Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Phoenix, Arizona

We arrive at 7:15 a.m. and park on a street adjacent to the health center. We greet each other and proceed to walk toward the employee entrance. As we walk down the block to enter the building, the second greeters of the day are the protesters. They are lined up along the sidewalk in front of the health center, telling us why we shouldn’t go to work today and saying how terrible we are. We ignore them and keep walking.

Inside, we begin our day. We prepare medication for the patients, set up the rooms, and prepare the front desk so that patients can check in — very routine and very status quo.

The first patient walks through the door. Maybe she is thinking about what the protesters said. Maybe she is thinking about the choice she made to come in that day. Or maybe she is just glad that she was able to choose.

We check her in, and then she comes back to an exam room. Along the way she is greeted by every person on staff. Each one reassures her, through actions and words, that we care and that everything will be OK. The doctor successfully completes her procedure. She recovers, and is discharged. On the way out, she expresses her sincerest thanks to the nursing staff and asks them to convey that same message to the rest of us.

We see so many patients just like her during the course of a day. In some respects, we know that any one of us could be her. And we realize that this is more than just a job, more than just a set of tasks.

It is vitally important for us to be here, to provide a much-needed service for the women of Arizona. What we do at 7th Avenue makes a difference. No matter what obstacles we face, or how many protesters line our streets, we are proud to work for Planned Parenthood. We are proud to change the lives of Arizona women.

Protesters: 13

I am Emily X.

We are Planned Parenthood.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Houston, Texas

They arrived Wednesday, before I got to work. We’re used to protesters here in Houston. Usually they target the two health centers that provide abortion, but this time of year they target double that number of health centers.

There were about a dozen – including one protester who harasses our clients with a video camera. He asks them provocative questions, tries to get a rise out of someone, anyone, to get some kind of outburst on film.

We have our ways of dealing with it, though. We’re prepared. All our escorts have signs that read, “You do not have permission to videotape,” and they use them to block our clients’ faces, protect their privacy.

Unfortunately, our patients are used to this kind of thing. One client described the group of protesters as voyeuristic. She wondered why they didn’t have better things to do than to come and watch clients entering a health care organization. She specifically asked one protester if he wanted to come in and watch while she got her Pap test!

It’s a long walk from our parking lot to the front door of the health center, which gives the protesters more opportunity to harass and antagonize than we’d like. And they are particularly aggressive during the 40 days. Sometimes they try to lure our patients to the crisis pregnancy center next door, where, instead of medically accurate health information, they receive anti-choice rhetoric.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, though, the protesters fail. Many of our patients have a long relationship with Planned Parenthood—we provide them affordable, high-quality health care that they often can’t get anywhere else. Our clients know where to go for compassionate care, for nonjudgmental service. They aren’t fooled by the lies of these anti-choice extremists. That’s something the protesters will never understand.

Protesters: 12
I am Emily X.
I am Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is what we're here for

I'm here to work. That means making sure that every woman, man, and teen who walks through our doors gets the health care, information, and help they need. And it seems like every day there are more and more people showing up here for just that — to get care they can't get anywhere else.

And then there's them — the anti-choice people who appear at our health centers every year at this time for another round of the "40 days for life" protests. They're not here to work, or to seek care, or to find solutions for the people who rely on Planned Parenthood for everything from birth control to cancer screenings — they're here to intimidate medical staff and harass patients.

I am Emily X, and I've been dealing with these protests for years.

I refuse to feel intimidated by the protesters — but I have to admit they make me angry. It bothers me that Planned Parenthood has to devote our limited resources to dealing with extremists harassing our patients at a time when millions of women lack health insurance — that’s time, money, and energy that should be going to help the people who rely on Planned Parenthood.

So I've decided to do something about the “40 days for life” protests. For the past two years, I've been doing my part to turn what could be a negative into a positive — by blogging. And in addition to blogging, I’m sharing stories, posting videos, and letting you into our world for a month.

And I’m inviting you to turn the anti-choice 40 days of protest into 40 days of fundraising, with our Pledge a Protester program. Your donations will help keep our health center doors open for women, men, and teens in need.

So join me. Stay in touch on the blog, leave me a comment (I love your comments), pledge a protester, send a note to a clinic, volunteer … it all matters. This year, with so much attention on the increasing need for affordable health care, it matters more than ever.

Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your support.

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.