This is a continuation of “Accidental Beginnings”, which described how I ended up becoming an activist in April 2016.
The day after the inspirational Otep show, I began furiously typing out a Letter to the Editor. It was completed the next day after hours of careful thinking, typing, editing, and blasting the three Otep albums I owned at the time from my computer speakers.
I admit I was pretty scared about submitting it. A few years ago I had written a Letter to the Editor, but it was a fairly safe topic encouraging gardeners in our area to grow a little extra to feed those who were food insecure. Definitely a far cry from this letter explaining the truth about what the local women’s clinic really does and to clarify that it’s not an abortion provider or has any connection with an abortion provider while calling out the protesters on their bullshit.
So when I submitted the letter I was nervous about some sort of retaliation, but felt like it was important to send it in. I wanted people to know the truth, something I would continue to seek out the further I dove into activism.
The following week, it was published in the May 4th paper. It read as follows:
Years ago when something was medically wrong, I went to the women’s clinic across from the library. They were able to help me and I have been going to them ever since for my reproductive health.
But recently, Essential Clinic has come under attack for a service that’s not offered: abortion.
A man (sometimes with several others) has shown up every Wednesday with a large sign that reads “ABORTION KILLS”. I asked him about why he’s protesting a women’s clinic that doesn’t offer abortions and never has. He says they do “abortion referrals”. I think he’s confused on what a referral is. A referral means a doctor sending their patient to a recommended specialist. For example, a pap came back abnormal so the clinic set up an appointment for me to have biopsies done to check for cancer. Their involvement with abortion is purely educational, sharing information on abortion and discussing that information. However, the clinic has zero involvement in assisting a woman with getting an abortion.
The services Essential provides can be offered for a low cost or free, making these services available to women who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.
I’m appalled that a few individuals have chosen to ignore the benefits in favor of demonizing it for supporting a woman’s right to choose and supplying information on an option they don’t agree with. They could be advocating for increased availability of contraceptives to lessen the need for abortions, actively supporting services that help mothers who are struggling or becoming foster parents for children who need parental figures. Instead, they stand outside the clinic with their signs and touting a God not everyone believes is their savior. They call it “pro-life”. I call it “pro-birth”, narrow-minded, and foolish.
Of course, they have the right to protest. But don’t people have the right to a safe and comfortable healthcare environment? Even if they remain peaceful, their presence is invasive and intimidating.
Women shouldn’t have to call the clinic feeling uneasy about going to her appointment because of the protesters outside. Women shouldn’t have to feel that there are judgmental eyes on her when she walks in and out of the clinic. Women shouldn’t have to be anxious that she will be approached and be made to feel awful about themselves, guilty, or embarrassed. It may not be the intent, but that’s the effect they’re having.
Remember: This is a women’s health clinic we’re talking about; not an abortion clinic.
Unfortunately, the Editor had chosen to delete the part where I listed the specific services Essential Clinic provides (exams, contraceptives, treatment, education, etc). Other than that I was happy seeing it in the paper.
Instead of receiving the retaliation I feared, I got support. Many congratulated me on writing the piece and told me it was well written. Some became educated on what was happening. Most agreed that the protesters were being invasive.
There was a part of me that hoped that the protesters would read my letter and leave these women alone. Being the religious zealots they are who feel they need to tell women about Christ and what women should do, they didn’t budge. It wasn’t like the protesters hadn’t read it. I would later learn one of the main protesters, the one who seems to be in charge of this demonstration, had indeed read my letter and even wrote a letter of his own in response, which was published the week after mine had been.
It seemed to prove that their agenda of harassing women with religion and anti-abortion signs was more important to them then women having access to safe and comfortable healthcare. That they would rather stand outside with a sign instead of proactively doing or supporting anything that would reduce abortion rates.
Because of their refusal to leave women alone, I ended up diving deeper into the fight for women’s reproductive and health rights.