Last Saturday morning, the clinic escorts of L.A. for Choice arrived early at the clinic we support to prepare for the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust’s annual campaign of heightened and targeted harassment, which they promote as the “Christmas Caroling Project.” L.A. for Choice organizers actively monitor local anti-choice websites, so we knew that this anti-choice group, which has a history of promoting aggressive and illegal intimidation tactics, would be joining the regular group of anti-choice protesters the women at our clinic face every week.

In past years the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust’s caroling event has meant trespassing on private property, filling clinics with dozens of protesters, screaming at and surrounding patients, and physically blocking patients from accessing services, all while singing Christmas carols. They leave only when the police arrive ready to arrest them.

This year the clinic escorts of L.A. for Choice were expecting them. Having been warned about this group’s aggression and disregard for the law, several LAPD officers arrived to check in with us and the clinic, and they stayed on-site or nearby all morning.

Soon after the clinic escorts and police gathered, it became clear that the Survivors of Abortion Holocaust were assembling at a Catholic church across the street. The group sent advance teams to assess the clinic’s vulnerability. Our experienced clinic escorts, in place and alert, identified these teams easily despite the protesters attempts to give the appearance of “non-threatening” nonchalance.

The man in this photo posed as a restaurant patron while he slyly scoped out the clinic.

The Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust then left the church in a line of white passenger vans to begin their campaign of harassment at other area clinics, which unfortunately do not have clinic escort support.

Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust is just one of the groups targeting this clinic, so while they went off to invade a different clinic (tweeting about their illegal activities all the while), L.A. for Choice clinic escorts stayed on-site to protect women from the regular group of anti-choice provocateurs that flank the sidewalks of the clinic and distribute bloody fetus pictures to passersby.

Some protesters avoid direct confrontation and instead pray for clinic escorts' souls. Thanks, guys!

The regular group of weekly protesters line the sidewalks, intimidating clinic workers, patients and local business patrons.

Our regular protesters employ a variety of intimidation tactics, including the exploitation of their own children.

Around 12:30 p.m., as anticipated, the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust returned. The large group of anti-choice protesters—led by group organizers Jeff White and Cheryl Conrad but made up of mostly young people and children—walked over the property line (their legal boundary) and toward the clinic, congregating in the alcove in front of the building. The clinic staff locked their doors and our clinic escorts lined up along the doors, between the protesters and the clinic.

Anti-choice carolers surround the clinic while clinic escorts block the door.

Then they sang. While they sang, Jeff White—group organizer and repeat offender of trespassing, harassment, and vigilantism, for which he has served multiple jail terms—videotaped clinic escorts and was visibly aggravated after being questioned by police. The group’s other organizer, Cheryl Conrad, was reluctant to give the group’s full name to the officer who asked her for it, calling it only “The Survivors,” until a nearby clinic escort prompted her to speak the rest of the name aloud.

Jeff White and Cheryl Conrad talk to police while other protesters look on.

The hostile group bearing down on the clinic with their joyless singing and gift bags that read “Baby!” was disturbing, but their real malice presented itself when a patient and her companion walked toward the clinic entrance. Their song abruptly abandoned, the “carolers” broke ranks and rushed the patient en masse, many of them screaming but most focused on physically obstructing her from any movement. Clinic escorts blocked this terrifying display of intimidation by promptly surrounding the patient and walking with her to the doors, which the clinic staff quickly unlocked to allow her and her companion inside.

The Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust’s carolers retreated and returned to their song with glares and an even more menacing attitude. Then one of the carolers approached a clinic escort with the gift bags intended for the clinic staff, and said, “Don’t worry; it’s not a bomb.” The caroler stopped urging the clinic escort to take the bags only after she requested several times that the caroler leave her alone, disregard of which is grounds for arrest for harassment.

This caroler claims her "gifts" are not bombs. That's creepy and in poor taste, caroler.

Then the protesters departed.

Local, state and federal law protects freedom of access to clinic entrances, but enforcement is generally left up to the discretion of each officer. The police, who had observed the situation but did not intervene, watched them go. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with LAPD about the importance of their presence as well as enforcement of laws that protect women from harassment.

We celebrated with a victory brunch. It is hard to feel victorious after bearing witness to protesters’ intimidation of patients and harassment of clinic workers and clinic escorts, but we know if we hadn’t been there to protect the clinic and its patients, it would have been far worse. Ultimately, we did everything we could to ensure that patients had safe, peaceful access to reproductive health care. That’s our mission, and we succeeded. Brunch was well-deserved and much enjoyed.

We hope you’ll consider joining us at L.A. for Choice. Email [email protected] for information about how you can help protect the women in your community. Happy Christmahanakwanzika, and be safe out there.

¿Quiénes son las mujeres que tienen abortos en los Estados Unidos? ¿Por qué deciden terminar el embarazo? ¿Cuáles son sus circunstancias sociales y económicas? Este video fue creado por el Guttmacher Institute, una organización líder en investigación y políticas públicas relacionadas a temas de salud sexual y reproductiva.

I first put this up on Twitter, at which point @ClinicEscort asked me to blog it so she could link to it. I am ever obliging, but also lazy and pressed for time.

ucc3llina Just found @thesurvivors account of their xmas-caroling/terrorist expedition at the clinic last Dec. on pages 1 & 8

ucc3llina “Eventually a clinic escort was sent out into the midst of the group to keep us from reaching the arriving women.” Eventually? Wha?

ucc3llina I was there before you crazies even showed up. Also? Your description of “Jenny?” Missing a few things. 1) She was not “dragged” anywhere.

ucc3llina 2) She never wanted or tried to leave the clinic – I went inside and asked her.

ucc3llina 3) Oh, and please don’t forget how you vultures stood around shrieking, taking her photo while she tried to cover her face and hide from you.

ucc3llina Bonus: I am apparently a “such a hardened young woman, so filled with an evil spirit.” YOUNG. Take that, 30s.

ucc3llina Extra bonus: see the photo in the middle of the page? How much do you think I was able to “keep [them] from reaching the arriving women?”

ucc3llina Yet, clearly, in their view, I was doing just that. Those of you who think clinic escorts don’t make a difference, take note.

ClinicEscort @ucc3llina Sometimes I get amped up about something & I Twitter-rage about it…but my own personal record, I think, is a 4-parter. #hatsoff

ucc3llina @ClinicEscort Why, thankee kindly. I refrained the first time they published it, but they REpublished it and I just couldn’t hold back.

ClinicEscort @ucc3llina I don’t blame you. Although really, if they’re too stupid to web-optimize a PDF, they’re too stupid to know truth from lies.

ClinicEscort @ucc3llina Any chance of a blog entry for this? That I can link to? So folks know what giant liars @thesurvivors & their ilk are?


This Sunday is Mother’s Day. As a mother myself, it’s a holiday I’m generally fond of. Who doesn’t love to sleep in and get burned toast and runny eggs in bed? Unfortunately, the anti-choicers celebrate a bit differently, by converging on abortion clinics to harass, intimidate and guilt trip women – around 60% of them already mothers – who are seeking reproductive health services. One clinic escort group in Kentucky is anticipating between 200-400 extra protesters, going by past years’ figures.

To insist that any woman capable of reproduction can or should or MUST become a mother not only devalues women, but also devalues mothers. Motherhood is not blithe and easy, the way the anti-choicers like to make it seem. It’s not true that once you have a baby, all your other problems fade into the background. Everything is harder with children. I have fewer career options, fewer educational options, and fewer choices as to where I live, now that I have two little people to take care of. I’m not complaining; I wanted to have these kids, was ready to have them and to sacrifice for them and to go forward in my life with all the restrictions that my children place upon me. But I’m very lucky in that regard. I can only imagine what it would be like to be forced to bear and/or to raise children that I did not want, and was not prepared for. I can absolutely guarantee you one thing: I wouldn’t be much of a mother under those circumstances.

Here’s my wish for this Mother’s Day, and all the ones to come: Every child a wanted child; every mother, a mother by her own free choice.

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.

  • A group of anti-choicers, including a priest, blocked the clinic’s driveway. When I told them they had to move, the priest told me “we’ll move in a few minutes.”

    “No, you need to move now.”

    “Either push me or call the police,” replied the priest. Conveniently, the police were standing on the corner at the time, and promptly came down and told them to move.

  • The anti-choicers put a two year old child in the back of an SUV with no car seat in order to take his family to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. When I photographed the license plate of the vehicle, a woman yelled at me that she was “a famous actress” and I wasn’t allowed to photograph her car, and she was calling the police. When I said that it was illegal and dangerous to put a child in the car with no car seat, she screamed “You kill babies, so just shut up!”
  • The Famous Actress (who is apparently not merely Famous, but also versatile – she was a Queen of San Francisco’s Gay Pride, 2008!) blocked the driveway with another small group of antis. Rather than engage in a yelling match with her – she’s a very yelly woman – I asked the police to come down again and have them move. Another anti overheard me asking, ran down to tell her colleagues, and they moved before the police came. Then the Famous Actress came and yelled at me (see?) that I was “such a liar.” She wouldn’t tell me what I was supposed to have lied about.

Today, as part of NARAL’s Blog For Choice Day, we’re asking ourselves a question posed in honor of Dr. George Tiller, who often wore a button that simply read, “Trust Women.” That question is, What does Trust Women mean to you?

Check out what local pro-choicers have to say, and contribute your own answer in the comments below!

It means trust that we as women know our minds, our bodies, and are conscious enough, educated enough & aware enough to decide what is best for our lives & overall well being. Trust that we are capable of making the right choices and trust that the decision is not taken lightly.
- Korann

I started to become more involved in pro-choice advocacy after my mom died. It’s something she would have done. The bullshit verbal propoganda that clinic visitors must listen to would have troubled her; the in-your-face intimidation they have to run like a gauntlet would have infuriated her. So I do clinic escorting in her honor. I trust women to make their own decisions and I want them to be safe.
- Ebony

I love the phrase “Trust Women.” To me, it means trust women to make the best decisions for themselves.
- Catherine

“Trust Women” means that no one should imagine they know our lives and our bodies better than we do ourselves.
- Cory

As women, we are charged with making decisions about our bodies, our families and our lives every day. “Trust Women” means that the community acknowledges that women will make the best decisions we can in a given situation. “Trust Women” means that no one will restrict our choices because they think they know better. “Trust Women” means just that–trust us to take control of our bodies, our families and our lives.
- Sara

It’s not just about trusting women to make this one choice, but about all the choices women make. When I was a doula attending births, I watched as people tried to make decisions for women because they didn’t trust them to know what was best for their bodies and their families. When I decided that I wanted to get an IUD, my gynecologist lied to me about the risk factors and even quoted old research before saying, “I feel like a mother telling her child not to do something, but you’re going to do what you want anyway.” Trust Women means understanding that women are intelligent adults who are able to process information and make intelligent, appropriate decisions. It means giving women the facts and the whole truth and then knowing that they will make the decision that is right for them, even when it isn’t the decision you might have made.
- Peigi

I trust women to be able to make the best medical decisions for their own lives. No one else should have the right to tell women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies. I’ve never had to imagine what it would be like to fear for my life because of an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy. We younger women have never faced a coat hanger or other dangerous abortion method, and I fight to keep it that way. So happy anniversary, Roe v Wade! Let’s keep abortion safe, legal, on demand, and (also so important) accessible!
- Erin

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.

Sometimes people want to sign up for an escort shift, but hesitate because they don’t know what to expect when they get there. Fair enough! It’s reasonable – sensible, even – to be nervous about the unknown. I’d like to make it a little less intimidating by giving you a brief sketch of a typical Saturday.

Many patients arrive early – before 8am – and most are inside before 1pm. They leave the clinic anytime until 6pm, though most are gone by 2 or 3pm. The clinic’s security guard arrives early as well, and is a friendly and supportive presence for escorts throughout the day.

A few anti-choicers are at the doors of the clinic by 7 or 7:30am. Most of these are “sidewalk counselors”; armed with pamphlets full of untruths and flyers for the local Crisis Pregnancy Center, they pursue and try to dissuade women who are on their way into the clinic. There are usually between five and ten of them. Some of them bring their young children and send them chasing after patients with rosaries or flowers. Several are quite civil with the escorts, while most of the others ignore us. A few are actively hostile, but generally confine their anger to glaring and promising (threatening?) to pray for us.

It’s important to let clients know who you are as you approach – I always smile as I walk toward them, gesture toward my Clinic Escort t-shirt and say loudly, “It’s okay! I’m an escort FOR the clinic. I’m here to walk you inside.” Some clients, having seen the crowd from afar, will assume you’re an anti-choicer and already be prepared to fend you off; it may take them a second to re-adjust. Most of them will thank you when they figure out what you’re doing, though some just want to get inside without talking to anyone at all (and who can blame them?).

As you walk toward the door, you’ll reassure the client that they don’t have to talk to anyone or take anything the anti-choicers are pushing at them. If they have already taken some literature out of politeness, you’ll tell them there’s a trash can just inside the door if they don’t want to bring it inside the clinic.

Between 9 and 11am, more anti-choicers show up, some to pray, some to harass. Around 11am, a large prayer group arrives. They bring anti-choice signs and graphic pictures, which they post in front of the clinic entrance. They pray the rosary and loudly sing Ave Maria in awful, tone-deaf concert. They stay for about an hour or an hour and a half, and disperse slowly. Most of them ignore the escorts and patients, but some hand out ugly pamphlets, and one or two are very hostile toward escorts. One man in particular has, in the past, gotten right up in the faces of female escorts in a threatening manner, calling them “godless” and “stupid.” Lately, after being warned by police, he has contented himself with glaring from a short distance away.

You’ll escort women away from the clinic as well. The anti-choicers are a little less aggressive then, but some will chase them with pictures of fetus parts and try to harass them. If a woman has had an abortion that day – remember that not all clients are there for that service – she probably won’t be feeling 100% when she walks out, and that can make her feel more vulnerable.

Do things ever get heated? Yes, occasionally. For the most part, confrontation can be avoided by scrupulous selective deafness on the part of the escort. The anti-choicers will bait and taunt you, questioning your motives, your character, and your intelligence. If you refuse to engage them, they’ll generally give up and resort to muttering prayers.

When they ask me, as they always do, “Why do you do this?” I just think of the grateful faces of the clients I’ve walked with that day, and the hugs I’ve gotten, and I smile.

They hate that.


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