Pro-Active: Dispatches from the Sidewalk, Clinic Defense (NYC/Queens) 04/26/14

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!

I missed this so much. Where was I? If you missed it, the ‘Pro Life’ Action League put me on a “prayer” poster for the duration of Lent. My spot with Brad Friedman, PLAL Targeting and Response (04/02/14), has a great recap as well as a side by side with the leader of the PLAL, Eric Scheidler. Brad was amazing; prepare to become a fan if you aren’t already.

In fact, here’s the easy stream version again:

With the anti-choice movement’s history of violence and use of wanted posters which lead to the assassination of doctors (the PLAL is tight with Operation Rescue who killed Dr. George Tiller), I took the threat seriously and was cautious. On advice of council, I didn’t escort. We decided it wasn’t worth risking the safety of other escorts, clinic staff and patients for me to predictably be in a location every single week at the exact same time.

With the ’40 Days For Life’ national campaign over (until next year), I was back on the sidewalk this morning. I will not be able to volunteer daily or weekly as escorting isn’t my only activism outlet. I will, however, help whenever I can. To connect to volunteer groups in your area or get FREE resources (vests, training, etc.) to start your own escort program, contact The Clinic Vest Project (also on Facebook).

Today I was in Queens. That’s New York City. So, a “safe, blue” city in a “safe, blue” state. Right.

You’ll recognize some picketer’s voices and faces; the Queens clinic shares them with Englewood, NJ. With the passage — UNANIMOUSLY — of a Buffer Zone in Englewood, I suspect they’ll opt to harass the Queens patients more often. As you’ll see in the Vines, NYPD doesn’t get involved. Escorts who haven’t spent time there and talked with the police say it’s because ordinances are vague and hard to enforce. They require a complainant to press charges, though not to step in as patients are being swarmed and screamed at.

The harassment was, well, creative this morning. There were lines of “thought” I actually hadn’t heard before. Invoking the Bald Eagle, ageism directed at the escort program coordinator, vert heavy pampleting and proselytizing of pedestrians and patrons of nearby businesses, and a few other gems you’ll see in the Storify. I continue the tactic of non-engagment, though you may hear escorts in the background speaking with picketers. The Englewood regulars did give it their best shot to get me to engage, hoping that with a different group my boundaries would somehow be different. Nope. I’m still not there for the picketers. I’m there as a friendly face and a shield if necessary for patients who need me.

This week’s storify: Sidewalk Dispatches, 04/26/14 (NYC)

If this offends, surprises, frustrates or emboldens you, there’s good news! YOU HAVE POWER. In my recent piece for Truthout, “Open Letter to Legislators From a Clinic Escort,” I detail how and why cities and counties have the authority to impose safety protections for health centers even though most elected officials don’t realize it. You don’t have to be on a sidewalk to help! Calling and writing your city council, asking them to stand up for their constituents is powerful. At the state and federal level, we often feel frustrated and without any way to affect change. Locally, your effectiveness is real. If you need guidance getting started, feel free to email me at and I’ll help you get the ball rolling, connect you to local resources and even meet with legislators if my experience can help craft meaningful legislation.

It’s time we became not just pro-choice, but also pro-active. We have fought against bad legislation for two generations; it is our turn to push for our values to become law. We have the moral upper hand and we must speak and act accordingly.

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

To aid in sidelining picketers and encouraging local legislative action, I will continue to post from in front of the clinics when 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.

If you found this post informative, entertaining, helpful, etc. you can subscribe to the upcoming Katie Speak Mailer which will have all my posts, media appearances, announcements and activism info. You can also click SUPPORT to keep me speaking and follow me on Facebook and twitter. Thanks!

Categories: Thoughts

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4 replies

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