Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Help wanted! Clinic defense in DC area

On Saturday morning, 75 protesters prayed and sang outside Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington DC while a handful of volunteers in oversized orange vests walked patients into the clinic.

Students from local universities were joined by clergy and assorted characters as they lined up on the sidewalk and across the street. They used walkie talkies so they could pray in unison.

Some students and older protesters acted as sidewalk stalkers, chasing after women walking in and out of the clinic to dissuade them from obtaining care from PPMW. One of the antis shouts at women mere inches from their face as he shadows them.

Busy day at the clinic.

The Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force needs your help. The clinics in Manassas and Fall Church VA receive a lot of protesters throughout the year, and there aren't enough volunteers to shield patients from the antis. If you are able to volunteer as a clinic escort, email to get involved.

I volunteer as a clinic escort at the DC clinic. I started in late May because I worked with several students who volunteered at clinics near them. After Dr. Tiller's assassination, it became pretty evident this was an important way to contribute to the pro-choice movement.

Longtime volunteers tell stories of when 500 antis would rush the clinic in waves to blockade and invade the clinics. During the 80s and 90s, they'd see blockades every 4-6 weeks or so. Law enforcement was slow and not too helpful.

The passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act in 1994 made it a federal offense to block access to clinics. The clinic protests got smaller, and the antis shifted toward legal strategies to limit abortion access.

This has helped, but clinics are still under attack by antis. In a 2008 survey, FMF's National Clinic Access Project found 20% of clinics in the US reported severe violence and harassment.

WACDTF discourages pro-choice counter-protests, as they believe this escalates the situation and feeds the antis' protests. Consequently, they think this is the reason for the relatively low levels of harassment in DC-metro area clinics. Still, on each anniversary of Roe v. Wade, 450+ antis will protest outside the clinics.

Doctors from the local clinics say women are less distressed when they enter clinics with a strong presence from clinic escorts. They require fewer sedatives and recover more easily after their appointment. So if you care about choice and about women's health, get trained by WACDTF or your friendly local clinic and get involved as a volunteer!

Are you looking for even more ways to get active? Donate to local organizations like the DC Abortion Fund that help low-income women pay for their abortions. Find your local abortion fund here. We need your support to protect choice, or else we will lose it.

Photo credit: benuski via Flickr

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Hi there. I'm a clinic escort in Louisville, KY, where we experience many of the same things you all face.(we have a blog at, and a FB page of the same name) We are now having to escort 5 days a week; weekdays we get between 5-20 protesters, average Saturdays bring 35-200, and on "holidays" (Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.) we get 400+. On October 24th, Right to Life is having their convention in our fine city, so we are preparing for an onslaught. Some of us do like to take road trips and help out other clinics (when our own can spare us), so maybe we could come help you folks one day?