Mother’s Day, at an Abortion Clinic


LOUISVILLE, KY — It’s
7:20am when the client parks. The car is surrounded by people, two are
blocking the doors, one is shoving brochures against the windshield,
three are wearing orange vests. As the door opens, everyone starts talking
at once and mostly it’s nasty. The client is overloaded. Someone in
an orange vest steps out and says,

Mother’s Day at an Abortion Clinic from Stuart Productions on Vimeo.

Mother’s Day bring out protestors in large numbers at abortion clinics. An abortion provider for twenty years, from the Wench Self-Care Health Collective in Louisville, KY, describes what it’s like and why she does what she does.

"Hi,
I’m with the clinic.  Would you like an escort?"

"Yes,
please."

The
next minute is a blur of shouting, plastic dolls, god, pamphlets, and
rosaries as twelve people swarm the client. Four people in orange vests
link arms and nearly circle the client while moving through the crowd.
Near the doors they see more signs, there’s a crib full of rosaries
and a woman holding her own infant out as some sort of offering, there
are teenagers speaking tongues and a sullen group of men with red tape
over their mouth.  

Walking
past protesters holding signs, dodging people shoving pamphlets at them,
clients of the only abortion clinic in Louisville often ask, "Why
do they do this?"

There are as many answers to this question as there are to "why do
we escort?" In this context, motivation isn’t as important as perception
and effect. Mother’s Day brings out 500 protesters compared to the
40-70 we see weekly. Anti-choicers rally around Mother’s Day to assert
that the only valid choice in motherhood is to carry all pregnancies
to term regardless of a person’s goals, resources or experiences.
The spectacle created outside the clinic makes a statement of judgment
and stigma, not compassion.  

As
escorts, we struggle to be supportive of clients and their companions
while realizing this isn’t the place for political rhetoric. We recognize
politicking loses sight of the needs of individual people.  We
walk a fine line between wanting to stand up against the ideals of anti-choicers
and not adding to the confusion.

We
continually question our role as escorts and what that means. Essentially,
escorts are there to tell anti-choicers that it’s not OK to bully, judge,
and harass people for any reason. Clients make the decisions and we’re
just there to absorb the knuckles and smashed toes meant for clients.
The two minutes we have walking with a client are about their needs,
not what we think they need.

Lining
the sidewalk, signs and billboards proclaim abortion is "America’s
genocide."

"Stop
killing all the black babies," escorts are told.

"Y’all
are as bad as Nazis" is aimed at those of us with Jewish features.

"Be a real man, protect your woman!" gets yelled at men.  

To
improve access to all reproductive health services, we must address
the racist, hetero-normative and classist paradigms surrounding abortion.
Anti-choicers use these models to ignore the continuum of women’s
experiences, reducing the range of issues surrounding parenthood into
trite rhetoric. Computer classes and diapers won’t make a difference
in most people’s decisions to have an abortion.

We
fight against a machine with resources that dwarf ours even in these
times of "Hope and Change." The Reproductive Justice movement doesn’t
have billboards, glossy prints, ultrasound machines or time off everyday
to attend the clinic. We do have some mismatched orange vests and a
lot of hope. While things may be promising in Washington, at the corner
of 2nd and Market sadly we don’t see any change. Even without
a global gag rule, people aren’t talking about abortion. Misinformation,
cliché and guilt saturate available health resources today. These themes
dominate the circus outside our clinic.  

Back
on the sidewalk we approach the property line. We stop along with 
protesters, allowing the client to walk through the doors of the clinic
on their own. An escort closes the door behind the client barely muffling
noise from protesters. 

Emotional
manipulation and coercion are as real a barrier to reproductive and
sexual health care as waiting periods and consent laws. Unfortunately,
there isn’t much escorts can do to shield clients from attacks on privacy.
We simply strive to empower people around their reproductive and sexual
decisions. 

Escorts
stand shoulder to shoulder, bound to strangers in an effort to offer
a kind word or two to clients who are exercising their right to make
a compassionate, informed, responsible decision, a motherly choice.
The choice is if, when, and how many children to have.  

It’s
our hope this Mother’s Day all women having abortions get breakfast
in bed, flowers and chocolates too. 

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To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    Fortunately things are not quite as bad for those of us who are patients, clinic staff, and escorts in the Washington, DC, area as they are in Louisville, but the shouting, crowding, nasty words, and signs are the same. We escorts do all we can to reduce the distress of patients and staff who face this harassment.

    If you live in the DC/MD/northern VA area and want to learn how to become a nonviolent clinic escort, check out the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force http://www.wacdtf.org

  • invalid-0

    I have always found it to be supremely amusing that I had my abortion a few years ago on the day before Mother’s Day…and my mom’s the one who drove me to the clinic and took care of me at home afterward. She laid in stocks of my favorite foods and DVDs and nested with me on the couch in a pile of blankets watching our favorite movies. It’s stuff like that that makes me laugh when anti-choicers try to say “Your mom is pro-life cause she had you!” No, my mom is pro-MY-life and since the best thing for my life was not becoming a mother myself, she supported me in that.

    On another note, I wish I lived somewhere where I could be a clinic escort. Well, I wish nowhere *needed* clinic escorts, but I would like to help and be part of that for those places that do.

  • invalid-0

    When I got my abortion, I was met by the escorts from wacdtf and they were wonderful in helping my husband and me get thru the crowds. Bill you and your team are amazing people and I just wanted in hopes you read this comment to know that I felt very helped and protected by you guys, thank you so much! And Jadelyn keep strong and keep talking about your experience the antis would like nothing more than for us women who have had abortions to keep quiet. Great post!

  • everysaturdaymorning

    WENCH can be found at http://wenches.wordpress.com/.
    And Clinic Escorts can be found at http://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/.
    What is access like in your town?

  • progo35

    “Let’s our hope this Mother’s Day all women having abortions get breakfast in bed, flowers and chocolates too.”
    Ummm….for being a mother to whom? Her aborted fetus?

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Progo35, I don’t know where you fall in the whole anti/prochoice lines but your comment seems insensitive to women who have had abortions. Alot of women come to this site seeking support and care after an abortion and your comment at least the way I read it seems mean and childish. Sometimes the most responsible thing a woman could do is get an abortion. Oh and btw, in most abortions first trimester, it isn’t a fetus more of a collection of cells. Why don’t you get your facts and science right before acting all righteous.

  • progo35

    I think that probably sounded a little mean, which isn’t what I intended, but it really is a question because I think that wanting women who have abortions to get flowers and chocolates on mothers day is sort of like "wanting to have your cake and eat it, too." Also, wouldn’t it be insensitive to approach a woman who has had an abortion with flowers and chocolates on mother’s day, as if to mock her decision and the consequences to the fetus? That’s what I was responding to.  

    Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    As the mother of 3 dead aborted children and 0 alive ones, I can tell you that it is a very sad day indeed. At the time I aborted, I was only 3-5 weeks along, so they were only a “blob of cell”. However, as the years go by, and it is approaching 30 years now, the reality of what I did becomes more real. This mother’s day is the saddest, darkest and most grief-stricken yet. When I had my abortions, I felt relief. But today I feel pain, grief and emptyness. Abortions only temporarily stops the panic of imposed motherhood. Eventually the pain comes back to roost in the hearts of mothers of dead chldren. The fruit of abortion is not chocolate, flowers, breakfast-in-bed, gratefulness. The fruit of abortion is pain, aloneness, loss. Unhappy Mothers’ Day.

  • invalid-0

    Can the kill mill stop for a holiday or must the machinery crank out the detritus of sexual equality 24/7? How about it? Oh feminist lord, we pray to you to not permit abortion on Mothers Day each year. If you show such kind benevolence we will end the pro life movement and you can continue your obsessive frenzied maniacal goal of male sexual freedom. Heck, we’ll even throw in fourth trimester infanticide with help from your old friend, Semantics, and relabel a baby to be a fetus through three months post birth (just in case you don’t like the kid). How about it? I know you’re tempted.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for capturing the heat of Mother’s Saturday at the clinic. It is always a struggle to get my head around that bizarre dance between car and clinic door. I applaud you that have done this for so long and manage to stay sane, calm and empowering.

    As I was recruiting these past two weeks, I heard from four different women who support the efforts but couldn’t bring themselves back to the clinic. Yes, back. They had all been clients at one or two points in their life. But it wasn’t the procedure or any sense of guilt or remorse that kept them away. No, they couldn’t trust themselves to face the gauntlet of protests and judgments without lashing out at the obstruction and harassment that traumatized them when they were clients. So to those that will stigmatize abortion as damaging and traumatic, I present you four women comfortable with their choice to abort yet traumatized by the vehemence and condemnation of ignorant strangers.

    Escorts try to shield people from this trauma. And the clients I have spoken to are boundlessly thankful for the work the WENCHES do.

  • progo35

    I was born in Louiseville Kentucky. So, if my biological mother had aborted, this is probably the clinic where I would have met my end.See "Unlanned Person" diary entry.

  • invalid-0

    As of 2004, 61% of women obtaining abortions already had one or more children at home, according to the Guttmacher Institute. I’m guessing those women who have had abortions and who are also mothers have had their cake and eaten it too yet still deserve flowers and chocolates on Mother’s Day. Having an abortion and being a mother are not mutually exclusive.

  • invalid-0

    had sex in a different position during my conception, another egg might have been fertilized and I wouldn’t exist. Oh woe is me!

  • progo35

    Right, but she didn’t, so you were conceived. And then you existed as an organism. From a scientific standpoint, we are the same organisms that we were whe we were conceieved, just as a catipillar is the same organism when it transforms into a butterfly. Thus, if someone smashed the catipillar’s cocoon, or aborted you in utero an organism that already existed would have ceased to exist.  So, not existing today because one never existed is not the same as not existing today because you did exist and someone stopped your development by aborting you. 

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • progo35

     Hi, Anon,

     

    I am sorry about your pain.  If you have asked for forgiveness, God has already forgiven you and you will see your children in Heaven.  Please be at peace.

     

     

     

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • mellankelly1

    As of 2004, 61% of women obtaining abortions already had one or more children at home

    I am one of them. I had one child at the time that I terminated my pregnancy and I’ve had two more children since. I got breakfast in bed this morning & flowers (no chocolate though… so I suppose I haven’t "had my cake" today.)

     

    PS to progo: your post came across as if you are envious of the women who get to "have their cake & eat it too." Quite a bizarre sentiment.

  • progo35

    "Envious?" Please. THAT is a bizarre extrapolation from what I wrote.

     

    What I was talking about was this statement: 
    "It’s
    our hope this Mother’s Day all women having abortions get breakfast
    in bed, flowers and chocolates too," which, presumably, includes women who are having abortions and have no children at home.

     

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • mellankelly1

    Ah. Thanks for clarifying that you were speaking of the 40% of women who were not mothers at the time that they terminated a pregnancy. I must admit I still find your sentiment rather strange. I’m curious also as to whether anyone has the link to any site which gives stats for the number of women who have children after terminating a pregnancy.

  • progo35

     Now,that’s an interesting topic, now that we’ve cleared up what I meant. Of course, many women do, as did my biological mother, because she had an abortion before giving birth to me. Of course I’m not suggesting that any subsequent children she may have had shouldn’t have given her flowers and chocolates on mother’s day. Mother’s Day is for mothers, not women who used to be mothers who had abortions and are no longer mothers.

     

     

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    From my 17 year old niece. Her right wing mom approved of abstinence education and keeping her child in the dark about birth control. I gave my niece that education, telling her about all of the ways to prevent pregnancy, because I knew that she was seeing a boy and it was getting to that point. I told her to use birth control EVERY time if she is going to have sex, even though of course it isn’t 100% foolproof. I gave her a booklet all about it too, which she has to hide from her mom. She thanked me for going over it all with her, and when she called me on Mother’s Day, told me that I am like a second mother to her. AWW! A postive mom image, because all her mother does is scream at her and try to restrict her and keep her a child. She cannot WAIT to go to college far away to get away from her mom. That is what right wing religious moms can inspire.

  • invalid-0

    You continually question your role as escorts? That sounds like you continually question your decision to be one rather than just questioning what your roles as escorts mean (and you’ve answered the latter rather fully to be asking that, either). I sure hope it’s not the former, since it’s very honorable work to protect threatened freedoms.

  • invalid-0

    “Mother’s Day is for mothers, not women who used to be mothers who had abortions and are no longer mothers.”

    Sorry to tell you that you’re NOT a mother simply because you become pregnant. One becomes a mother through the wanting and the caring for a WANTED child.
    THAT is a mother.

    • progo35

      BBC-

       

      If you actually read my former posts, you will see that I am speaking in response to the statements, "we are protecting our clients right to make…a motherly choice." and, "Our hope is that women recieving abortions get breakfast in bed, chocolates, and flowers too." The first statement implies that the woman involved is acting as a mother by choosing an abortion and therefore not bringing a child into the world, and the second implies that all women getting abortions, not just mothers getting abortions, should get honored for Mother’s Day. So, I’m responding to the implications in this article. 

       As for not being around to care, I am here, nonetheless, and I do care. What am I supposed to do, just be totally okay with the idea of my life being snuffed out in utero? Maybe that’s all fine and dandy for you, maybe you had the luxury of being a "planned" child, but not all of us do, and I think it’s ridiculous not to feel uncomfortable with the idea of one’s own extinquishment, whether or not we would be around to regret it today. 

       

      "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

      • invalid-0

        As for not being around to care, I am here, nonetheless, and I do care. What am I supposed to do, just be totally okay with the idea of my life being snuffed out in utero? Maybe that’s all fine and dandy for you, maybe you had the luxury of being a “planned” child, but not all of us do, and I think it’s ridiculous not to feel uncomfortable with the idea of one’s own extinquishment, whether or not we would be around to regret it today.

        There’s nothing wrong with thinking about this, Progo35, but what others have been getting at is that this kind of concern is inherently after-the-fact. You can’t have been very worried about being aborted at the time that it was possible. The whole “but what if you had been aborted?” line used by anti-choicers is a hypothetical that carries no weight as argument, because to the person asked to consider it, there is no difference from the question, “but what if your parents never had sex that night?” Or, for that matter, “what if one of the other millions of sperm cells had reached the egg first?”

        There are billions, possibly trillions of people who were not-conceived, after all. How do you suppose they feel about not-existing?

  • invalid-0

    If you never existed you WOULDN’T BE AROUND TO CARE.

    Thanks for playing.

  • invalid-0

    Anonymous (or should I say right wing troll)
    If you are real – maybe you should get some counseling or anti-depressants or something.

  • invalid-0

    I am a 44 year old woman with no children and no regrets. I had two abortions in my 20’s. In no way do I suffer any trauma from those decisions, never have. (Oh, and before you try, neither am I in some kind of denial.) I also do not consider myself to be a former mother who killed my child (or however you phrased it).
    I am, however, offended at those of you who attempt to label me & others like me as such. Yes, you anti-choicers obviously have the right to your opinion and beliefs. But you seem to believe that those opinions are some kind of universal truth that you need to convert people to. You then use that idea to judge, insult, and harass people. You do know that your behavior serves only to demonstrate that YOU are the unchristian-like ones, don’t you?
    By the way, how many adopted children do you have?

  • invalid-0

    As a newby escort, I am constantly hounding the more experienced folks for insight and answers. I’m thinking the author or authors are attempting to address the myriad of questions posed to them weekly.

    For me, I have to constantly keep myself in check and am forever asking myself a very simple yet overly difficult question, “Does this help?” Not being there, because like you said, it is our duty to defend freedoms. But the thousands of possible things to be said or actions to be taken – is “Have a good day” the best thing to say to someone entering a clinic, if I confront loud judging man, will he just get louder, will my “Duke Basketball” t-shirt piss-off a patient’s companion and make them feel less than protected?

    I know when I write about my experiences at the clinic, they are as much about critiquing myself as they are about sharing the events with others. I love reading everything I can get my hands on from others that have experienced this.

  • invalid-0

    Your article explains exactly why I am there on Saturdays as a clinic escort–because I believe the decsion is the client’s to make–not mine or anyone else’s.

  • invalid-0

    your life beating yourself up for something that obviously wasn’t meant to be ( your being a mom.) and can’t be changed. I think that you could benefit from some serious counseling as you seem to be suffering from deep depression. I hope that you learn to forgive yourself and can move on, as so many women who have been in your place have done.

  • invalid-0

    Mean spirited?? You mean the abortion clinic workers to the babies don’t you?

    It’s mind-boggling how you pro-abortionists manipulate the media so that prolifers would look like the bad guys. Who’s killing thousands of innocent babies in the name of “women’s rights”??

    I feel very sorry for that lady who was accompanied by her mother herself to the abortion clinic. It seems the moral fabric of America has been ripped to shreds as parents allow their kids to have sexual relations outside of marriage, instead of setting the proper boundaries to protect their children. Is this what you call “progressive”???

    Why has America allowed this travesty, this silent holocaust to continue to happen in this great nation??

    Stop this massive deception! For the sake of humanity, stop killing innocent human lives.

  • invalid-0

    I am sorry for your pain but it is time to move on. Studies consistently show that women who later regret their abortions were women who were emotionally unstable to begin with. These women are show simiar problems with being unhappy or regretting all big decisions (all decisions are the wrong ones). The fact that this still plagues you 30 something years later really underscores that you are emotionally unbalanced. Please seek treatment consisting of psychiatric medication and individual and group therapies. I’d also recommend complete psychological testing to ascertain your specific personality flaws which have kept you ruminating over decisions you made 30+ years ago. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it’s for the best that you are not a mom. Children need emotionally stable moms to raise them and you are not it. I would not be surprised if you have other problems such as self-mutilation, para-suicide attempts, alcohol or drug abuse, or show self-defeating behaviors in other ways too. Please do not demean the mothers and parents who have really lost children. Such as those who were abducted, murdered, or died due to illness or acidents. Children have to be born to be lost. You only lost the IDEA of a child or children. This really is all in your head.

  • progo35

    A  Human Being-

     

    How dare you suggest that any woman who regrets her decision is emotionally unstable and has made up her own reality in her head! Honestly, that is so insensitive.  You may feel that she only lost the idea of a child, but she does not, and you should respect that. Your lack of respect does not reflect well on your cause at all. 

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    I was all for this until I got to that part about being celebrated for getting an abortion on Mother’s Day. What?

  • invalid-0

    I was all for this until I got to that part about being celebrated for getting an abortion on Mother’s Day. What?

  • invalid-0

    I was pregnant and unmarried but chose to keep my baby. My boyfriend and I got married and later had another child. I was old enough and had a job so that I could have supported my child alone. I have friends who have had abortions for various reasons and I hav always supported them because they were not in a place emotionally, financially, or for other reasons where they could have a child. A fertilized egg is not a person. I find it strange that so many men are the crazed ones protesting abortions. Next time a man gets pregnant I suggest he not get an abortion.

  • invalid-0

    My wife and I were lucky in that the abortion she underwent took place in a private hospital far, far away from any religious zealotry. I’m quite thankful for this because I am afraid I would have lost my head and assaulted the first self righteous shit bird that called my wife a whore. You escorts are top shelf in my book and I sincerely thank you for your compassion. Truly it is a noble and honorable thing that you do in keeping a mob of ignorant tyranny from trampling the rights of individuals some of whom would have never even made it to the doors if it had not been for you.
    After witnessing some of these protesters first hand, I will look you in the eye and tell you quite honestly that I wouldn’t walk across the street to piss on one if he was on fire.