Abortion Escorts

If you have been following my recent posts, you know I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride set to kick off on 23 July 2013 in New York City and San Francisco.  I discussed this summer’s action with a number of people I respect, and there is a divide in the abortion rights community on whether or not it is wise to embark on this action.  I did not reach the decision to support and join with the Riders without giving the decision due diligence; nor, did I neglect to consider the multiple outcomes of the action.

When facing a dichotomous debate among two sides of the community, two camps who should be working together toward common goals, I ask myself now as I did in the past, What Would Dad Do?  Would he shrink back into the shadows, rely solely on private action and influence, or would he advocate, and actually engage in, direct action and response to those who tormented, stalked, and eventually killed him?  Obviously, we know the answer:  he did not back down!  As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I also cannot and will not back down.

Upon the 20th year after my dad’s murder by a Christian terrorist, as we face continued threat of violence, and as state after state passes draconian anti abortion legislation, I reflect not only on what my dad would do but also consider the words of Yeats:

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

Knowing I will be appalled by remaining silent, I resolved the vacillation by opting to support what I believe is the right course of action.  To that end, I co-authored a piece on the merits and need of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride with one of its primary organizers Sunsara Taylor.  I want to share with you our recent missive so perhaps more of us will come together on the need for direct, vocal, and mass support our clinics, our doctors, and our rights

Abortion Rights Are At a Crossroads:
This is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!

By Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.
July 12, 2013

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio’s recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of “established conventional wisdom,” only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters,and matters tremendously.

It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively chose their destinies.

Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights andlauncha national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.

As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded by with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women’s rights face harshest threat.

However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.

Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.

First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.

Second, while it is true that a great many people – including many who support abortion rights – are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.

Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women’s equality but posture as defenders of “babies”; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.

If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.

A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn’t this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?

History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet, it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got “in your face” that broader public opinion and actions began to change.

We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table).When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.

Third, while court cases are important – even essential – it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a “mission from God” are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.

But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.

We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st Century’s Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.

Now is the time for courage, for truth telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco in July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love’s labor won.

To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws

In a recent etiquette advice column, Judith Martin was asked if it was polite to ask how a person lost his hand. Her response was an emphatic “It would be hideously impolite.” She explained that she failed to see what business of Mr. Rude it could be, and hoped that he did not go around asking to peek at other people’s medical records.

In a civil society, there are social customs that distinguish private from public. Scars on one’s face, a missing thumb or a burned arm are visible to the general public. How these effects happened to us remains private information. We also have social customs designed to enlighten the uninformed against remarks that pigeonhole individuals with racially insensitive intentions. For example, it is completely inexcusable, as a white person and a stranger, to assume that every person with mocha brown skin is African American. It demonstrates racial insensitivity and a clear lack of civility. Social customs also discriminate between deviance and conformity according to context. Yelling “fire” in a theater would be considered a deviant act while calling a volunteer at an abortion clinic a murderer would be considered ignorant, hateful and appallingly rude but with the legal limits of the law. As P.M. Forni wrote in Choosing Civility, most of us would agree that thoughtful behavior and common decency are in short supply, particularly in the last decade.

This lack of civility is distressingly apparent amongst the anti abortion tribes who haunt the perimeters of abortion clinics. Driven by the belief of their moral superiority, these trolls are prolific in damnation, degraded by their racial insensitivities, corrupted by their aggressive religious bigotry and homophobia. These self-proclaimed pro-life warriors are the antithesis of civility even though they would likely counter that it is the entire world who is uncivil. Ms. Martin would likely faint at their dreadfully loutish comments directed toward innocent women. In fact, as a social encounter, the anti abortion activists normalize their identity while they stigmatize the woman entering an abortion clinic and stigmatize the volunteers and clinic staff, thereby marking everyone (but themselves) as morally flawed. Beginning to see a pathology here?

For example, one protester named Katie said to a young Hispanic woman, a woman with whom she has no prior contact and no permission to address, “If you are going in for an abortion, please don’t. They’ll cut you up really bad.” Or to a young man, this vulgar protester said, “The sex was great. Now do the right thing and take care of her and the baby.” The presumptuousness was astounding. This off assumed that the male companion was the sperm donor and that he was shirking his responsibility. In truth there are many occasions when the companion is a brother or friend who accompanies her to the appointment. Further, some women choose to abort regardless of what the men want. But facts and truth seldom bother the protesters. In fact, they have so much respect for the truth they seldom use it.

From the creep-factor corner, comes a deeply disgusting comment from the lecherous old man named Don who lurked around the clinic doorway like the godfather of Keats Street. He watched as a young woman, sporting a snug, cleavage-revealing camisole, walked into the clinic. This horny old pervert blurted out “Looks like you’re all set up for breastfeeding.” I could just hear Ms. Manners gasping in disbelief and saying “How appalling.”

Several years back, one of the clinic’s employees was dropped off at the clinic door. She quickly opened the car door and went inside but not before the venomous Gerry started yelling at her and then took a shot at her two innocent, wide-eyed children sitting in their car seats in the back. Aimed right at the little one closest to him, he lowered his face to the child’s level and yelled “Your mommy is a baby killer.” So much for loving children.

But as inexcusable as these examples are, they pale in comparison to the grossly invasive demands from judges and lawyers who subpoena women’s medical records during the discovery phase of frivolous lawsuits. Worse yet are the uncivil, immoral legislative actions that essentially reduce women to second class citizens by depriving them of reasonable access to abortion care and by subjecting them to demeaning wait periods, unsolicited counseling using state-mandated misinformation and forced ultrasounds. There is no area in healthcare where legislators regard women as incapable of making decisions for themselves. Likewise, there is no area in healthcare where legislators regard doctors as incapable of making sound medical decisions with their patients.

In fact, there is no area in healthcare where it would be considered remotely acceptable to be rude to female patients except outside abortion clinics. There, self-proclaimed Christian perverts attempt to talk to strangers about the content of their uterus, their breasts, or their sex partners. There, depraved men and women demand their free speech rights to tell a mother that it was God’s will that her raped daughter got pregnant and that she has no right to abort the pregnancy. It’s therefore all the more unfortunate that American citizens are ignorant of, or hostile to, our social customs when visiting perimeters of healthcare clinics that provide abortion care and when, as Ms. Manners might say, are hideously impolite to innocent strangers.

Abortion Providers

Abortion Providers

On March 10, 1993, I got a call from a woman who owns an abortion clinic here in the Washington D.C. area.  Through her hysterical tears I heard her say that “they just killed one of our doctors in Florida.”  There was no more information after that – just the shocking statement.  After that first call, all hell broke loose.

Within a few minutes, I got a call from Susan Hill, my long time friend and owner of a chain of abortion clinics known as the National Women’s Health Network.  A few years earlier, Susan founded the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, the group that I worked for.  She quickly confirmed that a doctor had been killed in Pensacola – and that the doctor had actually worked at one of her clinics.  His name was David Gunn.

Abortion Providers

Abortion Providers

I’ve written before about the events that transpired once we received this shocking news.  David Gunn’s murder was front page news for several days because he was the first abortion doctor to be killed for performing abortions.  His assassin surrendered after pulling the trigger, was convicted very quickly and to this day remains in jail in Florida.

I share this story because yesterday was yet another anniversary of that horrible day.  But I share it also because, although it was the day that Doctor Gunn was killed, March 10 is now known as “National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.”

Christian Prolife Convicted Murderer Terrorist

Christian Prolife Convicted Murderer Terrorist

All across the country, it is a day when supporters of abortion rights take a moment to personally thank all of the doctors, staff and owners who work in or run abortion facilities.  Actually, while I never shy away from the word “abortion,” I think “abortion facilities” is a misnomer because it minimizes the scope of the services these people offer to women.  There is a lot more than abortion when you are offering reproductive health services.  Indeed, take a minute to go to www.abortion.com and look at some of the websites of the clinics that are listed.  You’ll get a much better idea of the amazing work that they do.

They irony, of course, is David Gunn and the other doctors who were later killed, were not just doing abortions.  As the general public recently discovered with the Susan B. Komen fiasco, these doctors might also be performing mammograms or testing for chlamydia.  Not to mention the provision of birth control which is on everyone’s tongue, especially Rick Santorum’s.  Oh, the pro-lifers can wallow in their myopia over the abortions that are performed in these clinics, but any person of average intellect knows that there are more things going on in these facilities than abortions.

Abortion Provider Appreciation

Abortion Provider Appreciation

This does not mean, however, that I am “apologizing” for the abortion services that are provided.  To the contrary – I applaud my former colleagues for having the courage to perform this procedure knowing that their car could blow up at any time or that the next person walking up to them in the mall could be carrying a gun.  As Doctor George Tiller found out when he was ushering parishioners into his church, there is no sanctuary from a demented mind who actually thinks he might be “saving babies” if he shoots an abortion doctor.

I want to applaud the abortion doctors who, despite the dangers, continue to be there to help the millions of women who have picked up the phone and made an appointment for an abortion.  I applaud the counselors who take the time to talk to the women to make sure they are positive about their decision.  And I applaud the nurses who hold the woman’s hand while she is in surgery.


Randall Terry Abortion

Randall Terry Abortion

Ole Randall Terry just can’t avoid the spotlight.

As many of you know, Terry was the founder and leader of Operation Rescue which for years literally struck terror in the hearts of abortion providers everywhere.  He first attracted national attention in 1991 when he organized the “Summer of Mercy,” which brought thousands of anti-abortion advocates to Wichita, Kansas where they set up camp right in front of the late Doctor George Tiller’s clinic.  Tiller and his staff courageously endured the onslaught but Terry got his headlines and raised a significant amount of money.



Then, in the years that followed, it seemed that several times each year his troops would descend on another abortion provider, blocking access to clinics, terrorizing staff and patients and garnering even more headlines.  But I have to give him credit.  As a staff person at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, the minute we heard him announce that he was targeting yet another abortion clinic, we went into high alert.  Led by staff from the Fund for a Feminist Majority, help was sent to the clinic to prepare staff for the mayhem that was on its way.

Abortion Access

Abortion Access

The irony is that Terry and his crew got so out of hand that the Congress ultimately passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which practically shut down Terry’s operations.  Also, to make matters worse, Terry started veering off message a little, targeting homosexuals and Muslims.  Then, a series of personal indignities surfaced.  We learned that his son was gay, his daughter had sex outside of marriage and became pregnant.  She had a miscarriage and is reportedly no longer welcome in his home.  Then his other daughter had two children outside of wedlock and became a Muslim.  Finally, Terry himself was ultimately censured by his church after admitting that he had committed adultery.



Okay, now pick yourself up off the floor and stop laughing.

And now, guess what, Terry is back in the news!   Yup – he is running for President of the United States.  If you can believe it, he is actually “challenging” the most “pro-abortion President in U.S. history”, Barack Obama, in the Democratic primaries.  Yeah, I can’t figure that one out either.  Indeed, a few weeks ago I was channel surfing and happened upon a “debate” featuring the “lesser known Democratic candidates” for president.  Very kooky stuff.  And Terry was actually the most articulate of the group but the problem was that I couldn’t take my eyes off the candidate sitting next to him because he was wearing a big boot on his head and practically spoke in tongues.  At the end of the debate, the boot head sprinkled “fairy dust” all over Terry.

Keep your own house in order

Keep your own house in order

But Terry is looking to make more news.  He is currently trying to raise money to show a graphic anti-abortion ad to be played during the Super Bowl.  He is exploiting an FCC rules that prohibits censorship of “political” ads within 45 days of a primary. The ad will feature the usual dubious photos of alleged aborted fetuses.  And, as Terry well knows himself, the ads will have no impact and, in fact, will cause more people to turn against him and his cause.  But that’s okay because this is not about the cause, it’s all about Randall Terry.

Dr. David murdered by Pro Life Terrorists

Dr. David murdered by Pro Life Terrorists

In March, 1994, members of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers held a memorial event in Pensacola, Florida at the site where, a year earlier, Doctor David Gunn was gunned down by an anti-abortion assassin.  At the event, Doctor Gunn’s son, David, Jr., spoke with great eloquence but I will never forget him welcoming the group to what he called “the paranoia that is Pensacola.”

There was good reason to be paranoid in Pensacola, especially if you were a provider of abortion services.  Before Doctor Gunn’s murder, the abortion clinics in that city had been the target of considerable anti-abortion violence.  For example, in 1984 Matthew Goldsby and James Simmons bombed the Ladies Center with a pipe bomb on June 25.  That forced the clinic to relocate and six months later on Christmas Day, they bombed the center again at its new location.  As if that was not enough, they also set on fire two other private physician offices where the doctors performed abortions.  They were convicted and sentenced to ten years but only served about half their terms.

Insanity of Anti Abortion People

Insanity of Anti Abortion People

Over the years, the Ladies Center remained the target of massive anti-abortion protests and regular Saturday vigils by locals such as John Burt and one Paul Hill.  Then, just a few months after NCAP’s memorial event, Hill killed John Britton, a doctor who provided abortions at the Ladies Center and James Barrett, a volunteer who escorted patients, as they arrived in the clinic parking lot. Barrett’s wife, June, also was wounded.  Hill was executed for the crime in 2003.

And now it has happened again.

Anti Abortion people are happy to let women die

Anti Abortion people are happy to let women die

In case you missed it – and it was easy to miss because the press totally ignored it – on January 1, Mr. Bobby Joe Rogers set on fire the Ladies Center, which had been renamed the “American Family Planning Clinic.”  It caused about $300,000 in damages, gutting the clinic.  It is reported that he merely filled a beer bottle with gasoline and used an old shirt as a wick. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire.

Bobby Joe certainly fits the profile of the anti-abortion terrorist.  He was homeless and participated in the almost daily protests.  One person who hung out with Rogers said that “Rogers admitted to intentionally setting fire to the clinic due to his strong disbelief in abortion.”  He added that “he stated (he) was further fueled when he recently witnessed a young female entering the clinic while he was sitting amongst anti-abortion protesters.”  Rogers has a past arrest record spanning nine states from the Southeast to the Midwest with felony convictions in Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri for burglary and in Mississippi for grand larceny.



The good news is that, as opposed to past events in Pensacola, the federal government responded immediately and they got their man.  But what I can’t fathom, and what has bothered me for years, is do these idiots really think they are “saving babies?”  Is it really abortion that they are targeting?   Or are they just losers looking to get their name in the papers?  I ask because, if they gave it any thought (which may be stretching it for them), they would realize that bombing an abortion clinic or killing an abortion doctors does not “save babies.”   Sure that particular clinic may now be closed for a while but, guess what, those women who might have gone to that center will simply make an appointment at the OTHER center a few miles away.  And if they blow that one up, the women will then travel over to Mobile and get an abortion.

The disappearance of an abortion facility does not stop abortion, it does not “save babies.”  If these domestic terrorists say that’s why they did it, they’re full of it.  They are just miscreants who are either totally delusional about how things work (a good possibility) or they are just looking to make a name for themselves within the anti-abortion movement.  It’s all so sick.

What the hell is it with Pensacola?



A short while ago, I got the word that there would be a “big protest” in front of Germantown Reproductive Health Services, an abortion clinic in Maryland.  It’s the clinic where Doctor Lee Carhart works a few days a week.  It had become a “famous” gathering site because Doctor Carhart performs later abortions.  It had been years since I actually saw a protest and a while since I had talked to Lee, so I decided to drive up to the event.



When I make the left hand turn off the main road that morning, I was immediately confronted by the usual “Big Dead Fetus Truck,” as we used to call them.  I am, of course, used to the pictures but I couldn’t help thinking about a mother and her child innocently turning that same corner and seeing this ugliness.

It was a big crowd, maybe four hundred anti-abortion protestors.  They were standing on the sidewalk in front of a large office complex and the clinic itself was in the back, not visible to the protestors.  What struck me right away was the silence.  I have been so used to loud, blaring bullhorns, people screaming at the patients, escorts and staff at the top of their lungs.  This event, however, was different and it seemed like anti-abortion activists may be exploring different ways of making their point.  Except for the truck, there were no other gross signs.  People weren’t screaming.  Instead they were singing and praying quietly in groups.  Some were carrying signs, but they were mostly signs about “regretting” ones abortion and other low-key messages.

There were several county police cars patrolling the area and I do have to say that I was disturbed to see them just watching a woman near the car entry way practically stopping card by holding out brochures for them to take.  I felt it was obstructing vehicular traffic, but the police let it go.

I wanted to visit Doctor Carhart, so I walked up to a police car.  They were understandably suspicious of who I was so I told them I would call Lee from my mobile phone.  I got him right away and he said of course I could come in.  So, I just told the police and they waived me in.  Later, I got chills thinking that I could have been a clever assassin who really wasn’t talking to Lee Carhart.  Yes, I still might have had a tough time actually entering the clinic because they had a buzzer system, but I also could have just waited right outside the clinic door where there were absolutely no cops.

I had a pleasant meeting with Lee and his wife.  While he was certainly aware of the scene outside, Lee is used to the attention and it doesn’t phase him at all.  We talked about his work, how the clinic was doing, conventions he would be going to and speaking engagements.  He was, as always, very laid back, almost like the “country doctor.”

When I left the clinic, I hung around, not talking to anyone except a few pro-choicers across the street, including Todd Stave, the founder of Voice of Choice, a group that organizes hundreds of phone calls to particularly aggressive anti-abortion protestors.  Then, I dove back into the crowd and, to be perfectly honest, was totally bored.

And I guess “boring” is okay in a situation like this.  They are exercising their right to free speech, they are not threatening anyone.  The cops are there to keep the peace if necessarily (although a little loosely) and every woman got to the clinic with no incidents.

Sometimes boring is good.

Abortion Escorts

Abortion Escorts

Let’s talk about escorts.

No, not the professional ones that you can track down on Craig’s List.  Get your mind out of the gutter for Gosh Sakes.  I’m talking about the pro-choice escorts.

I can’t remember when I first heard about these folks who were accompanying women into their local abortion clinic.  But I know it was sometime in the early-1990’s, when groups like Operation Rescue, the Lambs of Christ and others were getting hundreds of their followers to block the entrances to abortion clinics.  It is hard to believe today, but I recall many demonstrations where anti-abortion folks would just plant themselves down in front of the door to the clinic and sit there.  Amazingly, they would usually do this right in front of the local police.   And, more amazingly, the police would often just let them sit there and chant and sing for hours, even though the protestors were clearly violating the trespass laws.

Somewhere around that time either the National Organization for Women or the Feminist Majority Foundation started to counter-attack.  They began recruiting pro choice activists to help women access their medical services by escorting them through the crowd and into the clinic.  Indeed, when the antis suggest that it was the doctors who were luring women into the clinics, I have to chuckle as I remember watching women desperately climbing over the protestors in an effort to get IN to the abortion facility.

So, working with the clinic administrator, the escorts would arrange to meet the patient at a certain spot and walk in with her, the woman often holding something over her head so as not to be identified.  While it was a serious and often tense situation, I always had the sense that some of the escorts were really getting into this, that it really got their juices flowing.  That was probably because, if I had to stereotype them, I would say many of them were baby boomers, perhaps waning for the days of the 60’s and political causes.  Still, whatever their motivation, they were generally most welcome.

At some point, however, things started to get a little strange.  In 1994, I visited a clinic in Colorado because I had heard that Operation Rescue was going to be there in force that Saturday.  I hadn’t seen OR in action for a while, so – with the clinic’s permission – I flew out to take a look.  That Saturday, at 5:00 a.m., I got to the clinic and there were already about 15 escorts gathered in the front.  Working with the clinic administrator, they started to put together their plan for the day.  We were told that about 20 women were scheduled for the day, beginning at about 9:00.  So, the escorts split up the list, walked outside and anxiously awaited for the antis to start pulling up to the clinic.

We waited – and waited – and waited.

At about 8:45, a car pulled into the parking lot and a young woman got out of the driver’s seat.  She was on her cell phone as she started to walk up the steps to the clinic.  The escorts were perplexed.  There were no screaming mobs of antis to climb over or through.  Not one.  Finally, the escort who was assigned to this particular woman walked up to her, introduced herself to the young lady and accompanied her up the steps, right into the waiting room.

It was totally bizarre.

Then more cars started coming in and the other escorts went through the drill with their assigned patients.  They were all well-intentioned, of course, but I found the whole scene downright silly.  Finally, when there was a lull, I got everyone together, including the clinic administrator and suggested that we just leave.  “The women clearly don’t need us today.  Why don’t we leave them alone?”

The escorts were horrified.  They said it was their duty to escort the women, no matter what.  But the administrator, who was a little more attuned to the mindset of her patients, agreed wholeheartedly with me.  She thanked the escorts and politely asked them to leave.  They got all huffy, threatened to never come out again and left.

In retrospect, I think the escorts got caught up in the anticipated and lost their focus on the women, who probably didn’t want to see anybody that morning except the doctor.

The escorts meant well.   And they still do.  It was just interesting to me when there was a mixture of activists and medical people.  Sometimes they didn’t see eye to eye.