#ActForWomen Lobby Day Delegation

By Jordan Wyer, MSW

On May 10, 2018 abortion providers, doctors, activists, faith leaders, and advocates from across the country met in Washington DC to take to the Hill and lobby for the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA; S.510/H.R. 1322). The Act for Women campaign takes aim at Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws and overturning the unnecessary restrictions placed on abortion care.  This federal legislation would prohibit states from imposing restrictions on abortion that apply to NO OTHER MEDICAL CARE, interfere with patient’s personal decision making, and block access to safe, legal abortion care.

Before the lobby day began, delegations from each state attended a training to learn about the bill and the individual needs of their state. A reception following the training gave us all a chance to meet, greet, and eat! Attendees of this reception included WHPA’s first champions, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) who originally introduced the legislation in 2013. We heard from the President and CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, who is familiar with fighting TRAP laws across the country, including the landmark Supreme Court Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellersteadt case decided in 2016. The Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Jessica Gonzales-Rojas, discussed the unique and challenging circumstances faced by the Latinx community seeking reproductive health services. Each presenter expressed the dire need for federal legislation to combat restrictive state legislation and to protect the bodily autonomy of pregnant people. We were motivated by each speaker and ready to head to the Hill the next day.

The next morning, a breakfast meeting was held to pump up delegates for a day on the Hill. Key speakers Lourdes Rivera, the Senior Vice President of US Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Dr. Willie Parker, an OB/GYN and man of faith, and Beatrice Kahn, the President of the National Council of Jewish Women Board of Directors, outlined realities to share with each staffer and representative.  The Michigan Delegation was composed of providers, doctors, and student advocates. We met with the offices of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI).

We had a pretty simple docket compared to other anti-choice areas of the country. We started by visiting the offices of Sen. Stabenow, Rep. Lawrence, and Rep Kildee to thank them for their continued support of WHPA. Each staffer we spoke with was proud of their boss’ stance on protecting abortion rights. Everyone asked us how they could get more involved on the ground in their home state, and we look forward to continuing to work with our State Reps and Senators.

Our challenge for lobby day was to get Rep. Dingell, the ONLY Michigan Democrat to not sign on to this legislation, on board. The Representative is noted as a champion for women’s rights, leaving us to wonder why she has yet to sign on to this legislation. In the spirit of keeping WHPA in the foreground, we are asking everyone we know (especially if they’re in Michigan’s 12th District: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Van Buren, Taylor, or Dearborn) to contact Rep. Dingell’s office and urge her to sign on to the Women’s Health Protection Act because access to abortion should not depend on your zip code!

Her office can be reached at (202) 225-4071. Ask Rep. Dingell to sign on to the Women’s Health Protection Act today! All our representatives can be reached at this number! Call and thank them for their continued support!

Here are some photos of the Michigan Delegation. We can’t wait to return in 2 years and lobby for important and timely legislation!

 The Michigan Delegation outside Sen. Stabbenow's office! #ActForWomen

The Michigan Delegation outside Sen. Stabbenow's office! #ActForWomen

 Michigan takes on the Hill!

Michigan takes on the Hill!

 Sometimes you have to go with gravity! Exhausted but still smiling!

Sometimes you have to go with gravity! Exhausted but still smiling!

 Rep. Dan Kildee's office welcomed two Flint natives! 

Rep. Dan Kildee's office welcomed two Flint natives! 

Abortion Workers are People, Too.

Jordan Wyer, MSW

I worked as a door-to-door salesperson for 4 grueling days in the summer of 2015. One of the most important tricks of this profession are icebreakers. If I could make a connection and start a conversation, I could make a sale. I was instructed to inquire about topics that EVERYONE was open to talk about. I cannot remember the clever acronym they used to remember these topics, but the weather, pets, kids, hobbies, and professions were a few. We could use them to seem relatable and build connections with strangers. How often have we engaged in small talk with someone and heard the phrase, “Oh, what do you do?” After quitting that job, I longed for the next time a solicitor knocked on my door because they would be caught off guard. For an abortion provider, there is always this pause after the profession question. That’s a loaded question. It can quickly turn innocent small talk into a gauntlet of imposing morals on another person.  

When I started working for an abortion provider as a purple-haired, 22-year-old Patient Advocate, I told everyone I worked in abortion care. There was no shame in this game.  I was proud of the work I did to help women and I had no problem helping others confront their feelings on abortion. My confessions were met with smiles, gasps, high fives, dirty looks, praise, and misquoted bible references. In the first few years, I lost touch with close friends and family members who held strong opinions about the reproductive lives of women they would never meet. It was while I was grieving the deterioration of these relationships that I began (slightly) altering my behavior. I was still an avid supporter of the bodily autonomy of pregnant people, I could not see myself working anywhere but abortion care, and I still rocked my purple hair. I was, however, more cautious with who I shared my profession with because I was tired of fighting. I was burned out.

I am a person who values my relationships with my friends, my family and my community. I am patient with those who support others in their life choices, and I no longer wanted to waste my energy with people who do not trust or value my experience in this work. This past week, I was discussing the unglamorous trials, tribulations, and excitement about a coworker’s pregnancy with someone I consider a key member of my chosen family. He is pro-choice. He has supported the choices of women he has loved and understands the reality of abortion. Even with all his experience and understanding of abortion, he said, “I don't know why, but it’s weird that someone who works in a clinic would have a baby.”

“What’s so weird about it? Abortion workers are people, too,” I responded.

This concept seemed so simple to me. Abortions workers, just like anyone else, have dreams, plans, and aspirations for their futures.  Abortion workers are contributing members of society. We go to work. We LOVE our pets (a lot). Some of us spend too much time on social media. We have mortgage payments and road rage. We get married. Some of us WANT to have children and start families. We have tattoos. We are educated. Some of us are pregnant. We work hard. We can be pregnant AND support ALL the choices patients make before coming to our clinics. We sing and dance. Some of us are sports fans. We binge watch shows on Netflix. Some of us travel. Others enjoy the privacy of our own homes. None of us drink enough water. We laugh when we’re happy and cry when we are sad. We are attempting to live our best lives, and we are people, just like you.

It is important that I humanize abortion workers because there is a well-funded and ever-present effort by anti-abortion advocates and supporters to dehumanize us. These efforts have leaked into the fabric of our society, even with pro-choice advocates and abortion patients, clouding the humanity of those who provide abortions. We face real and growing threats of harassment and violence due to the nature of our work. Providers are harassed daily at work by protesters standing outside, at home by the postcards and letters mailed to their personal addresses, and online by cyber bullies who only speak up from behind a keyboard. Clinics have been bombed and doctors have been murdered. All of this committed by individuals who consider themselves, “pro-life.”

I will not stand for this hypocrisy anymore. I will continue to demystify abortion. Abortion is a human right and I will stand up for humankind because abortion workers are people, too.

A Tale of Two Cities

By Jordan Wyer, MSW

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…  and I’m not just referring to the famous opening line of the Charles Dickens novel with the same title as this post. This February, anti-abortion zealots calling themselves “Red Rose Rescuers” had their day(s) in court after orchestrating clinic invasions across the country including Sterling Heights and West Bloomfield, Michigan. In both cases, the defendants were charged with trespassing in the private waiting rooms of two separate women’s health facilities. The verdicts from these cases would set a precedent for anti-abortion violence in the future and I had the opportunity to observe each trial.

Both cases requested a trial, chose jury members, called witnesses to testify, and delivered guilty verdicts to each defendant. However, the evidence presented to the jury was vastly different. Sterling Heights was a circus. West Bloomfield was justice. When the Sterling Heights Court sentenced the invaders to two years non-reporting probation, celebrations of the success of our justice system were overshadowed by the circus the defense created during the trial. In West Bloomfield, the defendants were placed on trial for the crimes they had committed. They were not given the same opportunity to diverge from the facts.

The Worst of Times in the Age of Foolishness

As the opening statements made by the Prosecutor in Sterling Heights indicated, this case was straightforward. None of the defendants would deny entering the center, nor would they deny refusing to leave when asked by staff and police officers.  Though the evidence showed they were obviously guilty of the crimes they committed, the defendants were permitted to preach their objections to the healthcare provided by the clinic from the witness stand. The courtroom was filled with anti-abortion supporters applauding their testimonies. It seemed that abortion, not their actions, was on trial. They made false claims about the safety of abortion. They spread lies about our offices, the care we provide, and the pregnant people we serve. Less than two hours after they were sentenced, the defendants returned to the scene of their crime. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

Abortion is the safest and most common outpatient procedure performed in the country and has been legal for almost 50 years! There are laws in Michigan that prevent family members, partners, and providers from coercing women into abortions and my clinic screens for this type of coercion. We support the dignity of our patients and want to insure they are making the best choice for them. Our facility is licensed with the state of Michigan and has jumped through every hoop placed before us to make sure our doors stay open. We are not national organizers that participated in a national effort to infiltrate clinics and break the law. We are a small, law-abiding business that contributes to our community. We are PROUD to be abortion providers and provide life saving care to our patients.

And though the defendants were provided a soapbox to run our name through the mud, we were shamed into silence and not given an opportunity to defend ourselves because this case was not about abortion.

The Best of Times in the Age of Wisdom

The differences of the trial in West Bloomfield were night and day. The defendants were charged with trespassing & interfering with the police. All evidence presented and testimonies heard were relevant to these charges. The defendants were not be given the opportunity to preach their beliefs. Abortion was rarely mentioned. In the closing statements, the defense attempted to compare the actions of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi to the passive resistance displayed by clinic invaders.  They compared a woman’s right to medical privacy to the holocaust. And the Prosecutor did not stand for it. He drove home the real point: The rights of providers and their patients were violated that day. Per the United States Constitution, women have the right to abortion and an individual’s beliefs cannot infringe on this right. There was no circus or soapbox, only facts in the case, and the jury made their decision based on those facts as our justice system intended.

As providers, we know this is only the beginning and we will celebrate this win! Even though anti-choice activists are exploring new and old methods of disruption and violence, the courts are upholding the laws put in place to protect providers. This case set a precedent. An individual cannot enter a business, be asked to leave, and remain without being arrested even if that business provides abortions. Pro-choice cases have a great record of setting precedents and changing laws; however, trials can be long fights and our abortion providers do not always have the resources and time to follow the path our justice system creates. The next battle may be right around the corner. Support your local providers as they continue to fight on the frontlines and support our right to choose.

Reclaim Commits to a new #vision4abortion!

During this historic week of #roe45, the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized abortion in the US, we have exciting news: more than 140 organizations and leaders committed to a new vision for abortion -- including Reclaim!

It started last year when reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations convened 28 creative leaders committed to creating culture change around abortion. These leaders became the Culture Change Strategy Group (CCSG). They are advocates, researchers, media makers, artists, health professionals, pastors, communicators, policy experts, activists and more. The group produced a vision for changing the culture around abortion. And as of now, more than 140 (and counting!) organizations and leaders have signed on to this vision.

The vision is audacious, because they asked an audacious, unbridled question:

What if our wildest dreams about abortion culture became reality? What are those dreams?

Here is what the group came up with, and what we and many other organizations decided to align around:

We Are Working For A Future Where:

  1. Abortion is understood as a basic human right, an essential part of healthcare, and a normal part of life.

  2. Everyone can access safe and affordable abortion regardless of age, class, race, gender identity, ability, geography, immigration status, and insurance status.

  3. Providers and people who have abortions are supported and respected and do not fear or experience judgment, stigma, discrimination, violence, or criminalization.

  4. All people can talk openly about abortion with sensitivity to the complexity and nuances of individual experiences.

  5. Every person is able to make personal decisions about abortion based upon their own beliefs and values.

  6. Media supports the dignity and diversity of individual reproductive decisions and decision makers. Media truthfully and authentically represents abortion and refrains from sensationalizing the experience.

If this vision resonates with you, join us on social media with #vision4abortion

You can find, follow, and share posts this week on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Together, we are starting 2018 with a clear vision for culture shift.

And together, we are showing the world what is possible.

My Internship with Abortion Providers

When I started my internship at Northland Family Planning, I was not familiar with the many components of abortion care, and I had little understanding of what providers faced on a day-to-day basis. During my first week interning, I was entering through the clinic doors while a protestor shouted, “Don’t do this, mom. Come talk to us, we can help you! Don’t kill your baby!” This action was shocking. I can only imagine what this harassment must feel like for those seeking our services. Protestors operate under the assumption that pregnant people frivolously make the decision to have an abortion; however, from my internship I know the opposite to be true. Pregnant people need abortions for a variety of reasons and none of these reasons make the decision simple. Within the first month of my internship, Northland Family Planning’s Sterling Heights office was invaded by an anti-choice group. The brazen action of these five individuals and their disregard for city ordinances and law enforcement was stunning. This incident (and threats of more to come in the future) further solidified my awareness of the need for increased activism and awareness of these issues within pro-choice communities.

It is often assumed that since the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal and easily accessible for all. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Anti-choice groups have spent the past 40 years slowly chipping away at the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Today, many pregnant people must travel across state lines to access abortion care. This is expensive and can require childcare, hotel fees and travel expensive. Waiting periods create another obstacle, like the 24-hour waiting period in Michigan, because it can elongate that process and make it even more difficult for women to seek and afford abortion care. My experience at Northland Family Planning brought to the forefront the truth that most people are not aware of these difficulties faced by individuals seeking abortion care. The ever-present shame and stigma surrounding abortion prevents most individuals from sharing their story and coming forward; therefore, most people do not know the hoops women are required to jump through until they or someone they love seeks an abortion.

My internship taught me there is a need for active participation in the pro-choice fight. Our legislators are continuously targeting the right to safe, legal, and accessible abortions and we must stay involved to combat these attacks. If access to abortion is important to you, now is the time to speak up! Call you Representatives and tell them to stop these attacks on reproductive health care. We need to be aware of the legislation and actions of anti-choice groups in order to combat restrictive legislation that is constantly up for vote. 

Reclaim will keep you up-to-date on this fight! If you would like to be added to Reclaim’s email list and be informed of events and activism opportunities click here! If you are interested in donating your time to become a clinic escort, click here!

Reclaiming Our Time with Reclaim

The Detroit Women's Convention: The Future is Female.

Jordan Wyer, MSW

The Women’s March

Around this time last year, I was devastated to learn the results of the election, and as an employee of an abortion provider, I could not fathom the road to hell the results of this election would pave. The next day, I attended my social work lessons and cried with my classmates as we discussed what it would be like to advocate for the oppressed under the next administration. It felt as though the early mornings I spent registering voters, the coffee consumed to keep on the campaign trail, and the outreach I had done for the previous 3 months had been a waste. Like many of us, I woke up on November 9 feeling empty and alone; however, social media presented a glimmer of hope when they announced someone (or groups of some ones) were organizing a Women’s March on Washington DC for January 21, the day after inauguration.

Initially, my colleagues and I planned on attending the March in DC; however, life got in the way and our last minute planning made it impossible. As I succumbed to my depressive state, I decided not to attend any local marches. On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I went to my favorite bagel place in Ferndale, Michigan to drown my sorrows in cream cheese and carbs where I met a woman and her partner in line. We discussed the resistance and they were on their way to the March at Wayne State University. Something about this encounter motivated me to attend the march so I went home, grabbed my dog and a friend, and headed to Detroit. Over 400 people had gathered for our own local march, and this was the first time in over 2 months that I felt the unity and power of the progressive movement. We were chanting as we marched and gathered for a dance party in the Wayne State commons. It was beautiful.  

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The Convention

Gathering with other folks resistant to the Trump administration fueled my activist fire. However, like many others, I did not know what the next steps entailed and did not know how to engage everyone I met in a cohesive movement. I had never attended a national convention and could not imagine an event that could coordinate the dreams and actions of so many diverse individuals. All of this changed after attending the Detroit Women’s Convention October 27-29. A few weeks before the convention, I was blessed to meet with a member of the local host committee who was in search of representation from local organizations. Reclaim, my supervisor, and I received a scholarship to attend the conference and join their list of Social Justice City organizations.

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Though I outlined every session I wanted to attend each day, I lost track of time at the Reclaim table as I was engrossed in introducing local residents to our work, networking with other local organizations about future collaborations, and asking out-of-state attendees to fill out a postcard to their Senators about the 20-week abortion ban and calling their local Crisis Pregnancy Centers to assist in the #ExposeFakeClinics action. During this convention, I was able to share the stories of domestic terrorism experienced by independent abortion providers, foster support for future events, and gain over 160 new Reclaim followers. 

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I did not pull myself away from the table until the fourth breakout session where I attended The Role of Cities in Protecting Reproductive Freedom. This session outlined the importance of locals demanding comprehensive sex education and reproductive access in their communities. Panelists from the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH), & Northland Family Planning (NFP) began the conversation with a background on their respective organizations as well as the success and struggles they have faced protecting reproductive freedoms at the local level. NIRH developed a Local Reproductive Freedom Index star rating, ranking cities across the United States on their current capacity to meet the reproductive needs of their communities. MOASH created a sexual health board of youth members to give voice to the needs of adolescents when it comes to reproductive health. NFP discussed the effects of protestors on local law enforcement ability to protect clinics. Though the information presented by the panelists was invaluable, the audience discussion that followed was remarkable. Women from all over the country applauded the successes of the NIRH study and sought guidance on how to replicate it in their hometowns. The group brainstormed ideas and made connections with fellow activists in their communities. The final question explored how to move forward and the answer was clear: 1) more women need to run for local office to increase their representation and 2) more effort must be placed on eliminating the shame and stigma surrounding abortion!

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The Lesson

It is impossible to pick the best session of the convention; however, I would be doing all readers a disservice if I did not discuss the Sojourner Truth Lunch with keynote speaker, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Thousands attended this luncheon, held in the main hall of the convention. A panel of local Detroit activists discussed the importance of intersectionality in their activism. Emily’s List President, Stephanie Schriok, brought tears to my eyes as she first asked every woman currently holding a position in office to rise followed by every woman planning on running for office in the next election. The room erupted with applause as we focused on the 2018 elections.  Congresswoman Waters brought down the house as she asked us to get involved in changing our democracy while leading a chant, “Impeach 45!”

 "We are waging our own war against rape and sexual assault!" -- Congresswoman Maxine Waters 

"We are waging our own war against rape and sexual assault!" -- Congresswoman Maxine Waters 

 

The most emotional and moving part of this luncheon was when a young girl performed Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?” poem. While she started strong, the emotion of the moment caught up with her and she forgot the next line. While awaiting the saving grace of the script, the entire room stood, applauded and cheered for her. She finished with the same enthusiasm she began with and the room erupted. This was the defining moment of the Women’s Convention for me. It did not matter that she forgot the words. It did not matter that she panicked as she tried to remember. It did not matter what race, religion, or cause she represented. All that mattered was the support she received from the crowd as she regained her footing and crossed the finish line.  As we move forward, we must remember to stand up for one another. We will not be successful if we keep ourselves in silos and if we do not show up! This movement will fizzle without all of us. Raise and center the voices of people of color! Elect progressive women! The future is female, and we are a force.

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The Hypocrisy of the "Pro-Life" Movement

The anti-choice movements love to emphasize their “pro-life” ideals but are they really for life?

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An article from Cosmopolitan this week, focuses on the silence of the anti-choice movement on the fetal deaths caused by the lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan. She states that the average number of births per woman is down significantly in comparison to other Michigan cities. This is most likely due to the spike in miscarriages and fetal deaths in relation to contaminated water.

            So, this begs the question, where are the “pro-life” advocates in Flint? If so called “pro-lifers” really want to preserve the sanctity of life, why haven’t they directed their efforts toward Flint politicians?

            An article from Huffington Post points out that most anti-choice groups also want to cut government funding to programs that can help mothers and their children, such as, WIC and food stamps. Their interest lies in “protection” of the fetus until it is born while newborns and their mothers are met with a complete lack of compassion from “pro-life” groups. They have little to no interest in helping impoverished children and would prefer to utilize their time outside of clinics shaming women. They show no interest in increasing minimum wage to increase quality of life for young working mothers and their children, who still cannot afford life’s necessities.

According to a study done by the Guttmacher Institute, banning abortion does not cut abortion rate, but instead promotes unsafe abortions, putting women’s lives in danger. How can someone be “pro-life” and not allow women access to this procedure? If abortion is not accessible, pregnant people will go to extreme measures to end their pregnancies.

            Healthcare is another glaring issue with the anti-choice movement. In an article by Vice, they discuss how the “pro-life” movement’s vendetta with Planned Parenthood demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of the innerworkings of the organization and all the other services it provides for both men and women. Vice put it best when they said if anti-choice people actually cared about people who can get pregnant and their healthcare they would, “join hands with us to expand access to healthcare so women could get the birth control they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the healthcare we need to carry healthy pregnancies to term.”          

Another key issue is activism for gun control, or lack thereof within the anti-choice community. An article from Upworthy, talks about the coverage Trevor Noah did on “pro-lifers” who hold relaxed views on gun control. He asks the question “if pro-lifers are so concerned about the preservation of all lives, then why don’t they support common-sense gun control measures?” This article was focused around the time of the Republican primary and the mass shooting that happened in Oregon. Noah compared statements from the Republican primary candidates. On the shooting, Jeb Bush said “Look, stuff happens. There is always a crisis” and on abortion he said, “I’m completely pro-life, and I believe that we should have a culture of life.” This is blatant hypocrisy of choosing what parts of life he wants to support.

            Which leads into the hypocrisy of support for the death penalty. In an article for CNN, they quote Mike Christian, a pro-life Oklahoma state representative speaking about the death penalty saying “I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to lions.” These extreme views in favor of the death penalty do not align with the rhetoric of the “pro-life” movement. Another instance of hypocrisy.  

            Next time someone says they are “pro-life” take a moment to consider how standing outside of clinics shaming women saves lives.

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Where to Draw the Line: The Role of Noise Ordinances on the Anti-Abortion Agenda

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Last month, anti-abortion clinic activity made headlines across the country as state courts made decisions regarding noise ordinances and permits in their area. Anti-abortion activists believe they are practicing their right to free speech while pro-choice advocates argue that excessive verbal altercations should be categorized as harassment imposing on a woman’s constitutional right to choose. Let’s get some background on the noise ordinances currently called into question today.

The first case comes from the 1st United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Maine where an anti-abortion protestor, Andrew March, challenged the noise provision that has protected reproductive health facilities for over 20 years, specifically, Portland’s Planned Parenthood. The ordinance was created in 1995 and gained support from anti-abortion AND pro-choice organizations. Anti-abortion advocates did not want protestors outside of Crisis Pregnancy Centers while pro-choice advocates wanted to reduce the number of protestors outside of clinics. It was suggested that this compromise would create and environment that would deescalate strong feelings as well and reduce the likelihood of “tragic violence” at any facility.  Though March believed enforcing this ordinance infringed on his first amendment right, the Court of Appeals ultimately decided that March’s voice should not be heard within the medical building in order to protect the rights of patients seeking medical care.

Next up, Charlotte, North Carolina reassessed the way amplified sound permits are obtained in order to protect North Carolina’s busiest abortion clinic, A Preferred Women’s Health Center. The system of permit application was put into place over 15 years ago to create fairness, improve efficacy and ensure access to reproductive healthcare; however, anti-abortion groups were able to obtain the amplified sound permit 80% of the time utilizing an email server that would send over 300 email permit requests in less than 5 minutes. Now, the city has changed it’s policy, so that applications must be completed through the city’s website and eliminate the use of automated email servers. Again, the line between free speech and the right to harassment-free medical care is called into question. Though this is a step in the right direction with patient protection, only time will tell. For more information on A Preferred Women’s Health Center and the struggles they face with protestors, check out the mini-documentary, Care in Chaos, from Rewire.

The final case began in Grand Rapids, Michigan when city native, Stephen Nylen, was silenced for breaching the city’s noise ordinance and “Breach-of-the-Peace” Ordinance. Though a majority of the noise complaints were made outside a Grand Rapids abortion provider, he also preaches in public places including parks, sidewalks, and festivals. Nylen has filed a lawsuit that has yet to be addressed by the city. Though the ordinance in Grand Rapids does not have a clear definition of “noise,” their ordinance does indicate that any speech containing content that listeners do not like can result in arrest.

Post-election, many anti-abortion protestors are emboldened by the President’s stance on abortion and the increase in violence overall due to his presidency and what he represents. By attacking city noise ordinances, anti-abortion activists have started to chip away at the protections put in place years ago.  We must begin to ask ourselves where to draw the line. Is the harassment outsides clinics exercising or abusing our right to free speech? Where is the line between free speech and these harassment and bullying tactics? Providers know this is only the beginning when it comes to clinic harassment, but should they (as small businesses) be subjected to constant police interaction, increased security, and possible “tragic danger” that were predicted over 20 years ago? Only time will tell.

Interested in combatting clinic harassment. Join In This Together Project’s escort team today! 

If you’re unable to come to the clinics, please consider a donation to Reclaim’s work as they continue to bust the shame and stigma of the abortion experience or their MI WIN fund to help women afford their procedures. Donate Today!

"Trust Women."

What Dems Fail to Recognize About Abortion Access and A Woman's Role in the Democratic Party. 

By Jordan Wyer, MSW

 August 10, 2017

Two weeks ago the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ben Ray Lujan, announced that the Democratic Party does not have a litmus test on abortion and would not withhold funding from Democratic candidates because they are anti-choice. They hope this departure (from sanity) will secure more Dem seats in districts currently held by Republicans. Though the Democratic Party does not have a current litmus test for any issue, I cannot help but wonder why abortion rights and access were specifically singled out. The Chairman said the party would now focus on a “Better Deal” that will focus on economic stability, job growth, wages, and burdens on family. Well, I hate to break it to you Mr. Lujan, but the right for women to choose the circumstances in which they start a family and access safe and affordable abortion care plays a major part in all of these goals and does not alienate Democratic voters from the values they hold dear.  

With 85% of Democrats and 7 out of 10 Americans overall supporting a woman’s right to choose, the Democratic base values a woman’s right to choose what is best for her reproductive health. I have a hard time imagining a Democratic Party that does not support progressive taxation and immigration policy, or a party that would deny our older generation Social Security and folks of color civil rights. Why are women’s rights on the chopping block? This has nothing to do with abortion, but the disrespect of a woman’s basic personal right to her own body.

I know the results of the last election had us shook, but abandoning the party's founding values and beliefs to coddle misogynistic voters is not how we want to win. Grow some ovaries and stand behind the values (and women!) that built the Democratic Party.

So, let's say it one more time for those in the back, a woman's basic human right is not negotiable. ABORTION IS HEALTHCARE. ABORTION IS A HUMAN RIGHT. 

Reclaim & IN THIS TOGETHER PROJECT

Jordan Wyer, MSW 7/26/17

Anti-abortion protestors are nothing new to abortion providers. These zealots stand outside abortion clinics with graphic signs and use emotionally abusive language aimed at intimidating providers, staff, escorts, and patients passing by. Many clinics use security guards and escorts in order to monitor the activities outside the clinic while the staff provides care inside.  Reclaim is proud to introduce our partner in holistic clinic escort care, the In This Together Project (ITTP). I sat down the founder of ITTP, Jessica Gird, to get some details about this new and amazing project.

The idea for ITTP came out of Gird’s own experience receiving substandard abortion care over 20 years ago, and the emotional confusion that followed. “I wasn’t sad that I had an abortion,” Gird recalls, “I had so many feelings that I didn’t know what to do with and I didn’t know where to look for the support I needed.” Since then, she has dedicated all her free time to the In This Together Project.

Gird recognizes that abortion is about much more than a simple medical procedure, because of the deeply emotional process some women also experience.  ITTP creates a holistic, caring, and safe support space for patients and staff through their clinic escort volunteer program.  ITTP visibly supports and affirms bodily autonomy and choice, raises the standard of care for independent abortion providers, and busts the stigma that surrounds abortion.

In regards to her own experience and experiences shared with her as an escort, Gird explains, “I think its safe to say that some providers in the area are giving women substandard care and I’m not okay with that. I want this project to show abortion providers are welcoming and approachable.” Through escorting, Gird has been able to make this idea a reality.

Jessica has taken traditional clinic escorting into her own hands by training new escorts to follow a strict, non-engagement style. Through these trainings, she hopes that volunteers see the significance of their work. Gird expects her escorts to analyze the real reasons why they are coming out to the clinics.  “This is not a space for counter protests or to voice your thoughts and opinions. We are not there to exploit [the patient’s] experience and create chaos. Our job as escorts is to make sure that the patient’s path to the clinic doors is accessible and trauma-free.” She adds, “Counter protests are important, but this is not the space for that.”

The In This Together Project has used their small and mighty capacity to make big change! They currently provide “Power Packs” to patients as they enter the clinic. These bags contain items meant to comfort patients during every stage of their appointment.  Coloring books and myth-busting zines help patients pass the time while waiting.  After the procedure, sanitary pads with affirmations (“you are loved”) and packets of tea for anxiety and nausea provide small comforts. Even after leaving the office, ITTP continues to care for patients. “Power Packs” also contain a card with contact information for women seeking supportive services post abortion.  Gird’s dream is to create a support network that does not try to sway women’s decisions, but provide an environment to safely and supportively discuss any choice.

Are you interested in becoming a clinic escort? Contact ITTP at InThisTogetherProject@gmail.com to get involved. They ask a simple minimum time requirement of ONE Saturday per month (for 2 hours); however, Gird’s aspires to create a strong base of escorts to increase support and reduce burnout. They especially need escorts for a clinic in the Saginaw/Flint area. Please indicate if you are willing to travel to this location in your inquiry!