An Abortion Escort’s Blog


If one could showcase a perfect use for blogging, it would have to be Everysaturdaymorning.  The blog chronicles the Saturday morning activism of an abortion escort group as they face violent anti-abortion protestors outside of the only clinic in Louisville, KY. There is only one other clinic in the state.  In the blog’s own words:

"Every Saturday morning between 30ish and 60ish people show up at 7 am to protest at and harass women entering EMW Women’s Surgical Center.

Escorts provide emotional and tactical support to clients of EMW. We do
this by using our bodies to create personal space for the people
entering the clinic. We meet clients at their cars, identify ourselves,
ask for consent to walk with them to the door, then escort the client
and support persons into the clinic."

 

One can’t help but empathize, for with each entry you are forced to follow, through photographs, the women and escorts as they face the violent, insensitve protestors blocking the clinic. The blog also implores action simply through the emotional power of each post. 

 

Boingboing’s Cory Doctorow writes of his own experience as an escort:

"I used to do this at the Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto some weekends — my mother Roz was an early and prominent pro-Choice activist, and we were involved in the movement as a family from my early childhood. The hateful, violent protests at the clinic (which culminated with its bombing in 1992) were some of the most intimidating scenes I’ve ever been in."

We’ve previously written about escorts in Louisville here.

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  • crowepps

    Thanks so much for providing this link. The lack of respect and hatred demonstrated by some of the protestors is just unbelieveable. And, obviously, NOT effective in reaching their purported goal of stopping abortions. Events in many different arenas have proven that using intolerance and fear is totally counterproductive in reaching hearts and mind.

    If one the common ground agreements is no violence, then unbiased enforcement of the FACE act ought to also be included in common ground.

  • invalid-0

    definitely underscore the need for escorts to accompany women and girls entering into reproductive clinics for abortions. It may be that unarmed escorts aren’t adequate protection against harassment or worse against women and/or girls who’re on their way into the clinic(s) to obtain abortions, by anti-choice people outside the clinics. Regular armed security guards, or even cops, may have to be hired for the purpose of escorting women and girls who’re seeking abortion, into reproductive clinics.

    • http://bthny.tumblr.com invalid-0

      I just escorted for the second time at a clinic in my city and we had both uniformed officers and plainclothes civil affairs detectives at the clinic yesterday morning, but they didn’t do anything other than stand around. ostensibly they’re there to step in in case things get heated or if the protesters violate FACE but that doesn’t always happen. it was nice to have them there but I am sure there are reasons why volunteer escorts are used instead of police escorts.

    • invalid-0

      Volunteer escorts are best. Cops sometimes have their own agenda, and security guards (with rare exceptions) are mostly individuals who were not eligible to become cops.

      When I was an escort, once had a cop pull up and block the clinic driveway with his patrol car. I suggested to him that nobody could drive in while he was sitting there and he said, “That’s the idea.” I took his badge number and called in a complaint. After that many of the other cops were very down on us escorts.

  • invalid-0

    I started escorting in Louisville this past March. Since the assassination of Dr. Tiller, we have noticed an uptick in the vehemence and aggressiveness of the “sidewalk counselors” (commonly called “chasers” due to their chasing the clients as opposed to the “prayers” who stand and pray). But the last thing we need in this environment are guns.

    No, IMHO, and with me the H is often silent, what needs to be happening is stricter enforcement of the FACE Act. Or better yet, a bubble law – when a client says back off, everyone has to stay eight feet away from the client and their companions. This would allow for First Amendment protection of Freedom of Speech while providing free, unhindered access to a legal medical procedure.

    But the anti-choice forces are so strong in this town that any law suppressing bullying and intimidation at the clinic, no matter how well intended to serve public safety, would never pass a metro council terrified of offending the Catholic voting block and Southeast Christian Church (a mega-church disfectionately called Six Flags over Jesus).

    So this leaves us in a strange limbo. Prayers pray, chasers harass and escorts try to minimalize the chaos and empower clients who just want to go to the damn doctor. Stay tuned because this is just going to get messier!

    • invalid-0

      But the anti-choice forces are so strong in this town that any law suppressing bullying and intimidation at the clinic, no matter how well intended to serve public safety, would never pass a metro council terrified of offending the Catholic voting block and Southeast Christian Church (a mega-church disfectionately called Six Flags over Jesus). So this leaves us in a strange limbo. Prayers pray, chasers harass and escorts try to minimalize the chaos and empower clients who just want to go to the damn doctor. Stay tuned because this is just going to get messier!

      If the politicians on the city council or whatever are so afraid of losing votes that they cave in and refuse to get anti-bullying and anti-harassment laws passed and strictly enforced in order to protect clinic workers and patients who’re entering the clinic(s) to obtain abortions, then that doesn’t speak at all well for the City Council members, who’re clearly not strong enough in this case to stand up for what’s really correct.

  • invalid-0

    I’d like to take a moment to analyze a previous comment in which the author of this blurb is called out as a “lying faggot.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: The comment referred to here has been deleted.) Anonymous seems to take issue with the author’s description of the anti-abortion protesters as “violent”. Well, I am one of the regular escorts at the Louisville clinic and I can tell you that Anonymous is justified in his or her disagreement. The anti-abortion protesters are not “violent” as the author would lead you to believe. But, as indicated by Anonymous’s choice of expressing his or her disagreement, most of them are angry, hateful, and judgmental, and regularly express this in their comments to the clients and the escorts. This creates a very tense atmosphere which could “lead” to violence, and is the very reason we are there to escort the clients.
    On another note, many of the anti-abortion protesters are not the brightest bulbs in the box. For starters, they actually believe in all that Christian mythology, but as indicated by Anonymous’s comment, they can’t see the disconnect between their professions of love and their expressions of hate. And anonymous has proven his or her lack of intellect even further by attempting to insult the author by calling him a reclining bundle of sticks. Now that’s just weird.

    • amanda-marcotte

      I think a lot of people work with the narrow definition of violence that you’re referencing, where you have to actually assault someone’s body to be violent.  But threats constitute a form of violence, especially if there’s a real reason to believe they’ll be backed up by action.  Showing up to scream at women at a clinic is violence, because you’re relying on the few who do shoot and bomb to back your threats up.  You don’t even need to overtly threaten, because the levels of terrorism are such that your mere presence is an implicit threat.  

       

      Violence against women is constructed along these lines in all sorts of ways.  The reason that it’s violent when men follow you along on the sidewalk, making lewd comments and not taking no for an answer, is because they’re doing this in an environment where they know and you know that rape is real and common.  They don’t have to rape you to use rape as a weapon to hurt you.  

       

      Anti-choice protesters lean on domestic terrorists the same way that sidewalk harassers "borrow" violence from rapists.

  • invalid-0

    at this point, I’m beginning to think that if the situation really starts to get out of hand and there is an increased incidence of these kind of violent episodes perpetrated at the clinics by violence-prone anti-choicers, then they may have to resort to both voluntary AND police escorts at the same time, in order to really protect women and girls entering clinics to obtain abortions. That’s all I’m saying. It’s good that the cops were there–maybe that kept the anti-choicers from violating the law and assaulting clinic workers and patients entering the clinic(s) for aborions.

  • invalid-0

    For example, in addition to harassment that takes the form of “sidewalk counseling” by many anti-choice protesters, many anti-choicers have been involved in the blockading of reproductive clinics to prevent the patients and clinic workers from entering the clinics, they’ve assaulted and beat up patients and clinic workers, they’ve sprayed toxic chemicals into reproductive clinics, and they’ve murdered doctors who perform abortions. This is totally unacceptable, and the anti-choice people should realize that their movement has totally led to such tactics.

    There was one instance here in the Boston area back in the early 1980’s, before Operation Rescue was founded, btw. where a very emotionally unstable young man who was a Viet Nam Vet, was on his own anti-abortion campaign, which he took out on a reproductive clinic in our area. His thirteen-year-old daughter was scheduled to get an abortion at this particular clinic, and, when he learned of it, he was enraged. The man went to the clinic, went on a rampage and totally trashed the place, and his daughter never had the abortion, I don’t think. It was pretty scary to read and hear about that incident, especially because now that I really think about it, this particular incident was undoubtedly a turning point for the anti-choice movement, and somewhat of a prequel to Operation Rescue and other movements like it.

  • invalid-0

    Amanda – I understand what you are saying but I have to agree with ZMD. If we categorize “mere presence is an implicit threat” as violence, we dilute the real violence that anonymous details in their comment. We trivialize the struggles it took to overcome the violence of the 80’s when we lump obstruction, harassment, judgmental condemnation and sidewalk preaching in with bombing clinics and killing doctors. And probably most important when dialoguing, it adopts the language tactics of the anti-choice rhetoric, i.e. calling harassment violence is no different than calling a fetus a baby.

    But as an escort at this clinic, what troubles me most about this rhetoric is the negative effect it could have on any police presence we enjoy or legal help we might be able to secure. If we say violence, and the police and attorneys do not see actual assault, we lose credibility, we lose their support. Without their support, things are never going to get better for the clients.

  • crowepps

    I agree with you that you need to be extremely careful of the language you use, but under Alaska law harassment is defined:

    "AS 11.61.120 – A person commits the crime of harassment in the second degree if, with intent to harass or annoy another person, that person insults, taunts, or challenges another person in a manner likely to provoke an immediate violent response;"

    The described behavior is also known as ‘fighting words’

    Fighting words are words intentionally directed toward another person which are so venomous and full of malice as to cause the hearer to suffer emotional distress or incite him/her to immediately retaliate physically. Fighting words are not an excuse or defense for a retaliatory assault and battery. However, if they are so threatening as to cause apprehension, they can form the basis for a lawsuit for assault, even though the words alone don’t constitute an assault.

    The utterance of fighting words is not protected by the free speech protections of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The words are often evaluated not only by the words themselves, but the context in which they are spoken. Courts generally impose a requirement that the speaker intended to cause a breach of the peace or incite the hearer to violence.

    http://definitions.uslegal.com/f/fighting-words/

    Prayers and requests for people to change their minds are unlikely to be fighting words.  But when sidewalk counselors scream words like ‘murderer’, ‘whore’, ‘baby killer’, etc., at passersby, those insults may incite the client and/or her partner to violence and therefore should not be included in ‘free speech’.

     

    Personally, considering that ‘free speech zones’ off the line of travel have been found constitutional when used by politicians who don’t want their eyes and ears offended by the citizens, a bubble law would certainly seem constitutional also.  I wouldn’t want to walk through the middle of two long rows of persons I would assume inimicable to me.  Is their presence there in and of itself ‘violence’?  No, but it certainly is intimidation, just like having a mob gather and exercise their ‘free speech rights’ by screaming insults at you while their ‘freedom of assembly’ is used to justify them standing on the road in front of your house.

  • invalid-0

    “I know what you are, but what am I?”

    “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  • independentminded

    while the harassers are not to be defended, these kind of responses:

    I know what you are, but what am I?" "Judge not lest ye be judged." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    especially the first one, seem rather condescending and patronizing, which could very well severely escalate an already-nasty situation, rather than calm things down. There’s nothing that angers many people more than being condescended to, which could also spur the harassers into physical violence.

  • invalid-0

    You’re right iminded, saying these things, or really anything at all to the chasers just escalates the chaos. What works best is reassuring words to the clients and their companions, “just a few more steps, we’ll be through this”, “sorry you have to hear this this morning”, “you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone”, or my personal fave if they are in the right mindset “they do this same shit to me when I go to the dentist”.

    As escorts, we have to work to normalize this situation, de-escalate the chaos and lower the volume. We are not counter protesters and we certainly are not protecting anyone from anything. We’re body-width baffles, acoustic ceiling tiles in a debate cranked to 11. Success comes when clients get into the clinic without tears or raging outbursts.

  • independentminded

    n/t

  • http://www.netvibes.com/pharmacy-store invalid-0

    all of this is really sad to read

  • invalid-0

    Another blog about Allentown Womens Center and the need to stop bullying women at abortion clinics.
    http://bullywatch009.blogspot.com/

  • invalid-0

    Very well said, Kenscort. Escorts are not protesters, nor are they counter-protesters. For many years we had a rule never to speak to the “Anti-s,” and it worked very well.

  • http://www.ChristianEgalitarian.com invalid-0

    The best thing to do while escorting is indeed to ignore the Anti-Choice louts. And when I escort, I take it just a tiny step farther; I don’t even acknowledge their presence or existence. I disregard them just as I would a gnat or scurrying cockroaches.

  • invalid-0

    The only time I find it effective to engage the anti’s is if I can get two or three of the more aggressive chasers involved in conversation so that they forget about the clients. One day last week, we had three escorts, four prayers and four chasers. At one point I had three of the four so deeply engaged in conversation regarding the FACE Act that the other two escorts were able to get three clients into the clinic completely unmolested. It takes it’s toll but is worth it in a case like this.

  • invalid-0

    We have found it effective to let the clients know that we have protesters by the door because the label “protester” sets them on another direction. Rather than their usual banter about killing, murdering and such, they spend a lot of time correcting us. They say “We’re not protesters, we’re not protesters. We’re advocates for life.” As someone once said, if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

  • independentminded

    The only time I find it effective to engage the anti’s is if I can get two or three of the more aggressive chasers involved in conversation so that they forget about the clients. One day last week, we had three escorts, four prayers and four chasers. At one point I had three of the four so deeply engaged in conversation regarding the FACE Act that the other two escorts were able to get three clients into the clinic completely unmolested. It takes it’s toll but is worth it in a case like this.
     

     
    This is an interesting idea, Kenscort.  Anything that’ll distract the harassers without escalating the situation is great.  Sounds like you handled the situation well.  Kudos to you for a job well-done, Kenscort!  
     
    There’s only one drawback to this tactic, however, Kenscort:  The real possibility that the harassers will eventually catch on and step up their harassment of clinic patients and workers to even nastier, more dangerous levels that volunteer escorts such as yourself won’t be able to handle.  These harassers must be stopped by law enforcement people, and if law enforcement people either egg them on or sit back and do or say nothing to these harassers, it’s shameful, especially because the nastiness and dangerous, violent behaviour of some of these harassers will continue unabated.  If you’re able to keep situations like that under control so they don’t escalate to more dangerous proportions, however, then more power and the best of luck to you. 

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