Offensive Battle Armor

Warning: Some foul language and references regarding an item of clothing that may offend some readers.

Last weekend, I met Cradle of Filth for a second time before seeing them play the entirety of their Elizabeth Bathory inspired concept album, “Cruelty and the Beast”.

If you’re not familiar with the extreme metal band, you may be familiar with the notorious “Masturbating Vestal” shirt they have sold since 1997 depicting…well…a masturbating vestal/nun on the front and the slogan “Jesus is a cunt” on the back.

Being a casual Cradle of Filth fan with a husband whose musical tastes were forever shaped by Dani Filth’s high pitched screams scaring the shit out of him the first time he heard it, there was no doubt we would be purchasing this shirt at some point. It was a question of, “Am I brave enough to wear this shirt out in public or will it become highly offensive pajamas?”  

As I’m waiting in line for our meet and greet with the band, I checked my phone. Once every couple months or so, I make the mistake of looking up what “The Dicktator” has been up to and I found that lately he’s been advising people who catch Covid to take Ivermectin. I get that he’s a sheep in Jesus’ flock, but that doesn’t mean he should be telling other Christians to take livestock medication. So I’ve been reporting his horrible medical advice to Facebook repeatedly whenever I can.

In that moment, a mental lightbulb flickered on and I realized where I could wear that masturbating vestal shirt. Every week, Brian makes a post about how “We’ll be at the Blair Death Mill on Tues”. Maybe I wasn’t brave enough to wear the shirt to the mall or a restaurant, but I could definitely imagine myself wearing it while walking past Christian zealots outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic. These sorts of people nearly shat a brick over my Picket Rick sign telling them to “shut the fuck up” about their antiabortion agenda. Who knows how they would react to a shirt that calls their Savior a cunt and depicts a Bride of Christ ringing Satan’s doorbell and I relished at the thought of their potential horrified reaction.

We bought that shirt after the meet and greet with great excitement. 

The following Tuesday, my anxiety and insomnia had utterly worn me out so I took the day off. I still couldn’t sleep, though. I finally gave up and said, “Fuck it. Today’s the day!” I put the Cradle of Filth shirt on like I was putting on battle armor, threw on my husband’s less offensive Cruelty and the Beast hoodie so I could get some glazer donuts from Kwik Trip for the employees, and drove to Blair.

I had never been to the Blair Planned Parenthood before and I had trouble finding it. Google Maps was telling me it was a small, brick, non-descript, office building that looked absolutely nothing like what was shown in the street view. There weren’t any protesters outside like Brian said there would be so I thought I was at the wrong place. After circling around the block several times, I ended up in the back lot of the building ready to give up and go home when I saw a paper sign on a glass door with a blue Planned Parenthood logo. I follow the signs while winding through the empty hallways before I finally reach a desk with a secretary I sort of recognized, but didn’t know by name.

And boy, did the secretary spill some antiabortion protester tea.

In the English language, the word “we” is used by the speaker to refer to himself or herself and at least one other person. Therefore, when Brian says “we’ll be at the death mill” it gives the impression he will be there, too. However, Brian either fails to grasp the English language or is lying about his presence at the clinic as he neglects to mention that “we” doesn’t include him because he still has about three years left on a four year a restraining order against him by the head nurse practitioner for making threatening comments towards her. The “we” is actually his wife, two daughters, and anyone they can get to come with them (who he refers to as “warriors-in-training”).  

Yet despite not actually being there, he talks about things that happened at the clinic as if he had been there the whole time. The secretary checks his public Facebook page regularly to see if they’ll be at the clinic. She explained that his clinic stories are what other protesters told him since he’s not actually there and he tends to exaggerate or outright lie about what happens during their picketing.  For example, he commented about reaching out to a lot of people going to the clinic on a day when nobody came as the only two appointments they had were through telehealth.

Another instance was regarding the clinic’s upcoming closure. Yes, unfortunately, the two satellite locations are closing due to most of their patients traveling to the main location in La Crosse anyways and Planned Parenthood putting more focus into telehealth. The comment Brian made under one of his “death mill” announcements claims that “On a positive note, an employee told us that they are closing in the next week or two—hallelujah! Praise God!” That comment was made back in August and the clinic is not closing until November. According to the secretary, he wasn’t even at the clinic because of the restraining order and none of the employees had spoken to the other protesters about the clinic’s closure. That same comment he made also claims a woman came out of the clinic boasting that she had “just murdered her baby” and that the nurse practitioner was laughing “treating it as a joke”—which sounds like BS since (besides not being there due to a restraining order) the only NP that I know of that works regularly at the satellite clinics is the one that has a restraining order against him and that location doesn’t perform abortions.

This explained why Brian wasn’t there (and that he was being less than truthful about it), but where were the other protesters? Apparently, they typically don’t show up until about 3-3:30 in the afternoon. Though Brian’s posts never stated a time his group would be at the clinic, I assumed they would be there for at least a good chunk of the day due to his zealous devotion to “protecting the unborn” so I had shown up just a little bit before 1pm. If their goal was to intercept as many women as possible to harass them about abortion—a service not offered at that location—and preach the word of their God, it would make more sense to be there for the whole day and not the last hour and a half the clinic is open when there’s considerably less patients. I find it interesting that Brian ranted about the local antiabortion group putting in so little time towards antiabortion efforts when the group he coordinates is only at the clinic for about 19-25% of the time it’s open on the one day a week they operate.

I really should have called to see if the protesters were actually there before wasting the freshness of my offensive band shirt.

The Weakest Links: Life Chain 2021

Since the closure of the Essential Health Clinic in town a couple years ago, I admit my pro-choice activities have been a bit sparse. Then again, so have the local antiabortion activities and even more so since Pastor Faust moved out of state after being booted from his congregation last year. Aside from Brian’s family making the rounds at a nearby Planned Parenthood every Tuesday (as he is unable to picket due to a restraining order), a couple of random antiabortion opinion pieces, a non-local crisis pregnancy center advertising in our newspaper and high school sports posters, their activity has been sporadic at best.  

One thing they’re still being consistent with is holding their annual Life Chain on the bridge, which occurs on the first Sunday in October every year.

I haven’t counter protested the event since 2018.

In 2019, I decided to take a break for the sake of my then-declining mental health.

In 2020, I was out of town at the time and wouldn’t have attended anyways because of Covid. They supposedly held it, but there wasn’t any photographic evidence to show for it.

This year I was apprehensive about going because of the on-going pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the Life Chain has had a rule about spacing people to maximize the chain and every year the protesters largely ignore that particular direction. I doubted the pandemic’s six foot recommendation for social distancing would make them consider following this rule as I’ve seen some of those same protesters come to my workplace refusing to take any basic Covid precautions. Brian in particular has been quite vocal about his anti-vax, anti-mask, Covid-conspiracy stance on his public Facebook page —even after his wife caught Covid and it was bad enough that she had to be put on a respirator for several days –and is currently and horribly advising that anyone with Covid take livestock medication to treat it. My presence at the Life Chain always results in being confronted by a couple protesters who were rubbed the wrong way and I ultimately decided I wasn’t ready to find myself face-to-face with someone who might have not taken Covid seriously for the past 18 months. But for old time’s sake I went to check out the last ten minutes or so of the Life Chain from across the street while listening to Otep’s “Generation Doom” album.

Brian, living up to his nickname of “The Dicktator” by being so zealously antiabortion that he makes casual antiabortion supporters look almost pro-choice, decided that he and a “few genuine brethren” were going to have their own little vigil the hour before the Life Chain was supposed to start on the bridge. Yet, when my husband and I had driven by the spot he was supposed to be at about fifteen minutes after the time he posted, The Dicktator and his supposed Christian posse was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t there when we passed by again about half an hour later on our way to lunch. He wasn’t at the Life Chain when I checked the last little bit of it after lunch, either. Funny how he went on a Facebook rant criticizing the local Wisconsin Right to Life chapter for essentially not being hardcore enough in their antiabortion pursuits and he doesn’t even show up the vigil that he planned.

Taken when everyone was leaving and both signs were on the same side of the bridge.

There was one man about Faust’s age that looked like he was in charge of the vigil holding the biggest sign I had ever seen at this function. “Pro-Life The radical idea that babies are people.” There was a large WRTL sign on the other side of the bridge that read “Abortion stops a beating heart”.

I counted about 47 people and usually this bridge vigil brings in about 55-60 people at least. I noted there were fewer children this year, possibly because Brian didn’t drag along his kids and the two other boys this year.

As usual, this particular Life Chain location cannot follow the principles that’s apparently been in place since its inception in 1987.

  • “At least half of your signs should be ‘Abortion Kills Children’.”: Just like previous years, half of their signs weren’t this AKC sign.
  • “Spacing is Key. Maximize your Life Chain. Space your participants up to 100 feet apart. Only 53 people will over a full mile”:  A couple years ago, we figured out that only ten people were needed to cover one side of the bridge. The chain on the left side of the bridge was actually following this rule for the most part as there were about 10 or so people evenly spaced across the entire length of the bridge. The right side, however, didn’t extend to the other side of the bridge despite having 30 people because they were crowded together.
  • “Promote this to be a true ‘prayer chain,’ free of frivolity, idle chatter, and interaction with motorists.”: Like every year I’ve witnessed this Life Chain, most of the participants were standing in pairs or small groups and engaging in conversation with one another.
  • “The publicized Life Chain time period is 2:00-3:30 in each time zone, but each Coordinator may adjust the time to meet local needs. Please hold a 90-minute Chain if at all possible.”: According to the group’s Facebook events, they have never held a 90-minute Life Chain. If there’s one thing that Brian is actually right on it’s that a lot of local antiabortion supporters put in an hour in October and then are inactive the rest of the year.  

Once the clock struck 3pm, having put in their protesting hour for the year, they dispersed like cockroaches in the light. Some probably went to the park afterwards for the refreshments. I went home as I didn’t see any point in watching a bunch of antiabortion supporters stand around a punch bowl while they patted themselves on the back like proud peacocks even though their event was weak by Life Chain standards and general standards.

Their impact was so unexceptional that the chain barely made the local paper the following week. It’s a small town so practically anything out of the ordinary makes the paper and usually in the first two pages if its not sports related. This is what the paper had to say about the event next to a tiny photo on page 5 where the only adults visible were appear to be cisgender men:

“Jackson County families came together to form a Life Chain on the Black River bridge Sunday Oct. 3 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. as other chains formed throughout the United States. Participants prayed to end abortion, to encourage adoption and to offer hope and help to mothers and fathers so they can welcome their unborn babies.”

I think the photo an antiabortion supporter submitted of me in 2017 to go alongside a scathing opinion piece about the “rude, crude, and offensive” sign I was holding at that year’s Life Chain was much bigger than the entirety of this mention of this year’s Life Chain.

As I think of this whole affair, I am reminded of a lyric from an Otep song I was listening to while casually watching the Chain from afar:

“Strength in numbers

Counting you like sheep

Makes me wonder

Why you’re all so weak?

Feeding frenzy: the gnashing of the teeth

If there’s strength in numbers

Why are you so weak?”  

Dissecting Pro-Life Opinion Pieces: “Our Bodies, My Choice”

The local newspaper continues to publish the anti-abortion opinion pieces Samuel Faust submits on a monthly basis. August 29th brought an opinion piece titled “Our Bodies, My Choice”.

Normally, my opinion on a pro-life opinion letter would follow the letter itself. This time I’ll be putting the letter into sections and writing about each section of the letter. Sections of Faust’s letter is shown in bold italics.

“Our Bodies, My Choice”

When it comes to the abortion debate, we constantly hear the mantra (from media, politicians, and advocates) of “my body, my choice”.  Is this even scientifically accurate? When a pregnant woman visits her doctor, does he say, “Both your hearts are beating fine” or “your second body is growing and developing well.” How absurd, not to mention anti-science, such statements would be. In the interest of being consistent with science, those favoring child killing though abortion should say “Our bodies, my choice.”

While Faust is quick to condemn “choice”, he’s actually supportive of choice—just in a very specific situation. Some time ago I asked him about pregnancies that threatened the mother’s life and he was supportive of abortion in those cases, stating something along the lines of “It doesn’t do any good if the pregnancy will kill both the mother and the unborn.” He is also the chairman for the Wisconsin Right to Life’s Jackson County chapter. Believing human life to be inherently valuable from conception, the group opposes abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. As far as I’m still aware, like Faust, they make an exception for abortion when the mother’s life is at risk.

This exception is important to note because he calls abortion “child killing” and describes it as a holocaust that murders innocent babies. Let’s rephrase that: He makes an exception for what he believes is the outright murder of an innocent child. Does the exception suggest the child is no longer innocent and to blame for its own termination as being alive posed a risk to the mother’s life? Why isn’t the woman who terminates her pregnancy to save herself from death not seen as the “bigger, stronger” body dictating what happens to the “smaller, weaker” body? You never hear the part of the pro-life movement that makes such exceptions tell women they should deal with the consequences of her pregnancy—“You should have kept your legs closed if you didn’t want to die!”

This acknowledges the scientific fact that two separate human beings (each with a body, soul, and spirit) are involved with a pregnancy. It also acknowledges the fact that only one of the two is involved in making the life and death decisions for the other.

Interesting how he brings up what he calls “scientific fact” in the same breath as claiming that human beings have a soul and spirit.

Scientific fact shows that a human fetus is of human origin in the same way science can determine the tree species of an acorn. But there’s still heavy debate on when a human fetus is considered a person/human being because the majority has not come to a definite conclusion on when a developing fetus becomes a person. Some believe it’s at conception while others believe it’s at birth. There’s a wide range of opinions that person hood starts somewhere between these two points that takes various factors into account such as organ development, EEG brain waves, quickening, viability, etc. I could probably write a whole blog post about the various schools of thought on when a fertilized egg becomes a person. If science had already proven this without a doubt as Faust suggests, why is there still debate on it?

Faust may act like a big supporter for science to the point of calling others that don’t support his anti-abortion views as “anti-science”, but the reality is he’s only in favor of science when it supports his views and ignores science when it doesn’t. For example, he denies studies done that have shown that most women don’t regret their abortion or experience “Post Abortion Stress Syndrome”, a condition made up by the anti-abortion movement that is not recognized by any credible medical organization. Through the distribution of anti-abortion reading materials, he has spread various falsehoods of the anti-abortion movement (which may or may not be backed up by refuted, biased, or outdated studies or out of context information).

This is why people describe the “choice” as difficult, even agonizing, because everyone knows that it takes the life of an innocent child. The bigger, stronger body gets to dictate what happens to the smaller, weaker body.

Choosing to have an abortion can be difficult, but that’s not always the case. Just as there are women who found the choice to be difficult, there are women who found the choice was easy and knew abortion was how they wanted to proceed. If “everyone knows” that abortion “takes the life of an innocent child” then why do women get abortions?

This, by the way, is why slavery flourished. Two “bodies” were involved, but the politically “bigger, stronger” body was able to dictate the outcome of the other body. So why not amend this simple motto?

It wouldn’t be one of Faust’s classic anti-abortion letters without drawing comparisons to slavery. Are fetuses being kidnapped, boarded onto cramped ships, and sold into servitude where they are overworked, beaten, raped, and living in awful conditions? We’re talking about the same slavery where women were often forced to have children to make more slaves, right? That seems like the opposite of abortion.

Slavery flourished because of stronger people dictating what happened to the weak? I’d argue that slavery flourished due to profit plus Christian scripture stating that owning slaves was okay (Ephesians 6:5-9, etc.) Drawing comparisons between abortion and slavery is stupid. Pregnant women have the option of carrying a pregnancy to term—“giving a chance at life” as the pro-lifers call it. Would slave owners have chosen the option of setting their slaves free? Would slave owners have chosen to let their slaves escape? Given their slaves freedom and a chance at life? No!

First, it breaks the ironclad rule of never referencing the humanity of the child being killed. If abortion was viewed even the way animal cruelty was viewed, it would end tomorrow.

Animal cruelty takes many different forms. One example of animal cruelty would be forcing female dogs to breed and birth puppies for profit in horrible conditions. Maybe animal rights activists that are also pro-choice are against the notion that females—human or dog—are merely an incubator.

Does Faust know what happens to animals? They are killed by humans. They’re killed for food. They’re hunted and killed for sport. They’re killed for their skins and feathers to be made into clothing. Animals are euthanized for a number of reasons: being decrepit or terminally ill and being in a lot of pain, being temperamental to the point they are a threat, not getting adopted after a certain period of time, for dissection, etc. 2.7 million animals are euthanized in shelters every year. Where’s the “Bigger, Stronger Body VS Weaker, Smaller Body” criticisms? Oh wait… “pro-life” ideology only applies to humans. Wouldn’t this mean that pro-lifers are selective in what type of lives matter, which is something Faust was criticizing social justice warriors of doing?

Second, it reveals the “bullying” side of this debate; the strong dictating what happens to the weak and vulnerable. The sad irony is that so many supporters of abortion see themselves as social justice warriors who defend the helpless (including animals for cruelty), yet can’t (or won’t) connect the dots that 3,000 innocent babies are being murdered each day. America needs to wake up and stop this holocaust. –Samuel Faust

“The bullying side of this debate”? Excuse me while I retrieve the retinas from the back of my eye socket because I eye rolled so hard.

Every week from about March 2016 to August 1st of this year, Faust gathered other pro-life supporters to hold signs and harass women about abortion outside of a women’s clinic that didn’t even offer abortion services. Women, including myself, experienced various degrees of hostility depending on what protester they encountered. Women were given the option to sneak out the back door so they wouldn’t have to walk past the protesters that watched them go inside and judge on why they were there. Some women waited to go to the clinic to pick up supplies when the protesters weren’t there (sometimes there was a gap between their “shifts”) because they felt intimidated by their presence. I was told of a young woman who called the clinic explaining she was too afraid to come to her appointment because of the protesters parading around near the entrance. What if the clinic hadn’t convinced her to come in and she had needed birth control to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, resources regarding a current unplanned pregnancy, STD testing or treatment, cancer screenings, or any of the other vital services the clinic has to offer, but didn’t because she was intimidated by the protesters? I confronted Faust about the negative impact they were having on women that were seeking reproductive healthcare services and he couldn’t see that their impact was anything less than overwhelmingly positive. He would later ask, “If our presence isn’t doing good, then what harm is it doing?”, showing he was completely ignorant or didn’t care about their presence being unhelpful and how it could be harmful.

One of the more aggressive protesters would talk down to women, question their beliefs (“Are you Christian?”), criticize their lifestyle, berate and throw insults, etc. In an attempt to lead patients away from the clinic, this same protester was telling women that the birthing center that also has clinic services was exactly like the women’s clinic with the exception of not offering abortion information—which was untrue as that facility does not offer their reproductive health services on a sliding scale or for free for low income women or help women apply for Family Planning Only Services waivers. Faust handed out professional business cards for a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, which often has incorrect or misleading information. The center does not state what they are or the fact they do not offer medical services, preferring to advertise themselves in a way to suggest to women that they are pro-choice and professional when they are not. The protester’s other cards had offered misleading and incorrect information on women’s pregnancy options, mainly abortion. Their intimidation through presence, attempts to get women to go elsewhere by providing misleading or false information, and questioning and belittling women sounds like bullying to me. And like any bully, when anyone decides to stand up to pro-lifers, they suddenly act like they’re the victim.

The idea that pro-choice is bullying is incorrect. As a pro-choice activist, I don’t “dictate” what happens in cases of unplanned pregnancies. Although I am supportive of abortion rights, I wouldn’t try to convince (much less bully) any woman that an abortion is right for her situation. She wants to parent? Fine. She wants to give the baby up for adoption? Fine. She wants to terminate the pregnancy? Fine. She’s on the fence and not sure what to do? Get her all the accurate information and resources on her options so she can make an informed decision on how to proceed with her pregnancy. Ultimately, it’s up to her—not me—to decide how she wants to proceed with the pregnancy. What I think would be best for my situation may not be best for another woman’s situation. That’s what it truly means to be pro-choice.

Update on former BRF Essential Health Clinic protesters

lessonoldman

As stated in my last post, Last Day of Essential Health Clinic of Black River Falls, the Essential Health Clinic in Black River Falls has closed due to funding issues and I had theorized this wouldn’t be the last we would see of this group of “sidewalk counselors”.  Turns out, I might be correct in thinking that.

One of our now-former BRF Essential Health Clinic protesters, Brian, occasionally shares posts from an antiabortion activist named Matthew Wiersema. For several months, I’ve been following the various activist activities of this person…mostly to report his graphic photos of dead fetuses/babies and read up on his activist adventures.  I’ll likely write a piece on him later, but for now I want to bring up something I saw on one of his posts a couple weeks ago.

Just a little over a week after the clinic closed, Wiersema posted about an interaction at a pizza place. Within the comment section (pictured below) was a response from Brian:

“It looks like one of the few was reaping the Harvest tonight! Good job Matthew praise God!

Hey Rob, hope you’re doing well. Are the group for the preborn coming to Marshfield anytime soon? They closed the local clinic down here about 2 weeks ago so Sam [Faust] and I are going to have to find a new place. They got one in Whitehall which is about 35 miles [emphasize added] and then we occasionally go to the murder Mill in Madison and join the Catholics over there.”

whitehall

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for them to harass women for over two years at the Black River Falls location. Now they’re thinking about bothering the patients at another Essential Health clinic?!  For the quadrillion-th time, they’re not an abortion provider nor do they schedule abortions for women at an actual abortion provider!

The Rob mentioned in the comment is Rob Pue, founder and publisher for the Wisconsin Christian News. A photo for one of his From the Editor columns, “The Three Greatest Threats We’re Facing”, depicts the LGBT+ flag, abortion, and Islam. “First on the list is the demonic depiction of homosexuality” it says before it cuts itself off and requires a subscription to read the rest. Even without subscription access to the articles, I could piece together that he’s a Christian conservative with anti-abortion, anti-LGBT+, and anti-Muslim viewpoints similar to or exactly like Brian’s. Brian does enough imitation and bullying on his own…imagine if there’s another person that’s exactly like him to join him outside a clinic!

I wish these zealots would leave women alone. (Seriously, can they just leave women alone?!)

Dissecting Pro-Life Opinion Pieces: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”

I was going to write a piece on one of the responses I received for my opinion piece “Lack of Credibility”, but it seems it was not located in my backpack as I had thought. Instead, I ended up pulling out a newspaper all the way back from May 2nd of this year (I really need to reorganize my bag). The paper contained a pro-life letter to the editor with the long winded title “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”:

Many, in this column, have debated on the morality of abortion. This conversation is extremely necessary and those who take part in it are tenacious and brave. But, I am not here to write my opinion, even though some of you already know where I stand on this topic. Many of us have very strong viewpoints of abortion. Some see it as an option, others see it as evil. What do you believe? Some are confused. With all these opinions and statistics, it can get overwhelming. Sometimes we just wish we could push this subject away and pretend it’s not important. But, it is important. Some just want to stay out of the argument—to stay neutral, stay safe. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. By staying on the fence, we’re taking the easy way out.

Believe it or not, we need to have an opinion. Why? Because either such a simple human right is being manipulated or attacked,  or there really are thousands of innocent children being murdered by scared and frightened women. Either way, our people are being deeply hurt and it’s our job to protect them. Because if we don’t…no one will.

So I implore you, have an opinion. But don’t get it from your friends or family. Go to the source. For me, that source is the source of morality—the Bible. Look up statistics. Listen to debates. Learn how abortions are done. What about us who do have an opinion? Us who know what we want to fight for? Us who deeply believe that abortion is evil? Or us who think that the picketing pro-lifers are idiots? What about us?

Let me ask you one question. Where are you? Our American people are suffering. A wave or a kind smile to the sign-holders, though appreciated, is not going to hold up another sign up. You can do more than pinning cute pro-life quotes on your Pinterest boards! Your voices need to be heard. Your voice is the voice you’ve been given to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Let them hear it. Stop staying silent. If you really believe in something, then do something about it. Because all evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

Please, stop waiting. Stop just believing. Stop sitting on the fence. Stop trying to stay safe. Do something. Live outside yourself. Live to fight for those that need you.

Alisa Aish, Black River Falls

The beginning of the letter actually did have a couple good points about those that chose to remain silent or not pick sides on topics that are important. At first, she seemed to be encouraging those people to form a strong opinion on abortion and take a stand regardless of what side they decided to support.

Halfway through the letter, it becomes obvious this was not encouraging people to take part in the abortion debate, but rather a rallying cry for people to get actively involved on the anti-abortion side of the debate. In the process, she negates her own statement that she wasn’t writing to express her own opinion on where she stands on the subject. For example, the way she describes those that already have an opinion on abortion and are active in the debate indicates a subtle favoritism towards one side: “Us who deeply believe that abortion is evil? Or us who think that the picketing pro-lifers are idiots?” A number of pro-choice beliefs could have been brought up—women should have the right to choose abortion (and parenting or adoption for that matter), that abortion is a reproductive right, that abortion should be safe and legal, or women should have bodily autonomy. Instead of describing what the pro-choice side stands for, she chose to highlight what that side thinks of the other. There’s no clarification as to why pro-choice supporters find such pro-life protesting idiotic. Granted, we (pro-choice supporters) do find pro-life protesting to be idiotic, especially when they picket women’s clinics that don’t provide abortion services, but our feelings on it go much deeper than mere annoyance. Women have been stalked, harassed, threatened, bullied, lied to, mislead, and given false information by pro-life protesters. Without this context combined with a lack of a description for the beliefs of the pro-choice side, the writer has very subtly implied that one side (pro-choice) wrongfully has an issue with the other side (pro-life) for combating a great evil (abortion).

The end of the letter encourages pro-life supporters to do more than offer a wave or smile to picketers or post pro-life quotes on social media, but gives no such encouragement for pro-choice supporters. After reading this rallying cry for more pro-life involvement, the first section of the letter appears less neutral on encouraging those to form an opinion on the important subject of abortion. When she states that those that take part of the abortion debate are tenacious and brave, what she really means that those that take a stance against abortion are tenacious and brave. When she says “So I implore you, have an opinion”, she’s really hoping the reader will form a pro-life opinion just like the one she claims she’s not here to write about.

Its more subtle and polite than the pro-life opinion pieces I’m used to reading where abortion is called murder and condemned outright. As the old saying goes, “You get more flies with honey than vinegar”.

Last Day of Essential Health Clinic of Black River Falls

A few weeks ago, I received a letter informing me that “As a way to balance community reproductive health and continued federal and state funding challenges, Essential Health Clinic is closing our Black River Falls, Prairie du Chien and Richland Center locations in July and August.” The last day my clinic, the Black River Falls location, was open was on August 1st.

For the past year, I feared this would happen. The day after Trump was elected, Essential Health Clinic announced it was cutting back hours on some of its locations, including my own, for the same reasons they just shut down three of its satellite clinics. Continued attacks on reproductive healthcare rights certainly didn’t help either.

I will now have to travel to EHC’s location in La Crosse, an hour from where I live, in order to receive any reproductive healthcare services and refill my birth control. I do not drive so I have to make arrangements for someone to take me there. Even if I did drive, we currently only have the one car, which my husband needs for his job. My husband works weekdays and the clinic would likely be closed by the time he got work, picked me up, and drove to La Crosse. I normally go to La Crosse with a friend at least every other week after he gets off his night shift job, but I’ll be screwed if he ever switches to day shift as our days off don’t match up. Switching my days off isn’t ideal due to the requirements of my job. It was certainly much easier and convenient when I could simply walk downtown for my appointments and pills. Being that we live in rural Wisconsin, there really aren’t other suitable alternatives to Essential Health Clinic other than the Planned Parenthood in Eau Claire, which is still an hour drive and also hated by pro-life supporters.

A few ideas of activism came to mind in the weeks leading up to the Black River Falls location closing. While at Joann Fabrics, I saw card stock on sale and got this idea to make a sign that said “Support Women’s Healthcare” in bold, pink letters on a black background to contrast with the white background signs the protesters had. With my Cricut machine, making letters for a sign was a snap! A few days before August 1st, I created an event page named “Essential Clinic Donate-A-Thon” encouraging people to come to the clinic to donate money on their last day of operation. I also created a donation page on Facebook, which earned $30. Then I learned there was a difference between donation and fundraiser pages and created a fundraiser page with a $100 goal.  (As of this writing, both pages have raised a total of $140)

“Supportive Activism” I call it.

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The sign I made.

If this had played out like I imagine in my head, I would have marched up to the front of the clinic like a motherfucking boss and held out my sign proudly. But the cruel reality is that despite my imagination and determination, I’m still an activist dealing with horrible anxiety issues. Normally, there’s two—maybe three—pro-birth zealots outside the clinic standing still in the same spot or walking back and forth like patrol guards on a video game. No amount of anxiety medication could have prepared me for them being in full force on the clinic’s last day, refusing to give women any dignity with their healthcare choices. There were four adults—five when Brian/“Dicktator” showed up—and the four children they dragged along, but only one of me. It took an hour and a half sitting in the library across the street trying to literally shake off a small anxiety attack. I finally managed to go outside and sat in front of the library for ten minutes chatting with my brother, who I ran into on the way out of the door. Eventually, I went across the street blasting Gorillaz through my earbuds to keep me calm and collected.

I wanted to be visible to motorists while not being in the way of patients and I wasn’t brave enough to situate myself in the front of the building where the adult protesters were parading a few feet from the door or the right corner of the building where the kids were situated. Therefore, I sat on the cooler full of water bottles I had brought on the left corner of the building, away from the doorstep and the congregation of zealots. I was out of the way of the patients and the antiabortion protesters, but still visible to the public.

As I’ve learned from counter protesting the annual Life Chain for the past two years and a previous attempt at supportive activism, antiabortion protesters cannot ignore the presence of pro-choice and reproductive healthcare supporters invading their stomping grounds. In my experience, they cannot resist checking out the opposition even when that opposition is far off to the side or even offers a message that isn’t necessarily pro-choice, which is precisely what happened the moment I sat down and exposed my tag board sign. Faust seemed to make a point of walking back and forth to the left corner of the block a couple of time, passing me by along the way. I think he tried speaking to me, but his voice was muffled over the sound of Gorillaz “Dare”.

Once Faust left for the day not too long after I showed up, Brian started hovering by me just like he did when I first protested the Life Chain. I had observed him being on the right side of the block the whole time he was there so I don’t doubt he was there to make sure there was pro-life presence by the Godless woman encouraging support for the clinic. When I was sure he wasn’t looking, I snapped a couple selfies with him lurking in the background.

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When he first approached me, he asked what my sign said. I figured he could read on his own so I didn’t respond and let him read the sign.

“Yeah, woman’s healthcare, but not murder. Or homosexuality, which is what your bandana stands for,” he said, pointing out the plain rainbow bandana I was wearing. The comment seemed irrelevant, but in line with Brian’s habit of continually judging others on every little thing. Technically, he’s not wrong: I did get it from Spencer’s line of LGBT+ pride merchandise, but there’s nothing about it that shows it’s specifically for LGBT+ other than the striped rainbow pattern. Honestly, I wore it because the sun was out, sunburnt scalp is the worst, and it was the only clean bandana I had on hand at the time.

He kept trying to engage with me. I could hear his loud and often rude voice over the music, but I continued to ignore him. Not engaging seemed to irritate him. He was like a child that kept trying to provoke any reaction out of me and I wasn’t giving into him.

However, I couldn’t remain silent when he stopped hovering around me to go harass a patient exiting the clinic. Her car had been parked directly in front of the clinic’s door. As she walked to her car, he followed her. Over the sound of my music, I could hear him telling her to take antiabortion literature. I didn’t catch if she vocally refused or not, but she clearly looked annoyed and didn’t want to be bothered.

At the foot of her car, he asked the one question he asks every woman when given half a chance, “Are you Christian?”

Annoyed and fed up, she replied, “I am not. Maybe you should worry about your own life!”

He started to spout Christian ideologies when I shouted, “Leave her alone, Brian!”

The woman’s passenger window was down so he continued to preach to her while she argued back until she drove off a moment later. Brian turned to me, scowled, and spoke in a sarcastically angry tone, “Now you have something to say?!” I didn’t reply.

During my time there, I got a couple thumbs up and “You go, girl!”

When someone drove by, Brian sarcastically wondered who it was for. “Was that for you or for me—”

“Probably you!” I replied.

He rambled on and on a few feet away from me. He would not shut up!  “Well, after today, you probably won’t see much of us.”

“I hope I never see you again!” I declared.

Two women from the building next door were outside taking a break. Both had worked with my mother at a popular bar and grill twenty-something years ago so I was familiar with them. They greeted me and told me I was doing a good job. We exchanged some words about the antiabortion zealots. One of them commented that they reminded her of the Branch Davidians cult from Waco, Texas or the Westboro Baptist Church. She’s probably not that far off from the truth.

In true sarcastic, “Dicktator” fashion, he finally got to me when my husband drove by and flipped him off. “How horrible! I can’t believe a man would flip his own wife off!”

I should have kept my mouth shut, but my irritation got the best of me and I couldn’t help saying, “That was for you!”

“Oh, thank God!” he said, feigning concern and relief. “I’d rather his hate be directed at me than at his wife!”

I knew he said it to strike a nerve…and it worked. In my experience with protesting Christian pro-lifers, they’ll try to find out what buttons to push and then slam on them like a child playing an arcade machine once they do. I don’t exactly have the thickest skin and sometimes my emotions get the best of me before my brain has time to think things through. The next thing I knew, I was debating Christianity, arguing that God wasn’t real as he called me hateful non-believer.

“God created you in his image! He gave you the ability to get out of bed this morning! He gave you the ability to speak of such hate!” He trailed off on the “gifts” his God supposedly gave me. “But you continue to mock him!”

God wasn’t the reason I got out of bed that morning or any other morning. On work days, it’s the need to earn a living to survive is what gets me out of bed. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of due to depression and anxiety with a touch of autism, which I’m sure people like Brian view as a punishment from God for being an unbelieving sinner.

“You’re a follower of Satan!”

“You mean the same Satan that was created by God, who is supposedly all-knowing and therefore should have known beforehand that one of his angels would turn evil?” I questioned.

He never answered the question yet continued preaching. Figures. He wants to judge non-believing sinners without answering the hard questions. I turned my music back on and drowned him out, which is what I should have done in the first place.

Right before the clinic closed, Kenny, a clinic supporter I’m acquainted with, showed up to donate money (having clicked “Interested” on my donate-a-thon event page) and on his way out made a point to let Brian know, “I love giving them money!” Not surprisingly, they got into a verbal match. Before he drove off, Kenny flipped him off and said “Fuck you” and gave me a thumbs up and said, “You go, girl!”

“Don’t you feel ashamed that’s the people you’re supporting?” Brian asked me.

I didn’t bother to give an answer, but I’m sure it’s far less shameful than standing outside a healthcare clinic to chase women/patients to their cars under the guise of “loving thy neighbor”. Is it possible to love or care for your fellow man through fear, intimidation, anger, harassment, and lies? I’m not sure what scripture dictates, but I don’t think so. It sounds more like control, manipulation, and oppression to me.

By the time the clinic closed, there was just Brian, the other woman that wasn’t Brian’s wife and me outside the clinic. Brian had spoken of plans to the other woman to stay until 4:45pm—it’s typical of him to stay past closing time to try and catch any women trying to go to the clinic that haven’t realized the clinic is closed (that’s how I met him). I’m sure the clinic staff was aware of this as I didn’t see them exit out the front of the building. I assume they parked in the back. I can’t blame them for wanting to avoid a confrontation with the circus, especially when the zealots running it were probably feeling proud and cocky about it being the clinic’s last day of operation. So I stayed put until everyone had left.

Despite my hopes that I never have to see any of these people again, I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll see and hear from these “pro-life advocates”. Faust has been writing antiabortion opinion pieces long before Essential Health Clinic took over the Western Dairy Land Women’s Health Center. There’s the annual Life Chain that they hold on the bridge every October. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continued to leave antiabortion propaganda at the library or even picket outside the clinic until the clinic signage is taken down in order to catch any women that aren’t aware the clinic is closed.

And so the accidental activist plagued with anxiety still has work to do.

If you wish to contribute to the Essential Health Clinic fundraiser, go HERE.

Potential Harassment and Sidewalk Bullies

The women’s clinic was open this past Wednesday and, of course, was plagued with the outside presence of a couple of pro-birth men holding their professionally printed anti-abortion signs out in the cold. I was perched in the café room of the library across the street researching credentials of RN’s and medical directors that were listed with some of Wisconsin’s crisis pregnancy centers. Occasionally, I glanced out the window to watch the two men conversing with each other while ensuring that their signs were in full view of the public.

I’ve been too afraid to stand up to them since a picture of me with a couple women was printed in the opinion section along with an unflattering pro-life letter because we had dared to counter-protest their pro-life event last October. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that it shook me. With my anxiety and fear of retaliation, I’m surprised I even managed to stand up to them at all. It hasn’t stopped me from coming to the library every other week to observe them outside the clinic and occasionally checking the pamphlet holders in the entryway to see if Faust has left cards for a local crisis pregnancy center.  But when I have to go to the clinic for birth control, I rush past them like a scared mouse to avoid any interaction.

It was another typical bi-weekly Wednesday: Zealots with signs that read “Abortion Hurts Women” and “Abortion Kills Children” while I watched from afar and typed away on my laptop.

Or I thought it was going to be.

I looked out the window to see the two men with a young woman carrying a small child. Faust was standing towards the back of her while Brian (aka. “Dicktator) was standing in the middle of the sidewalk facing her. Brian looked like he was scolding her rather than speaking to her, empathizing with one hand while his other hand held his sign so that it could be seen. To be fair, he’s always looks mean, but he earned the nickname “Dicktator” for being the most aggressive of the protesters. I couldn’t see the woman’s face as she spoke with him. I’ve seen women approach the protesters to speak with them, usually to tell them off, but Brian blocking the sidewalk concerned me. Maybe she was being polite and putting up with their nonsense. However, I assumed she was just speaking with them so I snapped a photo on my phone and went back to typing.

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I basically had the mindset of a BBC nature documentary photographer: Don’t get involved and only observe and document. But something came over me. I didn’t feel right just being an observant bystander with the assumption that she was willingly talking with them. I wasn’t really sure if my assumption was correct and the uncertainty bothered me enough to take action despite whatever anxiety I felt. I finally quickly gathered my things, strapped on my heavy backpack, and strolled out of the library with a brazen determination that felt wonderful yet foreign.  As I crossed the street, the men took notice of me, but I didn’t care.

“Miss…are these men bothering you?”

It seems like a simple thing to ask, but approaching a complete stranger for any reason is not simple when you have a lack of social skills and an abundance of anxiety. No amount of confidence and determination could have stopped my heart from beating rapidly as it was when I walked up to this woman. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my heart violently beat itself out of my chest and plopped right onto the sidewalk.

She explained to me that she had conversed with some of these protesters before she had given birth to her child. She was open to understanding different views so she was just talking to them. Turns out my initial assumption had been correct after all, but asking if she was okay was still the right thing to do.

Before I could feel better knowing that she wasn’t being harassed (or at least didn’t feel like she was being harassed) and tell her “I wasn’t sure and wanted to check if you were okay”, Faust opened his mouth.

“This is Sam. She accuses us of being bullies in the paper.” (I haven’t written anything for the opinion section of the paper for several months).

Brian chimed in, but Faust’s comment had thrown me off guard so all I heard was “She’s a Satan worshiper”. (During our second interaction a couple years ago, he learned I had donated to the clinic and scolded me of continuing to live in ignorance as our previous conversation obviously hadn’t turned me into a God-fearing Christian. I responded by telling him I found Satan because I knew it would get a rise out of him.)

I find it ironic that Faust chose to bring up my accusations of pro-life bullying considering the men’s behavior towards me at that moment. There was a number of ways Faust could have introduced me to this woman, but he chose something that sounded negative and belittling. Brian felt the need to point out to her that I was a “Satan worshiper”, a trait he most certainly finds undesirable being the religious fanatic he is. Introducing someone with insults…well, that sounds like bullying to me.

I decided to bring up something someone had told me they had seen while picking up his daughter at the bus stop near the library.

“So you’re not bullies?” I asked. “Would you explain to me why someone told me they witnessed you chasing a young woman in crutches?”

I expected they might say how absurd such a claim was and attempt to reassure me they would never do such a thing being the pro-woman champions for human life that they are (#sarcasm). Instead, they laughed in my face like I had told them the funniest joke. Getting laughed at was humiliating.

“A woman in crutches! Oh, that’s a good one! You ever hear of Fake News?” Faust asked me, still laughing.

I looked down at their signs feeling embarrassed. The protesters have favorite signs. Faust’s favorite is “Abortion Hurts Women”. Brian was holding his “ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN” sign and I saw it had been modified recently—it now has a printed cut out of a mutilated fetus pasted next to the word “KILL”.

“This…” I said, pointing to their signs, “This…is Fake News. I’ll make a donation to the clinic in your honor.”

I’d be lying if I said the situation didn’t make me feel flustered and put off guard. I’ve admittedly gotten rusty at standing up to “pro-life” protesters. I felt small and stressed after giving my retaliation donation and going back to the library café room, but also had a sense of pride having asked a complete stranger if she was okay and being prepared to get her out of that situation if she was truly being harassed.

Would I do it again even if it felt scary and overwhelming? Hell yeah, I would!

For once, some peace and quiet

I had an appointment at the women’s clinic today. There were two older ladies outside with their anti-abortion signs (I know one said “Pray to the end to abortion”.) I nearly slipped on the ice trying to rush past them in case they decided to try and make contact—I was not in the mood for potentially being approached with conversation.

I’m done with my appointment almost half an hour later. Before I head out the door, I prepare myself for being greeting by the presence of protesters by playing Lady Gaga on my headphones.

…except no one was out there. The sidewalk was empty. There wasn’t anybody holding their large anti-abortion signs to watch me as I headed across the street to the library to research and write.

But I know it won’t last long. I’m familiar with the local anti-choice schedule: typically, an older couple or two old ladies are there for the “first shift” while Faust and the ‘Dicktator’ take over to cover the rest of the clinic’s operating hours. I figured I had exited the building in-between rotating shifts. I peek out the window from time to time expecting the next shift to take over and parade around with their signs.

…but no one comes for the remaining hour and a half the clinic is open. It was…pleasant.

I hope for the day when things go back to the way they were almost two years ago. Women not getting harassed by those who think its their business to tell women their twisted version of the truth because they disagree with abortion. Women not having to rush past protesters as they head into their appointments and be confronted on their way out with anti-abortion propaganda pamphlets. This is how its supposed to be: a sidewalk not clogged with opinionated zealots and the front of a reproductive health care and family planning clinic.

In the meantime, I’ll take the second shift not showing up and enjoy it while it lasts.

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I can’t remember the last time I seen the clinic like this for a long period of time during business hours.

 

Baby steps and not being an activist bad ass

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Not all harassment towards women is of the sexual-type as I’ve seen outside the women’s clinic every other Wednesday.

My husband recently went to an Anti-Flag show and came back home with free reading materials given to him by a band called Sharptooth that were about being supportive of women. One card was about how to stop harassment with “Badass Bystander Moves”. In the earlier days of my activism, I would converse with the local protesters, mainly Faust. After a while, the political, religious, and abortion-related debates got draining because of the way pro-lifers go around in circles to get people to back off. Being the anxiety ridden person I am, it just got to exhausting for me.

I realized much later that those conversations were probably helping as it distracted the protesters from engaging with patients because they were focused on me instead, but I never had any motivation to get back into it. Seeing this card my husband brought home, listing “Distract” as one of its bad ass bystander moves, re-inspired me. “YOU HAVE THE POWER TO END HARASSMENT” it said.

I had to go to the clinic anyways to get more birth control pills and to schedule an appointment for a minor problem I’ve been having, intending to sit on the sidewalk the protesters were making their rounds on afterwards instead of across the street within the comforts of the library. I was a determined badass ready to tackle whatever was

 

…until I saw the three protesters across the street. In that moment, my anxiety issues kicked in. I’m surprised with my anxiety issues that I even made it this far these past almost-two years. It wasn’t the kind of anxiety that I could easily calm down by listening to political rap metal on my headphones, though I thought that would do the trick. My cowering heart felt like it was trying to heavily pound its way out of my chest and I wouldn’t have been surprised to find it pathetically plop onto the floor at any moment. Whatever sort of bravery I felt had dissipated upon the sight of three old people holding signs like “Abortion Hurts Women”…the very same signs they held at the Life Chain I counter protested.

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The protesters usually work in shifts. The first shift (shown here) usually involves two others joining Faust (in middle). Those two will leave Faust around mid-afternoon and then Brian shows up to take their place, sometimes bringing his wife and kids along (especially during the summer).   

I didn’t want to admit it, but the pro-life opinion piece condemning our counter protest had shaken me to my core. Actually, it wasn’t the written piece itself, but the accompanying picture next to it of us holding the sign that was described as vulgar and inappropriate. It felt like they were putting up a Wanted poster. It was just one “pro-death” label and death threats shy from being like the times I heard of extreme activists plastering the picture of a pro-choice activist or abortion clinic worker somewhere. Is taking an unflattering photo and publishing it the worst they could do or would they go to further extremes? It had scared and embarrassed and my resurfaced depression probably added to these negative emotions I felt. I stopped going to the library for a while and only went to the clinic when I had to pick up more pills, trying not to make eye contact as I rushed inside while blasting my music so I couldn’t hear Faust attempts to greet me in that genuine politeness of his. Fearing that it might turn off people to the possibility of ever taking on women’s rights activism, I never told anyone that the aftermath of the Life Chain counter-protest wasn’t something that I easily brushed off.

It was embarrassing and humiliating and still is. But you know what? Its okay to be scared. Its okay to feel uncertain. Its okay to have an activist plan only to chicken out because my anxiety sucks and the plans were too much to handle right now. Its okay if I’m not exactly a badass motherfucker like the political rap metal artist that inspires me to defy those pro-life tyrants in front of my healthcare provider. And its probably okay for me to take tiny baby steps away from the comfort of the library window and onto the same sidewalk I watch those tyrants parade on with their signs every other week.

In the meantime, I have a crisis pregnancy center online chat to log onto and pretend I’m several scared women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. (More on that later).

Some random thoughts on yet another anti-abortion opinion letter.

Faust submitted another one of his pro-life letters to the paper. I don’t find it coincidental that he wrote and submitted one right before the annual pro-life event “March for Life”.

“Regrettable and Avoidable”

On this 45th anniversary of the SCOTUS Roe abortion opinion, there is ample evidence that child killing is regrettable. First are the nearly 60 million lives that have been snuffed out. Second is the collective accumulation of regret by the very women abortion was touted as helping. If abortion is so liberating and positive, why do most women seek other alternatives and use abortion as a last resort? As we converse with women outside the Essential Health Clinic about the dangers and risks of abortion, the most common response is, “That’s why I’m here, to get my contraceptives.” If abortion is so beneficial, contraceptives would never be used. If you get pregnant, simply have an abortion.

The second most common response is, “I would never have an abortion.” This is also why we point them in the direction of real, tangible help without killing the baby should plan “A” fail and they become pregnant. The fact that women change their mind outside clinics moments before they are scheduled to abort is more evidence that they want to avoid it. When help is offered, many women choose life. Even among those who would consider abortion, no one looks forward to that day. It is puzzling that if abortion is so liberating and positive a choice, wouldn’t young girls dream about having one? How absurd. At best, it is a necessary evil which most girls hope they never have to experience. Doesn’t that tell you what the true nature of abortion is like?

To counter this reluctance (and regret from post-abortive women), Planned Parenthood promoted the “Shout Your Abortion” campaign, inviting young women to share their stories. The campaign barely registered a whisper, let alone a shout. The stories are sad and women don’t want to share them, which is more evidence that abortion is regrettable.

Thankfully, abortion is also avoidable. The best resort to assure never having to use the last resort of abortion is abstinence until marriage. Though constantly maligned, abstinence proves itself over and over as the surest way to avoid both the physical and emotional fallout of sex outside of marriage. Those practicing abstinence need never worry about pregnancy, STDs, or the emotional meltdowns that accompany sex outside of marriage.

What a blessing it would be if 2018 was the last year for legalized killing of babies.

—Pastor Sam Faust

I promised myself I wouldn’t respond to anymore letters, but I’m sort of debating it. We’ll see if I actually do, but I will blog some thoughts on it in the meantime (it may or may not sound incoherent as I’m writing on the fly).

A quick argument to some of his points: most women aren’t traumatized by their abortion like he suggests (because…facts, studies, research, and a pro-life surgeon general not siding with pro-lifers because of this science), the Shout Your Abortion campaign was actually fairly successful having gone viral with tens of thousands of women telling their own abortion stories, and I shouldn’t have to explain that abortion isn’t supposed to be used as a form of birth control like Faust sarcastically suggests.

Faust is correct that women don’t look forward to abortion. Well, people don’t look forward to or enjoy chemotherapy either, but many chose it because they feel its right for their situation and the end result can be relief. Some don’t even chose cancer treatments because of their beliefs or they’re too far along in the same sense some women don’t choose abortion for the same reasons. These anti-abortion supporters telling a woman she shouldn’t be allowed to have an abortion because she chose to engage in sex is comparable to telling a lung cancer patient he should be denied treatment because he chose to chain smoke cigarettes for 20 years.

I believe abortion can be positive in the sense that it brings a sense of relief to most women and they go on to leave thriving lives they may have not had if they chose to carry to term.  I know this isn’t the case for every woman who has an abortion, which is why I’m highly supportive of access to accurate information and good resources so women are able to make informed choices they can live with (whether that be parenting, adoption, OR abortion) and to think about what they would do in case of an unplanned pregnancy before one possibly happens.

I can only make an educated guess on what Faust meant by his group pointing women in the direction of “real, tangible help” as he wasn’t specific on the details. Honestly, I would be interested in learning how many women they’ve assisted and what kind of help was offered. Regardless, I would like to point out that the Essential Health can legally confirm a woman’s pregnancy (being they are a legit health provider) and help her obtain benefits like WIC, Food Share, and Badger Care so that she is able to take care of herself and her child. Not to mention vital reproductive healthcare services, birth control options, and sex education and resources on parenting, prenatal care, adoption, and domestic abuse and sexual assault. Unlike the protesters, who are a part of a movement that relies on twisting the truth, the clinic provides medically accurate information on abortion procedures and its risks, which are quite minimal in reality despite anti-abortion supporters saying otherwise. However, the clinic staff had explained to me that due to the clinic’s efforts in greatly curbing unplanned pregnancy through birth control and sex education (which, yes, does include abstinence) only the tiniest fraction of what they do at the clinic is counsel pregnant women and give information and resources regarding pregnancy options. If you ask me, that fits the definition of being real, tangible help.

A real blessing would be if 2018 was the year that Faust and his anti-abortion group of ignorant sidewalk counselors stopped pretending to know the facts (they obviously have not done any sort of research outside what anti-abortion groups say) and left the local women’s clinic and its patients the Hell alone. For nearly two years, the protesters have paraded on the sidewalk in front of the Essential Health Clinic while claiming to be some sort of lifeline for women with a message of help and hope, but their presence at the clinic has not been a positive one. At the very least, the group tries to undermine the medical professionals working inside the clinic by presenting their own version of medical information that has been laced with inaccuracies, falsehood, outright lies, religious-based opinion, highly exaggerated risks, and references to biased studies that have been discredited. Based on my own experiences and the experiences and eyewitness accounts of others, they make women feel uncomfortable at best and harassed, judged, intimidated, and bullied at worst. The clinic staff has admitted there are women that wait until the protesters aren’t at the clinic to stop by, which is more evidence that their presence at the clinic is not positive. One person explained while he was picking up his child from the bus stop, he saw one of the more aggressive protesters chase a woman in crutches down the block while she yelled that she was just there for birth control to regulate her menstrual cycle. Anyone I’ve ever conversed with about this group, including those that are against abortion, has expressed confusion over why there are protesters outside a clinic that doesn’t offer the abortion services they are against and wants to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies by making reliable birth control more accessible to all women. Plus, these sidewalk crusaders act like they’re the ones being victimized whenever any woman has decided she has had enough of being stalked and harassed outside her trusted healthcare provider and stood up to these people. If this pro-life group is as positive, helpful, empowering, and supportive of women as they believe they are, then why is the overall reaction to their actions negative and why are patients trying to avoid them?

The most interesting thing about Faust’s letter is stating that the top two responses he and his group gets from the patients they converse with are “That’s why I’m here, to get my contraceptives” and “I would never have an abortion.” It’s sad that women feel the need to explain their visit with their trusted health care provider to judgmental strangers that have no business being there, but these responses are a huge sign that women are perfectly capable of avoiding abortion without the assistance of sidewalk counselors. Either women are controlling their fertility to greatly lessen the chance of an unwanted pregnancy or women wouldn’t get an abortion if she found they were pregnant regardless of whether they’re taking birth control to prevent a pregnancy when she’s not ready for one. Women who are unsure about what to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy have access to a wealth of accurate information and resources inside the clinic in order to make informed decisions, lessening the chances of making a choice they’ll come to regret later on.

Seriously, Faust and his band of sidewalk counselors need get a clue and realize that their presence is neither wanted nor necessary. It’s time they started leaving women alone and trust them to make their own decisions…in fact, its been long overdue.