Another week, another attempt by grim-faced politicos to defund Planned Parenthood. Or investigate Planned Parenthood. Or to sit Planned Parenthood down for a stern talking-to*. Or just generally act like women are silly Taylor Swift-loving subhumans who don't deserve healthcare, and sex a joyless chore. If you're not personally a frothing anti-choice dickbag, you may be getting angry. You may have decided that the best way to fight back is to counter-protest the anti-choice crowd that creepily make it their business to invade the privacy of people seeking abortions by standing outside clinics hollering. Well, I've spent some time with the anti-choice crowd. As a young news intern at our sister paper, the Stranger, I even went to Christian-run crisis pregnancy centers (you know, the "Pregnant? Scared?" people) and wrote down all the garbage the well-meaning ladies at those pretend clinics told me about the sanctity of marriage and the dangers of evil, evil abortion. It confirmed my suspicion that I wanted to be a journalist. It also means I've looked deep into the formless void of the anti-abortion propaganda machine, and can share some pro-tips for pulling off a counter-protest, if indeed it is your (commendable) dream:
1. Maybe don't actually do it. I bet you didn't think I was going to lead with that, did you? Ugh, sorry. But the thing about abortion clinic protests is that they're a mass of shouting people taking up valuable real estate and fostering confusion for women who are just there to get healthcare. If you stage a counter-protest, you're adding even more shouting and confusion to the mix. The thing is, someone else accessing perfectly legal care is not the business of protesters. But it's also not yours. Abortion clinics already have people lined up to help patients make it through the crowd and into the clinic. They're called clinic escorts and they are saints. They devote their valuable free time to making sure that patients and their families make it from their cars into the clinic safely and with as minimal unwanted contact with protesters as possible. And guess what! You can be a clinic escort. If you're looking for trainings, Planned Parenthood is a good place to start.
2. Remember that there are other ways to help. Seriously, sign up to be a clinic escort! Are you a medical student full of academic promise and blessed with STEM skills? Join Medical Students for Choice and be a provider. Have you had an abortion? (One in three women will before they turn 45!) #ShoutYourAbortion, as Kelly O did. And if you're harassed at a clinic, report it.
3. You know the old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"? Do that! Trust me, the least-fun place to be is in a shouting match with a person whose hobbies include hollering at ladies about Jesus of a weekday morning. Instead, join the pro-life brigade, and bring a sign. But instead of a sign that says, "Whores go to hell," or whatever, bring one with something patently absurd written on it that will just make the people around you confused. Like, "I like your shoes!" or "Pumpkin spice isn't a real thing!" or "Who's hungry?" Or just stand next to a protester with a sign that says, "NOT ACTUALLY TRUE." I don't know. This is your counter-protest! As inspiration, I recommend a healthy dose of this Tumblr, from Tina and Grayson Haver Currin, a couple in North Carolina who went viral because their counter-protest signs ("I like turtles," "He is single," "Bring back Crystal Pepsi," "Jesus slays!") are so funny.
- Worst. Party favor. Ever.
4. If a pro-lifer hands you a weird, squishy fetus doll (this is a real thing), graciously accept and kindly give them a kumquat in return, because that's actually how big a 10-week embryo is. The more you know!
*I may have made that last one up. BUT JUST BARELY, let's be real.