The pro-life protesters outside my clinic have started their “40 Days for Life” campaign, which means that there are 45 folks singing and snarling every Saturday morning rather than 15. More irritating than having to call the police the third or fourth time a protester physically blocks us from getting into the clinic is the chalking:
Murderers Work Here!
Don’t Kill Babies!
Jesus Loves You.
As an escort, one of my jobs is to enable the pro-life protesters’ free speech. I keep insulted clients and their mothers from hitting them on a regular basis, I tell clients and their companions they are welcome to speak with the protesters, and when they cover the city sidewalk in nasty words, I try not to scuff my feet.
I believe in their right to speak, even when it’s not comfortable.
I also believe the right response to speech is more speech, which is why I planned to pre-empt their chalking last weekend. I would cover the sidewalk in:
Planned Parenthood Protects Women!
We Trust Women!Have a Calm Day.
- I got a cold which knocked me down flat,
- It was raining.
I opted for some smaller acts of resistance. I shared some Reese’s cookies from a recipe I made by smooshing a peanut-butter cookie recipe into a sugar cookie recipe and adding a 1/2 cup of cocoa powder with my fellow escorts. I spoke kindly to a protester who was standing inches from me, saying she wished I could just learn the facts and realize I was a contributing to murder.
I was nice not because she deserved it, she was being abusive, but because how I treat them is about me. When I escort, I try to show my respect for our shared humanity which it more important even than my deeply rooted commitment to access to abortion.
I may end up chalking this weekend. I won’t ever get up in front of the clinic with signs like this /|
Because when a client approaches the clinic, all she and her companion would see would be a teeming crowd of angry people. At 8am on a Saturday morning, it is hard to tell the difference between angry supporters and angry detractors. Also, I cannot think of another minor medical procedure for which a stranger holding up a political sign would be a comfort.
The point of being an escort is to make the client’s walk to the clinic as safe and calm as possible: if there were no protesters, no nasty chalking, I wouldn’t have to wake up at 6:30am 2 Saturdays a month. But I do, not only because of my politics, but because of the number of times I’ve heard clients say something like this:
“Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.”–Guttmacher Institute
1. Finer LB and Zolna MR, Unintended pregnancy in the United States: incidence and disparities, 2006,Contraception, 2011, doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2011.07.013.
2. Jones RK and Kooistra, K., Abortion incidence and access to services in the United States, 2008,Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1):41-50.