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Abortion Clinic Escort

Abortion Clinic Escort
Name:Servalbear
Location:Louisville, KY
Gender:F
Age:63
We are a group of volunteers who escort clients and their companions past anti-abortion protesters. We are not security or clinic defense. We are present to support people and create space for them to be empowered while accessing reproductive healthcare. The time escorting can be stressful and emotional, but we feel it is important to support a client's right to make the decision best for them. Abortion is not a dirty word and should be accessible to anyone. Read our blog to find out more.
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Q
Do you ever feel like you're in any real danger while escorting patients?
A

Yes. There have been times when we feel there is danger. The dynamics of the sidewalk are so chaotic and volatile, they can spill over into violence very easily. We take every precaution we can. We always work under a buddy system when we escort and never escort alone. We do have the police dispatch number on our phones for quick dialing if needed. There have been escorts assaulted by protesters. There also have been protesters assaulted by clients and companions who are angry with the protesters' interference on the way to the clinic doors. There was one incident last year of a gun being drawn by a companion in a threat to protesters. There is always a potential for real danger, but most of the time it is limited to yelling, harassment and some blocking of the path or shoving. We can ...More

Q
Have you ever met protesters who presented their position in a respectful manner such that, despite your conflicting beliefs, you still had respect for them? Or do both sides just assume "My way is the right way?"
A

Yes, but it is rare. There was an article in the NY Times opinion page September 2012 titled "Breaking Up The Echo" that pretty well sums up the impossibility of changing opinions on the sidewalk. Neither side is going to change the other side to their way of thinking. It is not what is said as much as who is saying it that will cause examination of strongly held opinions. We do try to practice non-engagement, so discussion is kept to a minimum between the groups at all times. There was one time about two years ago that a church group came out to see what was happening. They had heard of sidewalk counselors (protesters) changing clients' minds and preventing abortions. The minister of the group got into a discussion with me as we were all leaving the clinic after the clients ...More

Q
You say "Abortion is not a dirty word." While I tend to agree, do you at least acknowledge that it's a "heavy" word that many people, even those who are pro-choice, have trouble throwing around lightly?
A

Freely admitted. The word abortion has been so stigmatized over the course of the past 40 years, it is a word that will create instant division of viewpoints. That is why we say "abortion is not a dirty word." We want to bring the word out of the shadows and let people know there is no shame in using the word, thinking the word, or having the procedure. It is not a word we throw around lightly, but purposefully. People have always sought abortion and will continue to do so even if it is restricted. With 1 in 3 women having an abortion in the US, that is a lot of people having a medical procedure they cannot talk about publicly. By trying to de-stigmatize the word, we are trying to let people know they can let go of the shame associated with the word. When we say "terminating ...More

Q
Are there protesters every day at every clinic you volunteer at? Is it mainly picketing and shouting, or does it get violent?
A

There are protesters present every day the clinic is open; Tuesday through Saturday. There are a lot of signs, praying, shouting and shoving. We have soapbox preachers and sometimes we have choral groups singing hymns. Saturdays are the most hectic days and there have been some incidents of violence. Escorts try to keep to a non-engagement policy with protesters to minimize any confrontations. Sometimes clients and companions will lash out as well. The situation is always volatile, but rarely violent.

Q
Is your volunteer group comprised mostly of women who have had abortions themselves?
A

No. Our volunteer group are a diverse group of people. We have escorts who range in age from 18 to 72; they self-identify as female and male. There are generations of family groups who volunteer together. Some have had abortions themselves, but a great number have not. The one thing we have in common is the firm belief that access to abortion and reproductive health care should be without stigma, shame or harassment of any kind.

Q
Roughly what percentage of women arrive at the clinic alone?
A

Roughly 3%. Most clients bring a companion with them. Depending on the procedure they are having, they are required to have a driver to take them home when they done.

Abortion Clinic Escort [...continued]