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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!