[TW: Abortion, quotes and examples of misogyny, descriptions of anti-choice protests]
It’s a little healthcare clinic on an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac. Beautiful trees shade it, and in the summer flowers bloom. Despite the welcoming appearance of the grounds, women practically run up the stairs to get inside, drivers punch the gas pedal to get into the parking lot. Staff drive into the parking lot as fast as possible, music turned all the way up. They’re not in a rush because they’re doing anything illegal or morally wrong. They’re not in a rush because they’re afraid they’ll change their minds. They’re not in a rush to get out of the hot Southern sun They’re in a rush because the quiet building and beautiful grounds are besieged by screaming protestors holding up gruesome posters, wearing body cameras, calling them evil, cursed, murderers.
I don’t get up early and drive a half hour there two mornings a week because I feel like it. I don’t help direct parking lot traffic because it’s a cool hobby. I don’t stand around being called names as some masochistic thing.
I do it because I don’t want any of this to be happening. A doctor’s office should be a place of privacy and quietude, but as long as crowds of hateful protesters are spewing venom on the doorstep, I will be there offering some kind of shield, a kind word, a feeling that the patients are not facing the pit of hell alone.
Because no matter how much they invoke Jesus’ name, looking at the clamoring men holding up graphic pictures and calling down curses on all of us is like looking into a hot sulphuric cavern of demons.
Like I’ve written before, I grew up in an extremely fundamentalist anti-choice atmosphere, so much so that not one thing the protesters have said or done has surprised me at all. I even volunteered at a CPC for a while, much to my current chagrin.
When you’re’ so very indoctrinated for so very long, it takes a while to get past it. So for some time, though I was pro-choice, I thought some feminists got a little too hyperbolic about it. I wasn’t going to go out and actively fight for the right to an abortion because, to be honest, I partially took it for granted and I partially was still a little ashamed of standing up for reproductive rights.
The moment when I really got it was last summer when multiple state legislatures voted on abortion restrictions, including Texas’ famous Wendy Davis filibuster and the North Carolina legislature’s “motorcycle vagina” bill.
I watched the livestream from the North Carolina House and Senate’s votes and I felt my gut clench as I watched a handful of people who didn’t know me decide that they got to control the circumstances surrounding my reproductive rights. That was when I realized, anti-choicers are being proactive, so I should probably be more active myself.
It wasn’t until I thought about the circumstances that have given rise to the clinic escort that I really truly got what was going on though. If every person with a uterus could freely and safely make whatever reproductive choices were right for them, facing no legal or economic restraints, and then carry out that decision without fear, without threat of harassment, without a single person other than themself and their doctor having to be involved, I could spend my weekend mornings doing something else. Like sleeping.
What is the goddamn point of protesting a clinic? Though I do remember the logic behind it, I honestly don’t understand, especially because of the intense level of vitriol and the images worthy of a bad slasher film.
If you’re upset that people get abortions, push for better sex ed, better birth control and better access to it. Those things are proven to decrease the abortion rate. Here, many of the protesters are fixated on calling abortion racist (and yes, I can’t help but giggle a sad, frustrated little giggle when a bunch of redneck white men are calling black patients and their companions racist). If you’re worried about racism, go protest the police. Do what you can to make this a safe world for a black child to be born into. If you’re worried about the fact that abortion doctors get paid for what they do (which is a silly worry because being a doctor is a job and people with jobs in this country tend to want to get paid), address the problems with the healthcare system and with capitalism (also, a bit of information: volunteer clinic escorts don’t get paid, even though the protesters clearly think we do based on several of the things they yell at us). If you want people to come to Jesus, work on being useful and kind and Jesus-like in your communities. Literally none of the concerns the protesters pretend they care so much about can be addressed by getting a megaphone and a poster of a dissected fetus and setting up camp on the public utility easement across the front of the clinic property, threatening patients and escorts.
A few mornings of standing in a parking lot getting yelled at made it totally clear to me that people protesting abortion clinics are motivated by hate and fear. They preach hellfire, and condemnation, and then make claims that god wants to love us if only we’ll let him love us on his terms (which sounds super abusive but then, what would I know about abuse, right? My mind has been so darkened by the devil that when I feel really attacked that’s just because I hate god’s voice). They are deadly serious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of them crack a smile. When we don’t have much to do, we escorts will pass time chatting, laughing, sometimes listening to music and dancing. That makes the protesters really angry. They yell at us to stop smiling, to stop being foolish. This morning, one of them tried to exorcise us.
The more they yell, the more we ignore them, and the angrier they get. I don’t know what they expect to happen, really. They’ve been lying to themselves so long that they can keep insisting to us that what they’re doing is loving. “You may think this is hate, you may think this is harassment, but it’s really love.” They flip flop between telling us god hates us and we’re murderers and we’re evil, and god loves us. It’s utterly bizarre, but I know from experience it makes sense in their own heads.
I didn’t ask for my personal medical decisions to be up for Congressional debate. I didn’t ask for my uterus to be the center of a massive political, legal, social, and religious carnival. I didn’t ask for my right to privacy to be violated on every single level just because I have a certain set of reproductive organs.
But I did choose to stand in between patients seeking reproductive healthcare, and the people who hate them. I choose to do this every week because inevitably, when you don’t do anything, the oppressors win. They’re the ones turning this into a circus, but as long as they’ve got the circus set up, I’ll be there. Because no one, not even an anti-choice woman who finds herself in an abortion clinic seeking help, deserves to be the victim of the ringmasters and clowns that station themselves outside a medical clinic, armed with their Bibles, their really shitty sermons, and most of all, their intense hatred of people with uteruses being free.