I’m Derenda Hancock and I’m a volunteer escort at JWHO. I’m not a “convert”, always been pro-choice. I was that incredibly lucky 13 year old that had an awesome cousin, 6 years my senior, named Linda. She never treated me like a child and explained the REAL facts of life to me. That included the battle that women were fighting at the time to legally have the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion. She took me to my first protest at the Oklahoma capitol shortly before Roe vs Wade became law. Thanks to Linda, I started out on the right path.
Unfortunately, by 21, I became your typical “corporate workaholic zombie” and misplaced my activism gene. I paid my dues to NARAL, NOW, and the Democratic Party and figured I was doing my part. We are so good at justifying our inaction. A couple of years ago, having grown restless with the “system”, I joined the Occupy movement and that activist gene reemerged. The deterioration of our society, the injustice, the inequality…made my boots again hit the ground.
On January 22nd 2013, I attended a rally at JWHO to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe VS Wade. It was a great rally with a large group of pro-choice supporters. But, I am ashamed to say, it was the first time in over 30 years that I had been exposed to the hate spewing pro-life zealots. Though shocked by their behavior, I was mostly angry.
You see, I am the one in that one in three women that you will know in your lifetime that has had an abortion. To be perfectly honest, I’ve had two abortions. Once, the birth control failed. Once, I failed the birth control. I am also that rare woman who has never wanted children. (No, I didn’t misplace that gene, I was born without it. Lol!) In the last year, I have heard stories of how women have struggled with the decision to terminate their pregnancy. Though I empathize with their struggle, that was not the case for me. In both cases, the day I learned I was pregnant I made an appointment to abort. My views on children were “public information”, thus I did not feel compelled to discuss or justify my decision to anyone. It was and is MY BODY MY CHOICE. Only now do I realize how lucky I was that there were no protesters at either clinic. Of course they wouldn’t have changed my mind, but I might have ended up in jail. That was 26 and 17 years ago respectively.
So, on that January day a year ago, I watched the sideshow of Anti freaks parading back and forth on the sidewalk. I listened as they spat out their propaganda. There were no patients at the clinic that day, but I kept thinking how horrible that women are subjected to this atrocious behavior. It’s bad enough, thanks to our state legislators, that they have to wait 24 hours to have the procedure, then endure this harassment all the way to the clinic door? It’s all just so wrong. Gheeze, couldn’t somebody make them stop?
But at the end of that day, a little ray of sunshine peaked through the clouds. There was talk of forming an escort group. Volunteers would receive some training and would walk women from their cars to the clinic door. Though it wouldn’t fix the problem, it would be a start. And it’s always nice to see a smiling face that you know is “on your side.” The clinic owner, Diane Derzis and clinic manager, Shannon Russell, who I have since learned are two of the most wonderful women in the world, gave us their “blessing”. Laurie Roberts took the lead in getting us together and within a week the JWHO Volunteer Escorts went into action. Yep, we were a “rag tag” bunch at the start, but we were there and doing our best. I’m going to leave it to one of the other escorts to explain our evolution, but we’ve come a long way baby. The year has gone by quickly, but the smiles and the “thank you’s” that we get from the patients hang on forever. I love my “not a job” and am so grateful to be a part of the Pinkhouse Crew! Happy Anniversary Roe V Wade!