A wolf in pro-choice clothing

Anti-abortion activists in Kentucky are disguising themselves as clinic escorts

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published January 12, 2010 8:46PM (EST)

As Dr. George Tiller's murder trial dominates headlines, news of a deceptive new tactic taken by anti-choice activists at a women's clinic in Louisville, Ky. has flown under the radar. Protesters are donning orange vests just like ones worn by clinic escorts, the volunteers who shield patients from the onslaught of activists' religious rhetoric during the short walk from the parking lot into the facility. The aim is to trick patients into thinking that protesters are actually friendly escorts and then -- wham! -- they're sideswiped by the anti-abortion agenda. Only then are patients likely to notice that the backs of these impostors' vests read "Life Escort."

Word and video proof of this deception comes by way of Every Saturday Morning, a blog written by an escort who volunteers at the Louisville clinic. The video, which you'll find below, is disorienting because it's impossible to tell apart the "good guys" from the "bad guys." Every single person is wearing an orange vest and crowding around a taxi that has just arrived in the parking lot. Before the patient even opens the door, the protesters are on the case of converting her by attempting to preach through the car window. The escort, who is wielding the camera, walks the patient through the parking lot toward the clinic as protesters and perhaps escorts -- again, hard to tell the difference! -- swarm around them.

A young woman in an orange vest pleads: "I want to ask you to reconsider, please. We don't know you, but we love you and care for you. We want you to consider what the Lord would think about your decision today." Well, I want you to consider what your Lord would think of your blatant dishonesty and deception -- how about that? She continues, "I want you to know that this isn't a permanent fix for your problem, only a relationship to Jesus Christ is." The escort reassures the patient "you're doing just fine, just keep on walking" and the young protester ups the rhetoric: "Please, you're already a parent. There's already a life inside of you, a heart beating, a baby that is growing inside of you that has fingers and toes." 

In response to a post on Feministing about the video, a commenter under the handle Spacey claims to have escorted at this very clinic and writes: "Oh, you think the people in this video are crazy? That's tame." Since it's the lone clinic providing abortions in the area, it always attracts an abundance of activists. "The escorts are almost always outnumbered, the fear of a lone gunman is always in the air, and the escort-made buffer zone is always broken," Spacey writes. What's more, "protesters get inches away from patients' faces, block the doorway, and have even blocked random pedestrians from walking down the sidewalk. I have seen women fall to the concrete and scream because they were broken down by antis."

It's enough to make me want to move to a conservative part of the country and don one of those orange vests (the kind meant for clarity, not obfuscation) to support women's right to make their own choices about their own bodies. Well, that or stay put in my beloved liberal oasis and shell out some dough to Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and NARAL

Tracy Clark-Flory

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