The Role Of An Abortion Clinic Escort
Abortion clinic escorts are integral to the reproductive rights movement, though their contributions are often overlooked. Escorts typically stand outside of abortion clinics to walk patients from the sidewalk to the clinic entrance, and then back out again once their appointment ends. Not only do escorts shield patients from protestors, but they ensure that women feel supported and comfortable during their visit. Escorts work in countries around the world, but have been gaining particular attention in the United States.
We interviewed Jessica, an abortion clinic escort in Hartford, Connecticut to shed light on the role of escorts and how their work uplifts women’s reproductive freedom.
Tell me a bit about your journey to becoming an escort- what motivated you to sign up? What kind of similar activities had you done in the past?
I've always been a staunch supporter of reproductive rights and justice. I marched on Washington for Reproductive Rights in 1992 and 2004. In college, I went with my women's rights organization to defend a clinic in Buffalo from Operation Rescue in 1992 (For more information, see: https://socialistworker.org/2017/04/27/how-buffalo-sent-operation-rescue-packing). I remember seeing clinic escorts and thought that was a really cool thing to do. I also recall seeing clinic escorts in the film If These Walls Could Talk, however, I didn't hear much more about it at the time. Twenty-five years later, I saw my friend "was interested" in a Facebook event seeking volunteers to be a clinic escort and I knew I had to go and sign up.
Tell me about the day-to-day of an abortion clinic escort: walk me through a typical shift- what responsibilities do you have? What kinds of challenges typically arise? How do you deal with those challenges?
As an escort our goal is to help women find the correct location of the clinic and shield her from protestors. The clinic shares a courtyard with a CPC -- Crisis Pregnancy Center. CPCs are funded by a religious-based organization to "counsel" women against abortion and they often do this by misleading patients and providing false information about abortion, birth control, and pregnancy. We stand by the front gate wearing pink vests that identify us. On most days there are protestors lining the walkway. A priest comes with a group of men and women to pray the rosaries. A few people carry signs. Most are pleasant enough and don't really interfere. There are a few women who work with the CPC and/or represent themselves who can be more aggressive. As women walk by they often ask them if they are pregnant (I've been asked multiple times). They will offer them rosaries or pamphlets as well. I started taking the later shifts because I noticed that as the women leave, they are asked if they were given birth control pills and then tell them that the pill was ineffective and would cause cancers and a list of other diseases. On many occasions I've witnessed protestors block women as they try to enter their cars. We're pretty lucky here; it's not as bad as other places.
What is the best and worst part about being a clinic escort?
The worst part is not being able to react to the protestors. As a seasoned activist, I'm usually the one doing the protesting! A protestor chased me and a patient down the street screaming about how the birth control the patient was given was going to kill her. The patient started to laugh and said, “what's wrong with her?" I started to laugh and then the protestor started screaming at me. "Why are you laughing? Do you think this is funny?" Now, I’m supposed to not respond, but she was really losing it. So, I said, "you are lying to her." She started screaming that I should sue her, if she's lying, and if I don't sue her she will sue me.
Holding back my anger is the hardest part but I have to tell myself this is about them not me.
The best part is helping women seek the medical care they deserve with dignity and respect. They are very grateful for the support.
Why is being a clinic escort important to you?
It's a small way I can support women and resist Trump, the GOP and the patriarchy.
What would you say to others who might be thinking of signing up to escort?
Try it. It's rewarding.
Need More Information About Abortion Clinic Escorts?
If you are in the US and would like more information about how to become a clinic escort, you can find helpful links here. If you or someone you know would like more information about safe medical abortion, check out our website for more information or check out any of our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.