TOEtel

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In our short two weeks of counting intentional trespasses, we documented multiple incidences over the property line.

They were repeatedly defiant of common courtesy and boundaries that are clearly marked and indicated. Painted boundary lines and closing in on personal space, leaning in inches from clients while shaming them were seen. Even when asked repeatedly to back off, get out of their face and don’t block forward progress.

They use their size to crowd, loom and intimidate individuals accessing reproductive healthcare.

The clinic was open 10 days for this fundraiser. Here are the results:

  1. 37 times a foot was over the property line. That’s a 185 toes!
  2. 5 people stepped over the line on 5 different days.
  3. One protester put toes over the line 21 times!

We thank all of the protesters for raising funds for abortion access.

We will be sending you the total due for your pledges, whether you pledged by the toe, the person or the day. Let’s get those piggys in the bank!

Devising a plan

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“I think there are ways for people to get safely to those facilities, if they just figure out a plan,” explained Cindi Fowler, Metro Councilor for District 14 at a recent Cafe’ Louie Event. 

Upon being asked about her take on safety legislation, Councilor Fowler admitted that there ARE hostile environments surrounding healthcare facilities, however, it was up to the client to protect themselves. This is in light of the Louisville Safety Zone campaign pushing the council to pass it’s ordinance, which would establish a 10’ buffer zone in front of healthcare facilities targeted by physical harassment and violence. 

Fowler referenced a large parking lot, which I presume refers to the 15 spot gated and barbed wired parking lot where the clinic’s employees park. With growing numbers of protesters;and escalating aggression, directing patients to the back parking lot will increase safety risks, not to mention reinforcing the stigma connected to back alleys and back door entrances. 

The most egregious remark made by Councilor Fowler is her suggestion for patients to “figure out a plan,” while dismissing the planning that already takes place for those accessing abortions in Kentucky.  

An immense amount of planning is required before driving to the clinic. The graphic below from Third Wave Fund is a bit outdated, and not specific to Kentucky, but it is a helpful tool for understanding the planning involved.

How much planning does it take?

  1. The clock is ticking as soon as they learn they are pregnant. They must schedule an appointment as soon as possible, as the development of the pregnancy determines the procedure required, and subsequently the cost. Abortions at EMW cost between $700-$2050. 
  2. Patients have to gather the funding for the appointment. Some people seek funding from nonprofit organizations, because most KY residents’ health insurance will not cover the procedure at all. Many patients seek loans, or make tough decisions about which bills to put off. Some delay care, not realizing that the price of the procedure may increase over time.
  3. KY law mandates informed consent take place at least 24 hours before the abortion – because lawmakers do not trust pregnant people to know what care they need. 
  4. Time off work, and childcare arrangements must be made by most patients.
  5. If the patient is a minor, KY law requires a parent to come to the appointment and give consent for the abortion. If the teen cannot gain parental consent, they will need to go before a judge with both an attorney and a guardian ad litem representing them in order to receive the abortion.
  6. If they are traveling to Louisville for their appointment, they may need overnight lodging, especially if they are having a two-day-procedure.
  7. For medical reasons, surgical patients must be accompanied by a trusted companion to drive them home. This can be very difficult for Kentuckians who do not have support for their decision, or are in an unsafe situation.
  8. Patients are given a follow up appointment two weeks after their abortion. More planning. Another trip to Louisville. More protesters shouting hateful insults.
  9. Many patients travel from all corners of Kentucky or even other states. Some have to seek out a companion with a more reliable vehicle than theirs. Others take busses, or receive rides from Kentucky Health Justice Network volunteers. 
  10. The clinic staff warn patients about the hostile protesters, and the fake clinic that will attempt to deceive them. Patients are advised to look for strategically positioned clinic escorts upon arrival.

What planning does Councilor Fowler suggest for a patient preparing to endure a threatening crowd of protesters? 

Is Councilor Fowler suggesting the patient take matters into their own hands? Should this plan include patients carrying pepper spray to remove protesters from their personal space? Would Councilor Fowler recommend a stronger personal protection plan?

Clinic escort volunteers are trained to de-escalate tension on the sidewalk, and often ask companions to leave firearms in their vehicles, rather than carry them into the clinic. The environment on the sidewalk has already proven to be volatile. The idea of suggesting patients create some kind of plan for personal protection seems far less safe than the proactive solution of creating a safety or buffer zone,to give a clear path for entry while protecting protester’s rights to free speech and assembly. This proactive solution is common and effective, many cities have adopted safety or buffer zones and have seen a decrease in violence following an established zone. 

While all patient’s circumstances are unique, there is no way to know whether someone’s experince seeking an abortion has been easy or overwhelming. Loud and intimidating protesters being allowed to invade and violate personal space can cause emotions to boil over. This puts everyone’s safety at risk. While no one advocates for violence on the sidewalk, the environment surrounding EMW perpetuates it. 

A safety zone is a preventative measure for the benefit of all people on the sidewalk. This solution takes the responsibility of public safety off of an individual, and places it on every citizen, lawmaker, and law enforcement officer, just like in any other area of our “compassionate city”.

Oh Noes!! Whose toes are those?

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As the petty behavior and willingness to push civil boundaries of our protesters ramps up, they have taken to boldly standing on the clearly marked and painted “No Trespassing” property line. Asking them to respect personal space and private property is something they do not understand. They always reply trespassing is not important compared to their mission, but they also always make a point to do it daily. If it’s not important to them, why do it?.

They love to play their little games. But you know what they hate? What they really, really hate? They hate raising money for abortion access!

Knowing this about them, I’m going to pledge a dime a piggy for each toe over the line. Only one foot, that’s five toes! Darn only $0.50. Some of them love to plant both feet, and those are the ones that are going to put their feet into action to raise money for abortion access in Kentucky.

This photo was from a recent morning.

This individual raised a dollar for abortion access.

We have quite a few individuals who like to do this. As the pictures get documented, I will make sure to keep a running tab on whose feet won the race for the top money raised.

If you would like to Pledge Trespasser Toes, please fill out the form at the link below. All donations will go to the Louisville Clinic Escorts for supplies. There will be a follow up blog article at the end of the month with the count, some photos and information on how to pay your pledge.

2020 Pledge for Trespassing

#notcounseling by Lucien Marcato

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So… on the Louisville escort Twitter page you can read various things about reproductive justice. You can also read some sidewalk commentary. Sometimes when an anti says or does something hateful,stupid, or just weird, you might read about it with the hashtag #notcounseling.

This is done because many antis who harass people call themselves “sidewalk counselors”. But there is a new group of people who agree with us that they are #notcounseling, which is good ‘cause we couldn’t agree more.

Recently they have taken to Twitter to do a series of tweets with the hashtag #notcounseling.

Examples:

At the abortion clinic we are #notcounseling. We are offering to adopt their child.

At the abortion clinic we are #notcounseling. We are proclaiming God’s ownership over them and the child he has given to them as a gift. Both child and mother carefully knit together by the hand of God.

At the abortion clinic we are #notcounseling. We’re witnessing sex industry handlers bring their teenage slaves in under the knowing eyes of pro abortion escorts.

Hmmm….ok let’s just agree that is #notcounseling. However I feel it’s a disservice to you and the others who call themselves sidewalk counselors to not mention just a few other reasons you are #notcounseling.

So glad we agree on something!!

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling because counseling only exists with consent or a court order. Neither of which you have.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you offer assistance but support politicians who wanna cut food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and anything else someone might need after they are born.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you physically block the sidewalk to shame and intimidate people.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you yell to companions “Be a man,” as if men have moral authority over women.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you try to trick clients into the fake clinic next door.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when someone you are harassing approaches you and you trip over your own feet, cry assault, go on the local news and say “She threw me to the ground… I saw the eyes of Satan.”

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you trespass on clinic property and refuse to leave in your failed attempt to intimidate escorts.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you amplify your voice on top of your little soap box to counsel non-participating clients.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you find out an escort lost his wife and say she is worm food if she didn’t repent.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you tell someone they need a “daddy”.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you specifically target people of color and accuse them of genocide of their own race.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you see an interracial couple and shout “half black lives matter”

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you shout “ you’ll always be a mother, mother of a dead baby”

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you open carry a gun and say, “ If you’re gonna kill people you better arm up,” while wearing 3 percentile apparel.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when a client tells you they will die if they go through with the pregnancy and you don’t believe them.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when a client tells you they were raped but you still insist they carry the pregnancy to term.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you shout, “ I wonder if you’re here because of the way you dress”

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you compare an abortion to you murdering your own 3 year old daughter with an axe.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you bring your own children and use them as a prop for your own agenda.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you surround the client, scream at them, try to scare them into a complete breakdown because some are in fear of their own life.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you say, “ Let me adopt your child,” when most of you have never or will never adopt.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling trying to save the unborn while ignoring the six figures of children in foster care.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you talk about women “spreading her legs”

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you don’t support contraception of any kind.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling when you call other Christians fake Christians unless their name is Donald trump.

At the abortion clinic you are #notcounseling because anyone with sense knows that you are not there because you care about the unborn. You get a false sense of pride and power telling other people just how awful they are. It’s very sick and pathetic. I feel very sorry for your children.

However none of this changes you. You will still spout your hate, but we will keep showing up in our orange vests. We won’t back down. Hasn’t happened before or after 1973.

Family Planning Counseling from Slide Share

Minority Report: POC Experiences on the Sidewalk – by Roxanne

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This may not be immediately obvious to some people reading this, but I’m black. Just thought I should get the formalities out of the way before we move forward. If you want to get technical, I’m biracial, mixed with black and white, but for all intents and purposes surrounding my experience as a volunteer clinic escort-I am a black woman. I’m about 6 months into volunteering as a clinic escort at EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only abortion provider in the state of Kentucky. In the beginning, I thought that I would simply show up for a few hours on Saturdays, do my part, then go back home. Nothing more, nothing less. However, that thought was long gone before the clinic even opened for business on my first “Sidewalk Saturday” last summer.

While there are several contributing factors that drive my newfound passion and activism, the one that has remained my top motivator is knowing that my presence can be a form of comfort and security for some brown or black clients and their companions. The walk from the parking garage to the front doors of EMW is brutal for anyone. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s hard to even put into words-but I’m sure you can imagine what it’s like. Just trust me when I say that it is absolutely gut-wrenching. Now I’d like you to try and imagine having to walk through that hostility and harassment, but not seeing anyone who looks like you that also supports you and your right to choose.

We’re given lots of helpful information and education regarding the terrible things that antis may say to us volunteers, but I don’t think one can ever be “ready” to experience a person (a stranger, nonetheless) being so unapologetically vocal with their racism. Anti-choicers will say anything they can think of to bully escorts, clients, and companions. Most often it’s merely speculation that they concoct on their own with absolutely no facts or truth. However, if your skin is brown; that’s an obvious physical characteristic that can’t be masked or hidden by our practice of nonengagement.

Though I do get my fair share of racist comments from antis, their bullying isn’t just reserved for us volunteers. If the sidewalk gauntlet isn’t bad enough, when a client rounds the corner to the front of the clinic…it gets worse. When approaching the front doors of EMW, clients are likely to encounter cameras, loudspeakers with microphones and amplifiers, children, large graphic posters, bible readers and even the occasional opera singer. Add in a few MAGA hats and one man who always insists on showing us that he openly carries AND conceals firearms. Because that’s a totally normal thing for people to do at 7:00am on Saturday morning outside a healthcare provider’s office, right?

As ridiculously overwhelming as that sounds, it doesn’t end there for our black and brown clients. Just when you think you’re through the worst of it, nearing the waiting area located on the opposite side of a set of glass doors, you hear someone shout at you, “Black Lives Matter, even on Saturdays!! Maybe not to you though!” That comment never fails to send a jolt through both clients and companions alike. Sometimes I actually can see a person’s body begin to tense in anger. Other times, they’re so caught off guard that a random white man would have the audacity to use something created FOR and BY us as an opportunity to push their own agendas and hate.

I’ve heard antis say some of the worst things imaginable, just to list a few:

“This place is a KKK Paradise! A black doctor killing black babies! I bet the KKK loves that!”
“Honey, don’t you know that this place is the leading killer of your people? They kill more black babies in there than guns.”
“Doesn’t this remind you of slavery? This place kills the most Afro American people!”
“You’re not standing with black women, you’re leading them to murder their babies and have guilt for the rest of their life, you’re just wicked.”
“Sweetie, do you know who Margaret Sanger is? You should Google her.”
“See, that’s why most of you black people are ignorant.”

On one occasion an anti randomly and rather loudly shouted the n-word (Yes, a HARD R) with absolutely no context whatsoever. Six months in and I am still baffled by their antics every single time I step onto that sidewalk. I regularly remind myself that they choose to spend their time harassing and shaming people who are simply attempting to access care that they are entitled to as an autonomous person.

A few weeks ago, a fellow escort paid me what I consider to be the greatest compliment I’ve received in the time that I’ve been volunteering. This escort was my walking partner on that chilly December morning, and together we walked a handful of clients through the 3-ring circus that I have described in this article. As we were returning to our station at the parking garage, my fellow orange vested friend said:

“I am so glad that we have you here. The immediate connection you have with clients of color is an awesome thing to witness. I felt like I didn’t need to say anything at all because it was obvious that there was an unspoken trust between the two of you. That is something most of us will never be able to provide, so thank you for being here.”

And that, my friends, is why I will continue to proudly put on my orange vest for as long as I am physically able. I like to tell clients as we’re walking “If they’re here, we’re here” just so they know that we’re there for them, and I am confident that every single one of my fellow escorts share that commitment. If me simply being present helps ease anxieties or provides a sense of comfort to a person while they are exposed to that level of harassment—how could I not?

Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon! We’ll take a candid look at intersectionality and explore ways to best approach the issue of underrepresentation by POC within the Reproductive Justice space, specifically clinic escorting.

Sidewalk Snippet – Show and Tell

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CW: contains potentially disturbing images

Over the years I have seen some interesting, graphic and unusual props anti-abortion protesters will bring to the clinic.
Of course there’s the usual graphic posters enlarged thousands of times for maximum visual effect. And the ever common plastic fetuses, sometimes in an array of colors to represent all races.

On some of the bigger protester turnout days I have even seen a casket with a baby doll on display.
One protester wanted to get in on the visual prop parade so bad it seemed he plucked a picture off his living room wall before he came down to the clinic.
Today was a first. It was a plastic replica of a femur taped to the sign pole outside the clinic.
We even got a detailed explanation on what it represented. More on that this weekend. I have a longer blog post to write about it so it all makes sense to those that were not present this morning for the wild explanation.

Sidewalk Snippet – It’s Always Something

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It’s always something back at the garage behind EMW to disrupt the peace.

Many mornings preachers from various anti abortion cliques from the local area bring their portable amplified equipment to stand at the garage and preach.

They seem to enjoy the sound of their own voices echoing off the multi-level concrete garage.

Those mornings escorts stationed there are often subjected to personalized Bible readings creatively distorted out of context.

When clients park and exit on foot for the block and a half walk to the clinic, the amplified harassers quickly fall into step behind them and then proceed to verbally assault them in the name of free speech to the clinic property line.

Often times these walks are balancing act of escorts quietly reassuring clients, while gently deescalating companions from wanting to shove the individuals following on their heels preaching at them still mic’d up and amplified from a distance of only a few feet.

Today it was not the usual annoying disturbances. It was a car with an alarm going off repeatedly on the second floor of the garage.

Making ample use of the acoustics and clear morning air, it paused briefly every now and then before starting another 3 minute screech fest.

The bright side to this is it did not confront escorts or chase clients down the sidewalk.

Intentional Cruelty

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In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to decline to hear an appeal of Kentucky’s medically unnecessary narrated mandatory ultrasound law, I want to share with you one of my most heartbreaking mornings as a Louisville Clinic Escort. I have spoken of that morning just a few times with trusted friends. Although it has been more than five years, the day will forever haunt me.

For me, it started like any other weekday morning on the sidewalk. I greet my fellow escorts. We take note of the various protesters out that morning and then decide how best to take positions so we will be visible and available for arriving clients and companions.

Many clients have driven for hours to their appointment that morning; negotiated confusing exits and one-way streets; have successfully located the clinic on Market Street and are now searching for parking. That’s a lot of what I do: non-exciting, run-of-the-mill, give directions to various parking lots and garages. The CPC next door has their own private parking lot and deceptively encourages arriving clients to park there with these signs:

This morning my position was to stand in the alley behind the parking garage. It’s a confusing setup as that entrance is for monthly passes only, not day parking. I then explain to frustrated drivers how to get to the main entrance off of Jefferson Street. I directed a car to the correct entrance after they had circled the block twice and were visibly upset. They just wanted to get out of traffic and get parked. I told them I would meet them at the back entrance of the garage with the rest of the information I had for them.

As the pair approached me, I identified myself as a clinic escort and introduced myself. We had a few minutes before the clinic opened and stayed at the parking garage where it was quieter until we got the notice the doors were open. I told them what to expect from the protesters as they make their way to the clinic entrance. It’s an unsettling experience that has become routine for me, but is very intense, chaotic and frightening for many clients.

Sometimes clients will want to share their reasons for needing an abortion. I never ask. It is not my business. I listen because they need to talk. Some want to explain. Some just want to tell another person without fear of judgment. Others choose to share with me more personal stories, many of those are emotionally devastating.

The client that morning introduced themselves as Adrianne and her mother Rose.** This was Adrianne’s first pregnancy and she had been excitedly looking forward to motherhood. Earlier the previous week Adrianne had gone in for a routine check up and ultrasound to see if they could determine if the pregnancy was a boy or a girl. That’s when Adrianne’s planned world exploded in a million shattered pieces.

The news received was the fetus had fatal anomalies and it was dying. In a scramble to consult with other experts to confirm the initial diagnosis, they were in a race against time and the gestational limits set for terminations in Kentucky. Since Kentucky only has one abortion clinic left, mandatory wait times and appointment availability makes scheduling an abortion a desperate race against time. It took my breath away. I was devastated for them knowing what they would face in just a few minutes.

Adrianne was remarkably calm when explaining this to me while also comforting Rose who had flown in just hours earlier to be with Adrianne for the appointment. Rose told me she had not slept much since finding out. Rose was terrified about possible health complications Adrianne could be facing.

I then sadly told them they would hear some of the most awful, cruel things said to them by people that did not know their situation, and did not care. I told them I would walk with them the entire way; they could hold onto me; they could hide behind me; they could use me in any capacity they needed to get through the protesters. I would get them safely to the clinic door. As we set off for the walk to the clinic, I quietly braced myself for the verbal onslaught I knew was coming.

A long-time daily protester masquerades as a sweet old lady. It’s quite an act. I’ve seen her in action for years now and know exactly how she operates and can almost recite word for word what she will say. As we turned down the sidewalk on Market Street to head to the clinic this protester approached. With a soft pleading voice, pamphlets in hand begging, coaxing and cajoling them to make another decision and just go to the CPC next door for another opinion. “What could it hurt? You need all the information. You need a second opinion. You don’t have to do this today.”

The closer we got to the property line the more biting the words became. This protester always saves their most disgusting verbal assault for those last few steps clients and companions need to take to get to the door and into the clinic. “Grandma. what are you going to tell your daughter years from now when she asks you, ‘Mom why did you let me kill my baby?’ She’ll always be a mother, honey. She’ll just be the mother of a dead baby.” Those last words flung at us from a distance of less than 18 inches for maximum emotional impact. It’s a tactic they all use: intentionally cruel, intentionally provoking, vicious verbal assault in the name of free speech and their deity.

I reached the door and held it open for them. As Adrianne stepped in the lobby, Rose, the one running on almost no sleep; devastated for her daughter and the loss of her first grandbaby; the one who was needing comfort at the garage; stopped and turned to face the intentionally cruel protester who spoke those words.

Rose did a transformation I have rarely seen in my years of escorting. With two steps back towards the protesters, Rose let loose with what I can only describe as a primal, heartbreaking roar. She shouted inches from the protester’s face, ” IF MY DAUGHTER DOES NOT HAVE THIS ABORTION I WILL LOSE MY BABY”

At this point, I am standing at the door stunned about what just happened. trying to comfort a sobbing Adrianne as she is crying for her mother to please come in. Adrianne says through tears streaming down her face, “They don’t understand. They don’t care. They’re just cruel. Please come, Mom. I need you.”

I quietly went over and spoke in her mom’s ear, let’s go in, let’s get some space. Your daughter’s calling for you. The three of us stepped into the lobby and shut the door behind us. At that point we were all sobbing, our arms wrapped around each other huddled up. I was devastated for them. I kept apologizing for what they just endured. Adrianne was again comforting Rose who was pleading with me for answers. “Why are they allowed to do this? Why can they get so close to us? Why don’t they leave us alone when we asked them to? Why does Kentucky think this is okay?” I didn’t have any answers. The only thing I could do was keep apologizing saying I hoped it would change. I hoped that more people would understand what it’s like trying to access abortion services in states hostile to abortion. I looked at both of them and said I will do everything I can to try and change it. I will try to make it one less horrifying, traumatic episode to an already devastating day that I knew was full of more legislated inaccurate shaming obstacles to overcome.

Here I am, 5 years later, finally able to put into words what I experienced that morning. Still fighting. Still using my voice to share what it’s really like to access necessary medical care. And in those five years, it has gotten worse. Clinics around the country have been vandalized. Anti-choice individuals have targeted and massacred those providing and seeking healthcare.

We also now have an administration that is venomously against bodily autonomy and working to strip even more from individuals wishing to end pregnancies. The laws, the inaccurate, inflammatory rhetoric spewed by the individual in the presidency, by his followers, and by those claiming to speak for their god, all aimed at people trying to access healthcare. Even the city of Louisville does not see this as a problem and is dragging their feet on the most basic, minimal safety zone for patients accessing medical care in their state.

So yeah, it’s intentionally cruel on so many levels. I’m going to continue to do my part in making this world a safer, kinder place, We need it.

———-
**These are not their real names. They are random names to protect the client’s and companion’s anonymity.

Sidewalk Snippet – Donuts

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As clinics and states make the news for extreme restrictions and lack of access to abortion, more people across the country are taking notice.

For escorts a simple thank you, or a kind gesture, goes a long way in diluting the hate that gets spewed our way everyday when we guide and allow individuals to be empowered as they make their healthcare decisions at Kentucky’s only remaining abortion clinic.

This morning was a pleasant surprise as escorts arrived to fresh donuts provided by a reproductive justice activist and Every Saturday Morning blog reader from New Mexico.

But as always, you never know what’s going to set off antis into a tirade. This morning it was body shaming escorts and those eating donuts.

It seems their entire purpose is to ridicule and shame individuals in the name of their religion for personal decisions they make, whether it be donuts or abortion.

Sometimes you just shake your head and wonder how anybody has that much hatred. Unfortunately, that’s just a Tuesday on the sidewalk in Louisville Kentucky.

Sidewalk Snippet – Overheard

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“Every Tuesday morning” they hissed quietly at the friend walking with them.

“That one right there,” they gestured pointing up the sidewalk.

I turned to see who they were talking about as they walked past.

“Same thing every week, assuming I am going to the clinic. I’m just trying to get to work, I don’t think he’s ever looked at my face.”

As the conversation trailed off I watched as they continued down to the crosswalk.

Sure enough, the preacher with the loudspeaker gets in front of them yet again.

Because he does not see them as a person. Only an individual capable of pregnancy.