10 Reflections on a Clinic Visit
Today, I drove an hour and a half to visit a rather large Planned Parenthood in a rather large city. Sure, there was a closer one a mere 15 minutes away (if that) that I could have visited. I’ve actually been to that nearer one a few times before to observe the scene there. That PP is farther away from the nearest residential area and, unlike the one I saw today, is within a medical compound with a private drive and is far out of shouting distance. At that PP, the most that protesters can do is interfere with cars entering and departing the driveway, and wave their offensive signs at passing traffic. It’s still a rotten thing to do, but it wasn’t half as bad as the scene that I witnessed today.
This Planned Parenthood was in a residential area. It had a private parking lot, but it was only separated from the protesters by a chain-link fence. The shouting could easily be heard from the door. I parked on a side-street so as not to take up space intended for clients and staff. As I walked around to the front of the building where the protesters were, I snapped a picture resting on the side of a trailer. There were at least four trailers parked on both sides of the road, what their purposes were, apart from being something for signs to rest against, I do not know.
As I looked town the sidewalk, I noticed I was being watched by a middle-aged blonde woman in a black coat. She was waiting to see if I would move towards the opening in the fence. I didn’t. Instead, I crossed the street, away from the clinic, in order to get a better look. There were at least a dozen or so protesters, although it was difficult to get an accurate count with all the trailers obscuring my view. Only a few were female, most of them were male. All of the antis that I saw appeared to be white.
The clinic was surrounded by a high, chain-link fence which had an opaque tarp on it in an attempt to protect the privacy of the people entering and leaving. Privacy, however, was not a concern of the antis as evidenced first my the several ladders that the antis were using as perches to shout from, from the several men who stood at the gate’s opening as the condemned people to hell, and by the blonde woman and her sidekick who had closed the distance with me as I was taking in the scene.
“Can I help you?” She asked, as if I was the one to approach her.
“No.” I answered simply as I continued to walk down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street as the clinic. I’m no stranger to confrontation online, but that was not my intention here today. I didn’t want to contribute to the chaos already present outside. I was only there to observe. However, the blonde anti was not satisfied.
She asked me if I was going inside the clinic, to which I responded that it was none of her business and told her to leave me alone. Repeatedly, they refused. Clearly, my privacy, personal space, consent (or lack there of), and, most notably, intelligence were, to them, not worth respecting.
The morning I spent observing was so chaotic that I’m having trouble organizing my thoughts into the format of a story. Instead, I think I’ll just list my observations, and that will have to do.
1. The antis have no regard for privacy.
At all. This was illustrated first by the ladders. To me, putting a fence around something, especially one with an opaque tarp, means keep out. It’s not enough for the busybodies to watch (read ‘accost‘)everyone who goes in and out, they have to set up ladders to see over the fence too. Then, there were the antis that rushed any female-bodied person that so much as came within a block of the clinic, and literally chased them until they were on Planned Parenthood‘s property. Almost immediately after rounding the corner at the end of the block, the antis jumped into my personal business. “Are you going into the clinic today?” None of your business, go away. Of course they didn’t go away as they felt so entitled to my time and attention.
2. Antis make assumptions.
LOTS of them. Of course, since I didn’t immediately tell the nearest anti whether I was going to the clinic or not, she jumped to the conclusion that I was, A. pregnant, and B. here for an abortion, despite the fact that at the time I was only standing down the street from the clinic and had not yet made any move towards it. She made these assumptions for no good reasons at all. When I finally did begin to approach the clinic, several men (more on them later) began to shout that I was a “murderer!” and “going to hell!”I was only inside a few minutes. Just long enough to make a donation and inquire about escorting. Since I exited the clinic so quickly after going in, the ladder antis began to shout again. One seemed to have assumed I’d gotten RU 486 while inside as she asked me if I knew how many women had died after taking it – the implication being that this was some substantial number (it’s not.)Another seemed to have assumed that I’d gotten a pack of birth-control pills as she, without prompting, told me that the pills were anabolic steroids that caused breast cancer. Um, that’s a new one.
3. Clinic defense is a must!
One of my first observations while being stormed is that there were no escorts around. I never saw a single one all day! Escorts could have protected women approaching on foot from being blocked and accosted, at least to some degree, by serving as a buffer between clients and antis. However, none were present and I watched as one young woman had to race the antis who had surrounded her from all directions just to get inside the gate. Thankfully, there were at least three security guards standing near the gate. They couldn’t protect women approaching down the street, but they did keep the gate, and the clinic protected. They kept antis from blocking the gate so that visitors could get through, as well as keeping the antis safely off the premise. Later on when I was leaving the clinic and on the receiving end of another bombardment of yelling, one security guard approached me and kindly informed me of a different, small gate which I could safely pass through.Inside the clinic, I was greeted by a woman at a desk, who waved me past a door. In front of that door, was another one with a large window, which I assume was probably bullet-proof glass, which a woman at another counter was able to see me through. This woman had to push a button near her seat in order for this second door to open. Once though, I noticed that her space was protected by another wall of glass, with only an opening at the bottom to pass papers through. She was kind enough to inform me that the place was surrounded by security cameras, I would assume on the inside and out. Yay.There was also one police squad car present, although I wasn’t sure if he was there for the clinic or not. I did observe one car being towed, but I’m not sure if that was a related incidence or not. The antis’ cars (as well as several horse-trailers) were blocking a lot of road.
4. The antis have a skewed idea of the word “help.”
Lying to me is not help. Slandering a non-profit health organization is not help. Trying to get me to a CPC, a fake clinic, so they can keep me from appointments (which they assume I have,) lie to me, emotionally manipulate me, and, if I’m really lucky, give me a gift-basked of diapers, is not help. Condemning me to hell is not help. Getting in my personal business is not help. Voting yes on 62, which would ban abortion and birth control – thereby contributing to violating women at best, and killing them at worst is not help. Repeatedly inviting me to lunch (despite the fact that I several times said “No, leave me alone,” tricking me into eating so that I would not be able to get the abortion they assumed I was therefore that day, is not help. Banning safe medical care, knowing full well that women die as a direct result, is not help.
5. Men and women had different harassment styles.
Curiously, only the women (which were a minority among the antis) even mentioned the word help. The men (and I use that term very loosely) never did. The women chased women up and down the street, and spoke to those women only in normal speaking voice after getting into women’s personal space. Men, on the other hand, posted themselves at the gate entrance and rarely moved from there. They didn’t say a word to me as I passed them, but waited until I was at least 30 feet past them, well onto PP property, to begin screaming accusations and condemnations.
6. Truth is an inconvenience.
I feel like I barely even need to explain this one. I literally lost count of how many lies and distortions I’ve heard today. To name a few:Fetuses are the same as people, and Planned Parenthood kills children.Legal abortion is dangerous for women.Women regret their abortions. Birth control pills are anabolic steroids and DEFINITELY cause breast cancer. There is DEFINITELY a God, it’s DEFINITELY the Christian one, there’s DEFINITELY a hell, and I’m DEFINATLEY going to it, and all of this is scientifically proven by the sheer fact that we exist. No, really.
7. Antis don’t care about consent.
Antis don’t care that women who get abortions or birth control are clearly not consenting to pregnancy, they still try to stop women from exercising their rights to not be walking incubators. Antis don’t care that women don’t consent to having them involved in their personal, medical business, they still demand to be involved. Antis didn’t care that I repeatedly told them to leave me alone and to not talk to me, but they didn’t care that I didn’t consent to interaction and continued to harass. At one point, an anti said that consent doesn’t matter and the absence of consent doesn’t mean others have to respect that. I asked her if she’d say that to a rape victim. Amazingly, she said yes.
8. Antis don’t care about public decency.
The antis screamed loud enough to be heard throughout the neighborhood, their cars and horse trailers choked the streets and blocked parking, they accosted anyone and everyone they saw, and displayed sexist, xenophobic, and outright slanderous signs. The worst among the signs were the gory, and un-representative depictions of fetuses on large signs which were propped against horse trailers which didn’t seem to serve any other purpose. Ok, this is all pretty nasty enough, but remember what I said earlier, this is in a residential area. The clinic is surrounded on all sides by private residences, housing the young and old who have to deal with this display of bigotry on a near everyday basis. That’s bad enough just to have to drive past, or witness out your window, but I wonder if the antis every bang on doors, leave nasty fliers, or use private property. Do women who happen to live nearby and walk through on private business get harassed too?
9. Antis really believe what they say.
Ok, so not all of them. A great many, especially the ones leading the movement, really do know how untrue the lies they shamelessly invent and spin are. Many, I would say, really don’t even care about the fetuses they pretend are babies, but are simply concerned with exercising control and authority over others. But at least a few are innocently deceived sheep, who sincerely believe that babies are dying and that they must not only save babies from abortion, but must also save others from the hell they would go to for participating. This was illustrated to me after one persistent anti, a young women probably about my age, finally walked away crying after talking at me for about an hour and not getting anywhere, which brings me to my last point.
10. Antis are people too.
Yes, it would have been easy for me to validate myself by saying that she deserved it. After all, the scene here today was just ghastly and she was the one who refused to leave me alone. I’m sure that she’s made other women cry as she chased the up and down the sidewalk. But you know, what, it wasn’t OK. I was never there to get into an argument with anybody, I didn’t even want to talk to anybody at all. But she kept talking at me, and making statement so absurd they just BEGGED for refutation. Before I knew it, we were having a full-fledged conversation. To me, I was debunking an anti and rejecting every single attempt she made to assert her privilege. To her, she was battling for the lives of others. Sure, she wasn’t actually protecting or saving anybody, but she believed that she was. I didn’t yell, or get particularly angry, I didn’t get in her face or threaten her in anyway. But I think the sheer hopelessness of the situation really got to her, and finally she departed in tears. I’m not sorry for what I said, however. I only ever spoke the truth, which is more than I could say for her. But as she turned away, I apologized and almost moved to hug her. It was never my intention to upset or hurt anybody.I would never say that we must be “polite” and “respectful” to our oppressors. There is absolutely nothing “respectful” about being an anti, nor is being an anti in any way “respectable.” However, even as we accuse antis of forgetting that women are, indeed people, it can sometimes be easy to forget that antis are people too, with strongly held beliefs, fears, and feelings. I will never play nice or don kid-gloves in my dealing with antis. However, as a former anti myself, I know that the mindset can be deeply engrained and hard to shake free of. Maybe, at least some antis, if they can be freed from the hands of others that had dominated their thinking, can be made to look at the situation differently.
Or maybe not.
Posted on January 16, 2011, in Abortion, Choice, Feminism, Religion, Sexism and tagged Abortion, anti abortion, anti-choice, antichoice, babies, birth, birth-control, choice, clinic, feminist, feminsim, ignorance, judgment, misogyny, motherhood, ob/gyn, patriarchy, plannedparenthood, pro-choice, pro-life, prochoice, reproductive rights, rights, sexism, women's rights. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.