Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blog for Choice Day

Yesterday marked the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade, which effectively legalized abortion in the US. Last night, I joined the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force, NARAL, the DC Abortion Fund, clinic escorts, and pro-choice activists at the Rhodeside grill to celebrate the anniversary with a screening of the documentary The Coat Hanger Project. If you have no idea what a coat hanger has to do with reproductive justice, make sure you check the documentary out. Ask someone over 40 what it means, and they will know, because they have lived at a time when a woman's right to control her reproductive health was infringed. It is a great thing that so many young people have no idea how the coat hanger relates to this, but it is important to teach the lessons of a time that once was.

But abortion is legal, right? The battle is over, right? Sure. And no. While my business partner is editing our footage from interviews with folks at the March for Life, I thought I would share my experience this weekend with you. I spent the last three days in the cold, waking up early, and putting on a bright orange vest to stand outside of a Planned Parenthood and escort patients through the protesters outside the clinic. The Roe v Wade anniversary brings folks from all over the country, and bus loads make the visit to clinics in the area. People from Texas show up to the 32 degree whether in sandals and a sweat shirt (it is rather funny at times).

Most of the folks that show up to protest at clinics and Planned Parenthoods come to pray. Typically, a handfull will partake in what they call "sidewalk counseling." You might know it better as harassment, intimidation, or stalking. Think back over all the medical decisions you have made in your life. Undoubtedly, many of those decisions were made because of some complete stranger who yelled at you on the sidewalk, right?

The sidewalk counselors approach and follow patients who are coming and leaving. They hand out literature and try to convince patients to go somewhere else for their service. Keep in mind that they never have any idea whether the woman is there for an abortion, birth control (which is still murder an anti once told me), an STD test, or maybe just counseling. The anti's would prefer you got all these services elsewhere. Usually this means a crisis pregnancy center, or a special interest organization dedicated to convincing women, through any means, not to have an abortion. Crisis Pregnancy centers do not provide any information about abortions unless it is damning information. They do not provide birth control. They are notorious for spreading blatantly false information, as you can see in this video put together by the good folks at NARAL VA after their investigation:

Our job as escorts is mostly to be there. We are there because the anti's are there. When patients arrive, we inform them of the protesters, and the fact that they are welcome to ignore the sidewalk counselors. We then walk with them through the protesters and make sure the path is free and the entrance accessible.

That is what I spent my weekend mornings doing during the Roe v Wade anniversary. And while I was escorting, our team of reporters were out at the March for Life interviewing many anti-choice demonstrators. Expect our video to go up by the end of the weekend.
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