Yesterday, I was a clinic escort at a women’s medical center here in New York City.
What’s a clinic escort?
A person who literally walks with a patient to the entrance of the clinic.
Why do we need them?
Because protestors use their right to “free speech” to hold up horrific signs, yell vicious lies, slander others, and get right up into the faces of women and men who are just trying to get healthcare while telling them that they are “murderers.”
My experience is best laid out by this woman, who escorts at the clinic I worked at yesterday:
But here’s some of what I experienced:
Honestly, it was just deeply strange. I’ve seen this kind of stuff in documentaries and I guess maybe on the street, but it was a whole other thing to stand there for four hours with these people. When I told A about it, he couldn’t believe that what they were doing was legal. Emotionally, I felt just fine, since I was so sure that these people were in the wrong. The whole time, though, I really felt for the women and men coming into the clinic– they are forced to walk down a sidewalk crowded with people holding enormous, gruesome signs and swarming around them. No one wants that. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.
A few things that didn’t surprise me:
- The crazy fundamentalist rhetoric. They brought slavery in within about ten minutes; the Holocaust came about five minutes later.
- All of the escorts were women. The main leader was an older woman, around your age, who the protesters loved to call a communist. The rest of us were in our mid to late twenties. All of us were white, and all of us were really passionate.
And many things that did surprise me:
- They got SO CLOSE to the patients. Literally, right up next to them, touching, arm to arm. We literally had to push ourselves in between the protestors and the patient, which involved a bit of very forceful “Excuse me” on our part.
- How much they just YELLED. I was exhausted just ignoring them.
- How many there were. There were about six escorts and at least twenty five protestors from just ONE church, not including the catholic church of about twelve people that spent an hour across the street singing and praying.
- It was “peaceful,” I guess, but the language they used was so inflammatory, even when no patients were coming in or out. I was called more horrible things yesterday than in the rest of my life combined. Some favorites: “deathscort” “accomplice to murder” “wicked,” and those were just some of the most obviously hurtful.
- The longtime escorts were totally familiar with most of the protestors; they come every week from one church. We weren’t permitted to use anyone’s name (even first names) while outside the clinic, because the protestors have tracked down and harassed escorts at their work and home.
- How locked down the facility was. I have never seen a doctor’s office… heck, any office… with that much security. There’s a security guard outside, two inside. The walls of the waiting room are soundproofed so the patients can’t hear the screaming outside. You have to be buzzed in TWICE by a nurse in order to even get to the waiting room. It’s a fortress.
And what’s most sad about that is that the clinic is beautiful. It’s brand newand is growing every day. We were able to take a quick tour. The OB/GYN and pre-natal area was lovely and filled with light. Whenever we saw a patient with a nurse, they were both smiling or laughing (what a contrast to outside). We didn’t get to see the surgical area, though we did peek into the recovery room. It was so lovely and bright. The head OB/GYN nurse talked to us for a while in the conference room, telling us what the clinic does. There was a lot of information, but basically it’s just a great place for women to get HEALTHCARE. Imagine that. They even have special programs to help women who don’t have papers.
One of the Pastor’s daughters brought her husband and their TWO YEAR OLD CHILD. She held this child as she stood in our faces, telling us that we were murderers. They pushed the baby in a stroller all around the block where the protestors were, huge 4×4′ posters of “aborted” “fetuses”. It was horrific.
Honestly, one of the things the protestors said was true: “One side is the side of darkness, and the other is the side of light.” And know which one I’m on.