What led you to found this group?
I had an abortion in 2010, and there were protestors at my clinic in Florida. That prompted me to want to do something to make people feel supported. When I was at the clinic, I had a family member there to support me; but as I was looking around, I could see that people seemed to look alone and isolated in the experience. I heard women in the room talking about the protestors and how upsetting they were. I had heard about a group that volunteers at a clinic in Kentucky that does some harrowing things to support people accessing abortion, and I was inspired by their activism.
What do you want people to know about the program?
The overwhelming experience we have with patients and staff at the clinic is that our presence is very welcome and needed. The clinic lets us know that any day we don’t have volunteers, protesting is bad and the patient experience is not great. Patients come into the clinic feeling more agitated, judged, and shamed. Very rarely do we see patients stopping to talk to protestors or being receptive to them. Having worked inside the clinic doing one-on-one patient support, I would often talk to patients after they had gone through the gauntlet of protestors on their way in. Their most common statement was, “Why do these people do this? Don’t they understand that everybody’s life is unique and we all have our reasons?”
How do you approach protestors?
When we first got started, we would take the bait. We would start fights and make comments or jokes about particularly heinous protestors. But we found it created this toxic and chaotic environment out front: Protestors were getting more and more hostile with escorts. And because we don’t get a lot of support from law enforcement when these things happen, we realized we had to do something to keep ourselves and our clinic safe and to just de-escalate things. Now, we just try to be there to support the patients and pretend the protestors aren’t there and not take the bait.
Learn more about Triangle Abortion Access Coalition here.
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