Saturday, July 18, 2009

Abortion Clinic Escorting Day One: The Sidewalk Dynamic

My first escorting experience was a lot different than Will's was last week. Though we both had about the same number of Anti-abortion protesters ('Anti's'), the ones at my location were a lot more mellow, probably because I was in a progressive, pro-choice part of town. This clinic apparently also has a lot of seasonal protesters, who take the summer off. Many of the Anti's simply prayed outside in front of the clinic, each with rosary in hand, and made no attempt to interact, much less convert or berate any women entering the clinic. Some prayed out loud, some just mouthed their devotions, with a barely audible 'Hail Mary' here and there. One woman's routine actually included some singing. She broke out with a few operatic "Ave Maria"s then continue the rest under her breath. I found my self wondering if they were saying the same prayer, if they each had individual prayers to say, or if they were rotating invocations. I could clearly tell that 'Hail Mary's' were involved here and there, but I couldn't tell if their repertoire went any deeper.

The importance and influence of religion is quite striking. Since each and everyone had a rosary (at least one, apparently they give them out) I'm pretty sure each and every protester was Catholic. I had assumed that many of the protesters would be Catholic, but I didn't expect every single one of them to be. I know that there are people who aren't Catholic who are against abortion and I know that some Catholics are pro choice, but from what I could tell from my one experience today, those who protest abortion clinics are predominantly, if not exclusively Catholic. I believe the moral nature of the abortion debate begs the religious separatism, though I am interested to hear and see how a secular anti-abortion approach would manifest.

In talking with the other escorts, I found there was much more diversity. Though I didn't ask all 8 or so of us there, those who I spoke with were all Jewish, Protestant (from one denomination or the other), or not religious. The escorts were from all over, some native to DC and some who moved here at some point in their lives, and worked in a variety of fields. A few of them had been doing this for at least a year, but most of us had only been escorting a few months, if that. A couple mentioned Dr Tiller and how his slaying motivated them to take action. To be honest though, it was very difficult to have a legitimate conversation to get to know the fellow escorts. Because we don't know what the protesters might do if they had our personal information, and because many protesters will heckle individual escorts, we don't want to bring up any personal information while they are in earshot. Though it appeared that none of these protesters would escalate to that level, we try to not even use each others first names, just incase.

This meant that most of the morning was spent in relative silence. Some of us spread up and down the block from in front of the clinic where all of the Anti's were, in order to be closer to approaching women, and got a chance to chat a bit more during the down time. But for the most part, much of the day is a very awkward coexistence on the sidewalk. On the street side, there is a line of Anti's praying to themselves and observing. On the other side of the sidewalk and onto the lawn of the clinic were several escorts standing in silence so the Anti's have nothing on us. There appeared to be an uneasy respect between both crowds. Everyone involved has been moved by their own beliefs to take action, just their beliefs and subsequent actions vary widely. So we all stand there (or, in my case, pace around a bit) looking at each other, uneasily but cordially, waiting for someone to approach.

Since I mostly observed, I'm going to hold off on going into the details of what actually escorting people into the clinic is like until I've done it some more. But my first day was a great transition to escorting. As opposed to Will who's first few experiences were a baptism by fire (no pun intended), my experience today was quite fulfilling and educational but ultimately uneventful. I receive a lot of appreciation for just being there though, which was quite nice. The bright orange shirts "Pro-Choice Escort" shirts make us stand out and we were thanked by both clinic attendees and random individuals alike, which made it all worthwhile.

I very much look forward to my next escorting experience. I feel a lot more comfortable after my first day and will share how my next one goes. If you live in the greater Washington Metropolitan region and are interested in escorting yourself, go to WACDTF. If you live elsewhere, contact your local clinic or contact us with questions and we will try to pass them along to the right people. Please keep checking back to Sum of Change for more information about our experiences and our documentary project. Thanks and I'll talk to y'all again soon.


Friday, July 17, 2009

A Couple Health Care Myths to Look Out For

So there are tons of myths, and flat out lies, floating around about the health care bill. I will try to run through a few of them for you. (You will notice that I actually put a link to the bill so you can check for yourself, unlike most people that are criticizing it)

Myth 1: Page 16 outlaws private insurance.

Truth: Page 16 details how regulations on private insurance will take effect. These regulations relate to affordable coverage, essential benefits, and consumer protection. In other words, these are the same regulations that President Obama campaigned on and Americans voted for. Page 16 states that these regulations shall not apply to current plans, there is a 5 year grandfather clause, but that they do apply to future plans.

Myth 2: Page 416 forces end of life care on seniors every five years.

Truth: This is a complete and utter lie. First off, page 416 does not say a single thing about "end of life" care. It's page 425-426 that does. But when you actually read it, it does not sound so ridiculous. It does not mandate that they receive end of life care every five years, it says that if it has been more than five years since the last time they received "advance care consultation" than they shall on their next visit. And it is definitely not euthanasia, as the right is most certainly attempting to imply. It is not like a doctor kicks your door down after five years and demands that you get the consultation, but that it will be provided on the next regular check up. And this is to prevent situations like Terry Schiavo that can rip families apart.

WJLA Channel 8 Report on Kidsave

Recently, WJLA Channel 8's Let's Talk Live did a report on Kidsave and the Summer Miracles program. They asked us if we could share our footage from Dulles Airport for their segment, to which we were happy to oblige.

If the embedded video above is not working for you (it sometimes acts funny in firefox), try this link.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mark Walsh Speaks to Grow the Hope About Messaging

In May, Mark Walsh, founding CEO of Air America and a Democratic media strategist, accepted Grow the Hope's invitation to speak to the community about messaging and media. Many of the people in attendance had rallied behind Obama on his presidential campaign. Their work is not over, however. As David Hart, the founder of Grow the Hope (GTH), would say:
"Electing a smart and moral man as our President was an important step, but it's not enough... The challenges we face are far too massive for any one person to solve alone. The task is not his alone, it is ours together."
Using the lessons they learned during the campaign, and new lessons like Mark Walsh's tips on messaging, members of Grow the Hope are rallying to make real the changes they want to see in the world.

Grow the Hope (GTH) was founded by David Hart and other volunteers from Maryland's Bethesda Obama office. Their goal, is to "nurture the spark of creativity and hope that came alive during the Obama campaign." They have held numerous house meetings since the election, as well as direct actions to make concrete changes in their communities. Recently, we highlighted their efforts to fill food banks and their organizing around health care. Today, we chose to focus on their work to educate their community on messaging. We at Sum of Change have been following GTH, since shortly after the election, to document the work they are doing, and will continue to do so.

Monday, July 13, 2009

nothing to see here...

Just posting a code for


move along now....