Ways You Can Help Us

by Laurie Bertram Roberts

Wednesday September 25th was the kickoff of the anti choicers 40 days for life campaign.  I like to call it 40 days of judging and shaming women or 40 days of lies. This is a great time for people to show how much they support the last remaining independent abortion provider in Mississippi.

People frequently ask us how they can help the escorts do what what we do at the clinic so here is a list of things we could use to make our job easier. Of course we always take good old fashion money our paypal account is accessed using mississippiNOWprez@gmail.com if you donate via paypal please specify whether you want your donation to go for abortion funding or clinic defense (donations are being handled by the Mississippi chapter of NOW and ALL funds donated go to clinic defense or abortion funding NOT other chapter activities).

Just to make things interesting we will be tweeting a count of the protesters at the clinic on the days we are there so you and your friends can pledge to send a dollar or fifty cents for every protester that we have during the largest protest day. Your help is needed and appreciated.

If you are in our area and/or have these items please contact us.

external hard drive or large flash drive

hand held digital camcorder

16 or 32 GB memory cards for cameras (for legal observing)

Umbrellas (the big sturdy kind)

rain ponchos (big ones and  smaller ones)

boombox

C batteries

sunscreen

We are always in need of cases of water we use A LOT of water!

If you post messages of thanks and support for the doctors and staff we will be sure they get them.

We greatly thank all of you for your support.

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An Open Letter to Antiabortion Protesters

Great piece! Features a pic of JWHO protest regular Cal Zastrow

Abortion - Abortion Clinics, Abortion Pill, Abortion Information

ImageYou are forever talking about what you know is right for women, what women want, and what they really need.   You’ve even told clinic staff, doctors and nurses that youknow they could do better in another line or work. With your particularized notion of moral righteousness, you’ve lodged complaints with police about what you know are your rights to free speech at abortion clinics. You’ve written letters to private citizens, neighbors of doctors and clinic directors, asking them to tell these professionals to find a new job, because you know better, you know what’s right. But your self-obsession as well as your presumptuous omniscience conveniently ignores the rights of others and summarily dismisses the knowledge women have of their own lives. Behaving, as you are wont to do, foolishly believing you are right when you are really wrong on so many levels, you reveal more truths about your…

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Marni does NOT regret her abortion

This is a message we received via Facebook today from a woman named Marni. She wants to share her abortion story. Contrary to what the anti abortion side shouts every woman does not regret their abortion. 1 in 3 women are not the walking wounded. This is what Marni sent us unedited –

“I think the work the escorts do at JWHO is amazing, and following your blog has compelled me to share my own abortion story.

  • Thank you for all the amazing work you do. I don’t live in Mississippi, but if I did I would be a very enthusiastic volunteer escort at JWHO. Keep up it up!

    Marni Switzer (my story is below).

    To the protestors everything is black and white. Either you have the baby, or you don’t. That simple.

    Unfortunately nothing, absolutely nothing in life is black and white.

    This is my story; the story of a healthy 32-year-old woman who decided to terminate her pregnancy.

    You may ask why as a woman in her thirties I chose not to go ahead with the pregnancy and keep the baby, and that is a valid question. There were no health issues with regards to my pregnancy; the fetus probably would have grown into a healthy child, and there were no risks with regards to my own health. There was no trauma associated with the pregnancy; the sex was consensual and with a man I had been dating for some time and cared a great deal for.

    For those who are pro-life, there are no excuses for me having an abortion. But they are only looking at me from the outside, as a vessel for a fetus, and not as a person with my own doubts, fears and feelings of any kind. I am sure that in their imaginations, the baby would have been born into a loving family, cared for and given every opportunity, loved and cherished, and lived a wonderful life. That is all they see. They do not consider the fact that I simply could not afford to raise a child. I have a hard enough time making ends meet and supporting myself – feeding myself, paying rent, putting clothes on my back. I have worked hard to maintain a life that I want for myself, to work a job that doesn’t pay much but is fulfilling to me in ways that money could never compare to. I love my work as a writer, but financially there is no way I would be able to support a child through the first year of life, let alone all the years that follow. I would not have been able to buy diapers for my child, or formula, and if I did it would be at the sacrifice of keeping myself fed and healthy. I would literally have been giving up my own life for that of the child. In the protestors eyes it appears that life of the child is of more value than the life of the person who conceived it. Would they have been there to help me support the child? Would they have been there to look after the child so I could continue to work so I could support both myself and the baby? Would they have raised the funds needed for doctors appointments during my pregnancy and to help pay the hospital bill after I had given birth? Above all this, I would not have been there to see my child grow, because in order to give it any kind of life, I would probably have needed to work more than one job to support not only myself but another person as well. I would never know my child as it would never know me, because in order for it to live I would have to live to work, not work to live.

    I am sure in the protestors heads that every child is born into a happy family. That the father would have played a significant role in the baby’s life I do not know. The relationship was too new, too fresh to contemplate having children. We hadn’t even spoken words of love to each other yet, and hadn’t spoken of our future, whether we would still be together in a week, a month, a year. Having a baby is life-altering, and I was not emotionally ready to make those changes, and nor was I willing to force those changes on another person as well.

    For those against abortion, they would probably claim that it is my own fault that I got pregnant, and that I should have expected to get pregnant after having a night of fun, “unprotected sex”. Would they actually be willing to listen to my situation? Birth control is effective, as are condoms, but nothing comes with a 100% guarantee, and accidents do happen. When our accident occurred, I did not just leave it up to chance, cross my fingers behind my back and hope for the best. The morning after I went to the closest pharmacy and got emergency contraceptive. I took every precaution I possibly could have while still remaining sexually active, and I still got pregnant. Somehow in the intervening hours between sex and emergency contraception, my egg was fertilized. It is not because I am a slut, or because I chose to be stupid. Let me repeat: nothing in life is guaranteed.

    The final argument the pro-lifers would probably make is that I could have carried the pregnancy to term and given the baby up for adoption. I don’t know if a single anti-abortion protestor has ever spoken to someone who has given up a child for adoption. We always hear the stories of how women who have had abortions end up traumatized by their decision and regret it for the rest of their lives. Convenient fodder to use against those of us who have made the decision to terminate our pregnancies. Do they understand how hard it is for someone to give up a child? The grief after placing a child for adoption can be all-encompassing and can lead to feelings of guilt, loss and shame. Sound similar? These are the same feelings that some women can feel post-abortion. The grief is the same, as is the loss. I knew I could not have this baby so I chose an abortion.

    I have no regrets about my decision, nor to I feel any guilt or shame over it. I knew it was the right decision for me, and after all, as it was my life that was about to change, isn’t it right that I made the best decision for me?”

    We thank Marni for sharing her story and for her bravery in standing up to abortion stigma and shaming!

When Counseling Doesn’t Work, Try Screaming

This easily could have been filmed at our clinic great post!

Louisville Clinic Escorts

We write a lot about the “sidewalk counselors” who try to coerce women into the CPC next door to the abortion clinic. They push and shove their way to stand next to a client, reciting their scripts to convince a woman to  “Just take a minute and come next door to find out if you have a viable pregnancy.” “Have you thought about adoption?  Let us tell you about all of your choices instead of abortion.” “Have you gone to a real doctor to get a second opinion?”  “I’ll adopt your baby.” “You can still change your mind. Walk out of that place.” And the ever present, “Don’t kill your baby!”

Many of the antis follow the clients to the property line at the door of the clinic and then remain there shouting at the door and window their messages of harassment. Some of the antis just come to shout…

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A Man Can Have a Fine Voice, but This Does not Keep Him from Making a Fine Corpse

Abortion - Abortion Clinics, Abortion Pill, Abortion Information

Dear M and S,

I do not ask for understanding, but comprehension.  You both have questions.  Some I’ve answered, insinuated, or obscured for the normal parental reasons.  I owe you, though, the story as I remember it so you may understand through comprehension how dangerous it is, even in the 21st Century, to contradict and undermine conventional thinking.  I hope our family’s historical facts illustrate our ongoing obligation to confront fundamental Pentecostal thinking so we move forward, not backwards.  I am now a mere four years younger than your grandfather when one blinded by fundamentalism and the hate it naturally engenders created a symbol of the man who you never knew.

I last saw my father on Sunday, 7 March 1993.  We did not see each other often, but we talked with relative frequency and were repairing a fairly entrenched rift in our relationship that began 10 years prior…

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Patient post-J.R.’s Abortion Story

This is the first in a series of posts we will be doing featuring the words of patients, friends and family members who have had experiences at JWHO. For obvious reasons many women want to remain anonymous when they share their stories. J.R. had her procedure at JWHO in 2006 she reports she received excellent, caring care at the clinic. This is her story in her words

“I attended my first abortion rally when the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders came through Mississippi in August of 2013. I used to lean towards Pro-Life as a young adult but also leaned towards the belief that when it came down to it, it was a woman’s choice. My story has experienced both sides of the coin. As a young 21 year old I became pregnant. I lived at home with my parents and the guy I was dating was a good guy, but it wasn’t working. He was in love with someone else. He tried to make it work, but around my 7th month it all pretty much fell apart.

I struggled with the idea of being a single mom, how would I make it, what man will want me with a kid, all the preconceived notions that a young person has and all the fear that comes with it. I already felt so ashamed for my family who were and are your typical loving church going Christians. They loved and supported me but we didn’t “flaunt” the fact that I was pregnant. I had no baby shower, there was no “happiness” in this situation.

I worked two jobs to pay off the debt I had at the time and prepared for my life changing event. We discovered my baby had deformities, she would be ok but she was going to need surgeries. This was disheartening but we were all ok. I wept for her, I wept for me, I wept for the burden I felt we would be on my family. During a weekly dr’s visit, 2 weeks away from my due date, to listen for her heartbeat-they could not find the heartbeat. The dr took me into his office and began to tell me what I couldn’t believe I was hearing. He wanted me to come back the next day and they would do one more ultrasound to try to find the heartbeat and if it wasn’t there I would be admitted into the hospital to induce labor.

I got into my mother’s car and broke down. I was heartbroken that all of a sudden, this baby that was unexpected that was going to need so much care, that was going to change my life forever was dead. All of a sudden all the “worries” that I had had over being a single mom were gone and I was left being a mom in grief. How could I not want something so bad and be so sad over it when I was terrified of what was to come? I called the father of the baby, he came to me just as upset. He stayed with me that night. Then went with me the next day to not hear the heart beat.

We went to the hospital and they prepared me to give birth to my dead daughter. I held her, I loved her, I buried her. I mourned a long time for her. I blamed myself for so many things. Things I could have done differently, things I could not go back and change. I promised her I would make something out of my life and make her proud.

Fast forward 8 years, I was now 29 living on my own with a good job. Everything was going pretty well for me except my love life. I was dating a guy and we had been together for a couple years but my heart wasn’t in it. I was about to end it at any moment, I had just not worked up the nerve to do it. Then one day it happened, I found out that I was pregnant.

No! Not again! How could I have let this happen again?! I felt anger at myself because I should have known better. Did I not learn everything I needed to know through my tragic experience? I did not want to spend the rest of my life with this person and I could not put my family though another unexpected unwanted pregnancy. I just said over and over and over to myself….I can’t do this….I can’t do this. I was racked with anger, guilt, grief, remorse and sadness because obviously I had not lived up to the promise I had made to my daughter. I was barely making it pay check to pay check. I could not do it. The time wasn’t right. The man wasn’t right. I couldn’t go through another possible difficult pregnancy, not with someone I wasn’t in love with. I just couldn’t.

So I made my decision. I went to the clinic and I made arrangements to have my abortion. I told no one but one friend that went with me. I walked inside those doors alone. I sat in the waiting room alone. I went home after it was over alone. I punished myself with my own guilt. It was not an easy choice to make but it was my choice to make. Contrary to what the anti’s like to think we do not make these choices lightly. We do not use abortions as birth control or an excuse to be a loose woman. We struggle. We hope. We believe. We choose. Now I am married to the love of my life, I could not be any happier and as far as kids…..well, we’ll see where our love takes us.”

We thank her for having the courage to share her story!

Another Way of Viewing Late Term Abortions

JWHO does procedures up to 16 weeks so they DO NOT perform late term abortions. However, access to this care is an important issue.

Abortion - Abortion Clinics, Abortion Pill, Abortion Information

We are very fortunate to have Ms. Heather Cale join our team of bloggers.  She is clearly an intelligent young woman who cares a lot about reproductive health issues.  And her research is not only impeccable but exhaustive.

Last week she wrote about “late term abortions” from a generally scientific point of view.  She talked about brain waves and all of that other stuff that some people really get into.  The idea, of course, is to try to determine when the fetus becomes “human” or exhibit human traits, like responding to pain.

I will be the first to admit that I glazed over a lot of the stuff that Heather wrote about because, to be honest, much of it was just way over my head.  And, I’m just not sure how relevant it all is.   This is not to criticize this well written piece but for many, many…

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A Network of Support

As always a great post from our fellow clinic defenders in KY!

Louisville Clinic Escorts

In my last post, I mentioned a particular time when I was walking the gauntlet at the clinic – the rows of pray-ers who line the sidewalk, saying the rosary, singing, and yelling at clients as they come through.   It was a couple of years ago now, but the memory is vivid.

As I passed through them ~ men, women, and children ~ I suddenly knew that some of them wanted to hurt me.  I felt a visceral awareness of the waves of anger and hatred rolling off some of them, directed toward me.  They could easily have become an angry mob, throwing stones at me.

It was strange and oddly chilling.  Very powerful.  I don’t think about it often, but when I do, I can feel it again.

But the other night, I had an opposite experience.

Really, it started months ago.  Servalbear and I were talking about…

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I don’t regret helping my daughter get an abortion

by Laurie Bertram Roberts

“It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them”- Alfred Adler

It was a day I never thought would happen. I thought I had done everything to guard against it. Yet several months ago there I was hearing that my 15 year old daughter was pregnant.

It all seemed so surreal. How could this have happened to us? As I stood listening to her tell me  the test was positive I struggled with the strong desire to scream and cry. In my mind my daughter knew better. She is the homeschooled daughter of the president of the state chapter of a national feminist organization. The first time she ever spoke at the capitol was at a joint Senate and House hearing on teen pregnancy. She was 13 and spoke about the need for comprehensive sex education. She and I along with her sister are clinic escorts. She knows all about birth control, condoms, and Plan B. She has always had knowledge about and access to contraception as well as being encouraged to wait until she is older to have sex.

This was one of those moments in life when I was faced with living my beliefs. I had always said if one of my daughters got pregnant as a teen I wouldn’t flip out and judge her like so many parents do. I would love her, respect her, and let her choose how to handle it. I would support her no matter what. Yet my mind immediately did judge and I wanted to shake her.

I took a deep breath put my arm around her and said “everything will be ok”. Then we traveled down the short hall to the counseling room at the clinic we escort at. I kept telling myself “stay calm, breathe, she needs to know you love her”. As we sat down all she kept saying was “I don’t know how this happened” over and over. The truth was in that moment she couldn’t remember having sex the one time with the young man she was seeing. She isn’t alone this happens to grown women all the time who find themselves faced with unplanned pregnancy. The clinic ultrasound tech peaked in with a soft smile and offered to take her back to see how far along she was.

Left alone with two staff members I broke down in tears saying “she knew better” and “I warned her”. It’s funny how all the rational things you know about teen sex and pregnancy go out the window in a crisis. The truth is my daughter was using condoms. Guess what sometimes they fail. Especially, when children who aren’t educated in their use like my child is are the ones placing them on their penis.

So there we were sitting, waiting. The clinic counselor said I was the calmest parent she had ever seen- so I guess there’s that. Even with that comment I couldn’t help feeling awful. Like I failed.

Like I suspected my daughter returned and said she was 5 weeks pregnant. I told her calmly and plainly she had three options she could parent, she could choose adoption or she could have an abortion. I also told her she had time to decide since she was so early in her pregnancy.

Let me tell you my daughter and I both LOVE babies! She loves kids. She is a great babysitter. She and her sister have a babysitting business. She wants to be a mom. She also helps me as a doula. Yet none of this means she is ready to be a mother at 15.

The clinic was closed the next week so we had over a week to be home with her being incredibly morning sick , unable to eat and asking questions about what it was like to be a teen mom. I was honest with her. I wouldn’t trade my children for anything but it was hard VERY hard. It is nothing like the fairy tale that anti choicers sell  to girls. Yes you can get benefits but you have to tell the state all your business to get them.  I had to work two and three jobs at a time often missing majors parts of my children’s lives. I wouldn’t have made it without my mother helping me every step of the way.

I made plans in my head for each options, if she chose to parent I thought it would be hard but we could do it. I’m a doula who works with teen moms I know the ropes. I tried not to tell her what to do and just gave her simple honest answers to her questions. It was about a day before we addressed the huge issue looming-the fact that my daughter has a illness that is managed by medication that is not compatible with pregnancy. The option for her would be to go off her medication and risk her health severely deteriorating during the pregnancy to the point of hospitalization.  Those are a lot of factors to lay at the feet of a 15 y/o girl but this was not my pregnancy or my choice it was hers alone. She spent hours curled up like a baby as I stroked her hair and after days of quiet reflection SHE settled on abortion as her choice.

So I made sure she received religious counseling pre procedure from Faith Aloud. She read the stories of other women online on the I had an abortion FB page.  I wanted her to know even there was no shame in what she was choosing to do she was walking a road many had walked before her. I wanted her to understand she had control. This was HER decision and she would have to be a parent, she would be the one relinquishing if she chose adoption and only she would be having an abortion, not me. I told her she could change her mind.  She said nope she knew what she wanted to do.

Doing the work I do I already knew the extra hoops parents are required to go through to obtain an abortion for their daughter if she is under 16. Let me tell you that knowing something and living something are two different things. In Mississippi a girl under 16 has to have parental permission from BOTH parents, a picture ID, and her birth certificate (which is redundant if she has a state ID since it was used to get the ID but whatever). It is the first time I was ever happy that Kayla’s father is not on her birth certificate because tracking him down wasn’t going to happen, we barely speak.

I had never even thought about having to go through the hoops of getting my daughter a state ID. We like many families in poverty who have moved often couldn’t find her birth certificate so I had to send off to her state of birth for that, priority mail. Then there was actually securing the ID. Our vehicle which like many low income families runs when it feels like it decided to break down when we were driving around to get the ID. Thankfully we have friends who could help us not everyone does. We also live in the city were we can get all this done . We didn’t have to drive 30 minutes or more away like many women.

We are fortunate that when my daughter and I couldn’t get through on the NAF hotline for abortion fund help (medicaid only pays for abortion in very rare cases my daughter’s wasn’t one her pregnancy was not a result of rape or sexual assault and she wasn’t about to die), I was give a person to call to get her intake completed. We were fortunate that we are surrounded by pro choice friends who were able to pitch in and help us with the cost of her procedure and take the day off to support her, unlike many of the families we see at the clinic.  Not only was I there on that day but a close friend who is a therapist was there in case she wanted to talk, had feelings to deal with, or just changed her mind and wanted to go home and come up with a different plan.

The day of her procedure she insisted on volunteering as an escort.  Which actually worked out well because when procedure time rolled around the protesters didn’t even notice her.  They were too busy harassing the other women coming and going to notice a regular fixture especially since we had several camera crews on site and they were showing off for them. In fact we were in a group of patients whose feet were filmed receiving the state mandated pre procedure counseling.

Since she is a minor she had the option to have me in the room for her procedure but she wanted to go alone.My daughter received excellent care. The doctor who performed my daughters procedure was caring and polite not only to my daughter but to me.   He asked her again before they started if she wanted to do it and talked to her through the whole procedure (I’ll let her tell her story in her own post).  Her procedure was quick and without complications.

She went home and rested. I felt relieved, she felt relieved. I was happy that she had choices and wouldn’t have to postpone or give up the chances like I did. Happy that she wasn’t being forced to risk her health to give birth. Within a few days she decided she wanted to go back to the clinic and volunteer to escort.  I thought she might want a break that the insults of the anti choice harassers might bother her. Nope, in fact her resolve was greater than ever. I don’t think she ever thought it would be her at the clinic. She says she just wants to help and she does just that.

For me the hardest thing about this whole journey has been living up to the principles I say I live by. It is easy to say we are “pro-choice” or “reproductive justice activists” those are  just words and titles if not put into action. It is hard to live them and let the people we love have autonomy, choice, and honor their decisions as their own regardless of what we think and feel they should do.

I know there are people who want to know if I regret helping my daughter with her abortion NO I DON’T! Frankly if she or one of her sisters were pregnant and asked me tomorrow I would do it again. Why? Their bodies, their reproductive futures are THEIR OWN not mine! They are my children-I do not own them. I guide them, I help them, I love them. That is my job. I am their mother NOT their owner.

I am proud of my daughter for deciding what was right for her and being willing to share her story with others and confront abortion stigma. There are plenty of people who wish to make her be ashamed and remain silent. She is rejecting that. She is refusing to be shamed by those who wrap their shaming in a guise of Christian love too (if she wants your prayer or thinks she needs forgiveness she’ll call you). As a mother and woman of color I will continue to strive to make sure no one ever has the right to tell my children or anyone else when, how, and if they procreate. As a people we have already been there done that and it didn’t work out well.

Below is a copy of the speech my daughter wrote and gave at the rally on 8/17/13. In case anyone asks I advised her against going public with her story but she said and I quote “I want girls like me to know it’s ok and they will be ok”.  Since she has went public the libelous slurs against my daughter and our family have already started. Kayla says she doesn’t care she wants other girls to know all their options and that they don’t have to be ashamed.  That is what she tells girls when they come to her for help. We then refer them where they need to go including if they need a doctor and a doula for their birth. That’s the thing about supporting women’s reproductive health and well being you have to support a range of decisions not just what you would choose.

“Hello my name is Kayla, I am 15 years old and I had an abortion. The day I found out I was pregnant I was scared and ashamed because I was 15 and pregnant. I had a big choice to make-should I stay pregnant, chose adoption, or have an abortion.
I cried because I want to be a mom one day but I was not ready for such a huge step at such a young age. So I chose to have an abortion. I was scared but I knew I was doing the right thing.
Did I feel sad? Yes. Do I regret it? No! Because I know that the spirit I named Mariah will go on to a woman who is ready for her. I love my mom for being so supportive of my choice- I love her for that.
For all the young ladies that might have been or will be in this situation- you are not alone. There are people who support you-always. Even when you don’t know it. Abortion is not a bad thing, it’s a lifesaver! I can now be who I need to be and I know God still loves me! Thank you.”

young fems

Delivering speech at the rally supported by her younger sister and myself-public speaking is scary

Kayla Roberts
JWHO Clinic Escort, Young Feminist

I support my choice

Kayla at rally with a sign she made