My alarm goes off at 6:30am. It’s Saturday morning, and even during the week, I don’t wake up until 8:15am or so. It’s winter, so it will be another couple of hours before daylight. I layer up in long johns, leg warmers, thick socks, long sleeved shirt, a sweater–You probably get the idea of how dressing in layers works. I grab coffee and then drive 25 mins to a clinic, where I’ll spend the following two hours standing in the cold, voluntarily.
It’s cold. And I realize I should invest in warmer mittens. I’m standing on a curb at the entrance of a parking lot. It’s 7:40am in early January, in Minnesota. I’m bouncing up and down a bit, because in my mind that makes me warmer (I haven’t researched the science of this too thoroughly yet). The first bit of dawn is starting to show. A fresh faced young woman of maybe twenty turns to me, her arms wrapped around herself also trying to keep warm. Her and a friend had driven down from Saint Cloud to be here. They woke up around 4am.
“So, why do you do this?” She asks with genuine curiosity. I take a breath as I figure out where to start. Its that kind of cold that just freezes your face and the inside of your nose, “I’ve been very disheartened with, well, like everything over the past couple of years. Moving to Canada isn’t really an option, and one of the only ways I’ve found to help fight depression and the constant feeling of utter defeat is to put time and energy into something I’m passionate about. One of those issues is women’s reproductive rights. I can’t build houses. I can’t provide medical care to children in foreign countries. I can’t donate insane amounts of money to anything. And this is something I’m capable of doing with my limited skillset.” She nods knowingly and smiles. We continue to chat off and on between clients.
I escort at the clinic 1-2 Saturdays a month. This means, I’m one of the people who serves as a barrier between the women wanting to receive factual information regarding their pregnancy options, and the yelling strangers yelling lies and shaming them. An abortion is never an easy choice. I never know what exactly brings clients in, and honestly, it doesn’t matter. I’m irrelevant. I’m only here to be the kind face, and a non-judgmental barrier between women and protesters.
My first clinic escort shift was almost a year ago, the Saturday morning after Kavenaugh’s supreme court confirmation. And I can certainly assure you, that morning I had no reservations about ignoring insults and fake science from obnoxious angry old white men. Because I was pretty fucking tired of men not believing women, men thinking we’re their fucking property, and men incessantly working to control our bodies.
“Oh! You say you’re so pro choice!” He yells with his crazy-bedraggled-old-man-eyebrows. “But you don’t give them a choice! You don’t let them take my information!”
This is categorically untrue, for two reasons.
No. 1: Escorts are trained to not interact with protesters, we don’t talk to them, we don’t touch them, we don’t take their information. In turn, we don’t stop any clientele from taking protestors’ information. We remind them that they don’t have to, but clients have their own autonomy, we’re simply there to support them and walk them safely from their vehicle into the clinic.
No. 2: This clinic has actual doctors with FACTUAL information, and tell women all their CHOICES, the medical side effects, how far along they are in a pregnancy based, etc. As opposed to the fake women’s clinic with its deceptively similar name that does offer “Free ultrasounds!” (From humans who don’t have to have any actual medical training!) If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of fake women’s clinics, or “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” please take some time to educate yourself, because they receive tax benefits, and intentionally mislead women. Don’t feel like reading? John Oliver does a great piece about them.
My point is, we don’t want women to have abortions. We also don’t want them not to. We want them to receive truthful and safe medical care, from trained and licensed professionals–whose only objective is providing healthcare that best meets the needs of each individual patient. Humans deserve to genuinely know all their options, and make whatever choices accordingly.
Abortion is a rough topic. I realize this. For a decade as an artist military spouse, I kept myself as toned down and neutral as possible, because it was the easiest way to blend in, socialize, and not be a hassle for my [ex] husband’s career. I don’t want to alienate friends, acquaintances, and clients who are [now] likely put off by my pro-choice feminist rhetoric. However, we are living in tumultuous times. While blending in and remaining neutral are the easiest and safest things to do–it’s a silence I’m uncomfortable living in. It’s a silence that makes me complicit in my own oppression.
Abortion is not a black and white issue. It would be so much easier to navigate this topic if it were. But it’s not.
It’s not as simple as, “You don’t want the baby?! Why did you have sex then?” (Because women are also sexual beings and should be allowed to enjoy sex. Because my brith control failed. Because I was raped. Because he lied about a vasectomy. Because I did want this baby, but it’s developed without lungs and won’t survive past birth.) or “Just give it up for adoption” (I didn’t want a child, and the US has the highest pregnancy-related mortality rate of industrialized nations. My mental health/body/employment aren’t able to be healthy/recover from the PTSD of carrying my rapist’s child to term.)
I’m not trying or expecting to change anyone’s mind on this subject (because I won’t). I guess I’m hoping people can at least acknowledge that there are far more layers and nuance related to abortion. And honestly, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit a little part of me is scared. As utterly heartbreaking as it is, mass shootings have become almost common place. In turn, violence and threats against abortion clinics are also on the rise. And I know, if the unthinkable turn of events occurred and I was killed supporting other women’s right to their own bodily autonomy–some people, somewhere will think, “Good. She deserved it. One less self-righteous feminist bitch murdering helpless babies.”
To them, I’ve already been vilified to the point of no longer being perceived as a human being. I guess, I’m writing this because I am a human being.
I’m a woman.
I’m intelligent, worthwhile, and relevant.
We all are.