Trigger warning: sexism, racism, verbal abuse, NSFW, DV, sexual assault in the Vine posts
Every Saturday I stand in front of a reproductive health clinic. In a “safe, blue state.” It’s one of the most volatile, horrific scenes I’ve ever witnessed. And I’m not new to this gig. Patients and their companions are terrorized. Absent a Buffer/Bubble Law or ordinances to protect them, patients must walk a gauntlet of screaming that can be heard blocks away and a slew of photoshopped signs depicting gruesome, inaccurate pictures as well as awful slurs directed at them. Oh, and the stalking. Also the video taping of their faces. And the shoving of everything from pamphlets to chocolate babies (no, I’m not kidding; no they don’t have wrappers) to Bibles in their faces. Some are too terrified to get out of their cars. Some arriving in MEDICAL TRANSPORT VEHICLES while in physical distress are surrounded and prevented from getting to their doctors.
Until very recently, clinic defense work had been a quiet job done by steadfast, thick-skinned volunteers. Understandably, clinics already under siege were weary of publicity which would make their staff, patients and escorts even less safe. Then SCOTUS took up the Buffer Zone challenge out of Massachusetts. That, combined with a decade of systematic elimination of access to any sort of family planning services, has made some clinics bolder and more open to exposing what happens every day their doors are open. They — like me — are certain that this harassment and intimidation is only tolerated because communities do not know the extent of what goes on.
I began posting to twitter and Vine from the sidewalk a couple of weeks ago. The reactions were shock and outrage. I wanted people to understand this wasn’t simply one bad day. I posted again the following Saturday. More people responded. Other clinic escorts joined in. People started asking how they could help. My response was to speak out. The picketers believe they stand for a “silent majority.” Until we disabuse them of that notion and un-invite them from our communities, they will remain planted firmly between patients and their doctors. We can make them the next Westboro Baptist Church, sidelined out of the mainstream and banished to the fringe corners where they belong.
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.
For now, I’ve collected as far back as Storify will apparently let me (I’m new to their format) via the two links below. I will work on a separate post with tweets embedded for my first two live tweeted shifts. I have a lot of tweets to sift through. It’s worth it; they just won’t be up immediately.
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Categories: Clinic Defense