This morning at the clinic

Every Saturday morning, protestors show up at the one abortion clinic in Charleston. Since last winter, several women I respect and admire have been running a clinic defense program, coordinating volunteers to escort the women through the protestors and into the clinic.

I went this morning. In a freak act of religious solidarity, churches have divided up the weekends when they'll come out and heckle the patients. Catholics get the third Saturday of the month, and as the morning progressed, they showed up in greater and greater numbers, until there were probably 40 of them lined up in the grass in front of the clinic parking lot. They chanted in unison--hail Marys and various credos that I wasn't familiar with, involving saving people's souls from hell--and yelled at the women as they entered the building. Standard stuff, mostly: "Don't kill your baby!" and "Your baby has fingernails and can feel pain!" and "Abortion is murder!"

Once patients are in the parking lot, they're safe--that's private property, and the protestors can't get near them. But after a certain point in the morning, the parking lot filled up. When one woman drove into the parking lot (having to dodge the protestors who try to block every car as it enters), I went up to her car and told her that she'd have to park across the street.

"I'm so scared!" she said. And I could see why: when you park across the street, you're fair game for the protestors. You have to walk through them to get into the clinic. She was by herself, probably in her early 20s.

"Well, a bunch of us are going to follow your car over to where you park, and we're going to walk back here with you," I told her. "It's going to be okay."

As soon as she left the parking lot, several protestors started following her car, too, and we had to really hurry to beat them to her door. "I'm scared!" she said again.

We flanked her on all sides, and as we walked, I just kept talking to her: "You don't have to listen to them or take anything they try to give you. They're going to yell, but they can't do anything to you. Look, see that yellow line? As soon as we step over that line, they can't follow you. We're really close now. Just don't listen to them at all. You don't even have to look at them."

And then we were over the yellow line, and she went in.

I was really lucky. When I had my abortion, there were no protestors there. I got to go into a quiet clinic and have a medical procedure. And I'm so grateful for that. I can't imagine how awful--how angering, demeaning, frightening, sickening--it would have been to have strangers surrounding me, blocking me, yelling at me and condemning me for making such an important, personal decision.

I was really honored to be at the clinic this morning. I got to be brave so that she could be scared, and we got her in.


Aaron said...

Good Job, Sis.

Alison said...

Thanks, Gridgey.

Mary said...

geeezzz! someone should make a movie about this.

Cate Bush said...

Dang. I'm so glad you were there for that woman.

christiemckaskle said...

And you're brave here, too.

love you...

kait said...

for seem reason this story makes me burst into tears every time i think about it. good tears, though, the kind that happen when people stand up for each other. way to go.

Anonymous said...

Coming in late, Shafi says:

I just remembered something i read in late 2005. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania came up with a creative way of discouraging protestors. They held a pledge drive where donors pledged a certain amount of money per protestor outside the building. They did it again in late 2006. You can read the specifics of the pledge drive here: http://www.ppsp.org/PledgePicket-index.asp

The Mom said...

I just noticed Shafi's comment - Heaven knows how long ago it was written! - what a good idea. What do you think, Alison?