What antis say about their time spent harassing women outside clinics

I’m no fan of the obsession in journalism with approaching every issue as if there are always binary positions that deserve equal attention. But following my post on stories from clinic escorts I just had to share a couple takes on the same topic from antis. Because their perspectives are just too rich.

I try to trust that people want to honestly present their perspective when they speak. It would be easy to assume antis who say they are helping women are outright lying, but I think it’s more disturbing and revealing to assume they actually mean it.

The anti in the video from my post on the Louisville, KY clinic sent the Feministing crew an email to inform us, “I am saddened to see myself, my friends, and our God so misrepresented.” Misrepresented? In an unedited video and transcript of your words? I’m sorry, but if those words and actions misrepresented you, your friends, and your God, I’m pretty sure I’m not the one responsible.

This particular anti has decided to do us a favor by exposing the, “true character and behavior of the escorts you have put on a pedestal.” Yeah, this is gonna be good:

While these escorts may seem to you as brave, enduring, heroes, and more..to me they are individuals who use Saturday mornings as a way to justify being as angry and mean as possible. Who yell insults, profane language, and dance in the streets while women go into the abortion clinic. These insults come after attempts to simply say good morning or hello. We do not hate the escorts, nor believe they are deemed our “enemies” as they do. We are divided on this issue of great importance, yet I do not believe that it means we must hate one another.

These same people who “shelter” the woman going into the clinic barely speak a word to her, and instead focus on telling myself and my friends how stupid we are. In fact, the woman is often ignored. Is that emotional support?

Um, it’s the escorts who use Saturday mornings as an excuse to be mean? Are you for serious? Escorts are there outside the clinic because the antis are there. No one wants to be up at an ungodly hour on a Saturday having to listen to extreme, ignorant anti-choice rhetoric. The escorts are there because they have to be, because someone has to help the women trying to access medical care. I agree that someone is out there to be “as angry and mean as possible,” but I think the finger’s pointing in the wrong direction.

I’ll repeat something I’ve said multiple times now: antis harass women. That’s what this is, harassment. The escorts I’ve worked with are very civil, but let’s be clear, this was never a civil situation.

Escorts aren’t counselors, either. There’s someone inside the clinic who fills that role. Escorts are responsible for getting people who want to enter the building inside the door, and making the situation as low stress as possible. We will often speak softly with the patient or those accompanying her, try to distract them from the anti’s cruel rhetoric, but these women don’t need someone else outside the clinic lecturing at them (yeah, I read “emotional support” as “lecturing”).

The email goes on to invite me to come down to the Louisville, KY clinic to see the good work the antis are doing. Sure, if I’m in Louisville I’d love to come down, though I think the antis might be disappointed when I show up with cookies for the real escorts and ask if they need some help.

A recent article about antis outside a Florida clinic includes a similarly deluded take from an anti on what they are doing. The story is about antis following a clinic that changed location. My favorite part of this story, though it’s understated in the article, is that the clinic moved in October, the antis didn’t notice till December, and it took them until early January to show up at the new building. Yeah, not exactly the most observant of people (how could they be if they think it’s doing good work to harass women in the ways they do?).

Anyway, here’s the quote from one of the antis (it’s worth noting the group is made up mostly of men but chose a woman to speak to the press):

Maureen Kubasky, 68, a retired bookkeeper, said the focus of the protests is mostly on the women coming to the clinic, not motorists passing by.

“We’re trying to have them take the time to think about what they are doing,” she said.

This irks me to no end. These antis have such a low opinion of patients entering the clinic they think these women haven’t thought about their abortions, an expensive and unfortunately controversial medical procedure, before showing up for their appointments? And they think dishonest, cruel, and sensationalist posters and rhetoric will help?

These are just two examples of the people patients, their supporters, clinic workers, and clinic escorts are up against. But their views reflect something I’ve heard from a lot of antis: they think they’re helping. A message to antis: you’re not.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • aletheia_shortwave

    Thank you so much for covering and speaking out about this issue. I’ve known the anti-choicers outside clinics were a problem, but it’s really good to be reminded of the extent and severity of the living opposition to women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. today… it means, among other things, that ultimately the Dr. Tiller incident is not absolutely out of left field (er, right-wing conservative field) with respect to the general political climate. We need to be vigilant about this.

  • emeraldhan

    You are so so right. It’s laughable that the people who harass, block and intimidate women trying to access health care try to set themselves up as some kind of victims. Their dictionary must have one hell of a strange definition of ‘help’.

  • Eresbel

    The thing is, that anti in the video you posted wasn’t screaming or anything – and that’s probably why she doesn’t see it as harassment. She doesn’t understand that words spoken softly can hold just as much if not more power than words that our shouted.

  • Eresbel


  • emmakitty

    As someone who grew up in a conservative Christian church, I’ve heard a lot of anti-abortion rhetoric and propaganda. I completely agree with you that people who are anti abortion genuinely believe whatever misguided information they are saying. However, I think it’s important to remember that these people are just that: misguided people. I really appreciated the post about the Kentucky clinic escorts because it showed how not ever anti-abortion protester screams at women and how people on both sides of this issue believe that they’re helping women.
    It seems to me that the anti-abortion protester who sent the e-mail regarding the Kentucky clinic video is sincere and respectful in her writing, even though I (and many others) believe her actions outside the clinic were not respectful at all. It’s important to keep in mind that the misconceptions she holds about clinic escorts are the same ideas we have about antis. While I appreciate that effort to shed light on a lot of disruptive behavior from antis, I think it’s important to remember that these people are severely misguided and we need to try and foster a constructive understanding with them rather than just dismiss them as crazy.

  • PamelaVee

    I hope these people never try to “help” anyone that I know.
    These people have a completely different reality than you or I do.
    I am not convinced that many of them actually think that a woman hasn’t “thought it through”. It’s pretty freaking personal.
    I feel bad mostly for the women having to endure this but also the young women that are duped into thinking they are really helping these fellow women AND that their bodies are not their own, but are mere incubators. They are brainwashed by religion and it’s almost impossible to recognize that about yourself without a real perspective change.

  • paperispatient

    A woman recently replied to a pro-choice letter to the editor I had published and pretty much said that I was all wrong about women having abortions for lots of reasons because she works as a counselor outside abortion clinics and she knows that the women going in really don’t want to have abortions.
    “Works as a counselor” meaning “stands outside screaming hateful bullshit.”

  • April

    Ughh. When I went in to have the “degrading procedure” (according to the harassing *#^$*@$%%!# handing me a pamphlet), the escort was amazing and supportive and said absolutely nothing to say to that woman, only supportive and kind things to say to me. I was the one that told the wretched anti to leave me the fuck alone and fuck the hell off, just prior to bursting into tears at how mean the anti could possibly be.
    When I later saw the escort at a grocery store a few months later, I wanted to run over and hug her.

  • ElleStar

    I think it’s important to remember that these people are severely misguided and we need to try and foster a constructive understanding with them rather than just dismiss them as crazy.
    First of all, no.
    Secondly, I don’t think they’re crazy, but willfully ignorant.
    The understanding they should have is that it’s perfectly legal for women to get abortions and taht escorts are trying to help them do so without being bombarded with harassment. Beyond that, I really have no idea what kind of understanding that can happen that would be constructive.

  • Evelyn

    Agreed. We should have a zero tolerance policy for people who are willfully ignorant and who impose their religious dogmatism on others. There is no reasoning with the antis. The Bible is non-negotiable, and thus the abortion debate is settled. To “try and foster a constructive understanding” with them is a lost cause primarily because we are dealing with irrational people who have a cripplingly narrow outlook on the world.

  • journolat

    “I’m no fan of the obsession in journalism with approaching every issue as if there are always binary positions that deserve equal attention.”
    Uhh…. we’re lucky that journalists have an obsession with that. Otherwise we’d all be indoctrinated with conservative christian values. And we’d never hear an opposing or diverse voice like the ones here AT ALL ever. It’s I think you are completely misunderstanding journalism’s mission.

  • Liz777

    I had something similar happen to me about a year ago. I wrote a letter to the editor replying to an anti-choice article, and all the replies completely missed the points I made. One respondent dismissed my opinion simply because of my age (a photo of myself was included with my letter). Another compared abortion as a medical procedure decided between a woman and her doctor to someone who wants their leg amputated for no reason. So somehow, after my submitting a very well thought-out letter with a strong argument behind it, they can just dismiss my points using ageism and some completely out-there hypothetical situation that can in no way be related to abortion even theoretically.
    Yes, excellent powers of reasoning and logic on their side of the debate. //end sarcasm

  • Icewyche

    “We’re trying to have them take the time to think about what they are doing,” [Maureen Kubasky] said.
    That banging sound you hear is me slamming my head against the wall in a vain attempt to make this statement sound less apocalyptically moronic.
    How stupid do these people think women are? Do they think we drive by the abortion clinic on our way to the mall and say, “Oh, hey, since I’m out this way, let me stop and get an abortion! And then I’ll go get my nails done.” It takes time to schedule a consultation, even more so an actual abortion, and then there’s the time it takes to raise the money for it. Believe me, there’s plenty of time for a woman to “think” about what she’s doing. And I can’t believe there’s a woman alive who doesn’t know that having an abortion ends a pregnancy – THAT’S WHY THEY HAVE THEM, because they DON’T WANT TO HAVE A BABY.
    The amount of sheer hate these people have for women is just staggering.

  • Nancy Shrew

    Oh, dear God!!! You say they DANCED at you?! AND used naughty words? You poor dears.
    Antis, if you’re reading: It’s up to you where you can shove your woman-hating shitbaggery.

  • Spacey

    Our favorite thing to do? Soft whispers of “Jesus DOES love you, as he loves everyone, and will love you forever (for the ones brought to tears by “Jesus will hate you”). I personally made sure that I repeated to each patient, “Look at me. Keep looking at me. Talk to me. I gotcha. No matter what, I gotcha until you get through that door. Just keep talking to me”. The woman and her personal companions are priority number one, as understood by all escorts. One or two bad apples? Sure. But, are the more “outspoken” escorts the ones contradicting their own principles to take the lives of doctors or denying poor women and children proper housing and medical care?

  • paperispatient

    I think I agree with you. I’ve been engaged in a back-and-forth on the op/ed page of my city paper with anti-choicers as well as received a letter at home. The responses in the paper I write back to because they contain factual errors – the most recent one (the lady I mentioned in my comment below) said that abortion causes sterility and kills many women. I couldn’t let that stand.
    I didn’t write back to the letter I got at home because of the bit that I read of it, it would have been pointless. I only skimmed it, and when I saw bits like “girls your age these days” and “I don’t want my tax money funding abortions” and “and that is why I will always be conservative,” I knew that I couldn’t change that kind of ignorance with all of the facts and studies in the world. The lady who wrote the letter is not crazy, but I think she’s severely and kind of deliberately misguided, and you can’t really engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue or find a common ground with someone like that.

  • Jos

    Generally I agree with you: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/02/20/what-growing-up-prolife-taught-me-about-talking-about-abortion
    But being misguided is never an excuse for harassment.

  • paperispatient

    My partner told me an analogy about “fair and balanced”-type reasoning in the media, and I thought it was really interesting. (Can’t remember where he read/heard it.) It’s like if one person says the sky is blue, and another person insists that it’s green, and in the interest of giving all points of view equal time and value, you report both like they’re equally informed and valid.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do think that having a variety of perspectives and opinions in the media is crucial. But some of the time, when it’s anti-choice, uninformed bullshit based on misrepresented “facts,” it’s just hard for me to swallow.

  • Icewyche

    ZOMG! Assault with a deadly boogaloo! Watch out, I’ve got a shimmy and I know how to use it!

  • uberhausfrau

    she knows that the women going in really don’t want to have abortions
    in a way she’s right. i know i would have liked to spend my 300+dollars and several hours of my life doing just about anything else. that said, continuing the pregnancy was something i “really [didnt] want to” do, either.

  • uberhausfrau

    that was supposed to be in reply to paperispatient.

  • paperispatient

    That’s a great point. Her letter also said something like, “Don’t people know how pregnancy happens? There is no such thing as an ‘unplanned’ pregnancy, that is ludicrous!” so I think it would be giving her way too much credit to think that she meant it in the nuanced way you described.

  • Opheelia

    This is what pisses me off so much about “informed consent” laws that include “reflection periods” (24 hour waiting periods so she can THINK REALLY REALLY HARD about having an abortion). It assumes that women seeking services didn’t think about it all, and would OF COURSE have the baby if they just THOUGHT about it! Cuz being legally responsible for another human being for 18 years is just awesome for everyone!
    I’ve thought about switching the Planned Parenthood where I pick up my birth control to the one where the protesters congregate. That way, when they yell, “Think about what you’re doing!” I can yell, “I am! I’m thinking about awesome sex with my partner and protecting myself against unwanted pregnancy! WOOHOO!” And then possibly bust out a couple of Double Freaks on the way in, since dancing is apparently offensive to them.

  • April

    Auuughh!!! I hate this. Thanks for that extra 24 hours, I never woulda thought to think about it if you didn’t force me to wait an extra day, you FUCKING ASS HOLES.
    Seriously. There are some SERIOUS misconceptions about women who have abortions. Mine was absolutely not a random and fickle decision.
    Fuck these people. That’s all I can say. I admit it, my emotions get the best of me every time this is brought up. But that’s because my emotions were a big fucking part of my decision to have an abortion. And as much as I may think about it a year later, I am SO FUCKING GRATEFUL that I was allowed the opportunity to decide.
    That’s it. No matter what, no matter how shitty the experience was for me, THANK FUCKING GOODNESS I was able to have the freedom to make that decision. PERIOD. That’s it. The end.

  • Hershele Ostropoler

    Two pertinent points:
    1) Okrent’s Law: “The search for balance creates imbalance because sometimes things are true.”
    2) A reporter has satisfied her/his obligation to be objective by quoting both sides. S/he is certainly permitted to go on to note that objective reality favors one over the other. People who don’t want their beliefs laughed at shouldn’t have such silly beliefs.

  • brittanypixie

    Of course no one WANTS to have an abortion. Like women are just going around saying “Man, you know what I really want to do today? I want to have an abortion.” Ugh.
    And, gosh, with the awesome argument of “people know how pregnancy happens”… tell that to kids who don’t get comprehensive sex-ed. They “might* know how it happens, but they sure as hell may also not know how to prevent it.
    These people are just so logical.