5 Things You Learn Escorting Women Into an Abortion Clinic
Everyone has their Saturday-morning routines -- sleep in, spend time with your loved ones, recover from a hangover, furiously jack off, whatever. I'm not really big on mornings, so I generally skip that whole thing and wake up teenager-in-a-sitcom late.
However, almost every Saturday morning for the last two years, I've hauled my ass out of bed really fucking early so I could be at a local Planned Parenthood at 8:30 a.m. Though a few of the comments on my first Cracked article surmised otherwise, it's not because I'm the mayor of Cock Forest and thus must check in on Foursquare at the closest Planned Parenthood lest I lose my seat as Plan B Incumbent.
And who the fuck still uses Foursquare?
No, I am there because, like so many other abortion clinics in our great country, it is occasionally surrounded by idiots frothing at the mouth about Jesus and baby-killing, many of whom are there specifically to harass women or stop them from doing a thing they have every right to do.
I get that abortion is a "hot topic" issue, but this isn't about how I feel, and I certainly don't give a fuck about how you feel. That's not the point of this article. Instead, this is about all of the sad, terrifying and occasionally hilarious things I've learned escorting (yes, that's the term we use) women past abortion protesters for the last two years.
Abortion Protesters Aren't Crazy
Anti-choice protesters are a lot like members of the CIA, in that you've probably seen one in public today and didn't even realize it. At my clinic, one is a former astrophysicist who tells us when the best time to see a rocket launch or an eclipse is. One lives near my mother and has come into one of the stores I work at a few times. They're just regular fucking people, you know?
In two years, there's been only one anti-choice protester I thought might genuinely have some sort of mental illness. This white woman was incredibly aggressive toward non-white people going in for procedures and tried to say that abortion was a mechanism of race wars, a subject she was passionate about because she'd adopted a black baby. She would then whip out pictures of that baby, which was very clearly a Cabbage Patch doll.
My mom's insane!
She had to stop protesting because she assaulted a woman who was walking home from Whole Foods. Not a woman who was with my organization, not a woman who was involved in anything at the clinic -- just some random lady who was trying to cross the street with her quinoa and who didn't have time to listen to an anti-choice spiel.
Again, that's the only person whom I thought might have some sort of serious medical issue. Everyone else might be aggressive in their opinions, but they're usually not mentally ill.
They Are Unspeakably Racist, Though
As I was writing the outline for this article, the only thing under this header for days was just "SOOOOOO RACIST."
Sure, it's important to remember that Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, was racist, ableist, and pro-eugenics -- a fact Planned Parenthood does not deny.
Also, one of the first large-scale clinical trials for the birth control pill was done using under-informed, poor, uneducated Puerto Rican women who experienced a host of negative side effects as researchers tested out different hormone levels on them.
Yes, that's all really fucked up. No one is disputing that, least of all pro-choice escorts.
It's important to not lose that context while also recognizing the truth in what I'm about to say -- abortion protesters are some racist motherfuckers. When you pretend to have a black child (which two or three of the anti-choice women do) and use that pretend child to guilt-trip black women about making a decision regarding their own bodies, that's racist.
Even if it's a doll.
When you learn a few phrases in Spanish so you can terrify Latina women going into the clinic, just to vilify immigrants in the next breath, you're fucking racist. If you capitalize on fears of racial genocide, not because you care about non-white communities but because you want to essentially trick them out of getting a medical procedure, you're fucking racist.
It goes beyond your usual "the clinic is dangerous; you'll always be a mother of a dead baby" bullshit (which is a real thing people say, by the way) to a whole different level of "Are you fucking kidding me? How do you sleep at night?"
They're Also Unintentionally Hilarious at Times
When it's not horribly depressing, there are definitely moments that would be 100 times funnier if they were from a sitcom rather than real life, but I'll take what I can get.
There was the time that one of the more aggressive protesters parked in front of the building and played gospel music the whole time, only to have her car die when she tried to leave.
There was the time a protester yelled, "Abortion is reversible!" to a couple leaving the clinic.
Once, a protester tried to convince me that she found a bunch of paperwork that was signed in blood, like Planned Parenthood is some Harry Potter cult or an Illuminati franchise instead of a legitimate medical office.
They have franchises, right?
Also, because the clinic is in an office building, the protesters sometimes have to roll the dice on who they're yelling at, and the gamble doesn't always pay off. Once a woman responded to a protester's self-righteous entreaties for her to not go into the clinic by saying, "Bitch, I'm going to the dentist, calm the fuck down." That protester was a 60-year-old woman.
"Also, every show on CBS is stupid."
My favorite moment, though, was this time a couple was leaving the clinic and, after the woman got into the passenger seat, the man realized he'd left something and had to run back inside. One of the protesters, who'd been shouting absolutely heinous bullshit at clients all fucking day, started to edge toward the car. I followed her, saying, "Look, the procedure's been done, leave her alone, it's not going to do any good." The protester gave me a shit-eating grin and ignored me, but once we got up to the car, she realized the woman inside was on the phone and, no joke, I swear to God, out of the mouth of this protester who had told five different women they were going to hell within the last hour comes, "Oh! She's on the phone. Well, I wouldn't want to be rude."
And then she walked away. I slowblinked so hard I think I may have permanently broke something. To this day, I still mutter, "Wouldn't want to be rude," when a protester says something so far outside of reality that it baffles me.
The Boring Days Are the Best
The first day I escorted, it was fucking mayhem. A fairly young girl came in with her grandmother, and the protesters just lost their minds. It was like they'd won Terrible Person Jeopardy and their prize was sex-shaming a high school student who wouldn't leave her grandma with a walker behind.
Still, clinic defense is just walking patients in to the building past the protesters. Depending on the protesters and the patients and Mercury's fuck-buddy schedule with Mars or whatever, it can be a really boring job. There aren't a lot of patients to antagonize that weekend or the particularly aggressive protesters are on a cruise or whatever. And don't get me wrong -- this is a good thing. People I volunteer with literally wear buttons that say "A boring day is a good day," because it is.
This coffee mug fucking gets it.
The closer society comes to not needing the volunteer work I do, the better society is.
In the two years I've escorted, that first one is still probably the most hectic day I've had. Outside of that, most of the tense moments come from trying to calm down whoever has come with the patient. The other person -- be it a friend, family member, spouse, partner, whatever -- goes out for a smoke break or to get food, and they are understandably furious when protesters antagonize them. And then they try to punch the protestors in the face. Unfortunately, this is what they want, in the same way the Phelps family wants someone to hit them square in the jaw.
Fact: The entire family shares one jaw, which was passed down from Fred Phelps when he died.
Don't get me wrong -- in the short term, I completely understand how fucking amazing it would feel to hit one of these self-righteous, hypocritical motherfuckers in the face. At the same time, they will sue the reproductive fluids right out of your impulsive ass. Oh, and also ...
Don't Call the Police (They Don't Care Anyway)
No, really. If you walk by a clinic and someone protesting harasses you, call the police to file a complaint about that specific incident if you want. If any of the escorts saw it happen, we can testify in court about what we saw. We try incredibly hard to make sure we're not seen as counter-protesters so we can be deemed reliable court witnesses, which has happened a few times. Some of the escorts at one clinic even testified on behalf of a guy who had been ordered to stay away by a judge for cooking up a plot to bomb the place. That stay-away order lasts only for so long. When it expired, he came back, as was his right, and he ended up being subjected to police brutality for it.
Obviously, no one was thrilled he was there, but he had every right to be. So, the escorts who witnessed his interaction with the police testified in court on his behalf.
Pieces of shit have rights too.
If you see a protester harassing an escort, don't call the police. If you think protesters are becoming violent, talk to an escort before you call the cops. Because, for the most part, calling the police does more harm than good.
You, as a bystander, may be offended by protesters, but they have a right to be there. Additionally, clinic escorts will put up with a lot of minor shit before calling the police. I've been shoved and shoulder-checked and all sorts of shit, and that's still better than calling the police. The police generally do not give a fuck about the political misogyny behind aggressive anti-choice protesters.
I get that, I really do. I understand that the cops in my area have murders to solve and black teenagers to frisk and don't have time for what appears to be a childish "he said, she said" fight. And that really is how the police have generally reacted when they're called -- they send everyone home for a timeout. Which would be all lovely and whatever if 1) that solved whatever the original problem was and 2) if the anti-choice protesters didn't tend to come back after the police have left.
If it comes down to it and the police need to be called, it will happen. But, in general at an abortion clinic, as is becoming the case with so many other areas of life, getting police involved often just makes matters worse.
For more from Alice, follow her on Twitter @milkwench.
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