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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.

Comments

  1. says

    There have never been more than one or two protestors there, except on Good Friday, when they bring a van of kids and youth group leaders(?). They used to have an older guy who obviously had some sort of mental disability. He really wanted to help, but he couldn’t bring himself to talk to people directly. Mostly, he ended up leaving a few pamphlets in the bushes by the parking garage where someone might see them. I haven’t seen him in a few years, though.

  2. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    Maybe Pat Robertson has some advice on how to get the demons out of the doors you were holding?

  3. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Can’t help but think of a scenario in which a patient gets lost on her way and only finds the clinic due to the person with the “They kill babies here” sign. That would be funny, sort of.
    Seriously though, you do great work.

  4. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    I’ve been really wanting to volunteer as an escort at the local clinic but I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to resist engaging the protesters.

    • says

      I think the thing that helps me the most is remembering to wonder what I hope to get out of any engagement with a protester. The answer is quite simple: NOTHING. I’ve slipped up a few times, even had some limited success in very temporarily shutting a protester up every once in a rare while. But for the vast majority of cases, engaging with protesters is an exhausting exercise in futility. Emphasis on exhausting. For me, not engaging with protesters is a good deal about self-care.

  5. Onamission5 says

    Thank you so much for doing this.

    My local clinic looks like a tiny military base in hostile territory, what with the chain link fencing, automated gate, concrete barricades and barbed wire which create a bubble zone of sorts around the property. Not to mention the metal detector one walks through to enter the two sets of locked doors. It jars the mind that those are the lengths they had to go to in order to just provide health care, you know?

      • Onamission5 says

        It is seriously fucked up. It was daunting enough going there for a MAP and being overwhelmed by the implications of a medical facility needing that level of security, I was worried about possible threats the whole time because it was so obvious that that’s what the staff and clients there live with. I can only imagine how intimidating it would be going for abortion services, when already feeling very vulnerable. It was such an unfriendly looking place, hard to find and very maximum security industrial, and it’s really sad, because they provide such a critical and compassionate service, but all I wanted was to get my meds and get the hell out of there.

        Meanwhile the “pregnancy crisis center” AKA anti-abortion propaganda distribution facility sits on a nice main street surrounded by trees, with a big sign overhead, and gives out free 3-D ultrasounds if they can guilt someone desperate into carrying a pregnancy. A stark contrast. By design, I’m sure.

        Thank you again. It was the escort at my local clinic who gave me the nerve to walk through the doors. He had such a kind face and warm, gentle, assertive smile. It made a huge difference. You are making a huge difference just by being a friendly face.

  6. EllenBeth Wachs says

    Thank you so much for doing this. The clinic I go to for my regular check ups has protestors outside all of the time. They don’t care who they target. They yell and belittle and try to shame women that are simply going for annual screenings.

    • says

      Yeah. The thing that made my brain explode was when I learned that not only are they against abortion for any reason, but they’re also against birth control. My eyes turned to goo and ran down my cheeks as I read one of their anti-BC pamphlets. As we have to remind ourselves again and again, anti-abortion protesters aren’t just against abortion – they’re against women owning our sexuality and independently making health care decisions that we feel are right for us.

  7. says

    Kimpatsu – all of those exclamation marks and that “surely” ! Have I offended thee?

    But yeah, several online references say that “passersby” is the most correctest form so your righter (watches for Kimpatsu to cower in agony as the poor grammar grates against brain as nails on a chalkboard).

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    * waves picture of mangled adjectives *

    Do you know – she kills grammar here!

    Bravo for your good work!

  9. Compuholic says

    This line of work deserves respect and I admire the patience of the people who do it.

    I certainly would not be the right person for the job. I think it is so unbelievably rude that a person who knows nothing about the woman going to the clinic gets up in her face and offers unsolicited advice on how she is supposed behave. I would have a hard time controlling my aggression.

  10. gewisn says

    Serious question:
    How do I find out where I can be of service as a clinic escort or something like that?

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