Last Saturday was the first time that I’ve escorted during the current round of 40 Days For Life (Imma start shortening that to 40DfL). As the name might indicate, this is an anti-abortion event that spans Forty. Loooooong. Days. It was created to help prolife groups energize their ranks. 40DfL activities are hosted by local groups, and each group has different events, but they typically revolve around holding prayer vigils, fasting, harassing patients and companions outside of clinics that provide abortions, and smiling in a creepy, brainwashed way at the escorts and clients while inviting us to “just talk for a moment”.
I’ve escorted during 40DfL and it’s always been a bit of a circus. But we get through it.
40DfL snuck up on me this time. Me, Jailawrites and Pixelsnake (twitter handles used for privacy) showed up for the 7am shift on Saturday and were met by the usual suspects. Pleasantries were exchanged (“How many babies are on death row today?” from her, and quiet chatting amongst ourselves as we ignored her) and we did the clinic escort thing until our shift was over at 8:30am. There were no other escorts this morning and only seven protesters. A normal Saturday morning for all involved.
The three of us headed inside to wrap up and go home. Along the way we began chatting about breakfast. We quickly worked our way into the mood (frenzy) for pancakes and waffles at The Original Pancake House. Mmmm… gluten-free crepes with cinnamon cream cheese and fried apples, lots of maple syrup applied early on so that the bottom of the crepes are soaked by the time you get to them. Coffee…bacon…orange juice! We practically ran out of the clinic.
And there they were.
Down at the end of the block…a gigantic huddle of protesters with signs that read “All Life Is Beautiful” and “Abortion = One stopped heart and one broken heart”.
I whimpered “but…pancakes…?” a few times, but JailaWrites convinced us to go back upstairs to make sure there were no more appointments. Alas, there were. With a sigh and a mental wave goodbye to breakfast we pulled the escort jerseys back on and headed downstairs to be harassed in the name of Jaysus.
As anyone who’s spent time clinic escorting will tell you, protesters grow bolder in greater numbers. We did a quick headcount and came up with about thirty adults. Crud. Aside from the signs and rosaries, they had brought two props with them. Err…I’m sorry…I mean children. One was a small infant in a stroller. The other was a golden-haired, happy, rambunctious toddler who they trained to carry an anti-abortion sign (it was as tall as he was), and then they encouraged him to waddle over to us while they called triumphantly, “Look, he has a message for you!”
At one point someone shouted, “Two years ago it would have been legal to kill [the toddler]. It wouldn’t be okay to kill him now; why was it okay to kill him then?”
Jailawrites received her near-weekly “but Margaret Sanger!” lecture (Jailawrites is the only regularly attending black clinic escort right now).
A kindly-looking, older gentleman walked around with a smile on his face and the toddler in his arms for much of the morning. When he passed by he’d say, “Look at what you’re denying these women. Look at this perfect, beautiful boy! *dramatic, heavy sigh* I don’t know how you do what you do, girls.”
The ignorance! The priviledge! The assumption the clients who are coming to the clinic will have a perfect, healthy babies if only they wouldn’t abort! The confidence that having a baby would suddenly make them able and wanting to keep it, care for it, love it, provide it a happy home! And the assumption that we escorts have anything to do with the client’s decision on whether to bring a child into this world, or to have an abortion, or make any other health care or life choice… gah!
And he kept calling us girls. Blech.
We were approached by several young, bright-eyed protesters who invited us to talk with them. When asked where we went to school and if we lived around here, Pixelsnake said “I don’t think I want to tell you where I live.” The guy laughed a little awkwardly, tried to regroup, and then just smiled and moved on.
It always seems to surprise the new protesters when they come across escorts who won’t talk to them. After all – all they want to do is talk! Do you know why those conversations rarely progress past the awkward stage into the angry, frustrated, frenzied stage? Because one side refuses to engage.
The three of us have a favorite patient who comes in every Saturday for dialysis. While she was hanging out with us this past weekend, one of the protesters threw out some comment about black babies and she flipped out on him, shouting at him about why he had to bring up race, what did race have to do with it, etc. The guy smugly, self-righteously started talking back and all of the nearby protesters homed in – physically and verbally – and started loudly putting in their own two cents. It was like sharks to blood, and it was intimidating.
It was a much needed reminder to me about why I try my damnedest to tune out and bite my tongue when it comes to dealing with protesters. Our attention is fuel on their fire.
Meditating clinic escort cat chants, “I’m just here for clients. I’m not here to debate. I’m not going to change their minds or make them leave. I’m just here for clientshutthehellupwhywontyoustoptalking ….mmmm…. clients. Clients…” Image source
Image shows a fluffy orange and white cat sitting on a stone path with eyes closed.
18 days left.