Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Nightmare Is Over

After 40 days, the protesters are gone and the nightmare is over. And as for Planned Parenthood — we're still here!

To tell you the truth, these 40 days are, by far, the most difficult time of the year for me. Sure, I get angry when I see patients, volunteers, and staff facing harassment day in and day out. But mostly it just makes me sad to witness so many people using their time and energy to try to stand in the way of women, men, and teens who need access to health care.

I often have to remind myself that what I'm seeing on their protest signs is just the propaganda of the most radical extremists — and no matter how nasty or noisy or annoying they are, they can’t stop us.

At Planned Parenthood, our work is too important. Our patients are too important. Our efforts — to educate women on reproductive health, provide a caring resource, and ultimately give women more control over their bodies (as one of my readers commented) — are too important.

The best part? It has to be the fact that the anti-choice extremists protesting Planned Parenthood health centers actually reminded us of the importance of our work. It's true! So, to those protesters who called us names and screamed in our faces ... I say, "Thank you for making us stronger!"

I am Emily X.
I am Planned Parenthood.

P.S. I'm so proud to say that the 1,034 protesters I encountered allowed us to raise more than $56,000 for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the women our health centers serve — but only if you make good on your pledges! Please click here to fulfill your pledge today.

It's also not to late to support Emily X, even if you didn't pledge! Click here to make your gift.

Thank you again for coming on this journey with me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I’m Being Watched

I’ve been working for Planned Parenthood in Bremerton, Washington, for 12 years. We always have protesters here, but there are more during the “40 Days for Life” campaign.

I’ve gotten accustomed to seeing them each day, but in the past two years the protesters have become more visible and vocal. They call the staff terrible names and harass the patients. They’ve egged our retaining wall and littered our parking lot with anti-choice materials. We know that some women who need our services don’t come here because they’re intimidated by the protesters.

The feeling that I’m being watched never goes away. Bremerton is a small town, and when I go out to dinner with my family I can’t help but be more alert about being followed. But I love my job and the people I work with. We do important work.

Protesters: 10

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Planned Parenthood NYC: I Am Emily X

At the End of the Day

Burlington, Vermont: As we near the end of this year’s “40 Days for Life” campaign, I’m reflecting on the daily impact of the protesters.

We’ve become accustomed to facing protesters every morning on our way into work and most evenings on our way home. They either block the steps to create a barrier for staff and patients, or try to shame us from across the street with signs, posters, and banners.

The protesters try to convince the staff that we are doing something morally wrong by coming to work. They try to deter our patients by making them feel guilty for picking up a pack of pills, getting a Pap test, or receiving abortion services. Many of our patients are scared, and feel threatened by the protesters. We do what we can to comfort our patients, yet encourage them not to lash out at the people who are making our job much more difficult than it needs to be.

We understand the concerns of our patients and the motivations of the protesters, but at the end of the day, we’re here to provide valuable services. We will persevere and stay strong, because we’re a resource to those who need us the most.

Number of protesters: 10

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flagstaff, Arizona

Our health center is more isolated than the ones in Phoenix. We’re about two hours north of there. It’s a smaller community, but we have rowdy protesters. There were only two yesterday. Last week we had 10. The week before it was 12.

There was a group of anti-abortion extremists that did a lot of training a couple of years ago, all around the country. A young couple here went to that training. They were really excitable radicals, and they had gathered together a ragtag group of people.

They screamed, yelled into a megaphone. A couple of times they came into the clinic. They came to my house twice. Eventually, the couple moved to California. I heard they got into some trouble, some dorm protest, they were put on notice. That makes them successful in the eyes of other protest groups.

We still have a group that stands outside — sometimes only two or three, but usually six, eight, or 10. They’re there with their ugly signs, and they take pictures. They have a lot of children that they keep out there — but I think it backfires. And then this one older gentleman, he holds his signs and screams in front of City Hall. The other week, two women came out of nowhere and tried to take his signs. It made the front page.

Our patients? Some are angry and yell back at the protesters, wanting to argue — which we discourage. Some are offended by the protesters’ signs. They feel like it’s an invasion of privacy. Some people go out the back door — but not many. Most people just dismiss them.

The staff gets tired of it. Some people use the back door. One day, not too long ago, I was very frustrated. The protesters walked up and shoved a camera in my windshield, took my picture. They have our pictures, our license plates, our addresses — we know that. But it was so blatant, right in my face. By the time we call the cops they’re back standing out on the sidewalk where they have to be. It’s like a game of chicken.

I’ve been with Planned Parenthood for 27 years. I remember when we used to have surgeries here in Flagstaff. This was before the bubble law, and the protesters could be right up against the building. It was hard to get the patients in the door. There were altercations.

The work we do is important work. I’m of an age that I know what it was like before Roe. I have good friends and family members who had illegal abortions. My college roommate had an illegal abortion and died of complications.

I feel very, very fearful that this work will not continue. I don’t think that young women generally get that. Women went to Mexico and Puerto Rico and the back alleys of Chicago and New York, and many women died or were mutilated and certainly sustained some emotional trauma.

It’s unthinkable that things could go back to how they used to be.

Protesters: 2

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Escorting Is Customer Service

Houston, Texas: I was asked by a client's husband why we have "parking attendants," when we offer free parking.

I told him that we weren’t here to help with parking, but that we were escorts for people walking past the protesters. We alert people in the parking lot that protesters are present so they aren’t caught off guard.

He thanked me and said it was nice that we offer that level of customer service, that too few organizations care about clients these days.

He’s right. It is customer service.

We’re not here to battle the protesters or deny them their right to free speech. At Planned Parenthood, we value diverse opinions and perspectives. We believe that everyone must be treated with respect and allowed the opportunity to access health care without judgment or harassment.

We’re outside, greeting and escorting clients past protesters, to show them that we care. It’s truly the first sign of good customer service for our clients. And it’s a way to ensure that clients are treated with respect and dignity.

It’s a reason that Planned Parenthood has been a trusted community health care provider in southeast Texas for almost 75 years.

Protesters: 150

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Miami-Dade County, Florida

It was a just another sunny Sunday afternoon in southern Florida — except that nearly 2,000 protesters were gathered along Interstate One, stretching the four miles between LeJeune Road and Kendall Drive. They were standing their ground against what we at Planned Parenthood call basic health care.

I’m accustomed to seeing five or 10 protesters outside our health centers throughout the month — but nothing like this.

These protesters were part of the “The Life Chain,” a group that opposes women making their own reproductive health decisions. They don’t try to hide their stance against contraception, either — they are openly unwilling to find a common ground on prevention. There were the same old clich├ęd anti-choice signs, as well as other signs of varying creativity and offensiveness. Several people held rosaries. Others harassed passing cars with angry chants.

As a native of Miami and a Planned Parenthood employee, I know firsthand how essential it is for the women, men, and teens here in Miami-Dade County to have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services. Access to sexual and reproductive health care is essential — as is education. The Miami metropolitan area has the highest AIDS rate in the entire nation, and ranks high in cases of other STDs.

When I see these protesters, I can’t help but think, “These people haven’t heard the stories I’ve heard. They don’t know the realities of life in this fast-paced, complicated urban environment.”

This health center offers comprehensive reproductive health care for the men and women of this community. I mean preventive health services: STD testing and treatment, breast exams, contraception, and education and information. And we provide women with a safe space to ask questions and seek guidance on even their most complicated reproductive decisions.

Here, we help them claim their own destiny.

All those protesters gathered along the road, filled with hate and bent to intimidate, they make me sad. But that only strengthens my resolve.

Protesters: many

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.