When the leaked draft of the impending Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade came out last week, one of my first thoughts was: I have to go to the clinic. Since early last fall, I’ve volunteered as an escort at my local abortion clinic in North Carolina, helping patients and their companions through the front doors without being stopped and harassed by protesters. anti-abortion who gather daily outside.
It has never been the easiest job; despite our best efforts, the “antis”, as we call them, will do anything to change the minds of patients. They shout hateful words in their faces and even stop cars before they get to the driveway. But I suspected that the Roe v. Wade would add terrifying fuel to the protesters’ fires, urging them to increase their numbers, double down on their intimidation, and generally become more brazen in their tactics.
And unfortunately, I was right.
They shout hateful words in their faces and even stop cars before they get to the driveway.
On Tuesday, May 3 – the morning after the Supreme Court leak – duty escorts told our group chat that in addition to the fact that there were many more protesters present than normal (several dozen against six or seven), an “anti” broke out in North Carolina. law to encroach on the property of the clinic – twice. The intruder’s apparent purpose was to speak to the patients already safe inside. (She apparently insisted she only wanted to give them candy and gift cards. Not likely.) Police were called and the woman was issued a citation; but it marked a worrying start to the week ahead.
Thursday and Friday (the clinic is not open on Wednesdays) also saw a larger number of protesters than usual, including a distressing number of young children accompanying their parents and echoing their often misguided and hateful speech. In addition to the routine convictions we escort are “supporters of murder” and “participants in black genocide” (due to the false but widely held belief among abortion advocates that black women abort far more frequently than white women), the protesters accused us of “salivating over dead babies” and lamented that we ourselves had not been aborted. They were cruel and insistent. And, as always but with far less subtlety than usual, some of them videotaped us and wrote down the license plates of the patients, a disturbing but unfortunately legal act.
I didn’t volunteer on Saturday – the start of Mother’s Day weekend – but those who did said they saw more than 160 protesters, possibly a record for the clinic. As noted by several escorts via text message, a few of these “antis” got so close to the escorts and patients, shouting at them from just a foot away, that the police were nearly called back. A protester, furious that an escort stood protectively between her and a patient, nearly punched her in the chest in frustration. Dozens of other protesters scattered to all sides of the street, aiming to stop cars en route to the clinic and redirect them to the ‘pregnancy crisis center’ down the street – l one of many places that claim to provide abortion care but actually have noted anti-abortion agendas.
Most of the time, my escort companions and I manage to prevent patients from being misled and redirected by protesters, by holding up signs telling cars to keep their windows open and urging them to park safely. security in the clinic parking lot. Yet with so many more antagonists than usual on the scene last weekend, it was impossible for the escorts to reach every patient before a protester did. As a result, it emerged that at least one woman skipped her appointment, the escorts wrote in our group chat, and several others entered the clinic in tears and visibly shaken by the actions of the protesters.
It will be difficult for us escorts not to feel defeated every time we manage to find five protesters present for each of us, or every time we see another 6-year-old joining the fray.
As the countdown to the official Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is getting closer, things at the clinic – and in clinics across America – are only likely to get more chaotic. It will be difficult for us escorts not to feel defeated each time we manage to find five protesters present for each of us, or each time we see another 6-year-old child joining the fray with a sign. springing from an incorrect and harmful anti-“fact” abortion. And while it’s the clinic’s escort policy that we don’t engage with protesters ourselves or respond to their demands – however dangerous and absurd they may be – I suppose it will get harder than ever to resist responding as their statements become more and more forceful. and targeted.
At the same time, however, anti-abortion protesters aren’t the only ones coming out in droves after the leak. Since the past week, dozens of new volunteers have reached out to our Escort Leader, ranging from students galvanized by the decision to older men and women – some of whom told us had previously marched for causes like the ERA in the 70s. – wanting to spend their retirement fighting back. Some who are unable to volunteer expressed their support in other ways, with several strangers walking past the clinic stopping to thank us for being there; a man on Thursday even provided Starbucks gift cards to escorts out of appreciation (the escort in turn gave them to deserving clinic staff.)
It is gratifying to see these changes, and I hope that in the days to come, more and more people will get involved in the battle for access to abortion, whether as clinical escorts , community organizers or even just financial donors. The anti-abortion movement may be emboldened by the court’s decision, but so are we – and it is our responsibility to help the hundreds of thousands of women who need abortions every year get the care and support that they deserve inside and outside the clinic walls.