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Today, some lovely ladies and I from William and Mary’s chapter of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood volunteered as clinic defenders at a women’s clinic in Richmond, VA.

It was my fifth time volunteering and every time I walk away encouraged and a little disheartened.

As we stand on the sidewalk between the clinic in our bright vests (that, yes, say “Pro-Choice Clinic Escort” and are awesome), I feel an enormous amount of love and support coming from the other volunteers, the grateful patients, and people in the neighborhood that go out of their way to say how appreciative they are that we are doing what we do.

However, it’s hard to not confront the protestors. To not get angry. To not tell them that they are hateful, ignorant assholes. To not grab their face and scream “do you not understand what you are doing to these women?!” It is hard. 

When the last patient enters the clinic safely at 11:45pm and we take off our vests, I know that we stood tall as strong symbols of solidarity, support, and love for women and reproductive justice. And, unlike the revolting protestors, we will be never be acting from a place of hate.

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"PRO-LIFE, YOUR NAMES A LIE, YOU DON’T CARE IF WOMEN DIE!"

Reproductive Justice Defense Action, organized by Boston Feminists for Liberation. July 26th 2014, Planned Parenthood, Boston MA.

Clinic defense actions are controversial, but this action succeeded in blocking anti-choice protesters from speaking to patients, blocking the signs of anti-choicers, and taking the focus off of patients and onto us. We were filmed and photographed by anti-choicers the entire time we were there, and in that time I saw 3 women walk into Planned Parenthood without any cameras on them and without anything being screamed at them. The majority of us are/were PP patients in the past, and this was our chance to stand up to these people, who were not as willing to speak down to us when we had 20+ other women standing by our side. In other words, this was a success.

—photos taken by event participants—

Can you imagine this creepy motherfucker harassing you outside the clinics? He drives over an hour each way every goddamned day to stalk women on their way to the doctor in Virginia.

Richmond Clinic Defense needs sunscreen, bottled water

The Richmond Clinic Defense, a group that provides escorts to patients of the Richmond Medical Center for Women (118 North Boulevard, Richmond VA) and dissuades sometimes-aggressive anti-abortion protesters, needs donations of sunscreen and bottled water for their volunteers. 

If you would like to donate, contact Autumn at rvaclinicdefense@gmail.com. 

I need a break from reading about MARC encoding so I'm going tell you all about the clinic defense I recently helped organize

 Some of you may or may not be aware of the pro-life campaign called “40 Days for Life” which this year ran from September 26th to November 4th.  Its a national event, where people hold vigils and demonstrations outside of clinics across the country.  There are two locations in my state that provide abortion services, but one seems particularly targeted.  Being right down the street from a large Catholic church, there are always people outside saying the rosary, singing hymns, holding signs, and harassing those that come in and out.  

That last bit is what really, truly, bothers the fuck out of me.  There’s a man who sets up enormous, incredibly graphic and bloody signs up and down the sidewalks in front of the clinic.  He takes down the license plate numbers of those who drive in.  He doesn’t do anything with them apparently, which is why no legal action can be done to stop him (so we were told).  He puts toys and baby clothes out on the sidewalk and shrubs. Along with him, people yell at those coming up to the doors, pleading with them to reconsider.  Essentially, they guilt these women and try to make them feel as shitty as possible. 

And that’s on any other day.  This day, the last Saturday of the 40 Days for Life campaign, it was intensified.  People carried crosses and a virgin mary statue, they yelled and sang hymns through the windows.  Quite frankly, it was fucking obnoxious.  Women going in there could be getting a pap smear for fuck sake, never mind anything else. 

We had bright signs with purple letters all saying similar things: Pro-Choice, Proud to be Pro-Choice, Support Choice.  This was mainly to distinguish ourselves, and show passerby that we weren’t part of the anti-choice contingent.  And I think it worked.  We received lots of waves and honks from people driving by, and with those going in we made a lot of them smile.  

Our purpose was not to try and convince anyone, necessarily, but simply to support those women coming into the clinic and dispel the overwhelming negative bullshit of the anti-choicers on the sidewalk.  It was invigorating and awesome when some got off the bus at the nearby stop, came over, and picked up a sign.  It was awesome when some actually pulled over and shook our hands.  The community is sick and tired of the routine harassment that they endure from these people. 

We had a strict no engagement policy to avoid nasty screaming matches, as this would essentially negate our entire purpose there.  But it became increasingly difficult to keep my opinionated mouth shut, so I came up with an alternative.  Two women holding “I regret my abortion” signs attempted to admonish us saying, “how can you laugh and joke when lives are being taken?  When murders are being committed?” 

Instead of turning and responding directly, I looked to my fellow compatriots and responded, in as jubilant a tone as possible, “Hey friends, I’m feeling so great, you know why?”  

"Why?" they asked curiously. "Well!" I said, "Because we live in a place where laws aren’t dictated by religious extremists who expect everyone to live by their rules alone!"

They tried to interrupt me, but I didn’t let them. “I am laughing with joy, because I am free to make my own choices as to when and how I have a baby!  And it is amazingly beautiful and good that women can make these choices for themselves without fear of jail time, fines, or infection and death!  Isn’t that fucking great?!” 

My friends nodded and grinned.  Cause that’s really what its about.  I don’t give a shit whether or not you personally believe that abortion is wrong, or if your morals or religion discourage it.  Don’t expect others to agree, and don’t try to legislate that agreement.  At some point, pro-life activists need to understand that outlawing abortion won’t solve anything, but would only privilege the life of the unborn over the life of the living.  That’s the real murder that would be inevitable if they got what they wanted. 

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Anti Choice assholes in Florida. This is why all clinics need buffer zones. No woman should have to deal with harassment at the doctor’s office. You are guaranteed the right to free speech. You are not guaranteed a captive or attentive audience to guilt, shame, harass, and name call.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

I am curating an anthology of clinic escorts in the United States, and I want to hear from you! If you are a volunteer clinic escort and are willing to share your experiences/insights, please submit your work to me.

I am accepting original works, including essays, poetry, or artwork about your experience as a clinic escort (max 2,000 words). It can be about a particular day, a trend you’ve noticed, how you feel while escorting, etc. Just make sure to make it personal and compelling for what you do. Also, please be sure to respect the confidentiality of patients, companions, physicians, and staff. 

If you are interested in being considered, please email your submission to me, Lauren Rankin, at  lauren.a.rankin@gmail.com. Make sure to include your name, location (you can keep this broad, if you want — just the state or the city and state is fine),  and how long you’ve been a clinic escort. 

Volunteering as a clinic escort is often a thankless job. It’s not about accolades or attention. This is a chance to share your story, your experiences, your point of view, with the world, and help to break down the stigma that pervades around safe and legal abortion.

Thanks, everyone! I look forward to hearing from you.

Every Saturday, from 9-11am, in front of the Richmond Medical Center for Women (118 North Boulevard, Richmond, VA), volunteers are needed to escort patients past anti-abortion protestors.

See more information through the title link to the Richmond Clinic Defense Facebook group. New escorts are welcome any Saturday, but it is preferred that you first contact rvaclinicdefense@gmail.com and arrange for training. NO SIGNS; the escort is not a protest.

i can’t get into a lot of stuff about the anti’s and what not most times. i just can’t stand those motherfuckers. it is true that abortion providers have bullet proof vests. we hade bullet proof glass at my last clinic and there were evacuation drills where we practice locking down and securing patients etc. so it is a war climate when it should be a health care providing climate (it is that, but there is the constant threat)

i just wanted to put this story about Kansas on your radar. Dr. Tiller was murdered there and supposedly the state is run by right wing tea party types that are encouraging lack of access and emboldening the violent fringes. 

what happens, because abortion is so divisive is people want it to go away like the NOW person said. i’m for holistic health and justice and i get tired of the ‘choice’ debate. what am i saying? i’m saying i can’t stand that people won’t leave folks terminating their pregnancies or the people who provide services alone. and the fringe elements gain ground here, because people want to avoid the topic. 

for example the ‘black is beautiful’ ad’s in Oakland directly affect the ability of new planned parenthood affiliates to open in Oakland. i was just speaking with someone who said they want to open one in fruitvale and are having a hard time getting support from the neighborhood. that might make sense on so many levels given the history of eugenics enacted on communities of color. that history needs to be examined by providers carefully, for sure. but then you have the ‘anti’s’ exploiting that feeling and at the end of the day support for clinics is so small, because noone wants to deal with the risk associated with fringe and violent anti-abortion types. 

this doesn’t make much sense. just support abortion providers always if you get the chance because they’re literally and figuratively under fire. 

My favorite part of escorting yesterday happened when the antis were trying to intimidate a young couple walking into the clinic.

Anti: “Take some information on the ‘Women’s Center’ across the street!”

Young Man: “Why? So it can grow up to be raped by Catholic priests?”

As an escort, my job is to ignore the antis and help the patients, regardless of how much I want to scream back at the crazies. It’s so satisfying when a clinic patron takes care of that for me.

This meeting we’ll be having a short presentation on rape culture with a discussion to follow. We’ll also be doing some planning around clinic defense and the upcoming DFCF social night. In a…

Please join us on Monday evening at 6:00 pm for this presentation and discussion!

September 1st, 2014

Fluid Meeting Spaces
501 E 19th Ave
Denver