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:
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.
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.
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.