It’s Saturday morning, and both
sides of the street are covered with people. On one, the Archbishop with a
group of approximately sixty praying protestors, with rosaries and strollers in
hand. On the other side of the street, EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Escorts
decked in their orange vests stand side by side in front of the large clinic
window. In front of them are another forty or so protestors, signs with images
of bloody fetuses, and a lot of scripture. About forty more protesters line
both sides of the sidewalk creating a gauntlet up the sidewalk away from the
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, KY lead a large protest against one of the state’s only abortion clinics last weekend and Jon O’brien of Catholics for Choice explains that the Catholic laity are for the most part at odds with leadership on reproductive health issues.
I have stood by the door before,
blocking the attempts at eye contact with the women and men waiting in line to
check in. The shouting at the clients going in continue as they stand in line.
On other Saturdays I can stand in front of the protesters and block their view
of the clients. Last Saturday, due to the volume of protestors, we had to lock
arms at the private property line to prevent protestors from closing in at the
doorway and blocking the client’s path to the clinic entrance.
Surrounding the clients, escorts
usher them from the parking lot to the entrance of the clinic. One of the
protestors, Angela, calls out clients inside the clinic by pinpointing their
hairstyles and clothing — clear attempts at shaming.
I was of two minds. I did not want
to fuel the fire by shouting over her or being antagonistic; but I couldn’t
stand to hear her shout at women, judging them for making hard decisions. I
stood in front of her and with a cardboard box obstructed her view of the women
inside, trying to create some space. In the clinic, it was still one woman at a
time living out her life.
Most Saturday mornings there are
around seventy protestors and only a handful of escorts. After years of
interacting, the escorts and anti-choice protesters know each other, some by
name, others by reputation. Last Saturday, I saw an escort and a protestor give
each other a side handshake, like those given by boxers before the start of a
match. Some of the interactions are friendly, others are cold, all are between
people who are in that moment not facing a problem pregnancy.
Every woman has different life
circumstances. Every pregnancy produces different challenges. Escorts believe
that each client is the best judge of her own situation and has the strength of
character to decide what is best for her and her family. Who is more able to
assess the moral validity of every woman’s abortion? I certainly don’t think
it’s the Archbishop.