I volunteer because the war on women’s bodies is very much alive. Battlefields are all over country, including right here in New York City – yes, even with its reputation of being modern and progressive. Anti-choicers come out with the intention of ending abortion and they do it with as much hate and hostility as anywhere else.
On a typical Saturday, the antis arrive early in the morning, and I have to wake up at 5am to get there on time. It’s a trek, a long sleepy ride on the E-Train. Some days, with MTA service interruptions it takes up to 2 hours. I arrive at my destination taking a deep, anxious breath – not ever fully prepared for what’s about to occur.
It is brutal. It’s the truest test to my patience and my mental strength. Getting out there on the front lines is my deepest expression of love for women’s bodies and souls. The women this clinic services come from all different kinds of backgrounds. Many of them are low-income women of color.
There are two ways to perceive abortion. Our opposition adamantly believes it’s murder; we think it’s a medical procedure comparable to any other. But however we personally define abortion, a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body and her life trumps everything else, while the antis believe that they are doing “god’s work” by working to end the murder of babies. I can agree with the fact that abortion ends a life force. It stops the growth of a growing organism. But, the fetus does not exist by itself. It is the extension of a woman’s body, and no one has a right to that extension.
“I said It’s not a baby.”
“You’re suppressing your conscience,” he says.
Our society stigmatizes abortion in a way like no other medical procedure; women are afraid to talk about it. Some women are religious, some are alone and shamed by their families. Some hate themselves for falling into the situation. Her internal struggles may be violent and draining and on the day of the last step of the decision, when she’s ready to have the procedure done, the antis are screaming and yelling.They call her a murderer and tell her to repent. They “speak for god” while shoving falsified images of miscarried fetuses in her face. There is no reasoning; rape, incest or a risk to her health do not shake their convictions. There is no grey in their cold, merciless black and white world.
I escort the patients approaching the clinic, pushing forth as much as compassion as I can give in those 30 seconds. I convince myself that for those few moments I can create a safe cocoon where imposed judgment, loneliness, and their fears disappear. Maybe I provide a small, public space where their choices and courage are loved. Some of the patients express their vulnerability and the antis verbally attack them like vultures for a feed. For hours, I stand outside listening to Bible literalist hate telling me I’m going to be damned for eternity for supporting a “human slaughterhouse.”
We have a responsibility to take this seriously; the anti-choice, clinic protesting movement is growing. Roe is quicksand slipping through our fingers, and politicians are giving the anti-choice movement the power and the platform they need. We are fighting for abortion rights through individual cities. In too many parts of the United States, women are forced to continue their unwanted pregnancies, risking their health and self-realization at the mercy of American politics and this has got to stop.
About the author: The author just returned to the U.S. and is getting her life back together after backpacking for six months. She plans on continuing her work to support anything and everything related to Reproductive, Maternal, Child, and Newborn Health (RMNCH).