Fifty-four clinics in the U.S. that provided abortions were closed down in 2013. There are only 74 places left in the entire country where a woman can access her legal right to an abortion. It’s not a great time to be an American with a functioning uterus right now: More than 300 laws restricting abortion or access to other reproductive healthcare were introduced in 2013.
At the clinics that remain open, protesters gather outside on a regular basis to harass, intimidate and shame the patients. It’s common practice for them to shout insults, hand out false information, and attempt to physically block women from entering the office. A new type of volunteer called a “clinic escort” has arisen out of necessity. They walk patients from their cars to the doctor’s office and shield them from threats and propaganda. Many of them post about their escorting adventures on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Here are some examples of what it’s like to be fighting on the front lines of reproductive freedom in America.
@TheLastClinic tweets about being clinic escorts at the Jackson Women's Health Organization, which is the last abortion provider in Mississippi. Some protesters take photos or video of the patients and escorts to try and publicly shame them.
Started the morning by shooing a trespassing protester off of private property. Freakin' vultures. #clinicescort— Brianne Bilyeu (@abiodork) December 14, 2013
Clinic escorts are frequently tasked with reminding pro-life protesters where the private property line begins. Police sometimes have to be called to remove protesters who break the law. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case about creating "buffer zones" around abortion clinics to allow patients to safely enter the building.
Most clinic escorts wear yellow or orange vests so patients know who they are.
Of course some of the protestors have t-shirts the same colour as our #clinicescort vests.— Adjoa S. Tetteh (@AdjoaSankofia) July 6, 2013
In some places, the pro-life protesters have started to wear the same color as the vests or bring vests of their own to trick women into thinking they're the escorts.
Protester is standing over a patient who just vomited outside. "You're sick b/c you know you shouldn't be here." #clinicescort— Brianne Bilyeu (@abiodork) September 21, 2013
Instagram user claraharris captioned this photo:
From #clinicescort yesterday: Protesters love rain, using umbrellas to nudge+bully clients. Note the yellow right of way they're blocking from drop off.
Protesters frequently harass women and volunteers leaving the clinic.
They leave paraphernalia and chalk writing that the escorts or clinic employees have to clean up.
Many positive comments on this cold, snowy day! Fav: "Thank you for being here on a Sat AM. Seeing you made things better." #clinicescort— Adjoa S. Tetteh (@AdjoaSankofia) December 14, 2013
Not every day is a bad day. The escorts like to have fun with their work. Patients and providers appreciate what they do. One clinic escort shared a story of a thankful patient on her Tumblr:
"A young woman came out of Planned Parenthood and immediately made a beeline for my group. She started profusely thanking us for being there, explaining that she'd been harassed by the anti-choicers when she went into the clinic earlier. She just kept thanking us for being there and shushing the assholes and making her feel safer---over and over again. I seriously can't stop smiling. This is (a big part of) why I do what I do."