I spent this past Saturday morning escorting patients at a women’s health clinic (re: “abortion factory” per fundamentalists), so I thought I’d share some observations, aside from the signs and the shoving flyers in people’s faces that are common optics in the media, about the protesters who were apparently more numerous than usual (about 19 or 20) yesterday.
1. Many of them were especially dishonest. Going beyond just the typical misinformation they spread about health and medical science, one man in particular was consistently trying to position himself in such a way as to make volunteers make physical contact with him somehow in order to be able to lodge a complaint, or perhaps more darkly, start an altercation. Also, voice amplification is against ordinance, yet it took two calls to the police to get one dude holding a big cardboard cross while on a step ladder to turn off his mic.
2. Biblical circular logic was rampant. One guy tried to quietly get a rise out of us after he picked up on my conversation with other volunteers about how the Bible routinely seemed a-OK with the mass slaughter of actual infants and entire tribes. He pulled the standard fundie Christian apologetic question to absolve themselves of some of the more terrible aspects of their holy book “Yeah, and which part of the Bible is that in?” I retorted (though I shouldn’t have risen to the bait) “the part that has the ’10 commandments'”. Which got him to reply, let’s see what those 10 commandments say … and then he proceeded to read them from his own Bible. Not understanding that he had just been on the path of negating the Old Testament to combat the accusation of infanticide and genocide, he proceeded to use it to reinforce his position on not killing babies or honoring parents or something. Oh well, I told him to read the other version as well and the 613 laws of Moses that Maimonides identified. The guy with the mic at one point also said that EVERY task we undertake is a sin, which made his current task seem a bit ironic.
3. They really loved policing gender roles. Women are supposed to, innately, love babies and be nurturing! Men shouldn’t be “cowards” and “sissies”! Men were also told repeatedly to “be a man!”
4. One guy really loved terrible analogies like “you’ll save the whales. You’ll save the trees. BUT YOU WON’T SAVE BABIES!”
5. Margaret Sanger and racism came up often as many of the clients were minority women and men. The thing was, many of the volunteers were white, but the clinic staff itself was quite diverse. Also, it was irritating having some dudes right in front of my face saying that this was a bunch of white people trying to kill black babies. HEY, I’M RIGHT HERE, GUYS! HELLO! *waves*
6. That 10 Commandments guy got all ‘War on Christmas’ with me at the end of their “work” day, pointedly saying “Merry Christmas” and waiting for a response. So I said “and Happy New Year”. And then he repeated himself. I looked confused for a moment and replied “um, Merry Christmas”. He lit up and said “oh, so you celebrate Christmas?” Seeing where this was going, I said “I’m an atheist, but sure. I think it’s also polite to say Merry Christmas back.” His face fell and said “Oh, well that’s a whole other discussion. I’ll pray for you” and walked away. It was adorable.
While one patient coming in was crying which made me stare very hard at a few of the protesters, many of the women were quite fine that day. Some of them and the men accompanying them were just as combative and feisty as the protesters. Good for them! The volunteers were outnumbered 19 to 7 early in the morning, so I really have nothing but praise and admiration for the 6 other volunteers, one who is already a friend of mine, for handling what was a trying and stressful situation as professionally they did. Made me feel much more confident about being helpful.
This was my first direct experience being on the “front line” as it were, of the abortion debate, and it was seemingly overwhelming. However, nothing could have strengthened my resolve for the defense of the bodily autonomy of women and their right to reproductive freedom and choice as seeing first hand the necessity of that defense and the type of dishonest tactical maneuvering made by those who are so heavily invested in restricting those rights. Since these committed protesters are there every Saturday, it’ll be my honor to put on the volunteer lab coat and do it all over again.