One comforting aspect of being a clinic escort is the idea that no matter how rude, obnoxious, hateful, or nosy the protesters get, a clinic escort can keep his or her personal identity on the down low. Like an anonymous superhero, I swoop in, throw some elbows, then go home unaccosted. We clinic escorts do our best to not reveal personal attributes while on duty. Details such as name, employer, religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and neighborhood of residence are topics we regularly avoid in the presence of anti-choice extremists. But what does one do when personal anonymity is compromised by the very nature of one’s business association?
Today I escorted at my clinic. It was a normal day. It was kinda cold. I didn’t wear enough clothing so my legs were cold. After about an hour on the beat, I look up and see a man I work with chatting up some of the protesters. I lost it. My fellow escorts were probably quite amused by my evolving measure of shock. I was all, “What’s he doing down here? Is there some event going on? No! He’s just walking through. He’s not with them. Keep walking! Oh, no! He just didn’t. He’s holding a sign!”
It was epic disappointment. I thought he was cool. I thought he was one of the elite and educated. I thought he was respectable! Alas, he is not. All respect – gone in an instant. You are not cool. We will not have beers. We won’t share joyful words at the company holiday party. We will not chat at the company picnic. You will forever be that guy, anti-guy. It’s fine to be anti-choice; but to harass women too? That’s not respect. That’s exactly the opposite.
But another dilemma underlies this situation. Did he tell the other antis he knows me? Did they ask him about our association when he, albeit discretely, acknowledged me? Do they know my name now and where I work? Could they influence him to create bias against me at work? If they know my name, could they find my home, my husband, and my family?
In the age of church sanctioned domestic terrorism, personal safety is paramount. Violent “pro-life” extremists threaten, stalk, and intimidate clinic staff with impunity. They put up “wanted” signs with abortion providers’ faces on them. They start databases listing clinic employees’ names and places of work. They insult and intimidate women at clinic entrances.
And our Congressional leaders turn their heads. Rather than take the opportunity to repudiate violence and commend reproductive responsibility, public figures use their pulpit to shame women and bolster extremists by pandering to the religious right on social issue after social issue. Even leaders who support a woman’s right to control her reproductive life pass up the opportunity to discourse on social causes, labeling them inconsequential compared to economic well-being.
Has my anonymity been compromised? Maybe. Am I mad about it. No. Just disappointed. But most of all, I am pissed off that I even have to worry about it in the first place.