I've been thinking of becoming a clinic escort lately. They're in high demand these days, as clinics are bracing for more protesters and possible violence.
I can remember being in elementary school during the violent actions led by Operation Rescue, a rabid anti-choice organization with much blood on its hands. Though OR denies having anything to do with the fatal shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home, OR had targeted Slepian, and a number of providers, by publishing his name and address. Protest and harassment was encouraged. (This was one of two events that inspired Ani Difranco's Hello Birmingham, a heart-wrenching anthem for those affected by clinic violence.) My mother was a choice activist in the 70s, and these events prompted her to become a clinic escort. I remember being eleven years old and seeing my mother putting on her bulletproof vest and orange escort garb, pouring my brother and I some more orange juice and leaving for her weekly tour on the frontlines.
Of course there was little clinic violence in Portland back then, but no lack of protesters who would daily knock clinic escorts to the ground and even try to pose as escorts themselves, according to Mom. While the "Army of God" took credit for the Alabama bombing as well as the fatal shooting of Slepian and antrax letters sent to clinics, these radical actions paved the way for "mainstream" anti-choice grouups like Operation Rescue to take their actions a step further, and even aid the Army of God in their quest to find the addresses of providers.
Telling my mom I wanted to be an escort concerned her, naturally. I remember feeling very afraid every Saturday morning when I saw my mother leave for her tour of duty, afraid she'd never come back. A naive 11 year old's preception of this dangerous job is no match for an experienced mother watching her own daughter go to the frontlines as well. I'd had second thoughts myself, but I know I'm needed out there.
I found a blog recently called Every Saturday Morning, a memoir by a clinic escort who works every Saturday in Louiville, KY giving women a bit of comfort as she makes the long walk from car to clinic through the vast sea of protesters. I encourage you all to have a look... we need more brave activists like her.
Peace and Love,