You know, I’ve been doing this Clinic Escort thing for a while now, and I thought I’d heard everything from the antis. I thought there was nothing left they could throw at me, nothing that would get to me. Turns out, I was wrong.
Last week, a regular anti-choice protester at the clinic accused me of not doing everything I could to protect women. He cited an incident several months old, an argument between a client and her partner that turned briefly physical. “You were a coward,” said the anti-choicer. “You did nothing.” His words upset me so much I began to shake.
The crazy thing is, I knew perfectly well he was lying. When the incident occurred, I intervened. When the police arrived, I offered to speak to them about what I had seen. After things had calmed down, I checked in with the woman to ask if she was okay. What did the antis do? They stood around, screaming and jeering at the couple, snapping photographs as the woman tried to hide her face from their cameras. Several cheered and laughed like hyenas when the police put the young man in handcuffs.
But being called a coward, being accused of not even trying to protect a young woman – it definitely struck a nerve. It bothered me for a couple of days, until suddenly, as I was standing in the shower, I had an epiphany: I was being taunted by a man who would have forced that same young woman to bear the child of a man who might abuse her. The man ranting about “coercion” was someone who has been spoken to repeatedly by the police for putting his hands on women as they try to enter the clinic. I’ve heard him and his fellow “sidewalk counselors” encourage young men to rush into the clinic and haul their female partners out bodily in order to “defend their child.” Yet, with calculated malice, he struck at the very thing that brings me out there, week after week – my drive to protect women from assholes like him. And I fell for it.
I’m determined to do better next Saturday. Next time he starts baiting me, I’ll remind myself of the coercion, the misogyny, and the violence against women’s freedom and bodily autonomy that he’s there to promote. And I’ll take deep breaths. Deep breaths.