Clinic Escorting, Week Two

Today was my second time escorting at the clinic. The first time, I was surprised at how calm I was. It reminded me of the state I’d felt after meditation. It wasn’t quite the same this morning, though I’m still finding it difficult to describe and express, which is why there wasn’t a post about my first time.

I stood at the property line at the edge of the sidewalk, part of a human wall blocking the antis. If there’s not a client around to chase and harass, the antis get bored and try to engage us. Any sort of boundaries or civility do not apply.

Blocking them was like a dance. Shaming, cajoling, lecturing, and preaching wasn’t enough. They wanted to be in the client’s face, in their personal space, with eye contact. The antis would shift sideways to try to look over my shoulder, or tiptoe to look over my head, and I’d match their movements. We’d dance for a while, until they either gave up and went elsewhere, or decided to address me.

I discovered two weeks ago that the best facial expression to use with the antis is the thousand yard stare, combined with a sort of pleasant expression, and a slight, arrogant smirk. It’s a trifecta of contradictions. Open, closed off, and you’re full of shit all at the same time. It grabs their attention, and frustrates them, because they want me to engage, but I don’t. I’ve not spoken a word to the antis, and they want me to–because I’m new, and they know it.

My smirk prompted my frustrated dance partner to say, “you’re too young to be so cold. I can see it in your face. You’re cold-hearted.” I had to suppress the urge to laugh, and burst out singing that Jet song. My lips twitched, and she gave up and walked away.

The antis throw out a lot of names. Murderer, coward, wuss. They particularly like to holler at the male companions of the clients, telling them to “be a man” and “don’t be a wuss.”

At some point, the same anti told another escort that WE were violating the FACE Act (by blocking them from crossing the property line). I had to laugh at that one. I’m guessing the only thing she knows about that legislation is the title. Freedom of Access to Clnic Entrances Act. It’s freedom of access for clients, not protestors. Whoops.

So far, what I’ve seen is only in front of the clinic–I haven’t shadowed any escorts yet. So I haven’t had anyone try to trip me, or elbow me in the ribs. “Just” people getting in my face.

Just? Just.

One of the reasons it’s taken me so long to go down there is I just wasn’t sure how I would react to all of this. I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t lose my temper when say, an anti got in my face. Because honestly, who wouldn’t go off on someone running their mouth about you, four inches from your face?

But the sidewalk in front of the women’s clinic is a different world. Like I said, basic rules of boundaries and civility do not apply. The antis have an entitlement complex. The antis want everyone to do exactly what they want, and if you do anything but comply, it is totally okay to them, for them, to get in people’s faces, to insult, push, intimidate, harass, and tell personal stories about other people to everyone on the street.

The sidewalk, for me, is the only place where I allow such bullshit to go unanswered. It’s the only place where someone getting in my face and insulting me is more amusing than rage-inducing.

On the sidewalk, I am a human wall. If they’re insulting me, they’re not harassing a client. With my body, I’m denying them access to clients who have no wish to engage with them. With my body, I’m blocking their snooping eyes and cameras from clients. I’m there for the clients, not for the antis. I’m there because of the antis.

As a client and her companion were nearing the line, one of the antis shouted “you don’t have to be here!” The companion shot back “you don’t have to be here, either.”

Escorts at Louisville’s Abortion Clinic

Kentucky has only two clinics in the state that offer abortion services–one of them is in Louisville, the largest city in the state.

Unfortunately, this clinic is regularly a target of anti-choice protesters. By regularly, I mean all the time. The protesters harass, intimidate, shame, and attempt to deceive women by directing them to the TWO crisis pregnancy centers on the same street as the clinic. (CPCs are fake clinics set up by anti-choice organizations. Their goal is to prevent women from having abortions, by either convincing them not to, or by giving them false information about, well, everything.)

Because of this, a bunch of really great people volunteer to escort women from their cars to the clinic doors. They get up ridiculously early to make sure women have a buffer between themselves and the protesters, and to give them support every step along the way.

The escorts have a blog–they post stories, photos, and video of everything that goes down in front of the clinic. Check it out.

The bullshit they deal with is incredible–the verbal harassment, the pushing, hitting, tripping, physical intimidation, and sometimes, even worse.

I’ve got to warn you, though: it will piss you off.

It pissed me off.

I can’t but admire the escorts–for doing what they do.

I’ve wanted to volunteer myself–but getting up so early, after working so late in the night, is out of the question.

I wonder, too, if I’d be able to keep my temper in check. I wonder if I’d be able to refrain from pushing back, hitting back, or kicking out the kneecap of the person that tripped me. As my regular readers know, I’m big on self-defense.

But then again, I read stories like this from the escorts, and I want nothing more than to go down there and help. I want to escort. I want to write and write and write. I want to write here, and on Pulse of the City. I want to write to the mayor, the chief of police, and anyone else and demand they post officers at the clinic to protect patients and escorts. I want to post endlessly on my facebook page, ranting and educating, and encouraging people to take action.

It’s so easy to hear stories and think, “wow, that’s completely fucked up” and perhaps write a ranty comment, and then go on with your day. Until I found the Louisville escort’s blog, I was like that, too. Reading their stories, talking to people I know that go down there, and seeing the photos and video of anti-choice protesters doing this in my city, to my people, made it so very real to me.

Oh, and by the way? What these protesters are doing is illegal. Obstructing access, intimidation, threats, violence, in order to keep women from obtaining reproductive services–illegal. Did I say it was illegal? It’s illegal.

But they do it anyway.

Not only are the escorts doing important work by escorting women, but they’re also exposing to the world what exactly happens in front of America’s reproductive clinics. Support and honor them by reading their accounts, viewing their photos, and watching their videos.