. They are taking photos of the protesters and escorts. They do not carry any other cameras either.

The Legal Observers are not connected to any escort group. They are present at the invitation of the clinic staff on the recommendation of the National Clinic Access Project (NCAP). Their focus is the safety of the patients, their companions, clinic staff and escorts.

They will not approach patients for conversation and cannot act as an escort for any patient and/or companion.

What are they doing then?

The Feminist Majority Foundation established NCAP in 1989. It was modeled on the observers for the National Lawyers Guild. These observers are documenting interactions of everyone on the sidewalk. The documentation is reported to the clinic, LMPD and NCAP with their notes on any threats or violations of laws.

Why won’t they talk to me?

The Legal Observers are neutral observers at all times. They have pledged to be strictly non-engaging with anyone on the sidewalk while observing. If someone asks them persistently what they are doing their standard reply is, “We are legal observers. We are not reporters. We are just observing and not interviewing. We don’t want to discuss anyone’s viewpoint.” If they are asked what NCAP stands for, they will reply, “Google it.” Then they will walk away and not have further discussion with the questioner.

When are they present?

Legal Observers are present each week and sometimes a couple of times a week. They are only on duty in the early morning. The clinic relies on their surveillance cameras when they are not present. The Legal Observers are an extra layer of protection for people wanting to exercise their right to an abortion.

Some good news from EMW…

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EMW Women’s Surgical Center and the Kentucky Reproductive Freedom Fund refuse to back down in the fight to protect women’s access to constitutionally protected, safe and dignified reproductive healthcare. As we await the verdict in 3 federal court cases and continue to legally challenge  relentless new legislation, there is an immediate step you can take personally to ease the burdens placed on women seeking care at the only licensed abortion clinic left in the state. 

Current state laws and lack of access to care require many patients to travel hundreds of miles to EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Patients then endure hostility from anti-choice extremists as they enter and exit the clinic for counseling and procedures. In the last two years, there has been an escalation of aggressive behavior towards patients and volunteer escorts.

EMW would like to provide designated parking for all patients seeking healthcare at the clinic to reduce emotional trauma and increase the safety, security, and convenience of patients and volunteer escorts. By making a taxexempt donation to the Kentucky Reproductive Freedom Fund you can help alleviate this additional burden.

Donations may be made anonymously either by check or online. Designate your donation to parking expenses by earmarking your contribution as “EMW parking”.

https://cflfund.net/
netcommunity/ky-reproductive-freedom-fund

CAN I GET AN ABORTION IN KENTUCKY?

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Yes. You can.

A great new resource just hit the web! This one stop info source has get info for how someone seeking abortion care in KY can access the care they need. There is so much mis-information out there, seeing this site (chocked full of accurate and helpful info) was  quite refreshing! Check it out and share it in your communities so folks will be able to find this info if they need it!

http://www.canigetanabortioninkentucky.com/

Sidewalk Snippet – Never Assume

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Today was a slightly chaotic morning with new church members coming out to scream and preach at escorts and clients alike.

Many of us this morning were working multiple stations on the sidewalk making sure it went as smoothly as possible for clients and companions with appointments.

One of our wonderful escorts had to leave and go to work. As he walked down the sidewalk taking off his vest he encountered a client that asked to be walked in.

He immediately agreed and was accompanied by two additional escorts that were wearing vests for the walk down the sidewalk.

Not two minutes had passed since he had been wearing an orange vest escorting in front of the antis when his group of four approached the property line.

Five of our most persistent daily protesters then swarmed the 3 approaching escorts and client. Pleading with the now vest-less male escort not to kill his baby, take responsibility be a man, and if you love her you won’t let her do this.

The client entered the clinic and the three escorts turned back thinking about the assumptions and judgment the antis make every day on people they know nothing about.

Stepping back for the Bigger Picture

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By now if you own a computer, a smartphone or have even walked past a television set in the last 24 hours you have seen coverage of individuals from the Covington KY Catholic School on the news.

I want to step back a little further to cover what many news outlets will overlook.

The reason this individual was in Washington DC is getting lost among the outrage of how he treated Nathan Phillips, Omaha Nation Elder, and Vietnam War Veteran.

The ugly things they chanted to him, the smug entitlement in their faces, attitudes of complete contempt for individuals unlike themselves. All this is so very familiar to me.

Covington Catholic High School students went on a school-sponsored trip to Washington DC for the annual March for Life, held every year around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

I am a clinic escort at the only abortion clinic in Kentucky. I have seen this very same behavior day after day for years now from individuals just like Covington Catholic students. The same despicable behavior, bigotry and callous disregard for others.

During the week it’s usually older men and women, representing many church denominations. On Saturdays they bring their young kids, teens. Sometimes large groups of religious families or fundamentalist churches will make an event of it.

Catholic churches and schools in the area organize field trips to Louisville for this purpose often with Archbishop Kurtz in attendance offering full support and encouragement, as we’ve written about before.

Once a month Kentucky Mountain Bible College offers a field trip to the abortion clinic. This allows students to get up close and personal with their harassment. Other churches and extremist groups frequent the sidewalk as well.

They chant, scream, stalk, loom and block individuals trying to make their way down a public sidewalk to a doctor’s appointment. This harassment has been documented, but is often tolerated as well.

Many people of all faiths, plus non believers are dismayed that religion is being distorted so badly to allow and even encourage this kind of hate.

For many, the raw display of racism in the news yesterday was shocking. How could they laugh and film? Where were the chaperones? How did their parents raise them? How could good Catholic kids do this?

That’s just it….

This is exactly what their elders do.

They have learned intolerance and hatred from the very people who raise and educate them.

Are you angry and upset that this type of harassment, verbal abuse and shaming still happen in 2019?

Are you willing to look at this from all angles?

Are you willing to tell others that everyone from all races, ethnicities, and beliefs deserve bodily autonomy?

That regardless of your personal beliefs no one should face this discrimination , intimidation and harassment?

Have you read this far? Then please do me one more favor, ask for a safety zone around abortion clinics to allow folks accessing care a little more physical space than the Covington Catholic students allowed Nathan Phillips.

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Not so spooky Pledge-a-Picketer wrap up!

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We want to extend a big thank you to everyone who pledged and gave to this year’s Halloween edition of Pledge-a-Picketer! It’s not too late to play along if you too want to support abortion access by giving an amount based on how many extremists showed up at the clinic this weekend. Click the link above for details on how to make your gift.

and now…….

Here are the numbers…..

Oct 26

  • 24 Escorts
  • 34 Antis – 28 adults 6 kids

Oct 27

  • 39 Escorts
  • 50 Antis – 35 Adults 15 kids

Why are we publishing escort numbers?

Well, we have one loyal supporter of access who has been so impressed by the strength of the clinic escorts, they are working on their own personal pledge based on the AWESOME turnout in support of access here in Louisville. Stay tuned for a special post on that in the coming days.

We love our providers. We love our escorts. We love access to care, on demand, and without apology.

Thanks again!

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Pledge-A- Picketer, Spooky Halloween Edition!! (well, almost)

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Here we are again.  Operation Save America (OSA), under the banner of Operation Save Louisville is going to be in town October 26-27th.  You remember OSA?  The group that was arrested and tried for blockading the clinic in May of 2017?   Well, they are coming back to try to intimidate patients, staff, and escorts, tie up the sidewalk, and make a general harassing nuisance of themselves.

Want to help?  Consider Pledge-A-Picketer

Make a pledge for every protester that shows up. That way the bigger the crowd the more money we raise for abortion access in KY. Historically our community has donated between $.05 to $1 per protester. You can cap the amount of your donation. You can make a block donation regardless of crowd size.  Remember, this is also 40 Days For Harassment….ERRRR… Life AND there will be kids on the sidewalk, and you know we count them too!  In fact since it is Trick or Treat time, kiddos on the sidewalk will be a double donation!   So if you pledge a dollar a kid and there are five kids?  The donation is 10 dollars!  Boo!

To make a donation, fill out the form here. Share the link, ask your friends and family and raise your voice against anti-choice violence by raising funds for abortion access in Kentucky!

 

An open letter to Kelley Paul

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When a Reproductive Justice colleague, fellow Kentuckian, and friend sent a link to this CNN article featuring an “open letter to Senator Cory Booker” shortly after it hit the web, there were a few layers of irony (and expletives) that we had to unpack before settling on how to respond.

What stood out immediately is this quote:

“Preventing someone from moving forward, thrusting your middle finger in their face, screaming vitriol — is this the way to express concern or enact change? Or does it only incite unstable people to violence, making them feel that assaulting a person is somehow politically justifiable?”

What’s striking to me is that these words could be my own, were I making an argument for why we need a Safety Zone in front of Kentucky’s only abortion clinic. If you read our blog, you know that these kinds of behaviors are common, and protected under a thinly veiled claim to “free speech”. People who value free speech AND reproductive freedom know that while sharing opinions and information might be harmless, there is a line that is crossed when demonstrations escalate and we start to see things like blockades, trespassing, assault, threats, and property destruction. We see these kinds of behaviors regularly on Market Street in Louisville, and are told that aggressive protesters are within their rights, and that the volunteer escorts, patients, and their companions outside of EMW Clinic should expect these attacks.

So I have to wonder: why should elected officials who work hard to earn the votes of their constituents be shielded from this “passionate free speech”, while people going to the doctor are subjected to it without consent, almost daily, as though it’s part of a punishment they must endure? How else can people attempt to hold elected officials accountable when they will not acknowledge messages like #CancelKavanaugh, and #BeBoldEndHyde? We know voter disenfranchisement, fraudulent campaign practices, and falsified elections are not imaginary concepts, so until we can trust the electoral process, it seems like other tactics are in order.

There are laws, and resources in place to allow safe passage of elected officials from say, the airport door to the plane, or the grocery store to their driveway. Shouldn’t everyone on our public sidewalks have the protection of the law when extremists are attempting to deliver a message using words and (potentially violent) actions? Where is the balance between safety and expression? Free speech and autonomy?

While brave people like Dr Christine Blasey Ford risk everything to protect our constitutional rights for decades to come, it only seems appropriate that individuals would want to also use their voices to send a message to Senators. I’m not sure why Rand Paul would seek office if he is unwilling to listen to, and represent Kentuckians.

To be sure, Senators Paul and McConnell, Governor Bevin, and other GOP legislators have no problem creating laws that restrict the freedoms of people wanting to control their reproductive lives.

Perhaps those not willing to fulfill the responsibilities of representing their constituents should have a seat. Plenty of fresh, brilliant, justice minded folks are ready to take over.

#GiveForGoodLou

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We want to take a moment to lift up a great opportunity for our local ally organizations.

This Thursday, September 13th is Give For Good Louisville Day!

This local day of giving is hosted by the Community Foundation of Louisville, and is a friendly competition among area non-profits to see who can bring in the most donations. What are they competing for? A slice of over $340,000 in bonus grants! Any non-profit in the Louisville area is eligible to participate, and locals have a lot of fun supporting their favorites. We want to highlight reproductive health, rights, and justice groups that we plan on supporting…… and, yes it’s true that among the 540 non-profits, there is at least one #FakeClinic and other anti-choice groups, so our hope is that by supporting the following groups, the antis will be less likely to get a piece of that prize pool 😉

Hyperlinked for easy access!

  • ACLU of Kentucky – has a dedicated Reproductive Freedom Project, goes to the mat against Bevin n them every time.
  • Kentucky Health Justice Network – runs a practical support Abortion Support Fund providing funding, transport, lodging, language interpretation, and childcare to folks facing barriers to abortion access. Also has a Trans Health Fund, and Birth Control Access program.
  • Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – does Repro Rights outreach and advocacy and offers faith based, all options pregnancy counseling.
  • A Fund, Inc – provides funding assistance through abortion clinics for Kentucky residents.
  • Kentucky Home Birth Coalition – working to expand birth options, and pass pro-family legislation that will allow CPMs to be licensed in KY, improving maternal health outcomes.

Donations can be as little as $10, and can only be made between midnight and 11:59pm on 9/13/18. Follow #GiveForGoodLou to see if our faves WIN throughout the day!

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I’m Glad You Asked

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It seems everyone today has an opinion on reproductive health choices and access to legal abortion.

Escorting at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, assisting clients get to their appointments with as little interference/harassment from anti-choice protesters as possible, my mind is constantly engaged and thinking. So when this screen capture taken off a video Operation Save America posted and I read that comment from a viewer, I pondered on it.


What was I thinking as I calmly stood there that Friday morning, while Rusty Thomas of OSA (in town for a federal court appearance) bellowed, roared and shamed clients, companions, and escorts alike that morning?

I thought back to May 13, 2017 when this man in front of me chose to break federal law and cross the property line, sitting down with about a dozen followers blocking the entry doors until eventually peacefully removed by LMPD after many polite requests and invitations by the officers went unanswered.

I thought about the dynamics I was watching that Friday morning among the anti-abortion protesters. I watched when the cameras came on and when they had an audience, they kicked it into high gear, yelling shaming, preaching.

I thought about theatrics they love to present: escorts as stone-hearted, cold, uncaring people and themselves as poor put-upon saviors.

I thought about the perception their viewers must have when they watch these videos. I wonder if viewers know how much of a show it is to recruit donations and support?

I thought about the distortions they offer, the narratives they speak when they claim a save. In reality sometimes clients or companions tell them just what they want to hear so they will be left alone.

I thought about clients having to come back for a second appointment because they were tricked into the CPC next door and missed their originally scheduled one.

I thought back to last July when we had a very temporary buffer zone and Federal Marshals on hand. How much safer clients felt when they did not have anti-abortion protesters in their face, blocking their path, leaning over and separating them from their companions.

I thought about Rusty Thomas’ court appearance that Friday morning. I wondered if a federal judge would even think about weighing a First Amendment right to free speech versus the safety of citizens trying to just go to their doctor’s appointment?

I thought about how difficult and how politically weaponized someone who wishes to maintain their bodily autonomy and access the legal right to terminate a pregnancy has become.

I thought about the many difficulties people who choose this option overcome just in getting to the clinic.

I thought about the spectacle to have a small strange man in a cowboy hat yelling at them as they approached the doors, shaming them for the decisions they choose to make for themselves.

I thought about if we accept one person’s decisions and choices in life may not be ours, but those are decisions that must be left up to each individual, what they feel and know is best for their family.

So yeah, thanks for asking. I wish you’d take the time to think it over as well. Too many times one only sees what’s presented, not the whole picture.