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Coat Hangers Happened

By on Jun 3, 2008 in Politics

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In case you think coat hanger abortions are all hype,i found – through feministing – a disturbing and graphic article in the New York Times today written by an OB who has been there, done that. He didn’t actually perform abortions pre-Roe; he did, however, deal with the aftermath of illegal, unsafe abortion procedures. Read the graphic accounts of the risk these women put themselves in and think about the kind of desperation that would cause you to do such a thing. It is surely not a desperation that anyone in the US having grown up with birth control readily available and abortion somewhat available (although it’s becoming less and less available) has truly felt.

I have volunteered as an abortion clinic escort for the past few years now. Basically, a clinic escort is there to counter-balance and sheild the woman – sometimes physically; often emotionally – from protesters.

I began escorting at the Hope Clinic in Illinois, outside of St. Louis. Hope Clinic began in the 70s just after Roe and has been constantly sieged with protesters ever since – including Operation Rescue. Protesters there were loud, offensive, and often pushed the boundaries of the law. Once, someone screamed that us “deathscorts” “ate babies.” Protesters, and sometimes their children, would photograph or video tape the woman walking into the clinic as well as the escorts. As escorts, we tried to block the pictures – it was better for them to have our picture than the woman’s. In fact, my pictures is up on one of the Organization’s sites – along with lies about the clinic selling baby parts among other things. I knew that doctors, nurses, employees, and escorts had all been harassed by protesters. We weren’t allowed to call another escort by name. It was intense, but, for perhaps the first time in my life, I felt like I was actually making a difference and standing up for something I believed in. There is something profoundly rewarding in that.

When I moved to New York, I immediately got in touch with the Brooklyn Pro-Choice Network about escorting. Although escorting in Brooklyn is far less exciting, there are still protesters, mostly from the Catholic Church next door, who show up everyday. When I tell people here that I escort at the abortion clinic, they are shocked to find out that in a liberal city like NYC there are protesters at an abortion clinic. People are often unaware of the siege currently going on against reproductive rights in America today – from increasing restrictions on abortion to clinics closing to protesters who show up every single day to harass woman as they make a profoundly personal and difficult choice.

This article by Dr. Fielding really puts what we are fighting for into perspective. His closing remarks some the issue up to a T:

It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

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