Forced birthers intimidate and shame women at health clinic
By Anne M. Haule
The shouts of the “religious” zealots ring in my ears as I help escort patients from their cars to the front door of a local family planning clinic that provides abortion services one morning per week.
Armed with earplugs to hand out to patients who don’t wish to hear the abuse, I take the elevator up to stand by the door of the clinic. Today the zealots are carrying large signs with graphic photos of bloody aborted fetuses and words claiming that Jesus saves and babies are not body parts. The good news is the “preacher” with a voice louder than the decibel limit who bellows out the scripture is not here today.
I try not to engage but it’s hard to stay silent witnessing such vitriol. When I asked one woman, who claimed to be Christian, why she was standing in judgment on others, she told me that God gave her the right to judge. I asked her to be quiet but she continued to tell me that I would go to hell when I die for helping and encouraging “baby killing”.
To give you an idea of what happens on “abortion day” at the clinic, picture a large strip mall with an expansive parking lot with two entrances. There are two groups of people – one group wearing bright yellow tee shirts and/or neon pink vests bearing the words “Pro-Choice Patient Escort/Escolta Paciente” and the other group wearing skirts or slacks that could be worn to church.
As soon as a vehicle pulls into one of the two entrances, the zealots go running in its direction in an attempt to talk or shame the patient out of having an abortion as soon as she opens her car door. The escorts also head toward the car to tell the patient that she need not listen to or talk with the zealots. It’s a crazy scene and my heart goes out to the poor unsuspecting patients who have to endure this chaos prior to receiving medical care.
I have been on the “job” for the past few months but the escort organizers have been on the job for decades! They are a font of wisdom about all things related to their mission to protect patient rights to abortion. They are full of anecdotes – including the irony of the male anti-abortion activist who was wanted by the police for failure to pay child support! Also, I’m told (although I haven’t yet seen it) the zealots do a “happy dance” when and if they think they dissuade a patient from entering the clinic.
A few weeks ago, I met a schoolteacher who accompanied a former student to the clinic. As this teacher waited outside on the bench while the young woman received an abortion, she told me about other former students whom she had helped with the decision-making process. I thought how fortunate these former students were to have a teacher who cared so much.
In learning the lay of the land, I found out that the Pregnancy Resource Center located next to the clinic is really a “front” for the anti-choice people. It offers free services such as pregnancy testing and ultrasounds. Its name and its free services attract many young women. However, this facility is not a medical clinic and its purpose is to lure young women in to receive anti-abortion “counseling”.
I am a staunch supporter of the right to free speech. I have done my share or protesting over the years going back to the Vietnam War and the ERA. It is ironic that I now find myself on the receiving end of free speech that I find vile, hateful and repugnant. That said, reproductive choice is one of the most important rights we have as women and it’s so important to keep up our fight for the right to choose.