Making the jump from abortion clinic employee to abortion clinic escort was not a big deal for me. I anticipated that after working inside a clinic, helping to defend the outside would be easy. I went through escort training with a slight ego; I already knew the Pennsylvania abortion laws (24-hour waiting period, 24 week gestational limit), knew all the local clinics, could explain an abortion procedure in 30 seconds in two languages. Confident that I was going to be the best escort ever, I showed up to my first shift ready to show the antis who’s boss.
I showed up, but the antis never stopped showing up. Us escorts were six people strong, but the antis were at least 60 and their numbers kept growing. Not only that, but they held a mass in front of the clinic, held up a huge wooden cross with a life-size Jesus nailed onto it, and brought their kids wearing buttons that said, “I’m a survivor of the American holocaust.” There weren’t that many patients that day, and I don’t blame them. If I saw that mess in front of the clinic where I was about to have an abortion, I’d turn right around and reschedule that appointment.
I expected harassment and intimidation tactics from the antis, but I didn’t expect to feel scared. Most of them there were large, older white men. They could’ve taken me down in a second if they wanted to. I stood there in my yellow escort jacket, trying as hard as I could not to let the patients see that I was just as freaked out as they were by this display of hatred and lies.
Sometimes all it takes for me to do this work is resilience and hope. I’m not often confronted by an immediate physical threat, and the amount that it scared me really threw me off. I know that’s their goal — the antis want me to stop escorting, to stop caring, and to start thinking that they have the power. I don’t plan on dropping out of the movement anytime soon, but I need your help.
How do you all deal with their threatening physical presence? And if you don’t escort, what’s your strategy for dealing with the lies that antis perpetrate over and over?