Abortion Clinic Escorts Put Their ‘Body At Risk’

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Dandy Barrett’s father James had left after the killing of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn of Florida volunteered for a little over a year in 1993 as an escort to abortion clinics – someone who assists and escorts patients into clinics, often through crowds of intimidating protesters. Then, one summer morning in 1994, Dandy received a call that changed her life: her father had been shot while pulling into the parking lot of his clinic.

After one of the worst days of her life, Dandy told journalist Lauren Rankin that she was devastated – but over time she became more motivated to advocate for access to abortions and to ensure her father would be the clinic’s last escort would be murdered by so-called “pro-life” protesters.

Rankin’s new book Bodies on the Line: On the Frontlines of the Fight to Protect Abortion in Americais full of stories like that of Dandy Barrett, as well as abortion providers whose young children were stalked and threatened by anti-abortion activists, those whose clinics were burned down, and clinic attendants who were kicked, trampled, trampled, and almost by run over opponents of abortion.

Before becoming a clinic attendant herself in 2015, Rankin told Jezebel she spent years reporting on abortion rights. But becoming a clinic attendant, she says, “exposed this issue to me in a fundamentally different way.” abortion wasn’t about politics – it was about “life”. And despite all the harassment and both physical and “mental violence” she and other escorts endured, it was that realization that inspired her to keep going.

“Abortion is at its core about people, it’s about people’s dreams, it’s about life — just not in the way anti-abortionists say,” she said. “Everyone knows and loves someone who has had an abortion, people from all backgrounds. It’s incredibly common. But because we’re told not to talk about it, abortion seems like a deep, dark, dirty secret.” That stigma, Rankin says, has been exploited by anti-abortionists for years and will remain “until we actually start doing it word to say”.

As documented by Rankin body on the lineReleased Tuesday, clinics across America experienced a staggering surge in extreme, often physically violent, anti-abortion protests in the immediate aftermath Roe v. calf, including protesters blocking clinics, chaining themselves to doors, physically attacking clinic staff, volunteers and patients, or committing arson and murder. This violence lasted well beyond the 1970s and 1980s: it existed between 1993 and 2016 11 murders and 26 attempted murders from providers by anti-abortion extremists.

roe represented a seismic galvanizing shift,” explained Rankin. And today, violence is neither rare nor hypocritical for so-called “pro-life” activists – it is entirely consistent with a movement based on the dehumanization of pregnant women and abortion providers, a movement demanding total state control of pregnant bodies.

After the passage of the 1994 FACE Act, a federal law creating buffer zones around clinics that protesters could not cross, and other basic safety measures, anti-abortion protests became less overtly extreme but have continued nonetheless. Specifically, just last week, the DC police found five fetuses at the home of a local anti-abortion activist who is simultaneously facing federal charges for blocking access to a clinic. Escorts who recall volunteering before and after the FACE Act told Rankin that lawmakers and anti-abortion campaigners seemed to orient one another, almost “dancing together.” During the Republican presidency, protests would “decrease as activists could focus more on the halls of power.” In contrast, during Democratic presidencies, “protests were much, much worse because they didn’t feel they had political power or other options.”

Violence in clinics doesn’t happen in a vacuum; Prominent anti-abortion politicians constantly fan the flames by equating abortion with murder, let alone hers deep bonds to some of the most militant, violent, anti-abortion groups in America.

But while it’s important to acknowledge the militancy and extremism of these groups, Rankin says it’s important for us to understand them anti-abortion violence beyond arson attacks, arson attacks, assassinations and other acts of direct physical violence. “As a culture, we’ve just accepted that abortion clinics are just going to be sites of protest, and that’s just the way it is.

“But if you really get down to the human level, how it must feel for someone who comes in to get basic health care and is harassed, ‘advised’ by strangers – that’s a psychological type of violence that we not really consider as a culture.”

Despite the severe psychological toll and frequent physical violence used by anti-abortionists, their tactics and protests are rarely taken seriously by local law enforcement. body on the line describes many instances where police fail to take the threat posed by anti-abortion protesters seriously Openly support protesters, or essentially victim accusations from escorts and abortion providers who are subjected to harassment and violence. “They’re told, ‘This is what you signed up for as a provider or volunteer,'” Rankin said. For some escorts and clinic staff in particular, calling the police isn’t even an option because the inherent police presence is “unsafe for many people of color, especially undocumented immigrants” and “can endanger the lives of black people.”

Abortion access challenges are increasing rapidly, ranging from a growing risk of criminalization of pregnancy outcomes such as self-administered abortion using pills, to increasingly stringent abortion bans and restrictions being enacted by lawmakers. Yet even in the midst of such an urgent political landscape, much of the work remains the same for clinic attendants, workers and volunteers.

as Clinics began to close Across the country, Rankin spoke to Ann Horn, a woman who had volunteered at her Indiana clinic since 1978 before joining the ranks of hundreds of other clinics across the country and being forced to close in 2011. With no physical clinics to volunteer in their communities, companions like Ann have described feeling a sense of lost identity. Despite this, they have focused on supporting access to abortion in other ways, e.g. For example, by raising funds with abortion funds, leading community education efforts, and organizing with advocates in other states to get patients where they need to go to access abortion. This national organization included everything from arranging inexpensive transportation to contacting their personal networks to help a patient with children find free childcare during the procedure.

“When I think about the future of reproductive rights in this country, it’s about what am i willing to do Everyone — and especially people like me with privilege and especially racial privilege — should ask themselves that,” Rankin said. “How far are you willing to go to help someone? It is imperative that we do as much as we humanly can.”

More than two decades after her father’s murder, Dandy Barrett said she received another call early in the Trump administration in 2017, this time from a nearby clinic in Savannah, Georgia. The clinic prepared for a massive attack by anti-abortion protesters who threatened to close the clinic the next morning and asked Dandy if she would join the clinic’s volunteers to prepare for the protest. She did, and when the anti-abortion wave emerged the next day, it was “too late” for the protesters: too many clinic volunteers had turned up, making it impossible for them to block her.

What would Dandy’s father have thought of that day and the state of access to abortion in this country today? “He would be incredulous that the problem was still a problem,” Dandy told Rankin. “That would only have shocked him. And he would have understood that there are people, many people like himself, who would have said, ‘By chewing gum, I have to get up.'”

https://jezebel.com/abortion-clinic-escorts-are-putting-their-bodies-on-th-1848670900 Abortion Clinic Escorts Put Their ‘Body At Risk’

Andrew Schnitker

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