Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky Leads Protest Against Abortion Clinic


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
clinic entrance.


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.

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  • andyeverysaturdaymorning

    Check us out at http://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/.

    abortion is not a dirty word

  • crowepps

    Will the new bubble laws get rid of the intimidating tactic of making patients walk the gaunlet? I agree that these people have an absolute right to protest. I don’t agree that they have a right to do so directly in front of the clinic where they interfere with patients entering or exiting. In order to protect patient safety and medical privacy, they ought to be moved down the street a ways into a ‘free speech zone’. Their insistence that they must be able to ‘counsel’ the patients too often goes over the line into harassment.

    “A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose” or “Words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person.” Black’s Law Dictionary

  • andyeverysaturdaymorning

     Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of living in a city or state with a bubble zone law. In fact until very recently, the LMPD and Metro government’s de facto positions have been a staunch ‘hands off’ policy. We have seen very little involvement from the powers that be regarding clinic violence in Louisville.

    I agree, applying harassment laws would be an appropriate method for curbing violence outside of our clinic, but that would require the participation of local law enforcement. In ten years there has been one citation written to an anti-choice protester for harassment. The charges were dropped by the judge.

    The political climate here is extremely conservative, in fact SisterSong ranked KY 51 in their state anti-choice law survey. We have very little broad cultural support for helping women access reproductive health care in this state.

    That being said, we also have a long history of dedicated social justice activities surrounding reproductive freedom, racial justice and queer issues. We may not be the majority in this area, but we are a loud and solid group of  people dedicated to personal autonomy and equal rights for all, women included.    

    abortion is not a dirty word

  • progo35

    Once again…
    I was concieved an carried in Louiseville, KY. My biological mother already had one abortion. This is the abortion clinic where I would have been aborted. In my opinion, this is significant regardless of where one stands on the abortion issue.

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

  • colleen

    In my opinion, this is significant regardless of where one stands on the abortion issue.

    Why should this be “significant” to anyone but you?

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • progo35

    Individual stories are significant in deciding where to stand in the abortion debate. For instance, do we regard abortion as being no more significant than having a tooth extracted, and therefore support it’s legality as a matter of course? Do we regard abortion as something undesirable but as a necessary option for women? Are we supporting abortion because we fear what would occur if "unwanted" children were born? Are we opposed to abortion because of the loss of individual persons and all they might have achieved, had they been allowed to be born? Each person has individual worth, and regarldess of whether or not we regard a fetus as a person, we all recognize that our existence started in the womb and that our continued existence was dependent on our birth. So, everyone has to wrestle with the consequences of their moral positions. That is why individual abortions have significance to the abortion debate. "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • crowepps

    I agree with you that individual stories do help clarify discussions in the debate, however when you’re considering “the loss of individual persons and all they might have achieved” it’s necessary to remember that some of the persons lost were prevented from causing damage to others as well.

    And of course it also helps to clarify the debate if it’s reframed as the more accurate ‘should women get legal abortions safely or should abortion be made illegal and the women forced outside the law where their lives are far more at risk?’ I think a lot of people are pro choice not because they think abortion is like getting a tooth pulled or because they don’t want to deal with ‘extra children’ but instead because they don’t want to return to the old days and ‘women dying from the abortions they will have no matter what the law says’. After all, if your mother had gotten an illegal abortion for that first pregnancy and died or become sterile afterwards, you wouldn’t be here either.

  • ahunt

    and all they might have achieved

     

    Loaded phrase. One can argue that this also applies to women choosing abortion in order to "achieve" other important goals.

     

    For example, I’ve caught blurbs from the Fragile Families" longitudinal studies which suggest that single mothers of one child have significantly reduced prospects of creating a secure family life in their future.

     

    Possibly women hope to "achieve" the circumstances which alllow for solid family formation and "other" children.

  • progo35

    “when you’re considering “the loss of individual persons and all they might have achieved” it’s necessary to remember that some of the persons lost were prevented from causing damage to others as well.”

    Crowepps-that’s the fear/concern I was referring to when I said,”Are we supporting abortion because we fear what would occur if “unwanted” children were born?” I, personally, don’t go for that argument, because it boils down to such contentions as, “wouldn’t it have been better if Hitler’s mom had aborted him?” I think that that negates individual choice. Ie, yes, if Hitler hadn’t been born, he wouldn’t have been here to kill 11 million people and damage countless others, but then, that depends on how we look at human free will, talent, and potential. Let’s say that every person is endowed with certain talents, in the womb and/or at birth. Let’s then assume that Hitler’s gift was leadership. Imagine what could have been if, instead of using this gift to become a genocidal dictator, Hitler had used it to be a the great, humanitarian leader that Germany needed at that time? In this context, the problem is NOT that his mother completed her pregnancy and Hitler was born, but that, in a perversion of his natural abilities, Hitler chose to become the monster that we know him as today.

    Now, consider what could have happened if Oskar Schindler’s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, Franklin Roosevelt’s or Winston Churchhill’s mothers had terminated their pregnancies, but Hitler’s mother completed hers. Perhaps the outcome of WWII would have been different. Maybe Hitler would have won. All of this may not impact whether or not we beleive that abortion should be legal, but it does relate to how we view abortion. In my opinion, evil does not result from someone being born, but from the decisions that that person makes in their life. Hitler, Schindler, Bonheoffer, Churchhill and Roosevelt were all born, but that is not why they became who they became-they all made decisions that lead to their ultimate impact on human history.

    Similarly, I was born, and blessed enough to grow up with loving parents in a wholesome environment. But, if my biological mother and father had chosen to throw me in a garbage can instead of placing me for adoption or raising me, the problem would not have been my birth, but their actions after my birth. If, despite my parents love, I decided to go and murder someone, the problem would not have been my birth, but that I decided to murder someone.

    Similarly, I tend to view the statistics ahunt cites as more reflective of how society treats single mothers and women in general. The problem is not that their children are being born, but that those women are being prevented, through some combination of social oppression and personal decisions, from achieving all that they have the potential to be. Once again, the problem is not the child’s birth, but the decisions that are made before and after his or her birth.
    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • andyeverysaturdaymorning

    Progo,
    You have made your anti-choice stance very clear all over this blog using your personal story as an example of the potential for life lost. And I appreciate that you feel grateful for your existence.

    That, however, is not the point of this piece. Regardless of your story, or mine, women should not be shamed, harassed, assaulted or bullied by anti-choice protesters while trying to access abortion and other reproductive health care services.

    I understand and respect that you feel abortion is not a good choice for women. Good thing it is not your choice to make for those of us who think abortion is a moral and just decision. Please understand this is about personal autonomy and the whole point here is that individuals are the ones who should be empowered to make these decisions not society at large, not you and not the Archbishop.

    abortion is not a dirty word

  • progo35

    Andy-
    I also understand and respect the importance of calling attention to and preventing harassment against women seeking abortion services. Even though I feel strongly about my beliefs,I also feel strongly that that kind of bullying and harassment is mysogynistic, judgemental and wrong. So, my point in sharing my personal story is not to justify that kind of behavior.

    I also understand that properly applied, the pro choice stance is supposed to be about protecting the right to make
    personal decisions about right and wrong free of interference from other persons or the government. So, I respect that part of the pro choice stance. I would also call your attention to the fact that I support four out of five reproductive options-contraception, emergency contraception, parenting and adoption-just not the fifth option, abortion, particularly those abortions that are performed after nine weeks of gestation. If I didn’t thinnk that abortion ended an individual human life, I would support it as an option for women-my aim in opposing abortion is certainly not to restrict or confine women to traditional social roles and make decisions about other people’s sexual lives.

    But, I do think that abortion ends an individual human life, I do think it’s use to perpetuates injustice against women, minorities, and the handicapped, and so I don’t support current laws governning the legality of abortion as they are currently written. But, the real crux of my response to this piece is that I think that some people involved in the abortion debate DON’T LIKE TO THINK about the individual stories of the people who would have been aborted at the clinics they are defending. I think that considering such stories, like considering the stories of women who have suffered via illegal abortion, are important to determining where one stands on the abortion debate and how one will articulate and live out those beliefs.

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

  • progo35

    Moreover, this is the second time in only a few months that this particular clinic has been featured on RH reality check as an example of clinic protests. Every time this clinic is featured in a piece, I will remind everyone that I would have been one of the fetuses aborted at this particular location.

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