Clinic Defense Over Roe


I am a clinic escort in Washington DC for WACDTF. While I have been escorting with this organization for five years, every weekend has
 its own stories.  The Roe Vs. Wade decision anniversary is a busy weekend for protests in DC, and our clinic is often on an anti-choice tourist route.
 On the actual day of ‘The March for Life’ there was little action for our clinic.  We were too far, I suppose, from the parade route, and if the metro was a decent survey on the marcher’s ability to get around DC, adding another destination would have been too hard for them to navigate.  We did have 1 tour bus show up – a motley crew of mostly 50+ aged protesters – with a pseudo preacher.  There were gems shouted like ‘Life spelled backwards is Evil’ and “they might say they are just doing a job, just like the SS were doing their job,” but the interaction from our out-of-state protesters and the local escorts was minimal. Another group in matching sweatshirts showed up only to later ask if were any other clinics in the area, presumably to protest at.  It was a light load for such a ‘special’ day, especially when so close to the Supreme Court.

In my five years doing clinic escorting, I have never gone to the protest in DC on Roe. There are often counter rallies organized by NOW, but usually I have opted out to head back into the office, or otherwise spend my time.  I think now I know why. Since I had been up since 7 I was already a bit tired and cranky. On a normal office day I am eating cereal, or maybe showering at that hour, not standing on a street in the cold, almost wishing protesters would wander by to validate the effort taken to reach my location. With a fellow escort in tow we metro’d closer in to the protest and followed the ‘Byzateens for Life’ gaggle (complete with own banner of multiple halo’d fetuses) to the steps of the Supreme Court. The scene was almost a reverse of the work that we do in front of the clinic. Pro-choice protesters were in front of the giant (and offensive) sign declaring that the U.S. would be punished for abortion, and there was a group of activists encircling the ‘bound for life’ gang. I soon joined the circle, figuring that if I kept moving I would be useful somehow.  While the chanting was invigorating, and I saw more than a few familiar faces it was an emotionally taxing experience. In attempts to break up our circle several of the pro-life protesters began to edge towards us.  I kept walking, sometimes brushing their shoulders, or sliding between but never moving my shoulders or hips so as to take up less space. This is a tactic I have to use at the clinic to buffer
women, and their friends from the shouts and ‘information packets’ that they have previously refused yet are still offered along with prayers all of the way up to the door.  When our group refused to give space the individuals on either side of us began running into us, shouting ‘baby killer’ and like so many high school bullies signing an “L” on their foreheads.  I made sure to smile during each chant, and find some balance between not giving up ground, and not agitating them to the point to attract the police on the actual stairs of the court.  After what seemed like an hour, but probably only half of that, I had to leave the circle, and mingle a bit in the rest of the crowd.  Once the earnest ‘pro life rock bands’ started I decided to leave the whole scene and practice a bit of self care to better prepare myself for 
the next morning at the clinic.

The following morning started similarly at our clinic. It was quiet, save for two local protesters for a while. Perhaps they had forgotten the significance of the date, because even our regulars had commented on the number of escorts who lined the sidewalk. Our numbers did not deter them from rushing at women holding large and wobbly hand made signs shouting about the dangers of abortion. Within a couple of hours busses were lining the street and the small lawn of the clinic, and opposite side of the sidewalk were lined with 300 protesters and prayers with a sprinkling of the tried and true weekly ‘sidewalk counselors. Their singing was better than average, for the most part they did try to stay out of the sidewalk (although there were two obstinate individuals) and few of them made eye contact with me. At the same time they shouted to each woman entering the doctors office ‘demand to see your ultrasound’ and a known anti-choice activist shouted through a megaphone about the holocaust.  The latter action seemed to even anger our local protesters who bravely went up and asked him to stop, and to focus instead on the women entering in a loving way.

I find their kind of love, to be honest, false, and oppressive. It is an insult to a woman to walk up to her on her way to appointment and claim, in no matter how nice a tone, that you know better than her. I will eagerly read the protesters take on their actions both Saturday and Sunday. The patient load was light, but it was a heavy visual of bodies lining the streets. Although, I do wonder, if the Planned Parenthood is a house of serial killing as one protester told me, why were some individuals mugging for photos before they headed home. If it was a horrific place, wouldn’t that be disrespectful and discouraged? Or is it really all a surface show?

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  • prochoicegoth

    You know, if these protesters really cared about “unborn babies”, wouldn’t they be donating their time to bettering the adoption system or wouldn’t they be nice enough to open up their home to a pregnant teen who has been thrown out of hers? They scream and shout and berate women who have chosen not to carry to term, but what do they do for women who want to carry to term, but financially cannot? They don’t really care about the “unborn babies”. It’s all about controlling others and FORCING them to bend to their warped beliefs.

    I commend you for your work and almost wish the few clinics in my area needed escorts. I would do that in a heartbeat.


    It’s pro-choice or
    NO choice.

  • erikwhittington

    interesting perspective…  there is a misconception when it comes to prolifers helping born people.  prolifers do take in teen pregnant moms needing help, prolifers are working to make adoption here in the US easier.  I can name numerous prolife friends of mine in my community who have adopted and fostered.  Prolife People give money for Hatian relief.  Prolife people donated their time and money for diapers, prenatal care, etc., etc.  I am part of a non profit medical expenses sharing program where we all help each other pay our medical expenses including adoptions.  Please, lets knock it off with these half truths.  I am open to fostering and adopting as well when the time is right (money is part of that).  heck, I’ve even contemplated holding a sign at one of these abortion facilities that read, "I will adopt your child."  Would that help dispel some of these myths?

  • julie-watkins

    But many protestors scream and threaten girls and women that don’t accept the help offered. Do you support making early abortion illegal? Late abortion is already illegal, if the fetus is viable.

    There are many women (myself includes) would not want to become mothers even with every kind of support available. (That’s why I had an IUD. When that failed, I had an early abortion and then got my tubes tied so it wouldn’t happen again.)

    I would be happier if all anti-abortion protestors were as considerate and helpful as you (I hope you are not one of the screamers) but what anti-abortion protestors do that I most disagree with is try to have laws passed that lessen access or try to make abortion illegal in all or almost all cases. For people who think things happen for a reason being born female or poor instead of male or rich is a pretty large sign of what Nature (or God) wants for you and it’s understandable why such people might have expectations of how pregnant women should act. That doesn’t (in my opinion) make the expectations less sexist and classist.

    To reinterate, if you are helping women in a way they want to be helped, I thank you. If you are trying to coerce or legally force pregnant women to continue pregnancies they don’t want I consider that sexist and classist.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Adoption is irrelevant, honestly. Antis like to play the game of “promoting” adoption, but what really would curtail abortion is better access to contraception, which the anti-choice movement fights. But yeah, they want more white babies on the market. It’s a major motivating factor for many anti-choicers.

  • kate-ranieri

    Adoption is not always the best answer for women. Credible studies and anecdotal evidence has offered the reality that adoption can bring a lifetime of regret for the birth mother and resentment and/or doubt for the child who was given up. Of course, adoptions do work and work well. But they are not the panacea that antichoicers tout. Their push for adoption, like all their other storytelling, leaves a lot of truths behind.

  • prochoicegoth

    Ok, so you help women who have chosen to carry to term. That’s great. However, not all women want to do that. Adoption resolves the issue of an unwanted CHILD, NOT an unwanted PREGNANCY. You can’t put a fetus up for adoption. Adoption isn’t a cure-all solution, especially when the woman doesn’t want to remain pregnant. 


    It’s pro-choice or
    NO choice.

  • paul-bradford

    We did have 1 tour bus show up – a motley crew of mostly 50+ aged protesters – with a pseudo preacher. There were gems shouted like ‘Life spelled backwards is Evil’ and “they might say they are just doing a job, just like the SS were doing their job,”

     

    Pro-choice protesters were in front of the giant (and offensive) sign declaring that the U.S. would be punished for abortion, and there was a group of activists encircling the ‘bound for life’ gang.

     

     

    When our group refused to give space the individuals on either side of us began running into us, shouting ‘baby killer’ and like so many high school bullies signing an “L” on their foreheads.

     

     

    At the same time they shouted to each woman entering the doctors office ‘demand to see your ultrasound’ and a known anti-choice activist shouted through a megaphone about the holocaust.

     

    The sort of tactics you describe garner a lot of attention and, in fact, characterize the entire Pro-Life movement for a lot of people; but they don’t do a whole lot to save lives.

     

    We’ve got to lower the abortion rate.  Justice demands it.  Just the same, though, it ought to be obvious to anyone that criminalizing abortion doesn’t address the root of the problem.  The root of the problem is unwanted pregnancy and the false illusion that somehow abortion is a cure to unwanted pregnancy.  Pro-Life opposition to the promotion of contraception is counterproductive.

     

    What we need is a change in attitude.  Couples contemplating sex need to have a plan in place for the care of any child they might be creating.  That’s a genuine ‘respect for life’.

     

    We also need universal health care, and more support for domestic violence prevention, and better care for preschoolers, and a willingness on the part of men to participate in contraceptive efforts.  All of these initiatives would lower abortion rates.

     

    Abortion is no solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancy, and forced birth is no solution to the problem of abortion.  Caring for the unborn is everybody’s business. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • prochoicegoth

    The root of the problem is unwanted pregnancy and the false illusion that somehow abortion is a cure to unwanted pregnancy.

    In some cases it is. In cases where a woman does not wish to remain pregnant, abortion is HER cure. It’s not THE cure, that’s true, but to some women IT IS their cure.

    What we need is a change in attitude. Couples contemplating sex need to have a plan in place for the care of any child they might be creating. That’s a genuine ‘respect for life’.

    And if that couple DOES NOT want to have children for a while or ever? Like mentioned before, abortion might be that couple’s plan. What’s wrong with that exactly?

    Caring for the unborn is everybody’s business.

    Actually caring for a fetus is the business of the woman said fetus resides in, her partner and whatever doctor she confides in, be it an abortion provider or an midwife/gyn. Since when does the entire world belong in a woman’s uterus?


    It’s pro-choice or
    NO choice.

  • crowepps

    The root of the problem is unwanted pregnancy and the false illusion that somehow abortion is a cure to unwanted pregnancy.

    Person is pregnant but does not want to be – person has abortion – person is no longer pregnant.

     

    These women do not want a ‘cure’ of their reluctance to be pregnant – they just don’t want to be pregnant and abortion ends the pregnancy.

     

    Where’s the falsity?

  • kate-ranieri

    I’m having problems with the logic of the statement you made, Paul, saying Abortion is no solution tothe problem of unwanted pregnancy, and forced birth is no solution to theproblem of abortion.

     

    It seems to me that the logical statement would be Abortion is no solution tothe problem of unwanted pregnancy, and forced birth is no solution to theproblem of an unwanted pregnancy. 

     

    So where do that leave the woman with an unplanned pregnancy? Or perhaps I’m missing something. 

  • julie-watkins

    If someone says neither abortion nor forced pregnancy are solutions, then the missing "solution" is to convince a pregnant woman to change her mind. Then the pregnancy wouldn’t be "forced".
    In other words, like everything else, the well funded think tanks are finding ways to tweak public opinion and try to retrain uppity women and uppity non-rich people so they go back to their real job, which is to make rich people richer.
    Here’s a link to an article on Daily Kos about Elizabeth Warren’s research about "The hollowing out of the Middle Class": http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/30/18943/3212
    At the start there’s a digression about Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s research about how inequality damages society.
    Thirty years of data collected from various countries has enabled them to show that greater equality within a society means better results in all of the following areas:  physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment rates, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage births, and child well-being.  They further show that continued economic growth no longer brings real benefits to countries which are already wealthy.  With reference to global warming, they argue that the creation of a sustainable economic system is also dependent on greater equality.
  • debbierlus

     

    Yes, let the financially better off raise the children of the poor and unsupported.


    Adoption is pushed by many anti-choice as the solution for women who don’t have the financial means to raise a child.  Or, the emotional means (and if this is the case, do they really have the emotional means to go through the torment of relinquishing a child for adoption).  Abortion is always depicted by these groups to be the most harmful option to women.  The trauma of bringing a pregnancy to term and going against every biological instinct to keep that child is deemed less harmful to the woman then a abortion. 

    They base this assumption on either their personal belief or they latch on to the stories of those who regret their abortion (and given the fact that these women did not have the experience of actually relinquishing a child and have no way of knowing how that would have harmed their psyche is never mentioned).  They disregard the fact that millions of women have gone through abortion and found this to be the right decision for themselves and their families.  But, that does not matter.  Any story that contradicts their own version of reality is dismissed. 

     

    The arrogance of the anti-choice movement is breath-taking.  


    Last point, I don’t give a damn if they donate a trillion dollars to any cause or adopt.  That still gives them ZERO right to push their personal agenda and beliefs on anothers reproductive decisions. It isn’t about THEM.  It is about the woman who is pregnant and what she decides.  I know they hate this –  I know they believe they should have control of another’s woman body and imprison her in a pregnancy that she does want or can’t physically or emotionally complete.  But, that is what this whole thing boils down to…CONTROL.   

     

     

     

  • saminmpls

    After Dr. Tiller’s murder last year, I made the decision to join my university’s pro-choice student group. I escorted for the first time about a month ago. I received very good training so I would be prepared for encountering protesters in an intense setting. I knew it would be emotional. What I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of resolve it gave me to commit to escorting regularly. After being there once I simply can’t ignore the fact that this is happening at every clinic across the country. When I started this process, I felt that I’d been drafted into the pro-choice movement because of my political beliefs and events like Tiller’s murder. It felt like the world had gone crazy and as a sane person I’d been forced into taking action. Now it feels like the reverse is the case. I’ve chosen the movement. I’ve become committed to it and I don’t want to just do my part for brief period of time and then let others pick up the slack.

  • princess-rot

    It speaks markedly of the still widely-held concept that female bodies belong to the community as property for service. I like to think of it as indentured community service – as if being female and (possibly) sexually active deserves punishment if it is not obvious that the “crime” (sex, in this case) is not benefiting the community at large by providing it with another human addition. It does tie in with females being expected to put everyone else above and beyond themselves, and that thinking for or about themselves is selfish/a sin. Antis have no way of knowing if any particular woman entering a clinic is going in for an abortion, a check-up, a pap smear, information, pre-natal advice, whatever. It is assumed that the unit is not functioning as it should and should get back in it’s place as servant of the community. Female antis think if they can direct the misogyny onto other women, then unhealthy obsessions over their genitalia, lives and bodily functions will be lessened, or so they can be self-righteous and feel pompous about being “better” than those “other women” while avoiding examining themselves.