The Trials and Tribulations of an Abortion Clinic Escort

30 Apr

Making the jump from abortion clinic employee to abortion clinic escort was not a big deal for me. I anticipated that after working inside a clinic, helping to defend the outside would be easy. I went through escort training with a slight ego; I already knew the Pennsylvania abortion laws (24-hour waiting period, 24 week gestational limit), knew all the local clinics, could explain an abortion procedure in 30 seconds in two languages. Confident that I was going to be the best escort ever, I showed up to my first shift ready to show the antis who’s boss.

I showed up, but the antis never stopped showing up. Us escorts were six people strong, but the antis were at least 60 and their numbers kept growing. Not only that, but they held a mass in front of the clinic, held up a huge wooden cross with a life-size Jesus nailed onto it, and brought their kids wearing buttons that said, “I’m a survivor of the American holocaust.” There weren’t that many patients that day, and I don’t blame them. If I saw that mess in front of the clinic where I was about to have an abortion, I’d turn right around and reschedule that appointment.

I expected harassment and intimidation tactics from the antis, but I didn’t expect to feel scared. Most of them there were large, older white men. They could’ve taken me down in a second if they wanted to. I stood there in my yellow escort jacket, trying as hard as I could not to let the patients see that I was just as freaked out as they were by this display of hatred and lies.

Sometimes all it takes for me to do this work is resilience and hope. I’m not often confronted by an immediate physical threat, and the amount that it scared me really threw me off. I know that’s their goal — the antis want me to stop escorting, to stop caring, and to start thinking that they have the power. I don’t plan on dropping out of the movement anytime soon, but I need your help.

How do you all deal with their threatening physical presence? And if you don’t escort, what’s your strategy for dealing with the lies that antis perpetrate over and over?


3 Responses to “The Trials and Tribulations of an Abortion Clinic Escort”

  1. Shayna April 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Wow Steph – thanks for giving us non-escorts an inside look to what you do!

    I only deal with the anti verbally – in conversations, online, etc. For me it’s about remaining calm and polite. I know that they’re wrong, but getting into a screaming match at a friend’s cocktail party isn’t going to change their minds, or convince anyone else.

  2. Ellie April 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    I don’t escort, but I think of it as an “agree to disagree” kind of thing. You have your beliefs and they have theirs; you’re being helpful, and they’re being a douchebag — but both of you know in your hearts that you’re right, and neither one of you is going to change your minds.

    So — forget the antis. There is absolutely nothing you can do at that moment that will make them rethink their position or have a rational discussion, so they might as well not be there. They all know protesting laws inside and out, so the likelihood of them actually stepping over the line is very rare.

    The best you can do is focus on the people you’re escorting. Be there for them, and don’t get ruffled. Acting like it’s not a big deal will really help put the people you’re escorting at ease. The more you don’t let the antis get to you, the more they look like crazies (which, in turn, makes them lose credibility).

  3. Jaleesa April 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story! I just started volunteering at a clinic two months ago and, the first time I went, there were only two protesters standing outside demonstrating. Both were women. I had to take the bus to get from the train station to the actual center, and the only tense moment came when I had to walk past them to get to the clinic itself. Nothing was said from me to them or from them to me, and when I walked past them they were just standing there.

    Since it was my first time going to this clinic, I ended up walking into the wrong door — I was trying to get into their office, not the clinic itself but that’s where I ended up. I had to be buzzed in and present my ID when I walked into the clinic part, which was surreal for me. It brought home to me where I was and that the danger of what I’m trying to fight for is real. The security guy who buzzed me in walked me to the office doors once he realized that I was only there to volunteer, and when we came back out, that’s when the protesters had their signs up and were actively demonstrating. They were gone when I left my shift two or three hours later.

    I live in Atlanta, and we have a Planned Parenthood in the city that I’ve been to a few times, but it’s located in an office building completely removed from the street and I’ve never seen an active demonstration there, at least not at that location. My experience at the clinic in North Atlanta is the only experience I’ve ever had with protesters.

    It’s really upsetting to have to deal with people who actually believe they’re working for the common good by protesting a human right, a right I feel is completely unquestionable. Everyone has the right to decide what they want to do with their own bodies and their own lives, and I feel the actual discussion of abortion should begin and end there. I’ve never encountered anyone who’s pro-life besides those protesters, so I haven’t had to deal with the discussion aspects, but only because when I went to go volunteer that day it was the first and only time I’ve actually worn my views on my sleeve.

    Long comment ends here. 🙂

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