Letter from an Abortion Clinic Escort: Pt 1- A Day in the Life of an Escort

Warning: contains strong language, sexual content and violent imagery. Real names are changed but nicknames remain the same.
A Day in the Life of an Abortion Clinic Escort
I am an abortion clinic escort. Two Saturdays a month, I walk with girls and women, as well as their companions of any gender, from their vehicles to the clinic entrance. I and my escort partner occupy the attention of the patients on the way to the door, which I often hold open for them in a more-than-symbolic gesture: I literally support your access to a safe abortion. For any reason. On demand. Should be free of charge. No apologies to the antis or anyone else.

The antis [anti-abortion protesters]? The antis are present and accounted for. They are men and women of varying ages, standing on the sidewalks, terrifying the holy fuck out of our patients.

A young girl in her car will see us coming to escort her and get a terrified look on her face. She thinks we’re with the protesters. We assure her that we’re not with them, we’re with the clinic, and we’re going to walk her inside. They always sigh with relief, but still look disoriented by the cries of the antis. We tell the girls and women the antis aren’t allowed on the property, but they are going to yell a lot of nasty stuff. She doesn’t have to talk to them. (Some do. It can be awesome when a patient just rips into those bastards. Fuck and yes.)

We keep talking to the girls and women as they walk inside, because we are trying to distract them from and drown out stuff like this:

The lady with the loud, whiny voice: “It’s not a cat or a dog honey, that’s a baby inside you. Don’t murder the life that God gave you, you’ve got a bellybutton to prove it.”

A man’s ear-piercing wail, with a prophet’s cadence: “The blood of the unborn is crying out for mercy!” Tears stream down a frightened teen girl’s face as we escort her in, with her sister or friend at her side, to the comforting tune of: “Think, mommy! Don’t let them kill the life that’s inside of you! They’re going to tear her limb-from-limb!” That’s the guy we nicknamed Jesus John. He paces around on the sidewalk in his bright red vest with pockets featuring the words, “Life Counselor” and a cross embroidered in white. He carries a rosary. He has a big Catholic-looking tapestry draped across an easel, facing out so that passing cars can’t help but view it–alongside faked images of bloody fetuses, which are invariably either completely faked, stillbirths, miscarriages, or any other number of “pro-life” trickery. Every once in a while, he loudly concludes an under-the-breath prayer with a fevered, plaintive moan: “Jeeeeesus.”

“They didn’t tell you everything,” Jesus John screams, as a woman and her husband walk back to their car from the entrance. “They didn’t tell you–abortion causes breast cancer!” God is on their side. “Hey Dad, do you know what they’ll do to your baby in there? Come on, Dad, don’t let them kill the precious life that’s inside of her.”

The Truth and the Way. That’s why they lie–because they are allowed to, you see. The 6th Commandment trumps the 9th. Biblical legalism, I guess. Convenient, that.

We also have “Tabitha,” the by-all-appearances homeless woman that the antis take to breakfast in exchange for her support of the cause. Tabitha seems to have had mental and/or drug issues now or in her past, and therefore makes easy prey for the antis. She parrots the lines that the pros drop; but when she goes off script, she says stuff like, “Yer ugly. Got some kinda devil in you, that’s why you act the way you do.” I dance around and give her a smirk. Escorts are strictly not allowed to interact with antis, except to tell them to stay off our property when they cross the line. But dancing isn’t against the rules. “You think it’s funny?” she says. “Won’t think it’s funny forever, cause when you get to them Pearly Gates, you know you gonna go burn in Hell for good.” She says other shit that I can’t think of off the top of my head, but it’s often darkly hilarious because it reveals that she has no idea what’s going on. It pisses me off that the antis exploit her. I don’t pity her, but it’s fucked up that she gets used.

The creepy guy with the white beard sticks mostly to the other side where the exit is. He shows up first thing every Saturday. He’s older, balding, looks a lot like Santa. Kinda fitting for a K-6th grade Christian school teacher, retired now. He’s got the van with the huge, bloody “fetal” carcass sticker slapped on the side of it. Always passing out literature and poking around with the other antis. He grumbles something at me about choosing good over evil.

They stand in front of the patients’ cars, doing their little passive-aggressive “Who? Me?” look when we tell them not to block the entrance. They do it over and over. They swarm any car that doesn’t just bolt through the entrance. Sometimes, they get patients in vehicles to look at some propaganda leaflets. The people who do stop will allow antis to accost them and shove literature in their faces because they are just too goddamn polite to say no.

Last, but oh so not least, is my boyfriend. Yup. He likes my earrings, you see. He utilizes an interesting strategy to turn me to the anti-choice side: “Hey you, guy with the earrings. Are you gay? Is that why you have the earrings?” He pokes around on his smartphone for a few minutes and comes back to the edge of the property, about ten feet from me. His rugged face nods at me, and he waves. Then he tips his black wraparound sunglasses down on his nose as he waves the phone screen in my direction. There’s a picture of a pale, flaccid penis on the screen. “Hey, you’re a fag, right? Come look at the pictures of dicks with me! You like dicks, don’t ya? Isn’t that why you’re here?” So that’s my boyfriend. He’s a catch. (I don’t file charges for first-degree uber-grossness, because I’d rather not see this creep in court for the next three months. Though sometimes I think I should.)

These are the noble and illustrious antis. You’d never guess outside of this context, by looking at their rather average appearance, that these are the sideshow freaks that harass and intimidate our patients. They froth at the mouth, pitch and moan and cry out to their Lord Jesus for mercy. The antis have no mercy in their hearts, though, unlike the mythical, caucasian Christ they claim to mirror. They have no cognition for the pain and suffering they will cause. No heed for the amplification of the weight that a decision, which the antis have no personal stake in, bears upon the hearts of the girls and women who brave these attacks. The memories of this experience will last the patients a lifetime.

When we escort, we are engaging in a low-intensity-conflict form of warfare. The psychological trauma that I experience is deeper than you think. I can only imagine what the young girls and women go through. These clinics truly are battlefields, and the casualties are the bravest and most frequently attacked persons in our society.

This year over 1,000 measures aiming to hinder or ban abortion and criminalize birth control have been introduced in 49 states in the U.S. Expect hundreds of new bills to be introduced, all designed to prevent the female half of the population from determining the course of their own lives, and to cause them grave physical and mental damage.

One of the things that really bothers me is that each of these antis knows a girl or a woman who has had or will have an abortion. A sister, a college professor, a co-worker, perhaps their own aunt or even mother. The business student that goes to school with their own daughter. The reporter for the local news station that they like to watch at 6 o’clock. The head of the PTA at their kids’ school. Women who have lives, loves, futures and pasts. These are the women the antis attack.

Dedicated to Katie, a true pro-choice heroine, my best friend and my escorting trainer.

If you feel comfortable with it, share your story about clinic violence or anti-abortion violence in the comments below. This post is the first in a series. Contact me at resistingthemilieu@gmail.com if you are interested in having your story about escorting, clinic violence, or anti-abortion violence included in a post. I will keep your identity confidential and edit your story in a manner that does not expose any personal information or characteristics.
For those interested in getting involved in escorting patients for an abortion provider, please see my post titled “For Those Interested in Abortion Clinic Escorting.” Take care and stay safe!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

54 thoughts on “Letter from an Abortion Clinic Escort: Pt 1- A Day in the Life of an Escort

  1. [...] it weren’t for the article I wrote on escorting at abortion clinics, I would remove this blog in its entirety. I have to say, I’m pretty sour on masculists who [...]

  2. [...] For any reason. On demand. Should be free of charge. No apologies to the antis or anyone else.Letter from an Abortion Clinic Escort: Pt 1- A Day in the Life of an Escort « Resisting the Milieu. Double-bind, teenage edition. Add a CommentAdd a CommentCancel reply. [...]

  3. [...] wrong. We all have a stake in abolishing gender hierarchy. As I wrote in the post Letter from an Abortion Clinic Escort, there have been over 1,000 anti-abortion measures introduced in 49 states this year. (Forget about [...]

  4. [...] Resisting the Milieu: Letter from an Abortion Clinic Escort: Pt 1- A Day in the Life of an Escort. [...]

  5. monado says:

    Bring mirror-shade wrap-around sunglasses with you and give them to the patients and their partners. Let the anti-abortionists see their own leering ugly mugs and deprive them of knowing if their targets are even looking at them.

    According to some women, it works wonders on leering men.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      I don’t doubt that it does! Sometimes all people need is a good, long look at themselves to see what they really are all about. See you around.
      –Ben

  6. Alex says:

    I live in a small Southern town, and I don’t know of any abortion clinics within at least 50 miles. The only time I got to interact with anti-lifers (aka anti-choicers, even we have plenty of them around here, as it turns out) is when they organized a silent roadside protest downtown — I already forgot the name of the action, but it was supposedly nationwide. My girlfriend and I were the only people with a pro-choice sign standing around, all other like-minded friends conveniently bailed out. The event went rather peacefully, though.

    I wish I could dedicate some of my time to escorting… maybe one day I will, when I finally finish my education (yet again) and move someplace else. You, sir, however, please accept my regards for your courage and willingness to stand up for people. I wish more people were like you.

  7. Tolpuddle Martyr says:

    What a pack of self-righteous brainwashed horrid little shits! Pro Life my arse, if they were pro life they’d be protesting for sending surplus food to the horn of Africa so lives could actually get saved rather than harassing teenage girls. Seriously, what a bunch of fucking wankers!

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Yeah, I would believe the crap they try to sell a little bit more if they actually spent time in soup kitchens, getting educations to become medical health researchers, or contributing to the advancement of humanity in some way. Have you ever met or heard of a Christian fundamentalist/evangelist who was working on a cure for cancer? Neither have I, friend.
      Thank you for your time–
      Ben

      • Crys says:

        Haha of course not, you can’t be a medical researcher if you don’t accept the core principles of evolution!

  8. Crys says:

    Now I really want to participate, but alas I don’t live in the States. From what I understand these things don’t happen in my country (Italy), I have only heard of intimidation happening in the sense that if you find the wrong health care provider to ask for information, they will try to talk you out of an abortion. Not to say that isn’t insidious, but nothing an escort can do about it. Anyway, if I do ever move to the States I’ll sign up immediately. Are these protests really an everyday occurence?

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Greetings from the U.S. Crys! Somewhere in the U.S., there is almost always a protester hitting up the clinics in the morning. Definitely every Saturday.
      Stop in again sometime-
      Ben

  9. Sammie Tones says:

    “Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence.” ~ David Byrne

  10. Ryl says:

    I applaud your courage and your compassion. If only the antis could see themselves through your eyes.

    Reflective mylar (not nearly as breakable as glass) could be set up outside the clinic and arranged like funhouse mirrors. It could prove entertaining for the news media and passersby alike.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Were it not for laws and cost prohibiting this, it would help. But we shouldn’t have to hide from the terror of extremist anti-abortion protesters. I’m positive that you agree. Thank you for your time and comment-
      Ben

  11. Poopus Rumblebelly says:

    What a crock of shit.

  12. MichaelEdits says:

    I remain appalled that the antis act this way.

  13. Jack says:

    Psychological warfare, hey?
    What if you give a little dose of their own medicine and mess with their minds for a change … would they freak out and back off or get more furious in their endeavor? Might be a bad idea if it happens to be the latter.

    What if:
    you show up with one of these and casually flash it in a faked “unguarded moment”?

    http://www.westcoastcontacts.com/online-shop/special-fx-contact-lenses.cfm

    (Inform the patients in advance so they don’t get freaked out.)

    I don’t live in America so I don’t know the length of what the antis are willing to go, things are much more mellow on that topic where I live.
    (flame me if you think this is a ridiculous idea)

    • Ben Fenton says:

      It’s not that it’s ridiculous; it’s just that the goal of escorting is to de-escalate the situation, paying attention to the clinics and patients rather than our personal feelings. Our personal feelings should motivate us to escort, but we have to leave our politics and philosophies at the door. The women come first.

      It’s not ridiculous or bad to come up with ideas, especially if we value free thought. Before I escorted I wanted to go to clinics and do counter-surveillance on the antis, which is needed. But the clinics are not the place. The best place for that is the anti-abortion rallies and gatherings. Infiltrate their networks. Disrupt their meetings. But certainly, leaving the patients out of it.

      As you know, Dr. George Tiller was murdered by Scot Roeder in 2009. This is precisely the length the antis will go to enforce their version of the sanctity of life. If they didn’t pull the trigger, well, the majority of the evangelist/extremist types absolutely supported Dr. Tiller’s killing, and to this day they give Roeder the martyr treatment. It is disgusting and atrocious that the very people touting a sanctimonious embrace of some abstract notion they have of “life” are willing to kill to impose their ideology.

      Thank you for stopping in Jack.
      -Ben

  14. My mother’s life was saved, many decades ago, by a “partial-birth abortion.” The baby was hydrocephalic; no brain, head the size of a cantaloupe filled with water. It would have killed her, and of course it could never have survived. That was the decision of the attending physician, with her agreement. Three years later she had me.

    I owe my life to my mother’s abortion. Being pro-choice is fundamental to who I am.

    Thank you for doing what you do. These people are the scum of the planet.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      I am grateful that your mother had access to a safe abortion. It is stories like yours that remind us just how essential abortion access is to human life and liberty. Without one, we cannot have the other.

      Thank you for sharing your story, take care and stop back in.
      –Ben

  15. Charles Sumner says:

    Several years ago I was one of the defenders of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in another city. We went thru much of the same stuff as is mentioned here. The rabble also put glue in the locks of all the clinic doors. They were known to photograph license plates in order to intimidate patients and escorts. Often abortion is a moral choice, but these people see things only in black and white. Numerous religious groups have made statements that having an abortion is acceptable under certain circumstances. However, these religious groups do not do enough to make that known to their constituents and the public.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      I think you’ve pointed out something important about religious groups combating clinic violence in their own communities. If religious institutions truly oppose violence, they will do everything within their power to make clear that violence and intimidation against clinics is as unacceptable as violence and intimidation in the home. And let’s be clear, by no means do all Christians or sects of Christianity advocate this behavior. That would be unfair and untrue. I hope that my article properly articulates that point, and I shall be sure to include in the next “Letter from…” post.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your experiences, Charles. Please stop in again.
      –Ben

    • This license plate photography should run both ways. For no other reason than to have those who cross the line easily i.d.’d for the police.

      • Ben Fenton says:

        I won’t comment on the intelligence gathering policies of clinics, as it is private and each procedure is different. But if you ever feel like going to anti-abortion rallies and snapping some photos or taking some vid, more power to you my friend. The local clinic could use all of the information on protesters they can get. I’d call and ask first before sending them anything, though. Or we could all work on building a database together. Any takers?
        Thanks for your comment, Bruce. Stop by RtM again sometime!
        -Ben

  16. John Squire says:

    Thank you for escorting. Reading this account has inspired me to check into escorting locally myself… hope I’m up to it.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      I’m grateful to hear about your inspiration. It truly is validating to see so many people here who are willing to try escorting. It’s worth it.

      What finally inspired me to escort, after long consideration, was the tales I heard from young women who went through this ordeal. I could no longer excuse myself from participation in this ongoing war on half of the population. There is risk involved, but my risk is nothing compared to the doctors and health care workers, not to mention the women themselves.

      I think you’ll be surprised at just how up to it you are. Usually policy says you can only escort twice a month, to prevent burnout. Two days a month, for 4 to 6 hours, maybe 7 at the most, is actually pretty tolerable.

      Thanks for reading the post, John. Take care and stop in again anytime.
      –Ben

  17. skrooeylooey says:

    While I have on occasion thought that escorting would be a useful and rewarding way to volunteer my time to people in need, I am not at all sure that I would be able to ignore the most obnoxious antis.

    I’m not sure where you are, but around here we have birds called “Grackles” which are essentially screeching, flying, shit machines. I would recommend spreading bird seed around the area where the antis hang out so as to attract as many of these foul winged assholes as possible. Soon enough, the antis will either have to find another place to stand, or go home looking exactly like someone who spent all day being drenched with avian liquishits.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Actually, that’s quite genius. At one of our clinics, the entire lot and entrance is a covered area. I’m going to look into this fantastic idea!

      I myself was reluctant to escort because I thought I would just end up getting myself into trouble. But as it turns out, I developed just enough tolerance to make it through the day. Also, at the end I get to flip them all off and yell, “You suck!” as we drive off. In the absence of an actual debate with the antis on-premises, this is quite satisfying. Ahhh!

      Thanks for stopping in, skrooeylooey, I hope to see you around.–
      Ben

  18. Pepijn says:

    This is in Saudi Arabia, right? Or Iran? Afghanistan?

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Nope, we have the good old American Taliban right here at home. The use of terror to enforce a particular strain of Christian ideology is perfectly legal, as is the execution of human beings. But remember, Old Man Tea Party says Muslims and immigrants are the cause of society’s woes! Gotta love that U.S. exceptionalism, right Pepijn? Thanks for stopping in, I hope to see you around.–
      Ben

  19. penguiny says:

    I hope that no one that I love ever has to find themselves deciding to have an abortion. But if they do, I so am glad that there are brave and compassionate people like you, that can help protect them from the abuse of these horrible, protesting bastards.

    Keep up the awesome work.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      I appreciate the encouragement penguiny. I hope to see you around.–
      Ben
      EDIT: P.S. Allow me to note, too, that escorting is mostly about emotional comfort and support, rather than (in the case of males, paternalistic or patriarchal) physical protection. Our presence also serves as a deterrent, as we are witnesses and, finally, the last line of physical defense–though we cannot ever physically engage the protesters. In a life-threatening situation, such as one involving weapons, who knows–escorts should be concentrating on staying safe and leave the security detail to the security detail. As a male escort, I do my best to keep my privilege in check and not be given to paternalism.

  20. MadMod says:

    Kudos, man. Keep up the good fight.

  21. slade says:

    Why not have PP buy a set of noise canceling headphones and have the client put them on as she exists her vehicle. That way she wouldn’t have to listen to all of the awful commotion.

    Also, seems like escorts should have some sort of identifying clothing (pro-choice t-shirt?) so that the arriving patient knows whose side you are on.

    Good article – thank you.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Slade,
      We do have bright yellow vests that have the words, “PRO-CHOICE ESCORT” emblazoned on them, but unfortunately it is not usually enough. Most patients are either unaware of the political and social controversies surrounding abortion or do not have experience coming into these situations that would help them distinguish between antis and us.
      I would love to have the clinics be able to afford the headphones or noise canceling systems, were that to be an effective tactic. Off the top of my head, I can think of two problems: one is that inbound patients may not have an appointment, and typically even patients that are informed are likely to have only a minimum of information about the antis–we warn them, but we don’t want to scare them. Another is that cost is rather prohibitive, being that fundies have worked tirelessly to defund clinics and hinder women’s health and freedom.
      Thank you for reading my post, and please do stop in again sometime.–
      Ben

  22. wbuliziuk says:

    Marvelous piece, thanks for writing this and I look forward to more installments.

  23. Gaby says:

    Your “antis” are clearly the extremists of the Christian religion. Yelling things at and showing grotesque pictures to (mostly) scared girls and women are nothing but scare tactics used by dictators the world over. If they really think they’re doing God’s will, then they need to find new churches.

    Just because I think abortion is wrong doesn’t give me free license to treat others like dirt. Sheesh. Shouldn’t we (Christians, that is) be reaching out with even more love? It would be great if Christian pregnancy crisis centers would work with the local abortion clinics. There could be a representative there to provide alternatives along with whatever other choices presented at the clinic. Real counseling, listening, and help could actually occur.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Gaby,
      I agree about the despicable nature of the people who engage in these anti-abortion tactics. I must say, while every clinic offers alternatives and counseling for abortion, adoption and and pregnancy matters in general, those “pregnancy crisis centers” do not offer anything but hack advice. They are meant solely to divert women from true health services, based on religious arguments instead of science. In the documentary film, “12th & Delaware” we see a prime example of these centers–they are encouraged to lie, cheat and steal their way to “victory.”
      I appreciate you taking the time to read my post. I hope to see you again sometime.
      –Ben

  24. Raging Itch says:

    Thank you so much for the work that you do. You may not realize it, but you are providing hope to many people, especially people you *don’t* directly interact with.

    Never give up, never surrender.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Bryan–if I may call you that–thanks for the reminder–sometimes it can be easy to forget that the people who benefit from escorting aren’t only patients. Thanks you for your solidarity. Never give up, never surrender indeed.–
      Ben

  25. Cheryl Sonnier says:

    Wow. What an awful, heart-breaking story. It’s hard to imagine what those women go through and I’m glad someone like you is there to help them through that. Thank you for what you do.

  26. Carol says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve only escorted once, and it was in Canada way back when, and there were few protesters and they only waved signs — but it was still ugly. I’m awed by your courage and that of your fellow escorts. You make a huge difference, and I’m so glad people like you are out there.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      Thank you so much, Carol. Escorting is hugely rewarding, and in future posts I will make sure to emphasize that. You had the courage to escort, too–it doesn’t matter how many times you did it. We all aim to support the women who endure the abuse of the “pro-life” culture of shame and death. Take care–
      Ben

  27. Deen says:

    They have no cognition for the pain and suffering they will cause.

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Seems to me that shaming the clients and making them feel horrible about their decision is exactly what they mean to do.

    • Ben Fenton says:

      I agree that shaming is key to their strategy. But I don’t believe that they know how it feels to be on the other end of the barrel, if you know what I mean. Thank you for reading, Deen–
      Ben

  28. [...] I missed one example of ugliness in my last post. I already thoroughly detest Christianity, but if I didn’t, one way I’d learn to hate it would be by standing outside of Planned Parenthood and witness the faith on display in the horde of abortion clinic protestors. [...]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: