I’m currently engaged in a sort of e-mail dialogue with one of our local anti-choicers. I promised not to publish anything he had written and I won’t break that promise, but I think a portion of my latest e-mail is worth putting up here on the blog.
[The anti-choicer related a story about a woman who thanked him for his sidewalk counseling efforts after she opted not to proceed with her abortion. He then expressed a desire to understand why I serve as an escort, as my previous explanation - "we're there because you're there" - didn't sit well with him.]
The vast majority of women don’t call you months later to thank you, nor do they thank you that day or at any other time. But most of the women who don’t thank you, do thank me and the other escorts. Women tell me multiple times every day that I’m there that they’re frightened of the pro-lifers, that they’re glad the escorts are there because they find the pro-lifers scary. Women give me hugs after I’ve walked them to their car or to the corner.
I’ll share one quick story with you, since you’ve shared with me. One woman came to the clinic, was counseled vigorously on her way in. Not too long after – maybe an hour – she left the clinic, and seemed upset. “Are you okay?” I asked her. She stopped and turned to me, her eyes filling with tears, and opened her mouth to speak. A counselor approached her with a pamphlet, and others were coming toward her. She walked away quickly, and they began to follow her, asking her to talk to them, asking her to stop and listen to what they had to say, asking her not to kill her baby. I passed them and caught up with her, said “hey, I’ll just walk with you so you don’t have to listen to them if you don’t want to.” She began to cry for real as we walked down the street, and I nervously asked her if she wanted a hug. She stopped and fell into my arms, crying. She told me that she had gone to the clinic to have an abortion, that it hadn’t been an easy decision for her, but it was one she felt was right given her circumstances (which she went into). When they did the ultrasound, they told her she didn’t need the abortion because she was in the early stages of miscarriage. They sent her home and told her she should follow up with her usual doctor. Now, she was feeling all kinds of emotions about this – some sadness, some relief – but what she absolutely did not need right then was someone chasing her down the street in order to counsel her about what she should or should not do with her body and her pregnancy. She cried in the arms of someone who didn’t judge her or tell her what she should do, and then she got on the bus and went home.
She’s one reason I’m there.
Also for the sixteen year old girl who had been told at the crisis pregnancy center she mistakenly went to first (she asked them on the phone if she could get an abortion there and they said “we can do everything in one day.”) that she’d be killed if she got an abortion. The CPC people pulled out surgical instruments and told her “this will cut your uterus and you’ll bleed out and die.” I’m there for her, too.
Last Saturday, one woman, there not for herself but to accompany a friend, listened to the pro-lifers for a little while and then came over to me. “So now you give me your literature,” she said.
“I don’t have any,” I told her. “That’s not what I’m here for.”
“Oh,” she nodded. “You’re just here for support.”
As long as we’re talking about silly and ridiculous circuses [Ed: his words, referring, as I understood it, to vocal clinic defenders], that’s one thing I find so utterly infuriating about most of the sidewalk counselors. Some of the sidewalk counselors tell clients that the escorts are trying to force them to have an abortion. One man tells me every week that I must hate my children and consider them a burden (and he seriously needs to stop that, because one of these days I might lose my temper). One woman on Saturday followed clients away from the clinic shouting “I’m sorry, baby, that I couldn’t save you!” Another woman handed a client a pamphlet for Los Angeles Pregnancy Services and told her that they had doctors there, which is patently untrue. When I told the client it was untrue, the counselor began to shout at me “I don’t interfere with you, so you don’t interfere with me! Go away!”
I appreciate that I’ve never seen you engage in any of these belligerent or deceptive behaviors, but you have to understand that you’re not the norm out there.