For the last five weeks, I have been serving as a clinic escort for the Women’s Health Specialists in Sacramento. My job is to protect clients entering the clinic from harassment. This experience has truly exposed how far away we are from truly accessible abortion care.
I’m often told that women’s rights or women’s health care has already been achieved, that feminism is a thing of the past, that our current world is free of sexism or gender injustice.
Those claims — claims that argue that our work is done — often run through my head while I stand in front of 25 anti-choice protesters telling me that I am a murderer or “anti-women.”
According to their website, The 40 Days for Life “is a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting and peaceful vigil to end abortion.”
However, during this “pro-life,” anti-choice campaign, my experience has not been peaceful. Yelling at cars, following within a foot of me whispering about my supposed “sin” is not peaceful. Telling me that I “hate” women is not passive prayer. Although we have an ideological difference, I do believe that these people have a right to protest me, in the same way I have a right to protest them.
But this is not just standing up for their belief or their god. These protesters spread scientifically false medical information, telling clients as they drive by that abortions cause breast cancer or “birth control kills.” This has been proven false — the American Cancer Association has repeatedly stated abortions do not cause breast cancer.
The Women’s Health Specialists, in addition to providing abortions, have an adoptions program. Women’s Health Specialists provide free birth control, pregnancy screenings and pap smears regardless of gender, sexual orientation, documentation or insurance coverage. These services give women choices — choices to control and predict their pregnancies and reproductive health.
Working as an escort has revealed that achieving reproductive justice is not so near. It has shown me that in a country of “progress” we still have huge barriers to overcome for women to be able to have autonomy and control over their health and their futures.
Fourth-year women and gender studies major