Clinic Defense: Why Are You Here?


Why I, a clinic escort, kept an anti-choice protestor from being punched

By the time a person has gone through the training and scheduling with WACDTF to be a clinic escort one would think they’ve figured out why they want to wake up early on a Saturday through all kinds of seasons only to be yelled at.  I’ve been doing this for nearly 5 years, and while my motivations are mostly the same ‘provide women a safe access to the clinic’ they have evolved over time.

Our group is non violent in focus, and not a counter protest.  We are there to de-escalate.  So this past Saturday when I stood between a protestor and a screaming relative of a patient, hoping that she wouldn’t throw a punch. I was protecting ‘the enemy’ more than the patient to the casual observer.  Why do it?  This guy is a general pain, he harasses women, and he’s even called the cops on me before.

The reality is that we all deserve high quality health care in a low stress environment.  When stressed our blood pressure raises, our breathing is irregular, and we tend to pay attention less.  This could infringe on any visit to a doctors office.  Even in DC where protests are run of the mill and the doctors office is mingled with national monuments the sight of police is stressful.  Would you hesitate in front of a doctors office if you saw police questioning different individuals?  Given the violence against doctors and nurses that practice abortion, and the ongoing domestic terrorism happening in DC and across the country I wouldn’t be surprised if it would make more than one patient pause.

I’ve been rereading ‘The Story of Jane:The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service’ to prepare for a panel on radical reproductive rights at the Visions in Feminism conference and it is sad and surprising how so many of the ‘radical’ theories from 30 years ago are still considered revolutionary.  Patient centered care, and a volunteering with a constant focus on who you are here to help.  While it would be hilarious to see a companion unleash righteous anger at the physical manifestation of patriarchy, whom would it help?

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I come to the clinic to aid folks in their access to reproductive health care.  I come to make a stand to provide a buffer from those who would rather hear their own voice espouse a ‘truth’ than see & hear women with a sense of respect and acknowledgement of their own agency and abilities.  I come to provide a peaceful presence, to keep things calm, bear witness and sometimes to keep a ‘sidewalk counselor’ from getting decked.

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