Dispatches from the Sidewalk — Clinic Defense (NJ) 02/01/14

Trigger warning: sexism, racism, verbal abuse, NSFW, DV, sexual assault in the Vine posts

Note: This is what I do now, full-time. I’m completely committed to changing the face of clinic access in this country. If you can, consider supporting my work so I can do more of it by clicking HERE and making a one-time or recurring (just click the box) contribution. All the funding goes to equipment, travel to other conferences/clinics/meetings with pro-choice legislators/training new escort programs and supplies. Thank you!

Today was the worst I’ve seen. Ever. The Bread of Life/Abolish Human Abortion group brought over picketers who typically only make it to the Queens clinic with whom we have shared “custody.” There were around 40 aggressive picketers today, along with the 20 or so typically respectful “vigil” style people across the road and down the block who stand with signs or rosaries and pray, but don’t approach or harass patients and their companions.

Reminder: my trigger warnings are posted for a reason. It can be hard to watch. Understand that the Abolish Human Abortion people (you’ll know them by their new, shiny signs with clear logos) are proud of this. Their “preaching” to pedestrians, patients and companions leaving the clinic and feeding meters as well as the words they hurl and the way they are now boldly blocking the sidewalk. All of this is a source of pride.

They were extra excited that they had “outted” Lauren and I. As though this is the first time anti-choicers had found us, threatened us, harassed us. We both looked at each other and shrugged, then let our team members know that we’d understand if they un-followed/friended us. Protecting our friends and family is something we’re used to doing and they (mostly) support our work. We aren’t offended when people need to keep their distance; just look at the videos. We get it.

Yelling at us, taunting us — none of that works. We’re unimpressed. If being called names and told we were going to hell bothered us, we’d have quit long ago. We’d all have quit a long time ago. Frankly, if they were any good at oppo research, they’d have found The Pro-Life Action League’s piece on me months ago. I expected to be greeted by name long before now.

So, with that…

I actually started my Storify today with a thank you:

I’m starting today with a thank you. Escorting has always been about camaraderie and love and solidarity. That community is now growing past the sidewalks on which we stand. Every week BEFORE I can even get to the clinic. My timelines are filled with love and gratitude. To all of you who watch, RT, tell a friend, and otherwise simply refuse to look away: THANK YOU. You are how we change this. The harassment won’t stop until we demand it and make picketers understand they are the minority in this country. #solidarity #access #justice

That extends to you. If you are reading this, if you refuse to turn away and pretend the harassment isn’t happening, then YOU
are part of the solution. Not everyone can put on a vest; everyone can help.

An extra thank you to the Clinic Vest Project, who everyone should immediately go “like” on Facebook. They provide assistance, vests and training to new groups and were instrumental in setting up the program in New Jersey now providing so much relief to patients and staff.

This week’s Storify:

Clinic Defense (NJ) 02/01/14

Also check out and follow Lauren’s twitter as well as her Tumblr: This is what it’s like to walk into an abortion clinic.

A late edition (if you ready this when it posted) from one of our escorts. In my Storify, this goes along with the pic of the AHA picketer standing up against an escort and shoving his Bible in their face, then the “documentary maker” began narrating the late start of a video saying our escort got in the picketer’s face. Yeah; and I’m the liar.

Street Preaching In An Escort’s Face

And a bonus from Courtney Kupfer, badass Minnesota clinic escort, who took this picture (the likes of which I’ve never seen) in subzero weather today:

MN clinic Jesus fetus flag

Since most of my readers don’t swim in the anti-choice rhetoric and writing that I’m surrounded with, I thought you might find a selection of tweets from their “documentary” filmmaker’s feed. Enjoy and apologies:

Apparently he has read some of the word that reflect his savior’s message. It’s telling that he never quotes Jesus saying abortion is wrong. (Spoiler alert: that’s because Jesus never talked about abortion or when life begins.)

Info from the movie in this tweet: “Babies Are Murdered Here, is the new controversial pro-life documentary that examines the truth about abortion and the single biggest failure of the pro-life movement, not calling abortion what it really is…Murder.”

See you next week! And if you are an escort and want to join in, the posts come from all over the country using the #ProtectTheZone hashtag. We need as much material as we can get ahead of the SCOTUS decision on the MA Buffer Zone. xo

Recap of why I’m posting the videos, comments, tweets, and anything else I can get my hands on:

To aid in sidelining them, I will continue to post from in front of the clinics where I escort. My Vine feed is exclusively (with the exception of the occasional dog video because CUTENESS) devoted to documenting the reality of accessing clinics. You don’t need to subscribe or sign up; it’s a public website with a series of captioned 4-second videos. I mainly use the captions to include quotes and rants that don’t fit in the Vines. I also post through Twitter; if you don’t use that medium, you can read my feed right here, on this website over to the right side of this post.

I’m doing some website construction so I can have a tab with all the clinic defense posts, storifys, and other content. I want to link to other escorts who are doing similar documentation, so it won’t be up immediately. I’ll be including background on clinic escort programs — i.e. why they’re needed, how they were created and what makes them an important component of reproductive justice in the current hostile climate. Thanks for your patience while I work out the details of formatting and in the mean time, follow the #ProtectTheZone hashtag that NARAL helped kick off the day SCOTUS heard MA’s Buffer Zone challenge. I thank them for reaching out to those of us who spend time on the sidewalks and using our quotes/pictures.

If you found this post informative, entertaining, helpful, etc. you can subscribe to the Katie Speak Weekly Mailing which has all my posts, radio segments and activism info. You can also click SUPPORT to keep me speaking and follow me on Facebook and twitter. Thanks!



Categories: Clinic Defense

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5 replies

  1. I have not seen video clips of protestors. If I were litigating this case, or trying to sway public opinion, I would be circulating all the instances of violent, persistent or abusive protestor behavior I could. It has a whole lot more impact than written accounts.

  2. Wonderful post, Katie. As a woman who has suffered multiple assaults and abuses, I often wonder why I do this. I think the best a can come up with is exactly what you have said: I am part of the solution. Not only that, but in a way, I am protecting people from experiencing trauma while walking in to the clinic. That is enough for me. You are strong and I Annie what you do, just as I admire all my fellow escorts. We are the smiling face and helping hand in a storm of hateful words and lies. Keep up the good work. Proud to be a part of your blog, Katie.

    • Thank you so much for letting me use your picture! If you ever want to donate especially “good” ones (by which I obviously mean AWFUL), I do this post every single Saturday and will until the laws are changed. You’re a hero. Especially in the sub-zero temps I know you braved today. xoxo

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