Planned Parenthood Solidarity Event

It’s that time of the year again! Good Friday marks the annual organized anti-Planned Parenthood vigil here in the Twin Cities and it’s celebrated with much somber walking, very pray, so clutching of rosaries and wow crosses outside of the St. Paul Planned Parenthood:

Anti-choice crowd hangs out by the fence and stares at the prochoice celebration with sadness, contempt, anger and pleading.

Anti-choice crowds line the fence and stare over at the pro-Planned Parenthood celebration with a mixture of anger, contempt, pleading, sorrow, curiosity and indifference.

And on the other side – a celebration of accessible and legal abortion, comprehensive reproductive options, sex education and outreach:

A line of Planned Parenthood supporters walking with signs of support.

This year a bunch of jerks – not satisfied with marching with their anti-choice brethren – decided to make a nuisance of themselves on “our” side of the rally. As always with these harassers, they’re not satisfied unless they’re edged right up to the public property line, which was particularly annoying because they were standing between us and our food trucks. Buttheads. These special friends had a penchant for screaming about hellfire and damnation. For the most part we all minded our manners, but me, Niki and our friend Chris couldn’t resist stopping for a quick photo op:

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 Happy atheist trio mocks your angry sky fairy – Mwuahahaha!

We had happy music, warm drinks and supportive signs. We took pictures and laughed and raised money and cheered and ran to give hugs when we saw friends and supporters arrive to join in the march. It was a great time.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki M. in our clinic escort vests.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki take a photo at the march in our vests – shiny!

Happy Lich Jesus Day, everyone!

SAY IT WITH ME

An embryo is not a baby.

A fetus is not a baby.

A woman who aborts an embryo or fetus, whether by intentional abortion or by miscarriage, is not a murderer.

If you’re thinking “but what if”…

Just stop.

Your puny hypothetical insults the majority of people who will never be in the position you’ve conjectured.

Moving on.

Miscarriage is a medical emergency, not a criminal offense.

A woman who is miscarrying a fetus is due emergency medical treatment.

A miscarriage that is “in progress” means that there is no saving the embryo or fetus. Game over.

Don’t punish women who are miscarrying by denying them emergency medical treatment. You cannot save the fetus; treat the human being who is alive.

If you criminalize a woman who has aborted or miscarried a fetus, you are harming a human being.

Also you’re an asshole.

Next,

Pro-life activism is a waste of all of our lives, and is harmful to the lives of the women and men and gender-nonconforming people which it attempts to shame. Pro-life activism harms one human life for the sake of a potential human life. It places a higher value on a potential human life than on the life of someone who is here now and needs our support.

Recognize pro-life activism for the moral masturbation that it is.

If you are a pro-life activist, you are doing a bad thing.

Also, you’re probably being an asshole while you’re doing it.

And you’re a hypocrite.

If you spend your time trying to pass pro-life, anti-woman, woman-shaming legislation you are wasting your life and wasting the time, money and very short attention span of the constituency and the rest of the world and your’re holding our society back from evolving into a more enlightened state.

Stop it.

Sending a mother to jail for having an abortion or a miscarriage, and in the process depriving her for reals kids of a guardian is bad for the mom, bad for the kids and bad for society.

Interrogating women who have stated that they have miscarried to make sure that it wasn’t really a secret abortion is cruel and nothing less than a totalitarian action by government.

Forcing families to spend precious resources on a legal defense to prove their “innocence” in having a miscarriage is heartless and callous and ignorant and a odious way to advance a political objective.

Today’s rage blogging is brought to you by Think Progress and the ACLU.

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.

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You May Not Be A Real Man(TM)

This billboard was placed in my neighborhood for a few weeks.

Sign shows a man holding a baby with the text "Real Men Love Babies" Heatbeat at 18 days.

Apologies for the crap quality – I took this photo at night, on my cell phone, over my shoulder as the Hubby was driving through an intersection. If for some reason you’re interested in seeing a “better” version, NYCyclist over at Jezebel Groupthink took a photo of the same sign when it was put up in the Bronx.

I used to not see the problem with the “real men” campaigns, especially when they were used for good* instead of evil. I once very proudly sent an anti-homophobia campaign video that used the “real men” message (in this case, a bunch of smiling women holding signs that read “real men don’t discriminate”, etc), to More Than Men in the hope that they would help spread the message. Sasha was kind and patient enough to rip apart the (several) problems with the video, and I haven’t used or endorsed the term “real man” since. I’ve also become more tuned in to when other people do. Like when shitty forced-birth proponents push that shit on their shitty anti-abortion signs. [Read more...]

Dear White Anti-Choicers

Niki and me in our clinic escort vests, holding coffee cups and giving the camera a thumbs up.

Niki and me on the sidewalk in our clinic escort vests.

Niki M. is a published author and an advocate for science, skepticism, atheism and reproductive rights – among many other things. Niki is one of my fellow clinic escorts, and she is subjected to the same kind of targeted harassment as the rest of us who provide care to the clients who visit our clinic. However, as a woman of color she gets a little extra love from the protesters. This open letter is a guest post by Niki to her harassers, and to all of those protesters who think that it’s okay to target a clinic escort based on her skin color. You can follow Niki at @jailawrites

 

Dear White Anti-Choicers,

Hey, how’s it going? Nice day we’re having. it’s a mite chilly, though, but the sun’ll be up soon on this glorious Saturday morning. Then again, the sun will make those all of that lovely fetal snuff porn you have on display inescapable. And you brought your kids too. How nice. [Read more...]

Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013

We’ve seen a lot – a LOT – of legislation introduced at the state and federal levels that have been designed to limit people’s access to safe, legal abortion. With Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme court disallowed many types of restrictions that would prohibit people from obtaining abortions. But as we have seen in the past several years, anti-abortion proselytizers have found and abused a major loophole: while still allowing legal abortion, it has been possible to limit access to abortion by closing down abortion clinics via regulatory technicalities. Their hope is that by making abortions harder to obtain, there will be fewer abortions. The laws in which these technicalities are housed are referred to by pro-choice advocates as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Clinics, or TRAP laws.

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An Amazing 12 Hours of News

I, along with an incredibly huge number of people, stayed up late last night to watch the clock count down on Wendy Davis’s amazing 13 hour filibuster against the Texas anti-abortion bill, SB5. After Senator Davis’s filibuster was ended at 10pm for some bullshit reason (in this case, that the topic of ultrasounds were not “germane” to the filibuster. “Germane” was one of the words of the evening, along with “parliamentary inquiry”), pro-choice legislators were able to stretch things out for another one hour and 45 minutes or so. With about 15 minutes left until midnight, Republicans tried to force a vote even as bill opponents protested. Frustrated with not being recognized, Senator Luticia Van De Putte asked:

LeticiaGraphicImage shows Sen. Van De Putte with text overwritten: “At what point must a female senator raiser her hand and her voice to be recognized by her male colleagues?” – Source: Memographs via Joe.My.God

AND ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE IN THE CHAMBER.

People started screaming, cheering; there was thunderous applause. And then they didn’t stop. At one point they started chanting “WENDY!” over and over again. They screamed for almost 15 minutes! Here are a few of my favorite tweets from that time:

Texas State Representative Jessica Farrar tweeted: THIS IS THE CITIZEN FILIBUSTER! with this photo:

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Image shows part of the chamber floor and the packed balcony shouting at the top of their lungs and their arms raised in the air.

They cheered until the clock ran down. They cheered while police were hauling people out of the chamber in an attempt to restore order. And when the chamber was finally empty you could hear them chanting “SHAME!” outside the doors. In the end the diversion took just long enough to keep the vote from being called on time.

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Screen cap of the datestamps of the vote.

See – the vote took place after midnight – after the special session ended. In one of many outrages of the night, bill proponents tried to fucking cheat. But in the end, the bill was dead. And we all rejoiced and praised the feminist army and donated to the political campaigns of Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte and all of the other Senators who opposed SB5. Everyone was happy.

Oh…except for these people.

lifenews

Image is a screen cap from lifenews.com, an anti-choice website.Dewhurst

Image is a Facebook capture of David Dewhurst’s status “I am furious about the outcome of the final day of this Special Session, when an unruly, screaming mob using “Occupy Wall Street” tactics derailed legislation intended to protect the health of Texas women and their babies. An unconscionable series of delaying actions by the minority party and their allies placed SB 5 in direct jeopardy of death-by-filibuster upon its arrival in the Senate. Pushing every parliamentary procedure to its limit, we passed SB 5 19-10, but the deafening roar from the gallery drowned out any possibility of adjourning with a signed bill. I pledge to Texas one thing: this fight is far from over.”

Lila Rose – anti-choice activist

rick_perry

Rick Perry haz a sad. Somebody bring him some some hot cocoa or a popsicle or something. Image shows Rick Perry looking pouty and resting his cheek against his fist. Image found at jessesublet.com

But enough about them – How about that other big news, right???? High five for five of nine SCOTUS judges!!!

I missed the media coverage of the DOMA statement and the the Prop 8 ruling, so all I’ll say on those is:

fyeah

Image has “FUCK YEA.” in rainbow font over the “fuck yea.” meme guy, and a rainbow flag on the left of the image.

Between Minnesota legalizing same-sex marriage, DOMA being overturned and SCOTUS ruling favorably in the Prop 8 case, it is going to be one hell of a party at the Twin Cities Pride Festival this weekend. Which reminds me, if you can, you should COME TO PRIDE IN THE PARK and THE PRIDE PARADE THIS WEEKEND!!!! Unless you don’t like big crowds, or you’re not in a place where you can feel safe at a LGBTQA celebration, of course. But if you can, it’s an amazing experience to be surrounded by such joy and support and acceptance. And yummy fatty food trucks and giant lemonades and way more taffeta and leather and body glitter than is usually seen on a hot July day and puppies and hippies with hoola hoops and seven inch heels and loud live music and drag shows and not nearly enough clothing on so many people and hugs and smiles and kisses and rainbow ALL THE THINGS!

Happy [social justice/civil rights/treating human beings decently] celebration day, everyone.

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.

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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.

From The Other Side of the Sidewalk

A while back I asked people who had been affected by anti-choice protesters to share their stories with me for a project I was working on. That project was put on the shelf, but I am posting this story as a standalone piece because it is unique; it comes from someone who had an experience on the other side of the sidewalk – as a protester.

This story comes from a reader who was raised Catholic, although her mother was pro-choice. She was surrounded by anti-choice propaganda in church. Once, at the age of 14, she was peer-pressured into attending a sidewalk protest at an abortion clinic by a friend and the friend’s mother.

This interview was conducted by email.

Introduction

I didn’t plan on going–I was 14, and one of my Catholic friend’s mothers decided it would be a good morning-after-a-sleepover activity. My friend AGREED, but didn’t bother to tell me until late the night of the sleepover. I was given the option to stay home, but it would have meant revealing my uncertainty about where I stood on abortion, and therefore coming out as NOT A GOOD CATHOLIC to a very Catholic friend and family.

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