Dispatches From the Fence: First Week of Anti-Choice Protest

The 40 Days For Life anti-choice protest has been going on for a week. Each day Shawn Carney, the Campign Director of 40 Days for Life, sends out emails and blogs detailing that day’s events and protest.

In the first week they claim “38 babies — that we know of — spared from abortion.” Of course there is never any documentation of these claims. However, often it’s the case that women who may leave these clinics later return and the anti-choice protesters have only made their experience more difficult. They also continue to promote these so-called “pregnancy centers,” that in most cases provide no health care whatsoever.

In George they touted a woman who choose to have a child who “now was so very happy with her choice.” However, the anti-choice movement would actually like to see that choice taken away, and to force all women to carry a pregnancy to term regardless of circumstance. The anti-choice movement made the same claim that the “media seems to have an agenda that’s radically in favor of abortion,” while at the same time citing favorable news coverage in places like Amarillo, Texas.

In Sacramento, California the anti-choice protesters grumbled that the reproductive health care facility had placed redwood fence panels on the wrought iron gate. The protesters complained that the gate allowed them to access the women frequenting the clinic. “But apparently, the abortion business is not really supportive of ‘choice’ as they do everything they can to prevent women from changing their minds.”

Yesterday a post described the “incredible darkness at the places where abortions are done.” This was in reference to a recent blog post by Abby Johnson, the former Director of the Planned Parenthood in Bryan where I am a volunteer escort. In the post Johnson details an “insider view” of what passes for conversation in the clinic, and attempts to portray the clinic staff as course and crude. This is supposed to illustrate “how cold the staff was.”

In the several years that I have been volunteering at Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of the medical staff and volunteers have been professional and compassionate. Most of us take what we are doing seriously, and deeply care about the women that need reproductive health care service. There have been a few people that I have encountered that have been course and crude. However, many of us are quick to admonish people that make inappropriate remarks.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of Johnson’s anecdotes, but I would like to make one point. She was the director. Attitude reflects leadership, and if there was unprofessional behavior at the clinic it was under her watch, and apparently with her consent.

During these protests people from around the country volunteer their time to show women that we support them in whatever choice they make, and that we are there to provide a supportive, affirming, an safe environment. The protesters are fond of saying that they “can’t imagine” what a woman walking up to the clinic is going through. Neither can I – and that’s why I am there.

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