Borrowed from our friends at In This Together Project.
I’ve had a love affair with Northland Family Planning since summer of 2016. The first time I had a taste of how NFP was different from other abortion care spaces, was the first day that I escorted with them. I have been involved in reproductive justice since 1998, after my own abortion experience. When I walked away from that experience it was without shame, regret, or apology. This was a service that I NEEDED at 19 years old, after surviving sexual assault. My experience was unique. I did not encounter protestors. I was not stopped during my entrance to the clinic. There were no barriers for me. I had a supportive mother and the funds available. I was definitely in a place of privilege despite the trauma of how I’d gotten pregnant. My abortion experience informed my activism. It reiterated the necessity of abortion care as part of reproductive healthcare for me and all who needed it. I read everything I could about abortion. I read about Planned Parenthood, and Roe v. Wade, and obsessively watched If These Walls Could Talk, all the while never having any doubt about how much we need to protect abortion care providers.
The first time I would see ACTUAL protestors and clinic escorts would be some years later, in Aurora, Illinois, at the Planned Parenthood location in the Chicago suburbs. They were loud, they were mean, they were terrorists. The way they shamed the patients of this clinic for seeking any type of services, from birth control to abortion care was something I was not prepared for. Those entering the building were being informed of their immorality, of their “sins against Christ”, and of their failures as women. I remember leaving that clinic after my first shift that day and sobbing for the patients seeking services. They were being abused and traumatized for what I believe to be a normal part of reproductive healthcare. This should have been a space of peace, support, and safety to assist the patients walking through a day that no one ENJOYS being part of. This experience SUPER CHARGED my activism, and my desire to create a safe space for ALL PEOPLE involved in the abortion care experience, from patient to provider, and everyone in between.
Today, I am a WE. Myself and the rest of the crew of In This Together Project work directly with the Northland Family Planning clinics to ensure our patients have EVERYTHING they need to walk through this process. The In This Together Project clinic escorts are a group of volunteers who are dedicated and committed to working alongside Northland Family Planning in creating a space that is supportive, affirming and safe for EVERY patient that walks through our doors. When you see us in our rainbow vest’s, with our hands confidently motioning you into our parking lots through any protest action that may be present, please know that you are entering a bubble. This is a bubble we’ve created with NFP that is comprised of compassion, non-judgement, and emotional support. We are there to make sure YOU are taken care of, to make sure that YOU know, we support YOU in whatever decisions are best for YOU.
What we do not support are acts that shame, humiliate, dehumanize, or terrorize anyone seeking reproductive healthcare and abortion services. We are there to ensure access to the clinic in a harassment and trauma free environment. It is with our sincere sadness and regret we are not able to remove protest actions from the sidewalks of our property, and we are often unsupported legally due to the current conservative administration in D.C., and local political lawmakers that remain ambivalent to choice aligned options, or subscribe to conservative values not in line with abortion care services. However, that being said, the clinic escorts found at NFP, place patient experience and the availability of ALL options of ALL people in need, in front of what we find to be abusive and reprehensible behavior found in the anti-choice movement. We may not be able to shut them down, but we ARE able empower our patients and those that support them in a variety of ways.
Protested spaces can be incredibly confusing, especially at abortion care facilities. Between the voice amplification, the signs, the manipulation tactics, and disturbing language entering the clinic spaces on days protestors are present, it is easy to misunderstand who is a friend and who is a foe. Protestors prey on people in difficult circumstances. They operate under many of the tactics in which cults recruit new members. They are seen on the sidewalks of abortion care facilities, often times utilizing voice amplification devices, and making attempts to hand out religious based, anti-abortion “tracks” to patients entering the clinic space. We CANNOT stress enough PATIENTS, DO NOT TAKE THESE HANDOUTS. They contain NOTHING that is medically accurate. These tracks are designed to emotionally intimidate people seeking abortion care. The Northland Family Planning facilities offer comprehensive resources regarding an unplanned pregnancy. The escorts with In This Together Project and the staff at NFP will be able to supply you with all the resources and information you need no matter if your journey is abortion, adoption, or parenthood, in a medically accurate context, and a supportive environment COMPLETELY free from bias, emotional manipulation, and coercion. The protestors are there to create chaos and to confuse people. Just remember IF THEY ARE OFF OUR PROPERTY, THAT IS A PROTESTOR. Keep your windows up, don’t engage, and look for the rainbow vests of In This Together Project escorts. You are NOT out here alone.
We have spent many a day, in the presence of magical women who have allowed us to be part of their journey. We have held hands, and wiped tears and given out hugs after guiding patients inside. We have been thanked and appreciated for being kind or simply “there” during moments that can be painfully private, isolating, confusing, and exhausting. In a space where so many are judged so harshly, we have been the calm. In these moments, when patients are expressing gratitude or appreciation, in tears, and just relieved to have the support they need to manage their day, it is us that are truly grateful. We are grateful that you allowed us to be of service to you. In every possible way, “it takes a village” and we will always be part of this little NFP village.
If you are reading this prior to your appointment date, and if you have any questions about what to expect during your time at NFP, please do not hesitate to contact us at InThisTogetherProject@gmail.com. Appointments are 4-6-hour days and we understand how frustrating and upsetting unwanted engagement can be during this time. We are here to help you navigate this.
In respect, love, service and solidarity,
Lucy Fyre and the ITTP Crew
For more information on getting involved and volunteering with ITTP find us at InThisTogetherProject.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram @ITTProject.