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.
I am Emily X.
I am Planned Parenthood.