Clinic Escort Training – Twin Cities, Minnesota

Whole Women’s Health-Twin Cities – the clinic where I escort – is holding a call for volunteers and escort training tomorrow morning. This will be our second open call, and unlike this past winter, the weather will actually be above freezing!

Five people in vests standing in a room with a statement stenciled on the wall nearby, "We are not a gang in the usual sense of the term, we are a gang for justice. – Gulabi Gang"

Some of the Whole Women’s Health clinic escort team.

If you are interested in volunteering with the clinic as an escort – or maybe you have an interest in getting involved in other ways – come on down to Whole Women’s Health tomorrow morning at 7am. There will be coffee and donuts (first come, first serve), a Do and Don’ts of Clinic Escorting training, and a then a chance to observe on the sidewalk and have antis lecture you on the evils of abortion!

Now who doesn’t want that?

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Clinic Escort Training – Twin Cities, Minnesota
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And this is why you’re not allowed to practice medicine.

Saturday was a rough one at the abortion clinic.

The crowds are getting might holy, what with Zombie Jesus Day just around the corner. The morning started out fairly easy; it was gray and drizzly and we thought that the weather might keep most of the protesters away. It seemed like that was going to be the case for most of the four-hour shift.

Then, about two and a half hours in, a crowd arrived from a local church. It was comprised of a number of families, including teens, young kids and a few babes en pousette. All in all, maybe 25 protesters.

2014-04-12 09.53.46
A handful of the random visiting protesters who, in all likelihood, won’t be seen again until next Easter-time.

The teenagers seemed bored to be there, and had to be coaxed from their little huddle into walking down the sidewalk with their signs. At one point a little kid said, “Mommy, it’s cold – I want to go home.” To which Mom replied, “We live in Minnesota – of course it’s cold.” and went back to waving her gore porn at passing traffic.

This gentleman stood right at the property line and read teh bible at us for about 45 minutes, although he went off script a couple of times because those parts about Jesus condemning abortion…I don’t remember those parts (‘cuz they don’t exist – get it?). Seriously – dude made up scripture on the spot…just for little old us!

Middle-aged man reading from a bible.

Later his wife came over and lectured us about…actually I don’t really know…me and fellow clinic escort, Niki, managed to keep up a running conversation in spite of the caterwauling, and I only caught the occasional “killing babies”, “sin”, and “God.”

This morning also included a rare instance of Brianne Losing Her Temper And Engaging a Protester. One of the regulars who is known for taunting escorts was waving a four-month old infant at us, entreating us to look at how beautiful he is, and why would we deny a mother a beautiful baby like this, and would we kill this baby? I turned and snapped, “Stop using that child as a prop!” and immediately did an internal “D’oh!” and facepalm. Sure enough, the next few minutes were filled with the protesters gleefully exclaiming stupid stuff like “So you ADMIT that you think this is a child! What’s so different between him and the children that are murdered in there!?”

Just…engaging never gets you anything but more frothy-mouthed engagement.

*grumbles* And of course that’s a child, you nitwit. That a four-month old infant is a child is not the point of contention between us, dumb-dumb.

Yeah, rough morning.

Another head-explody moment came when one of the regulars caught sight of Niki’s awesome Surlyramic showing a “no coat-hanger” symbol on (like this), and said…

She actually said…

Hang on. Let me catch my breath for this…

She says, “What’s the difference between a coat hanger and curette?” Now, this is writing, and her tone might not be coming across just so, so allow me to clarify. This was a snotty, righteous “How come you’re against coat hangers but okay with curettes since they both cause baby murderin’?” kind of asking going on here.

Let me get this straight: You need me to explain to you the difference between a dirty, makeshift hook used by a desperate person on themselves, which might result in a penetrating or perforating wound to vagina or cervix, potentially leading to septicemia…and a sterile surgical tool wielded by a trained doctor in the course of an exceedingly safe, (currently) legal outpatient procedure, which is very unlikely to cause any physical trauma to the patient? You need me to explain that coat hangers are what happens when access to abortion doctors and curettes isn’t available? You really don’t see a difference between these two things?

Hand in your medical license right now, preacher-lady. Oh, that’s right…you don’t have one. Well thank Jebus for that. Now if you would just stop flinging around medical advice like you have specialized training in that arena…that would be great.

One happy thing was that between the rainy weather, the intimidating crowds and an odd scarcity of street parking, most of the patients seemed to choose to park in the ramp, which means they weren’t subjected to a lot of direct harassment. So that’s a good thing.

*wanders off muttering* …difference between a coat hanger and a curette? C’MON.

And this is why you’re not allowed to practice medicine.

And this is why you're not allowed to practice medicine.

Saturday was a rough one at the abortion clinic.

The crowds are getting might holy, what with Zombie Jesus Day just around the corner. The morning started out fairly easy; it was gray and drizzly and we thought that the weather might keep most of the protesters away. It seemed like that was going to be the case for most of the four-hour shift.

Then, about two and a half hours in, a crowd arrived from a local church. It was comprised of a number of families, including teens, young kids and a few babes en pousette. All in all, maybe 25 protesters.

2014-04-12 09.53.46
A handful of the random visiting protesters who, in all likelihood, won’t be seen again until next Easter-time.

The teenagers seemed bored to be there, and had to be coaxed from their little huddle into walking down the sidewalk with their signs. At one point a little kid said, “Mommy, it’s cold – I want to go home.” To which Mom replied, “We live in Minnesota – of course it’s cold.” and went back to waving her gore porn at passing traffic.

This gentleman stood right at the property line and read teh bible at us for about 45 minutes, although he went off script a couple of times because those parts about Jesus condemning abortion…I don’t remember those parts (‘cuz they don’t exist – get it?). Seriously – dude made up scripture on the spot…just for little old us!

Middle-aged man reading from a bible.

Later his wife came over and lectured us about…actually I don’t really know…me and fellow clinic escort, Niki, managed to keep up a running conversation in spite of the caterwauling, and I only caught the occasional “killing babies”, “sin”, and “God.”

This morning also included a rare instance of Brianne Losing Her Temper And Engaging a Protester. One of the regulars who is known for taunting escorts was waving a four-month old infant at us, entreating us to look at how beautiful he is, and why would we deny a mother a beautiful baby like this, and would we kill this baby? I turned and snapped, “Stop using that child as a prop!” and immediately did an internal “D’oh!” and facepalm. Sure enough, the next few minutes were filled with the protesters gleefully exclaiming stupid stuff like “So you ADMIT that you think this is a child! What’s so different between him and the children that are murdered in there!?”

Just…engaging never gets you anything but more frothy-mouthed engagement.

*grumbles* And of course that’s a child, you nitwit. That a four-month old infant is a child is not the point of contention between us, dumb-dumb.

Yeah, rough morning.

Another head-explody moment came when one of the regulars caught sight of Niki’s awesome Surlyramic showing a “no coat-hanger” symbol on (like this), and said…

She actually said…

Hang on. Let me catch my breath for this…

She says, “What’s the difference between a coat hanger and curette?” Now, this is writing, and her tone might not be coming across just so, so allow me to clarify. This was a snotty, righteous “How come you’re against coat hangers but okay with curettes since they both cause baby murderin’?” kind of asking going on here.

Let me get this straight: You need me to explain to you the difference between a dirty, makeshift hook used by a desperate person on themselves, which might result in a penetrating or perforating wound to vagina or cervix, potentially leading to septicemia…and a sterile surgical tool wielded by a trained doctor in the course of an exceedingly safe, (currently) legal outpatient procedure, which is very unlikely to cause any physical trauma to the patient? You need me to explain that coat hangers are what happens when access to abortion doctors and curettes isn’t available? You really don’t see a difference between these two things?

Hand in your medical license right now, preacher-lady. Oh, that’s right…you don’t have one. Well thank Jebus for that. Now if you would just stop flinging around medical advice like you have specialized training in that arena…that would be great.

One happy thing was that between the rainy weather, the intimidating crowds and an odd scarcity of street parking, most of the patients seemed to choose to park in the ramp, which means they weren’t subjected to a lot of direct harassment. So that’s a good thing.

*wanders off muttering* …difference between a coat hanger and a curette? C’MON.

And this is why you're not allowed to practice medicine.

Clinic Escorting Training Was…WOW

You may have seen my call for volunteers in the Twin Cities area to take part in last Saturday’s clinic escort training in Minneapolis. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of inquiries I received and by the number of people who said they wanted to attend, to the point where I set up a Facebook event to track the numbers of “maybes” and “yeses” so that the coordinator could plan for an appropriate number of visitors.

All in all, last Saturday was an outstanding success.

Continue reading “Clinic Escorting Training Was…WOW”

Clinic Escorting Training Was…WOW

Be A Clinic Escort in Minneapolis!

Five of us in our clinic escort vests, bundled up in puffy coats, hats, hoods and gloves

Ah yes…winter clinic escorting season. Brrrrr!

The abortion clinic that I volunteer with is hosting a New Escort Training and Welcome Session this Saturday from 7am-11am. If you are interested in volunteering with the clinic as an escort – or maybe you have an interest in getting involved in other ways – come on down to Whole Women’s Health this Saturday! There will be coffee and donuts (first come, first serve), a Do and Don’ts of Clinic Escorting training, and an opportunity to freeze your butt off on the sidewalk while antis lecture you on the evils of abortion!

Now who doesn’t want that?

Whole Women’s Health
825 S 8th St #1018,
Minneapolis, MN 55404

If you’re in the area and would like to volunteer, but are lacking in some resource that you think I might be able to provide – e.g., a ride to the clinic, help with directions or bus routes, warm clothes – let me know. If you think you might be interested, but want to ask me some questions beforehand – ask! If you would like to attend, but can’t, shoot me an email and we’ll work out an alternate way to get you trained in. I can be reached at [email protected]

Be A Clinic Escort in Minneapolis!

Clinic Escorting Tales

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.

Continue reading “Clinic Escorting Tales”

Clinic Escorting Tales

Saturday Escorting Stories

Note: I’ve tucked one weird image from the abortion protesters below the fold. It’s morbid, but in a fantasy violence kind of way.

I was the only escort this morning! Usually we have at least three to four escorts on the weekend, but sunny summer Saturdays are precious in Minnesota, so c’était tout moi aujourd’hui!

There were “only” thirteen protesters, but they always seem to adopt a bit of mob bravery when the ratio is that off; there are a few more pointed remarks, upturned noses, snide statements. Most of them walked up and down the sidewalk praying their odd prayers to God, asking him to please baptize the unborn children before they are to be murdered so that they might enter the kingdom of heaven and sit at the right hand of…

And I do heartily beg your indulgence for the impending side rant, but isn’t that bending the rules? Doesn’t the person – or the person’s proxy – have to do the whole asking for baptism thing? Is that the point? If God is willing to baptize people without their (or their proxy’s) asking, why require baptism at all? Just baptize everyone, God, you big jerk. And if all you have to do is pray for God to baptize someone else, quit spending shitloads of money to go on expensive “Come to Jesus” missions to foreign lands. Just get on the phone with God and take care of all that, and then send all the monies to humanitarian efforts that might stand a chance of making a difference in the lives of those you want to save. Sheesh. It’s mental acrobatics of the highest order when it comes to justifying what particular tenet of the mythology one wants to believe or ignore.

And back to our story.

Continue reading “Saturday Escorting Stories”

Saturday Escorting Stories

Do you know what they DO here?

I’m working a new escorting shift at a new clinic location. Part of this new location is new hours; I’m going to be volunteering most mornings Monday-Friday – a one hour shift before heading across the metro to my big kid job.

What are not new are the protesters. Apparently we inherited those from the old location. Lucky us. But- and I don’t know if it’s the new location, earlier hours, or that I’m unfamiliar with the weekday shift – in the eight weekdays that I’ve been out at 7am there haven’t yet been more than two protesters at a time (Saturdays are a different story). On the second day that I came out there weren’t ANY protesters!!! That was a great day.

The new location is right next to Hennepin County Medical Center. The tower that we’re in houses many specialty clinics and there is a lot more traffic coming and going than I saw at our old location. This means a larger audience for the protesters. Yay. Since I have no idea who is coming to visit the women’s clinic and who’s not, I smile and hold the door for everyone. No assumptions, unlike the protesters who turn absolutely rabid when a young woman – any young woman approaches the clinic. The protesters seem to have very specific ideas about the “type” of person who visits an abortion clinic. They usually ignore men who aren’t with women, as well as women who look over 35 and who are dressed respectably, but Zeus help you if you’re a young-looking woman, or a man walking with a young-looking woman. If you’re coming to the Meadowbrook Clinic for any reason whatsoever you have some concerned looks, unsolicited advice and pamphlets coming your way, darlin’.

I really wish we had bubble zone laws in this state.

Things were extra-bad last Thursday because a tunnel connecting the tower to the main building was shut down and hundreds of employees were redirected outdoors. They had to walk up the sidewalk and through the main entrance that I was standing by, and past this: 

IMAG0271-1

Young woman protester holding a posterboard-sized picture of a gooey red mess (where the hell do they find these pictures?). Caption: “SUCTION ABORTION”

This is one of our regulars. She’s normally pretty passive and quiet, and actually this was the first time I’ve seen her carry a sign. Usually she carries a bag of pamphlets and tries to intercept clients on their way into the clinic, tells them quietly, urgently to watch their ultrasounds. But Thursday’s larger audience brought out an entirely new attitude – a self-righteous, loud, judgmental, angry protester.

This woman is escorting women to the abortion clinic. She’s here to help them kill their babies. That’s the only reason she’s standing here. Do you really want to let her hold the door for you, knowing what she does?

Seriously? Goat damn it.

Breaking it down:

  • I’m not escorting women to the abortion clinic. I’m holding a door for everyone coming in or out of the clinic. I reserve an extra bright greeting people for people who you approach, especially if you’ve upset them with your bullshit misinformation, and then I hold the door for them so they can get around you and get to their doctor appointment, whatever it may be. If they’re upset I might ask them if they’re okay or let them rant for a moment about you before pointing them in the direction of the bathrooms, the help desk, or the elevators.
  • No, I’m not here to help them kill their babies because no babies are being killed here, despite your warped beliefs.

IMAG0272-1

 Same protester, new sign: “THEY’RE KILLING BABIES HERE”. 

  • NO. The “only reason” I’m standing here is because you are standing here.
  • Lastly – WTF?

I somehow managed to not respond to the protester, but I really, really wanted to (can you tell?). Several employees gave me the WTF raised eyebrow as they walked in, and in those cases I’d say with my usual smile – with no acknowledgement that there was a protester speaking loudly a few feet away – “Welcome to Meadowbrook.”

At first the protester’s personal attacks just made me roll my eyes, but after a few minutes I realized something: The protester had adapted to her new audience! She had switched from trying to dissuade people from going into the clinic to proselytizing to clinic employees!

With a few simple sentences the protester is saying this:

Did you know they do ABORTIONS here? Aren’t you shocked and outraged? – She’s hoping to reach people who don’t know that abortions are performed at this clinic, perhaps in the hope that employees will take offense and get upset and maybe try do something about having to work in the same building as a baby-killin’ clinic.

This escort is so morally repugnant that even walking through a door that she’s holding might taint you! Verbal attacks on escorts are nothing new. This kind of statement is meant to demoralize us and it calls into question the calm, professional attitude we try to project. It turns our smiles and welcomes into a poisonous conspiracy – the witch luring Hansel and Gretel into the cottage. The protester becomes the heroic whistle blower! 

And we don’t defend ourselves because getting into a debate or argument on a crowded sidewalk does ZERO good. Plus, a grimace and eye-roll to confused passerbys goes a long way toward making protesters look like the ranty zealots that they are, while we maintain an air of rationality and tolerance. 

So how did this all go over with the passerbys? As I said, some employees looked momentarily confused. Some looked disgusted at the gooey red mess sign. But most had their practiced urban “ignore everyone on the street who I don’t know” game face on. All in all, not a huge “win” for the protester, I don’t think.

And me?

It was a tough morning. When protesters verbally assault me in front of abortions clinic visitors, there’s often an air of solidarity – it’s me and the clients against the whirlwind of stupid. This made me more emotional than usual. I had a gut reaction of wanting to defend myself to the doctors and nurses and support staff and patients who weren’t going to the women’s clinic – all of these people who wanted nothing to do with this annoying protester, nor with me – the focus of her attention. It was hard morning of biting my tongue and keeping a genuine smile on my face.

Some mornings are more taxing than others. In the end you smile, you breathe, you vent with the clinic staff. And then you treat yourself to a grande white chocolate mocha from Starbucks because you earned it, dammit.

**************************

Now that I’ve made it sound like so much fun (ha!) – If you’re in the area and would like to get involved in clinic escorting, we can always use more volunteers to work the 7-8:15am weekday shift in downtown Minneapolis. If you want more information you can contact me (I can answer questions, pass your name on to the volunteer coordinator) or you can go directly to WWH contact form.

Do you know what they DO here?

The Empty Sidewalk

IMAG0033 (645x1024)
I showed up for clinic escorting last Wednesday in Minneapolis. It was me and one other escort.

And that was it.

No protesters. No gruesome signs.

No pamphlets stuck under the windshields of patients who don’t want them.

No little plastic fetuses. No shouting.

No shaming. No tears.

I held the door open for some patients going to the dialysis clinic that is in the same building.

I smiled and hummed a lot.

I could deal with this.

The Empty Sidewalk

Clinic Escorting Encounters

After President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994, protesters have been limited in their ability to interfere with people who visit abortion clinics. For example, they’re no longer allowed to physically block the entrances to clinics. But they still do their damnedest to convince clients to not to go through those doors on their own. And so there are clinic escorts.

Clinic escorts give clients the strength to walk past the protesters, to ignore the offensive, lie-filled literature that is thrust at them. We make it okay for them to avert their eyes from the little plastic fetuses, the swinging rosaries, the gory pictures that are held up as they walk by or are posted in their line of sight. We give them an excuse to not listen to the prayers, the hymns, the questions and accusations that are thrown at them.  We are a psychological barrier between the clients and the protesters.

On Saturday I was escorting at Whole Women’s Health in downtown Minneapolis. When I showed up there were 13 protesters lining the narrow sidewalk that leads up to the clinic entrance. Two were active protesters (antis who rush up to heckle the clients) and the rest were passively praying, singing, touching the beads on their rosaries, and walking up and down the sidewalk. This later group had four kids who looked to be under the age of 12 with them. It always makes me sad to see kids with the protesters.

Continue reading “Clinic Escorting Encounters”

Clinic Escorting Encounters