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.