21 January 2011

Adventures in clinic defense: Introduction

Over the past 20-odd years, I've done a lot of feminist stuff. I drove a carload of pals down to D.C. for a big ol' gay rights march one spring. I organized a contingent to attend a big ol' women's rights march a decade later. I spent much of my 20s honing my socialist feminist worldview by dabbling in Radical Women, the Freedom Socialist Party, and unshaven legs. Later, when my daughter asked me how her new baby cousin got into her auntie in the first place, I explained it by reading the relevant sections in Our Bodies, Ourselves with her. I put myself through law school as a single mom. And while I was in law school, I counseled women seeking protection from abuse orders and minor women who were stuck having to seek permission from a judge to get an abortion.

It's been a little while since I've put my money where my mouth is, and with the inauguration of our new governor I'm living in a red state now; so I recently started doing clinic defense for an abortion provider in the Philadelphia area. When patients arrive at the clinic, I offer to walk with them to the front door, help them with a newspaper if the protestors are taking photographs, and remind them that they don't have to take any pamphlets that protestors may try to shove into their hands. And I keep an eye on the protestors to make sure they're staying off of clinic property and stuff. It's a two-fold thing: one, it's about enforcing the F.A.C.E. Act; but more importantly, it's about making sure that women get full access to complete healthcare. (News flash: Not all clinic patients who arrive during termination procedure hours are getting abortions. Some -- perhaps many -- are there for regular reproductive health visits like pap smears, or STI screening and counseling, or other reasons.) Abortion is healthcare and when women cannot control this part of their healthcare they do not have full control over their destiny. A million American women get an abortion every year, and I aim to help.

Clinic defense can be scary, so I'm not going to reveal any details that would give away where and when I'm volunteering: addresses, weather conditions that day, the number of protestors or what they looked like or what organization they were from, and so on. I'll aim to post my reports a little randomly, too, so that it's not clear what day of the week or what time of day I was there. But randomness and vagueness aside, I hope you'll enjoy the posts as much as I hope to enjoy my stint defending the clinic as a patient escort.

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