Calla Hales oversees four abortion clinics in North Carolina and Georgia. For the past 40 Saturdays, she’s been facing the front lines of an anti-abortion protest that drew thousands of pro-life activists. This is her story as told toGlamour’s Macaela MacKenzie.

My typical Saturday commute to work feels a little like driving straight into a festival. There are tour buses, music blasting over loudspeakers, hundreds of people congregated in brightly colored shirts. Except this isn’t a festival or a fun town parade—I run four abortion clinics in North Carolina and Georgia, and this is the anti-abortion protest we face every week.

For the past 40 weeks straight, the clinic where I work in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been facing hundreds of pro-life protesters that make getting to the clinic a traumatic experience. They call it the 40 Weeks of Life campaign—I call it the 40-Week Siege.

I guess sidewalks don’t matter anymore?

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Holy shit.

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This is bullshit. There’s a drone flying overhead, and no ones stopping it.

This is a circus.

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Every Saturday I drive out and count the protesters congregated in the street outside the clinic—394, 560, 2,000—past posters of babies and aborted fetuses. The protesters will call me by name and tell me I need to repent. They’ll yell about the blood of babies on my hands as I park my car and walk into work. They’ll tell me I can’t be a mother as long as I work here. They’ll say if I leave my life of sin, maybe God will still save me.

All of it is an effort to guilt me into feeling shame over something that I should never feel shame about. Abortion care isn’t about religion or faith—it’s about a woman’s right to choose what medical care she receives for her body.

As patients drive down the street to the clinic, it’s common to see men and women trying to wave down cars and give out pamphlets of information meant to guilt women about their choice and convince them to turn back. One patient’s young daughter was so traumatized by the protesters that she ran off—it took almost an hour to find her. Some weeks pro-life protesters have even tried to deliberately misdirect patients from the clinic, chalking arrows on the street that lead patients away from the clinic and promising “free ultrasounds,” adding chaos to an already stressful situation. If a black patient is walking in, there are often comments about abortion being “black genocide” in a weird twisting of the Black Lives Matter movement. Unfortunately, that tactic is not uncommon at many anti-abortion protests, which can be incredibly upsetting to patients and staff.

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This is less than 10 feet from my car. In my parking lot. At my job.


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No one should have to go through this traumatic tunnel of protesters just to access health care they are legally entitled to. Can you imagine that happening at any other medical center?

Thankfully, we have a private parking lot. Once patients reach our property, they’re greeted by a group of volunteers who are willing and happy to be there supporting patients, asking if they need a welcome shoulder or support going into the clinic.

The thing I want people to know is patients seeking abortion care aren’t this strange population. They’re average, regular women. We have a whole range of patients including 15- to 16-year-old minors coming in with parental guidance or judicial bypasses, and 40-something women who have two kids and are just fine not having another. I’ve seen students, mothers, teachers, preachers—there’s a whole gamut of patients.

Capping off a rough week for personal freedoms with the week 20 “festivities” of the . The total today was 191- my guess is that the heat and the upcoming holiday caused the lower numbers.

Again, I catch myself feeling “relieved” at this lower number and am mad at myself: there is nothing okay about seeing this scene through the bushes at your private medical appointment.

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It bothers me that there’s no chance to have a real dialogue with the people who protest outside our clinic every week. If someone has it in their head that what you are doing is fundamentally wrong, they’re not going to want to listen to you say something different. I often ask why, if they are so concerned about ending abortions, they don’t dedicate their time and energy to better access to contraception and sex education. Often, they say it’s against their belief systems.

I watched a lot of cars get stopped today: by protesters, or by marchers crossing the street.

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Another photo from today- a protester wearing a “Christian” badge, which looks a hell of a lot like a police badge.

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No patient should ever have to deal with this. No employee should ever have to deal with this.

There is nothing “Christian” or “counseling”-oriented about this.

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I am a huge supporter of the ability to have free speech. I’ve been to my fair share of protests in my life (and am an organizer with the Women’s March in Charlotte), but there’s a sincere difference between protests and harassment. The latter terrorizes not just our staff but the patients coming to us for care. Harassment is not help.

A part of me wants to say that the protests plaguing the women coming to our clinic for care don’t bother me at all—I don’t want to give those that have put our work under siege for the past 40 straight weeks the satisfaction. But that would be disingenuous and simply not the truth. It’s incredibly upsetting to have to deal with this on a daily basis, especially on the weekends when it reaches a radical level. At this point, my fiancé asks me to wear a ballistic vest when I’m going to be around a lot of protesters.

This isn’t just happening to patients here at my own clinic—it’s happening to patients across the nation. This issue has been happening under the radar for a long time and it’s just going to continue to get worse. Protestors are getting increasingly emboldened, feeling like they’re on the right side of the debate as policies continue to restrict access to abortion care and contraceptives. By the end of the 40-Week Siege, protesters were literally coming in by the busload.

The crazy thing is, many abortion activists like myself are told we’re being hysterical—that Roe v. Wade will never be overturned. But that’s already becoming a reality in places like Alabama, West Virginia, and Ohio, where abortion access is slowly but surely being banned. It’s a scary time to have a uterus.

40 weeks are completed, but what next? They intend to be back next year, “bigger and better.”

So here’s the question: what are YOU going to do next to help protect abortion access?

That being said: here’s an awesome photo of some of our volunteers from today.

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No matter how many protesters come or how many of my weekends they ruin, we’re still fighting every day. We’re still organizing. We’re still growing and trying to think of new things every time something like this happens. Every time we fail, it’s back to the drawing board. We’re not just giving up.