Tales from an abortion clinic escort

Caitlin Keefe Moran at The Toast describes some of her experiences as a Saturday Morning escort at an abortion clinic.

On her first day, a man jumps from a building across the street and the first responders show up sirens blaring. The protesters talk:

“Isn’t it a shame?” the woman says loudly, looking in the direction of the sirens. “Everyone rushes to help this person who’s already dead, but no one comes to help the babies.”

“That’s all they care about, death,” the man answers. “Culture of Death! They love death!” He finally turns to me. “They are escorts of death! Escorts of death!”

“What do you think happened to them,” the woman wonders, “to make them love death so much?”

A pastor is a regular at the clinic:

 “Just like the Nazis!” he bellows at Ruby, a fellow escort, and I as we walk a woman and her incredulous friend to the door. “Leading the Jews to the gas chamber. ‘Oh, you’re just going to take a shower!’ But they never came out!”

Another she calls ‘The Preacher’

who brings his two young sons to hold gruesome, digitally manipulated signs no matter what the weather. He positions himself directly in front of the clinic entrance on the sidewalk so he can shout into the reception area every time the door opens: “Can you hear the babies crying? Crying! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

The same man on a homeless person when a volunteer suggests as a Christian he provide some help:

“He’s made his choices! At least he got to be born! He’s had his chance.”

A female protester she doesn’t recognize corners her against the wall.

her finger in my face, to tell me that all the babies I have helped kill will dance around me on Judgment Day. I let her talk. This is another strategy: we engage the protesters, encourage them to shame and bully and taunt us, to distract them from the patients.

It’s all about genocide.

“And all of those babies will be black!” she adds. Black genocide is a favorite topic among the protesters. Their leaflets on the genocidal elimination of babies of color drive Ruby, the mixed-race daughter of a black woman, cross-eyed with rage. It’s an easy way to demonize everyone involved: to the protesters, the white escorts like me invade minority neighborhoods to kill black babies, and the escorts of color like Ruby are traitors to their race. So are the patients of color seeking abortion.

A woman she calls “The Message of Love”

“This could be your last hour on earth. You could get hit by that bus. And then you will absolutely burn in hell for eternity! But this is a message of love.”

If a children accompany their parent(s) to the clinic, they are accosted.

“How would you feel if Mommy and Daddy had aborted you?” one of the protesters, a man, asks, crouching down to the child’s height. The little boy shies and turns away; his mother, her eyes straight ahead, wraps her arm around him and says nothing.

Sometimes, the clients do reveal their reasons.

“Please don’t kill your baby,” the pastor’s daughter says as the Preacher and Are You Ready? yell in the background. “God loves that baby as much as the one you already have. There are better options.”

When Ruby and I finally catch up, we can see the woman is crying. She stops in her tracks and faces the pastor’s daughter.

“My baby is dead,” she says. Her voice doesn’t shake. “There is no helping it.”

Moran hopes, in vain that some introspection might infiltrate the protesters. But no, the next person receives the same message.

Five minutes later, another woman comes; the pastor’s daughter is at her elbow, calling into her ear: don’t kill your baby.

Dave Fayram on Flickr

The anti-abortion crusaders like to promote something called “Post Abortion Stress Syndrome” that they claim affects every woman who has an abortion. There is no mention of it in any version of DSM, or recognition among mainstream health professionals. They have a list of symptoms on their page that do seem to be pulled from the DSM. Symptoms that range from eating disorders, and anxiety, to flashbacks and suicide ideation.

Christian Life News brings up a similar issue in a Q&A from their Clearly Caring magazine (These people have a much different idea of caring than I do).

Q: A friend of mine had an abortion a few years ago and never seemed bothered by it. Now she is concerned because she may be getting married but is hesitant to tell her boyfriend about her past. Why is she changing her attitude about her decision?

A: Abortion providers tell women that abortion is safe and legal, is a good decision, and should not cause shame. Quite honestly, if they told the whole truth, few women would choose an abortion when faced with an unexpected pregnancy.

So, the short-term response after an abortion might be relief, but the long-term effects cause confusion, anger, and even depression. Your friend is just one of many women who now face the consequences of an abortion.

However, common port-abortion regret, a large portion of the negative emotions are driven by the language and attacks used by anti-abortionists. In 2011, a study was published in Women’s Health Issues that examined the issue of stigma. The full paper is posted by the Guttmacher Institute. In their paper they identify 5 primary causes of stigma.

  1. The violation of female ideals of sexuality and motherhood,
  2. Attributing personhood to the fetus,
  3. Legal restrictions,
  4. The idea that abortion is dirty or unhealthy, and
  5. The use of stigma as a tool for anti-abortion efforts

Stigma surrounding abortion may keep women from seeking or receiving social support. Stigma may also have economic costs for women who feel they must conceal their abortions. Jones, Finer, and Singh (2010) found that, among the 30% of abortion patients covered by private insurance, nearly two thirds paid for abortion care out of pocket, which they attribute in part to stigma. Finally, the persistence of self induced abortion in the United States may be another indicator of how stigma affects women’s actions: self-induced abortion is one way that women can keep their terminations secret.

The stigma affects abortion availability by restricting the training for physicians.

One pernicious effect of abortion stigma may be that physicians are unable to receive
training in abortion procedures, decline to be trained, or, if trained, face barriers to providing abortions. Future studies should investigate whether abortion stigma leads some physicians to refuse to provide legal abortions. Conscientious objection on religious rounds, by challenging the morality of abortion, may lead both to lack of training opportunities and to trainees refusing to be trained, further enhancing abortion stigma. Another concern warranting study is that abortion stigma may cause some women to carry their pregnancies to term, to assume a disproportionate economic burden for care, or to seek abortion care clandestinely. It may be that the most vulnerable groups of women are unable to get abortions because of this social barrier.

This all comes back to the verbal assaults described by Moran. Anti-abortion campaigners are known for stretching the truth and telling outright lies to further their agenda. In the case of the emotional toll that abortion can take on women, they are responsible for creating the stress in the first place, increasing the stress and guilt post-abortion, and then blaming any problems on the abortion.  In addition, stress and guilt are often precursors or triggers for depression, which in turn can lead to suicide, thus reinforcing my view of anti-abortionists as being pro-death and not pro-life.

Does anyone still believe that anti-abortionists are not anti-women?

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One Response to Tales from an abortion clinic escort

  1. Laura says:

    Excellent post. Thank you for bringing attention to the the real harm: the protesters which continue the cycle of shame and stigma attached with abortion.

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