Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force

P.O. Box 21796 * Washington, DC 20009 * 202.681.6577 * info@wacdtf.org

News

“What Can I Do Now?”

We’ve been getting a LOT of emails this past week. Our web page hits have gone through the roof.  The results of Tuesday’s election have been a shock to the system, and many, many people have been reaching out to help.  We thank you for this.

We have a training scheduled for November targeting volunteers who could donate time during the week to be clinic escorts. We expected that we would get about 15 people who were interested and had the availability when we booked the room.  The number blew up over the next 48 hours as we exceeded capacity of the location we had reserved. That’s why we’ve announced that we are at capacity for this training and are no longer taking RSVPs. (While we usually accept walk-ins for our trainings, we ask that you do not just show up — as we will be moving the location to a different room which will also be at capacity. We’ll email the participants who RSVP’d first to provide this information.)

This has brought up a few questions about our training opportunities, and we’re posting this to answer them:

You have so many people who want to volunteer. Why not just set up an additional training right away?

Some would say that WACDTF has a “wonderful” problem — which is that so many volunteers wish to participate! We love the enthusiasm and commitment you all have to protecting reproductive rights. So the solution here would be to engage and mobilize as many volunteers as possible, right?

Not exactly.

Clinic escorting is not a numbers game. Our clinic coordinators at each location have worked out how many escorts are needed on a given day to help maintain a smooth operation swiftly allowing patients and companions to gain access without being overwhelming.  Since our Goals and Guidelines state that we seek “to keep the entire location as calm as possible,” we need to be precise about our numbers. “More” doesn’t necessarily mean “better” when we’re talking about clinic escorting and defense. We don’t want our numbers to escalation tension with anti-choice protesters, patients, companions, or any other passers by.

Because we have so many existing clinic escort volunteers with a limited number of escorting slots available, we’re limiting training only to when and where additional escorts are needed.

I know of different women’s clinics in the area which provide abortion services without a WACDTF clinic escort presence. Some of these clinics even have protesters present! Why can’t we just allocate volunteers there?

Also in our Goals and Guidelines we explain that WACDTF clinic escorts act “at the invitation of the clinics.” That means that WACDTF has a positive, strong relationship with each of the clinics with which we work, helping to meet the needs of patients entering and exiting the clinics while maintaining constructive communication.

We’ve reached out to many different clinics in the Washington, DC area (and beyond) advising how we can assist. While there have been clinics which choose to work with us, there are others who have chosen not to for different reasons. And that’s okay.  WACDTF will not place volunteers at a clinic without a specific invitation to do so.

If you are aware of a clinic in the area which which has personnel who have expressed that clinic escorts would be helpful, please have the clinic director or administrative staff contact WACDTF directly.

Why not maintain a “wait list” of volunteers who are ready to step in once a volunteer opportunity to escort is available?

We are fortunate to live in an amazing metropolitan area filled with wonderful, politically and socially active volunteers. Some are here as students, others as interns, others serving our military, some working in politics. We have many who have settled down in the DC area, and many who are making DC their home for a short while.

Because our volunteer population tends to shift around a bit, it’s difficult to determine if someone is able to serve as a clinic escort further down the line. Or if they’ve moved to a different part of the area. Or if they no longer have access to a vehicle. Or if they no longer have access to weekday mornings.  And since we prefer that escorts take a “refresher training” if they haven’t been active for a while, it makes better sense to provide training once and then have opportunities available at that time.

I have a car! I’m willing to travel! (Within reason.) Can I help elsewhere?

If you have transportation and are willing to travel about 70 miles from the DC and Baltimore Beltways, WACDTF escorts regularly at a clinic in Hagerstown, MD. Since it is much further out, escort training is coordinated separately from our DC area trainings. If you’re interested, please contact site coordinator Alicia (alicia@wacdtf.org) for further information.

I understand that WACDTF is at capacity. But I need to do something!  I need to take action to ensure that reproductive and abortion rights remain for us as a new administration is ushered in. What can I do?

We encourage those interested in volunteering to contact other local organizations working on abortion access, such as the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF). DCAF makes grants available to those who are pregnant in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as those traveling to the area, who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion. DCAF needs case managers to work directly with patients, as well as volunteers who are interested in helping with event planning, development, writing, advocacy, and other projects.

If you are interested in volunteering with DCAF, please visit http://dcabortionfund.org/volunteer or email volunteer@dcabortionfund.org for more information.

There are also organizations which you can support financially. Jezebel has come up with a list of organizations for which your donation can help.  Some of the organizations dealing with reproductive rights issues are:

  • The Center for Reproductive Rights is the world’s foremost legal advocate for securing women’s access to quality reproductive health care. Donate here.
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America is a political advocacy group focused on fighting for women’s reproductive rights and freedom. Click here to donate and here to volunteer.
  • The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America which represents those who make reproductive choice a reality. Click here to donate.
  • Planned Parenthood is the country’s leading sexual and reproductive healthcare provider. Click here for nationwide volunteer opportunities and here to donate. Local chapters also list more extensive volunteer opportunities, so take a look at your specific chapter for more. (DC / MD / VA)
  • The Reproductive Health Access Project is a non-profit that trains clinicians to make quality reproductive healthcare more accessible. Click here to donate.

WACDTF also accepts financial donations. Check out our Donate page for more information about how you can help. You can even register WACDTF as your charity of choice using Amazon Smile.

You can also contact your elected officials at the Federal and State levels to make sure they are aware of your position on reproductive rights. You can find your elected officials here.

And also? Have conversations. Talk to people you agree with on reproductive rights issues as well as those who don’t agree with you.  Let them know why you feel the way you do. Let them know your concerns. Educate them about clinic escorting and why it is important — whether they are local or live in a different area.

Once again — we thank you all again for your support. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

ThinkProgress: “Meet The People Who Provide Protection At Abortion Clinics”

With the recent surges of violence which have been directed at Planned Parenthood and other health clinics, the subject of clinic protection and security has been discussed quite a bit. We’re grateful that there are so many who are volunteering or are expressing interest in clinic escorting.

A ThinkProgress article published today tells the story of several clinic escorts — including Paul Valette, a clinic escort and leader within WACDTF.  Many thanks to Paul and the other clinic escorts who help clinics and their patients and companions remain safe.

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/12/09/3729440/clinic-escort-stories/

Clinic Escorting in the U.K.

First, an unrelated note:  Our new website went live this week. Thanks to all of you who have tested it and provided feedback!  Be sure to “Contact Us” if you have any comments or questions.

This is a fascinating article from a few days ago:  it follows escort Emma Campbell as she volunteers on her shift at the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast.  It’s interesting to see what the climate is like for patients, companions and escorts in a country with far more restrictive laws encroaching upon reproductive rights.  Yet some of the narrative seems quite familiar to those of us who escort in the USA.

“I Get Called a ‘Child Killer’ and a ‘Satanist’ – What it’s Like to Be an Abortion Chaperone in Northern Ireland”