It's Saturday morning, and both sides of the street are covered with people. On one, the Archbishop with a group of approximately sixty praying protesters, with rosaries and strollers in hand. On the other side of the street, EMW Women's Surgical Center. Escorts decked in their orange vests stand side by side in front of the large clinic window. In front of them are another forty or so protesters, signs with images of bloody fetuses, and a lot of scripture. About forty more protesters line both sides of the sidewalk creating a gauntlet up the sidewalk away from the clinic entrance.
I have stood by the door before, blocking the attempts at eye contact with the women and men waiting in line to check in. The shouting at the clients going in continues as they stand in line. On other Saturdays I can stand in front of the protesters and block their view of the clients. Last Saturday, due to the volume of protesters, we had to lock arms at the private property line to prevent protesters from closing in at the doorway and blocking the client's path to the clinic entrance.
Surrounding the clients, escorts usher them from the parking lot to the entrance of the clinic. One of the protesters, Angela, calls out clients inside the clinic by pinpointing their hairstyles and clothing -- clear attempts at shaming.
I was of two minds. I did not want to fuel the fire by shouting over her or being antagonistic; but I couldn't stand to hear her shout at women, judging them for making hard decisions. I stood in front of her and with a cardboard box obstructing her view of the women inside, trying to create some space. In the clinic, it was still one woman at a time living out her life.
Most Saturday mornings there are around seventy protesters and only a handful of escorts. After years of interacting, the escorts and anti-choice protesters know each other, some by name, others by reputation. Last Saturday, I saw an escort and a protester give each other a side handshake, like those given by boxers before the start of a match. Some of the interactions are friendly, others are cold, all are between people who are in that moment not facing a problem pregnancy.
Every woman has different life circumstances. Every pregnancy produces different challenges. Escorts believe that each client is the best judge of her own situation and has the strength of character to decide what is best for her and her family. Who is more able to assess the moral validity of every woman's abortion? I certainly don't think it's the Archbishop.
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