When last week a leaked draft of the impending Supreme Court decision was released in Roe v. Wade, one of my first thoughts was: I should go to the clinic. Since early last fall, I’ve volunteered as an escort at my local North Carolina abortion clinic, helping patients and their companions get through front doors without being stopped and harassed by anti-abortion protesters who gather daily outside.
It has never been the easiest job; Despite our best efforts, “anti-s”, as we call them, will do anything to get patients to change their minds. They shout hateful words in their faces and even stop cars before they reach the driveway. But I had thought that Roe v. Wade’s draft resolution would add horrific fuel to the protesters’ fires, inspiring them to increase their numbers, double their intimidation, and generally become more daring in their tactics.
Unfortunately, you were right.
They shout hateful words in their faces and even stop cars before they reach the driveway.
On Tuesday, May 3 — the morning after the Supreme Court leak — alternate attendants told our hangout that in addition to having more protesters present than usual (several dozen versus six or seven), one “anti” North Carolina broke Clinic Trespassing Act – Twice. The intruder’s apparent goal was to speak to patients safely indoors. (She apparently insisted that she only wanted to give them gifts and gift cards. Unlikely.) The police were called, and the woman was called; But it was an inauspicious start to the week ahead.
Thursday and Friday (clinic closed on Wednesdays) also saw larger numbers of protesters than usual, including a agonizing number of young children accompanying their parents and repeating their factually incorrect and hateful speech. In addition to the routine denunciations that accompany us we are “pro-murders” and “participants in the genocide of blacks” (because of Wrong but widespread belief Among anti-abortion advocates (that black women abort pregnancies more frequently than white women), protesters accused us of “dropping saliva on dead babies” and bemoaned that we did not abort ourselves. They were tough and insistent. As always but significantly less accurate than usual, some of them videotaped us and wrote down patient plate numbers, a worrying but unfortunately legal act.
I didn’t volunteer on Saturday — the start of the Mother’s Day holiday — but those who did reported seeing more than 160 protesters, a record for the clinic. As noted by several escorts via text, a few of these “opponents” approached the escorts and patients alike, yelling at them from one foot away, causing the police to be called again. One protester, angry at an escort standing between her and a patient, almost shocked her in frustration. Dozens of other protesters were deployed on all sides of the street, with the aim of stopping cars on their way to the clinic and rerouting them to Pregnancy Crisis Center down the street – One of the many places that claim to provide abortion care but in fact we have observed anti-abortion agendas.
Most days, my companions and I successfully prevented patients from misleading and redirecting protesters, and put up signs instructing cars to keep their windows open and urging them to safely enter the clinic yard. However, with more opponents than usual on the scene this past weekend, it was impossible for escorts to get to every patient before a protester did. As a result, at least one woman appears to have missed her appointment, attendants wrote into our group conversation, and several of them entered the clinic tearful and visibly shaken by the actions of the protesters.
It will be hard for us as companions not to feel defeated every time we arrive to find five Pretenders present for each one of us, or every time we discover another 6-year-old joins the fray.
As the countdown to the Supreme Court’s official decision on Roe v. Wade approaches, things are in the clinic—and in clinics across America— Likely to get messy. It would be hard for us as companions not to feel defeated every time we reached out to find five pretentious ones present for each one of us, or every time we noticed another 6-year-old joining the fray with a sign that spewed some untrue and harmful against him. The “reality” of abortion. And although the clinic’s escort policy is that we don’t deal with the protesters ourselves or respond to their allegations – no matter how dangerous and absurd they may be – I suppose it will be more difficult than ever to resist responding as their statements grow stronger. and directed.
At the same time, though, anti-abortion protesters aren’t the only ones who turned out in droves after the infusion. Since last week, dozens of new volunteers have reached out to our escort leader, from college advocates to the resolution, to older men and women—some we’ve told we once walked for causes like the ERA in the 1970s—wanting to spend their retirement fighting. Some unable to volunteer expressed their support in other ways, with many strangers stopping in front of the clinic to thank us for being there; On Thursday, a man even gave Starbucks gift cards to attendants in appreciation (the attendant, in turn, gave them to deserving clinic staff).
It is gratifying to see these changes, and I hope that more and more people will take part in the battle for access to abortion in the coming days, whether Clinic escortOr community organizers or even just financial donors. The anti-abortion movement may be encouraged by the court’s decision, but so are we — and it is our responsibility to help the hundreds of thousands of women who need an abortion each year to get the care and support they deserve at home. And outside the clinic walls.