Why WACDTF Discourages Counter-Protesting at Area Clinics

Why WACDTF Discourages Counter-Protesting at Area Clinics

Saturday, February 11 will be a day that many different forces in the anti-choice world will be standing in front of Planned Parenthood centers across the nation with their message to defund the organization. If you’re reading this, you’re likely one of the many who support Planned Parenthood and their services (many of which prevent unwanted pregnancy) and reproductive rights. You’re probably riled up by this and want to do something. And you want to show your support, which is wonderful.

Counter-protesting at a local clinic, however, is not an effective and practical means to support women seeking healthcare.

WACDTF’s goals (per its Goals and Guidelines which you can view here) include keeping the clinics open and functioning at the request of the providers. We assist patients and companions to obtain access to these clinics in as much of a calm, stress-free environment as possible. And we do this by adhering to our non-violence policy and our commitment to de-escalate any potential confrontation. There may be anti-choice protesters yelling at patients. Or holding up banners with inaccurate information or graphic images. As clinic escorts, we do not engage. We do not debate. Our role is to support the patients by ensuring access and not to counter-protest.

When even the best-intentioned pro-choice voices are added to the mix, it often escalates the situation. Conversations become louder and often more targeted at patients. The increased number of people makes it harder for patients to access the clinic. And in the very short amount of time when a patient is just trying to get to the front door, it’s hard to distinguish between different groups of people trying to make themselves heard. It’s not helpful to the patients or the clinic.

Jamie J. Hagen wrote a comprehensive piece interviewing clinic escorts and clinicians in different parts of the country. It’s called Read This Before Attending A Counter-Protest At Planned Parenthood: Some important things to consider, and most who were interviewed agree that while counter-protesters are often well-meaning, their presence at the clinic does not help and at times can make things more challenging for the clinic and its patients and employees.

So — the big question: what can we do instead? How can supporters of reproductive choice show their support?

This Facebook Event has some ideas: Stand With Planned Parenthood (DC MD VA). It mentions that February 11 can be a day in which supporters can coordinate a donation drive to inform others in their communities about Planned Parenthood and how beneficial their services are. If you’re closer to Frederick, MD, there is a Stand With Planned Parenthood March which will take place in the center of town (not at the clinic). The march is not a counter-protest but rather a separate event meant to foster positive action and energy, supporting women’s rights & health, Roe v Wade, and empowering all individuals to make informed and responsible reproductive choices.

DC Clinic Escort Training:  Saturday, March 18, 2:30pm, Shaw Neighborhood Library

DC Clinic Escort Training: Saturday, March 18, 2:30pm, Shaw Neighborhood Library

UPDATE: We are now at capacity for our March Clinic Escort training. However, we are still accepting RSVPs for the waitlist should space open up.

We’ve scheduled a new Clinic Escort Training for March. Please visit our Trainings page for further information.

We’re still receiving a very high volume of inquiries about wanting to help with clinic escorting from people like you who want to make a difference in today’s climate. And because of this — as well as the fact that clinic escorting is not a numbers game (meaning more escorts isn’t necessarily better or ideal), there may be a good amount of time before volunteers who have undergone our training are able to escort on a given Saturday or weekday morning. There are also plenty of other ways to get involved to protect gender and reproductive rights; please take a look at “What Can I Do Now?” for some suggestions of where to start.

Coming up soon — our WACDTF Annual Meeting! We’ll announce it here, on social media, and on WACDTF-News. Stay tuned…

Hagerstown, MD Clinic Escort Training – Saturday, January 28

Hagerstown, MD Clinic Escort Training – Saturday, January 28

As our training page indicates, we do have a need for volunteers willing to escort at the clinic in Hagerstown, MD. Hagerstown is a bit further away, about a 1 hour drive northwest from Rockville, MD and 90 minutes east of Baltimore. Thus — transportation would be needed. WACDTF escorts at the clinic most Saturday mornings and may also begin on some weekday mornings.

We’ll be holding our next training session on Saturday, January 28 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at the Washington County Free Library – Central Library Branch in Hagerstown. Please visit our training page or email [email protected] to RSVP or receive further information.

As mentioned on our home page — we’ll be scheduling a DC area training for March, and we will be sure to update our website, Twitter and Facebook when all has been finalized.

Frederick Training for Hagerstown Clinic Escorts – Saturday, January 7

Frederick Training for Hagerstown Clinic Escorts – Saturday, January 7

As our training page indicates, we do have a need for volunteers willing to escort at the clinic in Hagerstown, MD. Hagerstown is a bit further away, about a 1 hour drive northwest from Rockville, MD and 90 minutes east of Baltimore. Thus — transportation would be needed. WACDTF escorts at the clinic most Saturday mornings.

We’ll be holding a training session on Saturday, January 7 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm at Trinity Chapel in downtown Frederick, MD. Please visit our training page or email [email protected] to RSVP or receive further information.

“What Can I Do Now?”

“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 ([email protected]) 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 or email [email protected] 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”

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.

Next WACDTF Escort Training  – July 25

Next WACDTF Escort Training – July 25

We’ll be holding our next WACDTF Clinic Escort Training on Saturday, July 25 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm — at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest DC.  This is right across from the Gallery Pl – Chinatown Metro, accessible from the Red, Yellow and Green lines.

As always, RSVPs are requested but not required — we’d like to know about how many will attend so we can provide the right amount of training materials.  You can visit our Upcoming Trainings page for a form to RSVP or ask any further questions.

Hope to see you there!

WACDTF – The Past, Present and Future

WACDTF – The Past, Present and Future

Many thanks to Emily Gillingham, blogger for Law Students for Reproductive Justice, who wrote a fascinating article about the origins of WACDTF and clinic defense in the Washington, DC area.  She interviews Alicia, a WACDTF member who has been a leader in the organization for quite a while, about the differences in the way we see clinic escorting now as we did previously.  Feel free to take a look:


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