Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Pragmatics is the Name of My Evangelical Rock Cover Band - Dispatches from my Twelfth Day as a Clinic Escort

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11.)

"It's going to be really cold. Maybe they won't show up."

My wife's hand emerges from under the covers and strokes my cheek. "Oh, you dear, sweet man." She burrows back under the blankets as I heave myself out of bed with a sigh.

Indeed, the protesters are outside the clinic despite the arctic chill of this late December morning. We're here too, we horrible Deathscorts, fortified with hot chocolate and homemade banana bread as the thermometer hovers near single digits. Even with seven layers on top I can feel the bite and I'm grateful for the heavy knit of my pink pussy hat to keep my head warm. As I'm guarding the door it makes me an easy beacon for my teammates to direct incoming patients at.

The guard tells us there's a busy schedule this morning and he's not lying. Intake is brisk as we deal with the hyper-aggressiveness of the Runner and a few newbies that have been dubbed the Mean Girls. One is youngish, sporting braces and an expensive-looking jacket. At one point in the morning I see her harassing a patient who is flanked by escorts, angrily gesturing as they walk up the street. It begin to look so intense that team leader Carol heads up to see what's going on, and after the patient is delivered to her car and has left she returns to tell the tale.

It turns out the woman had a host of other medical issues that made the carrying of a child to term beyond improbable. In addition, the attempt would have likely proved fatal to her as well. As Mean Girl started in on her rehearsed script the woman, heartbroken and on the verge of tears, tried to explain that she wanted to have kids but couldn't.

Mean Girl wasn't interested in listening. She kept rolling on with her spiel, yelling over and around the escorts as they tried to get the woman away. As the haranguing continued the patient continued to get more and more upset and agitated, her protests falling on deaf ears. As they neared the car she informed the escorts that she had a hammer under the front seat.

Violence was definitely not the solution anyone was looking for, and the escorts managed to convince her not to follow that path but instead get in her car and go. She did. For keeping Mean Girl from getting brained the escorts were rewarded by her lecturing them the whole way back.

If only hand warmers fit in ears.

* * *

"So, what if a lesbian is pregnant and on her way in here? Are you going to try to stop her? According to what you yell here she's an abomination."

Angry Eyes is standing at Ground Zero of Our Lady of the Theater, looking like she would rather be anywhere else. For the past five minutes she's been getting peppered with questions and evangelical conundrums like a skunked dog facing a garden hose. The few weak responses she offers are batted aside and countered with additional queries. Pleading glances to her fellow protesters have elicited zero aid. None of them want to swap places or attract attention. She's on her own.

Angry Eyes is new here, I think. Before earning the pleasure of OLotT's focus she'd been glaring in our direction with silent, seething fury. She may be spoiling for a fight but has been caught flatfooted by the relentlessness of OLotT's verbal assault. After a few more attempts to counter she tells OLotT to leave her alone. When that doesn't happen she moves about ten feet away, assuming that will give her a respite.

No such luck. OLofT follows and keeps her stream of patter going, while Angry Eyes shifts to trying to ignore. That doesn't deter OLotT in the least, and it's a good fifteen minutes later before she concludes and heads off to the library across the street. Angry Eyes looks woozy, like a boxer who took one on the chin, and she retreats to the warmth of a nearby vehicle before too long. Perhaps she was worn out by having someone continuously foisting their opinions on her even though she'd said that she didn't want to hear them. How so *very* difficult it must have been for her to endure that.

If only there were some people around here that could relate to being subjected to something like that. If only.

* * *

"We will give your baby a home. We do it all the time! Look, I have pictures!"

The woman speaking does indeed have pictures - I know this because she keeps sticking them under my nose whenever she thinks I'm paying attention to her. Two of them, in fact. And I'm absolutely willing to concede that yes, they are pictures of babies. Are they shots of 'rescued' kids living in happy new homes? Or are they pictures of her nieces that she's willing to lie about in her war against abortion?

Who knows? 

The people here make an awful lot of promises. They tell patients that they'll help them so very much, that they'll provide daycare for the kids, jobs for the moms, even a baby shower (an offer made all the time by Parker). They try to direct them to 'pregnancy centers,' which give off the air of being official government agencies but are more often than not religiously-backed organizations trying to impose anti-choice agendas on those who visit.

I'm cynical of their promises, to say the least. An escort from another clinic told me of someone she knew who'd believed them and kept the child instead. She got a couple of cans of formula, a box of diapers, and then some very heartfelt apologies when she was informed that the food pantry was empty and they had no further resources to share with her. Maybe their intentions were good, but promises that never see fruition can be devastating.

I'm also pretty sure that if I was an expectant mother the last person I'd want to be throwing me a baby shower would be Parker.

* * *

"I'm not here to be pragmatic today. I'm here to talk about the Bible!"

I know. 

And that's the problem.

When someone loudly and proudly proclaims that he's not interested in dealing with things in a sensible or realistic way but will instead base his arguments on a poorly written, poorly edited book with questionable sources, it's highly unlikely that rational discourse is on the menu. Instead Parker is more apt to serve up misinformation and outright lies delivered under the veil of faith. Aside from MuttonChops he's the only screamer today, and as the morning drags on at a glacial pace it's obvious he doesn't have enough material for an extended set. Certain themes are repeated numerous times.

"Ask any doctor and they'll tell you! At 2 weeks a baby has a heartbeat! At 4 weeks fingers are formed! At 7 weeks the baby is fully formed!"

No actual doctor would tell you those things because those things are neither accurate nor true. Real doctors wouldn't refer to an embryo or a zygote as a child because neither is a child at that point, no matter how valiantly Parker and his cohorts try to pretend the science doesn't exist. Present them with a biological fact that they can't dispute? Out comes FAKE NEWS, the clarion call of the willingly ignorant. It's not that Parker and his ilk aren't smart enough to understand scientific fact - they just refuse to because it doesn't conform with the cherry-picked world derived from their ancient text.

"Abortion is worse than rape! Why should the child suffer for the sins of the father?"

How do you react to something as insane and egregious as that statement? As an escort there's little more I can do than shake my head, but the utter callousness is astounding. The female protesters appear to be okay with this, and I have to wonder if they'd still hold that opinion if they were the victim of such a crime. I don't wish it on them or anyone else, but how they'd be okay with anyone saying it in the first place is mind boggling.

"Two weeks ago a patient came out of this place and told me she had heard my preaching and it helped her to change her mind! I was very proud to speak about it in church on Sunday! I'm sure it made the Deathscorts very sad to lose one and not be able to cash in!"

So very much to unpack here. First, the whole thing is almost undoubtedly a lie. I was on duty two weeks ago and still there long after Parker had packed up and left (because of The Runner, of course). If someone had done what he was claiming there is zero doubt in my mind we would have heard about it right there, right then. Ad nauseam.

Second, and ye gods I'm tired of saying this, but if someone changes their mind and leaves that's fine with us. We're about the women having a choice, not making it for them. We wouldn't be chasing them down the sidewalk, trying to drag them back in.

Finally, YET AGAIN, we do not get paid in any way, shape, or form. Nothing. Not a penny. We don't even get t-shirts.

Also, pride is a sin, Parker. Or so it says in your holy text.

"I was having a discussion with a woman on a college campus and she said 'fetus' so I said 'Wait, I thought we we speaking English! Now we're speaking in Latin?'"

I rub at my brow as he repeats this one, eminently pleased with his own wit. Pragmatism, indeed.

* * *

Snow has been falling for a few hours and I'm stamping my feet to get some feeling back in them. The cold has been taking a toll on the protesters, their numbers dwindling as they slip away in ones and twos. The Runner is still here and aggressive, but even she seems somewhat frustrated. Difficult to shame people with a scarf over your mouth, I guess. 

Two of the Mean Girls begin packing up their standard, which is emblazoned with Romans 10:9:

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of GOD is at hand: REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL! If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD JESUS, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

I'm not exactly sure what that has to do with abortion but nevertheless more than happy to see them go. Some head to cars, others leave. Parker regurgitates his inaccurate child development riff for the fourth or fifth time before packing it in, and we gratefully troop inside the almost unimaginably warm clinic. As we thaw there are hugs and wishes for a Happy New Year, all of us glad to have made it through another shift. I may be nothing more than the 'bag of chemicals' that Parker claims me to be, but in any case I'm going to benefit from a long, hot shower as soon as I get home.

No Mean Girls allowed.