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.”

Mitch McConnell Writes Letters: Act Two

Not long ago, I wrote to Mitch McConnell, one of my Senators, to voice my objections to the Blunt Amendment. The amendment, if you recall, would have allowed any employer to refuse health insurance coverage for birth control. Thankfully, the amendment failed. However, I’m only just now receiving a response my from esteemed representative.

This is not the first time I’ve written to McConnell. This is the first time, however, that he acknowledges my disagreement. In the past, his letters assume the recipient agrees with his views, and assures the reader that he will fight (fight!) to represent my interests in the Senate. I could only conclude that no one read my letter at all.

This time, his letter gives me background on the issue. (Uh, Mitch? I know. Why the fuck do you think I’m writing?) Then, he gives his version of events, presenting them as undoubtedly the objective truth:

“You don’t have to belong to any particular faith to see if that if government can violate the religious rights of one group, then surely it can violate those of others.”

He concludes with a condescending acknowledgement of our disagreement on the issue, before he thanks me for sharing my “opinions” with him anyway.

McConnell’s letter highlights his utterly incapability of distinguishing between religious freedom, employees rights, and the fact that institutions are not people.

McConnell fails to realize the employees of faith-based institutions do not subscribe to the institution’s religious affiliation merely because they’re on the payroll. I know it’s difficult for Mitch to believe, but some people work for companies they don’t believe in, that they don’t even like, because they need the paycheck.

McConnell is utterly incapable of recognizing the fundamental difference between believing in a religious system, and adhering to its moral codes in your own personal behavior, and attempting to force those under your control to adhere to them, too. That’s not religious freedom, that’s tyranny.

Newsflash: 98% of Catholic women have used birth control. Religions are not like the Republican Party. It’s not a “follow our orders to the minutiae or GTFO” deal. Spiritual beliefs are deeply personal, intimate, and individualistic. Ever notice how many denominations there are in Christianity alone, Mitch? No one person’s faith is going to look like another’s, even if they share the same label. That is our right in this country–to believe whatever we want.

How many times, and how many ways do I have to say that an employer, especially a faith-based one, has no right to impose and enforce its beliefs on their employees?

It is the height of arrogance, not to mention irony, to accuse the Obama administration of crossing “a dangerous line.”

Oh, and this?

“I was disappointed that Senator Blunt’s amendment failed to overcome the threat of a filibuster by a mostly partisan vote. Americans decided at our nation’s founding that the government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing. For the protection of everyone who enjoys the freedom to worship as they wish, this mandate should be repealed.”

I was disappointed that Senator Blunt’s amendment failed.

I bet you were.

overcome the threat of a filibuster by a mostly partisan vote.

How’d you like a taste of your own medicine? I must say, that’s a pretty pathetic potshot, considering you and your GOP friends have been filibustering every possible piece of legislation, even if you agreed with it, just to make the President look bad. Check the mirror before you whine about partisanship, you hypocritical old fart.

Americans decided at our nation’s founding that the government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing.

That’s not what happened here, and you know it. I object to your attempting to give my employer the right to dictate what my health insurance will or will not cover–forcing me to adhere to my employer’s religious beliefs. My employer can believe whatever the fuck he wants. He can’t impose that on me, and neither can you. The government’s job is to protect people like me from people like you.

For the protection of everyone who enjoys the freedom to worship as they wish,

Wait, are you actually acknowledging that not everyone has the freedom to worship as they wish? I know you’re not, and that’s a shame.

this mandate should be repealed.

No.

Postscript: Uh, Mitch? You know you sent that letter to me twice, right? And you know you referred to me as “Mr.” in the first letter? I know you don’t really read correspondence from constituents that disagree with you, but you should pay close enough attention to, at the very least, get my name and my gender correct.

Just saying. And I’ll be passing along your little boo-boo to other voters. I’m sure Kentuckians will be very interested to learn just how little attention you pay to your constituency.

The Virtual Coffeehouse: Political Real Talk

Meet Armchair Bureaucrat! Abe and I met in 2007 at college, through a mutual friend, and we quickly became good friends. The foundation of our friendship was one of the old university stereotypes: hours spent at a local coffee shop discussing politics, philosophy, literature, history, and just about everything in between. In the beginning, our only commonality was a love for coffee (for the most part). He was about as conservative as they came, and I, of course, was a liberal feminist.

Unlike other friendships that reached across party lines, we didn’t avoid talking politics. In fact, that was one of our favorite topics–but we always respected one another, and we always listened, really listened, to what the other had to say.

Once we graduated, those discussions ended, and I really missed them. Abe did too. I had a thought–why not publish our discussions for all to see? Abe thought it might be fun to try, so here it is. I had a lot of fun–I hope to do this again.

Enjoy!

Read more of this post

A Glimpse into the Future?

Amanda Ching has written a brillant short story that you need to read. It’s speculative fiction, imagining what the U.S. might look like if we keep incrementally rolling back reproductive rights.

This story answers the question that the naive citizens of a free democracy always ask: how do totalitarian regimes happen?

Go read it. Now.

As a writer, I can tell you that this is one of the best short stories I have ever read. Let me tell you, speaking from experience, writing a short story is hard. Amanda makes it look easy. I am extremely jealous of her talent.

As a feminist, this story scared the ever-loving shit out of me. It provides a hell of a lot of motivation to fight every single rollback of human rights, because this story highlights how, though human rights violations may start in one area, they always spread into other areas, until everyone’s rights are gone.

Leave It to the Experts

My body is twenty-three years old. It has been through a lot in that time. I have demanded much of my body. I have punished it. I have stretched its limits in order to become stronger. I have deprived it of its most basic needs–food, rest, water–because I gave higher priority to other things. Most of the time, my body endures. However, at times, it breaks. It collapses in exhaustion. It succumbs to seizures, which is its own unique punishment. It becomes dehydrated. Muscles are pulled and sprained. It aches and bleeds in response to the monthly cycle of my uterus. My stomach contracts and my throat is burned by stomach acid.

No one knows my body like I do.

No one knows all that it has suffered and endured, lost and gained. No one but me.

I know how much it can take. I know how far I can push its limits. I know when its time to stop and rest, so it can recover.

When it comes to my body, I am the expert. My body is unique. It’s quirky. It’s strong and weak. It’s powerful. It has endured things that you wouldn’t believe. It has accomplished things you could only dream of.

I am the best person to make decisions regarding my body. The many people who love me, and consequently my body–my family, my friends, my lovers–cannot ever be as intimate with my body and its workings and needs as I am. As well as they know me, and as much as they care about me–they cannot possibly know enough to make that decision for me. My country, as much as I love it, as much as I am willing to sacrifice for it–cannot make that decision for me, either. My loved ones may at least claim to be Beemer geeks, but the rest of the country cannot say even that. At best, they may know some vague caricature; at worst, they know nothing about me. Only I am the expert.

Only the expert can decide if my body needs an abortion. Me.

Trust the experts–they know what needs to be done. They know their art. Leave the fandom to support the expert’s work. Let outsiders stay out of it.

Women are the experts on their own bodies. Leave us to make the decisions. Do not hinder us in taking care of our own bodies. We need abortion to be legal, available, and affordable. That is not negotiable. That is not up for a vote. Our bodies are not up for a vote.

You are not an expert on me. You cannot make decisions for me. You cannot take abortion away from me.

I will defend every woman’s right to make the best decision for herself. I am pro-choice.

Bloggers United for Human Rights is a community of bloggers dedicated to the principle that all human rights are inalienable. Not to be voted, or debated, or negotiated. This post is a part of the Support Women’s Reproductive Rights blog carnival. Click the link to join.

Get Your Activism On: Support Birth Control

It’s important to counter the howling protests of the arrogant old men who mistakenly believe they should have a say in women’s reproductive choices. Petitions are an easy way to do that. These are the ones I signed this morning afternoon:

From Planned Parenthood:

Tell Congress: Stop trying to block women’s access to Birth Control

From Ultra Violet:

Tell Congress: Hands off our birth control!

Sign and share!

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.