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 la4choice@gmail.com for information about how you can help protect the women in your community. Happy Christmahanakwanzika, and be safe out there.

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This group of anti-choice protesters walked onto the private property of the clinic we support. When our escorts followed, the protesters informed us that it was very intimidating to have a stranger following them and that there are laws against stalking and harassment. NO JOKE.

Anti-Choice Protesters Trespass on Private Property in Los Angeles

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. http://bit.ly/c5WixT 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?
_________

Fin.

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.