Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Names and Gender Games

Today was fairly uneventful. The protesters had lots of their big signs out – three or four, which is more than usual. A couple of just normal fetii, and then the one big exploded one. Lovely. Luckily there weren’t a lot of patients this week, and they mostly went in the back.

I’ve been thinking about names a lot lately, as last week a new volunteer, LW, and I were discussing the nicknames we use for the protesters. He thinks it’s a bit out of line to refer to them as “Crazy this” and “Crazy that”, and I’m starting to think he has a valid point. I certainly don’t know any of their personal histories, plus it is offensive to use the word “crazy” in such a haphazard and derogatory way. So I’ve been rethinking the names, and here are some of the regular characters we get, with explanations so everyone is clear on what the names refer to:

Crazy Legs – the blonde woman who chases after patients. I think this nickname is still acceptable because it refers to the movement of her legs and not her mental state. If you could see her run, you would agree that she has crazy legs.

Fetus Lady – the woman (I think it is Peter Ryan’s wife, but I’m not sure) who is most often holding the picture of the fetus. Pretty self-explanatory.

Glare-y – a man who spends a lot of his time glaring at us. Again, I think this is accurate.

Glare-y Jr. – a younger, more intense version of above; may or may not be related.

The Ghost – I call her this because she reminds me of one. She wanders back and forth, no sign or anything, just a rosary. Like she’s haunting the place. Her voice is monotonous, whispy and yet insistent, and all she ever says is “it’s a baby”. She creeps me out.

There are lots of others for whom I do not yet have names, because they don’t really stand out to me (most of them look the same – middle-aged white men). But you may have noticed one glaring omission from my list: Father Crazy. The reason is that I need a new name for him, because that one really is offensive and assumptive (is it a word? If it is, I hope it means what I think it does). However, I just recently found out his true identity – he is a person whose letters to the editor of the Daily Gleaner I read with great interest and amusement. I really do think he is crazy – intelligent and articulate, yes, but crazy. His ideas and opinions…well, I want to say they’re out in left field, but I think it would be more accurate to say right field. Far, far right field.

Regardless of this, I still think it is mean-spirited to refer to him as Father Crazy. Perhaps Father Right would be better – I like how it works on at least two different levels. So that’s what he’ll be from now on. I guess I could refer to him by his real name, but I like the nicknames, they’re fun. Sometimes I wonder if the protesters have nicknames for us, or have picked up on any of our weird traits; maybe they don’t even register anything about us except that we are there. Maybe thinking of nicknames would be unChristian (sort of like judging people...wait a minute...).

Another thing I wanted to mention was the gender divide. I haven’t really made up my mind where I fall on the whole “no uterus, no opinion” thing, but I do find it telling that so many anti-choicers are men. What I (and the other escorts) find very strange is the difference between male and female protesters. First of all, for the first shift they are usually all men. And they are generally quiet and peaceful. They hold their signs, and they seem more concerned with changing the minds of passersby than going after the patients themselves. However, when the women show up, not only are they (the women) more aggressive, their behaviour influences the men. They start to get riled up as well. Isn’t that strange? I can’t figure out why they change like that when the women come out. Theories, anyone?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Catching Up

Ok, better late than never. Tuesday morning was great, we had a couple new volunteers (both guys, which is awesome - good to get a more even mix) and the protesters were fairly quiet. We did have one incident where one of our escorts had to pretty much chase a girl down, because Crazy Legs got to her first and was herding her towards the "welcome centre". Luckily she was intercepted.

The rest of the morning went without incident. Is it too much to hope that the protesters really are settling down? Of course, as long as they stand there with their signs - even if they are silent - we'll be going after the bubble zone. The signs themselves count as harrassment if you ask me. I am not trying to go against freedom of speech, but there is also such a thing as inciting hatred. And why else are the signs there, if not to condemn the clinic staff and patients? To save the innocent babies? Yeah, that's been real effective.

I do have to say a quick word or two about the rally last Wednesday. We had a great turnout, way more people than I expected - even in the rain. Some anti-choice protesters did show up (in their matching rainsuits!) but they were quiet and respectful. Meanwhile, we chanted, marched, listened to speeches and basically just had a good time. Hopefully we got our point across. At least we received media coverage.

I just want to touch on one thing that annoys me. Sometimes at rallies (I'm sure pro-choice ones as well as anti-choice, but I would guess more often the latter) you see people with their kids. That's fine. But frequently the kids are holding signs or wearing slogan t-shirts. I find it really disgusting when people use their kids as billboards for their own political beliefs. It really ticks me off. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Sorry about being a bit slow with this week's post (and the lack of coverage of last week's rally). Things have been a bit hectic as I was in Ontario for a wedding this weekend and have just been catching up on things the last couple days. I will try to post tomorrow.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rally Tomorrow!

My last week as the temporary receptionist - it's back out on the front lines next week. I am excited. I love being a receptionist, but the protesters have been getting really riled lately and I feel helpless being inside. Not that there's much I can do as an escort, but I like just being out there.

The tarp has proved to not be very useful, as the protesters obviously just move their signs. It's been fun for us, but not practical to keep chasing them around. There has been an issue with the escorts making comments, as well. Our number one rule is not to engage with the protesters, but lately it has been a bit too tempting and a couple of our escorts have been mouthing off. So we have to get that under control, since it doesn't reflect too well on us in our quest to get the bubble zone.

Tomorrow is the big rally out in front of the courthouse - feel free to come down and support us! 12:30 to 1:30. I am excited. What I am most excited for is when the hearings are over and the actual trial starts, because I'm hoping that Dr. Morgentaler will come to town for it, and I really want to meet him. I think that would pretty much make my life complete (I know I said that about meeting Stephen Lewis, and also seeing Romeo Dallaire. And Sue Johansson. I get excited a lot).

Probably starting next week I will have pictures on the blog, since I will be out escorting and I have a camera now. I figure, since the antis can go up into the parking garage and film each other (yes, we've noticed you, and I really hope you aren't recording the women going into the clinic), then I can take some pics of them and their awesome signs. I'm pretty excited.

I just finished reading the chapter of Morgentaler's biography where he opens the clinic in Fredericton. I have also been reading about Dr. Slepian, Dr. Tiller ("Tiller the Killer"), and other abortion doctors that have been shot/wounded/killed. I'm really glad that this seems to be a phenomenon largely confined to the United States, and anti-choice activists in Canada are not usually violent (although it has happened). Working inside the clinic and seeing the security system, using the camera, buzzing people in, and knowing the location of the panic button has made me think a lot more about safety while there. I think there's always a risk, and that's scary. But honestly I believe that if something happens, it won't happen in Fredericton. This place is just too small, too passive, too quiet. I hope.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tarp and Needle

We started early at the clinic this morning. However, so did the protesters. I get a ride with the clinic counsellor, D, and usually when we get there at around 7:20 there is only one protester out - Father Crazy. This morning when we pulled in at 7:15, there was already a whole posse. They were in a *very* heated argument with a passerby, who had stopped his truck across the driveway to get out and argue. When he saw that he was blocking us, he got back in and drove away. Good thing, too, because it really did look like it was going to come to blows. D and I were both a little shaken.

It was my second week as receptionist. Things went pretty smoothly - we had a lot of patients booked but had two no-shows. The police were called twice; once just to inform them of the argument, and the second time when one of the protesters (Glare-y Junior) was creeping over the property line. The police put me through to dispatch that time so a cop actually showed up. He informed me they were allowed to protest (I already knew that) and there was nothing he could do. He did talk to Glare-y Jr. about his proximity to the fence, though, so that was good.

I bought a tarp over the weekend in case Mrs. Idiot decided to bring her ugly sign out, but she didn't. The escorts used the tarp to block Glare-y Jr.'s glare instead. One of the escorts found a syringe out on the sidewalk, so we had to dispose of that (JS did it with a rubber glove - there is a box for them in the clinic. You know, because all of us baby-killers are heroin addicts too).

One of the patients asked me how one becomes an escort. At first I thought she wanted to volunteer, and I got excited, but she is from out of town and was just curious. She was very good with the protesters; every time she went out to smoke and they started with her, she basically told them where they could shove it. Good to see women being assertive about their right to choose.

All in all, not a bad day - way less crazy than it could have been. I'm going to start getting the escorts to come earlier than 7:30, and I'll probably have to schedule more than four on each shift, too. I'm hoping the crazies are just riled up because of Mother's Day, and their upcoming March for Life (anyone wanna counter-protest with me?), and that they will settle down a bit once Dr. Morgentaler's court case is out of here next week. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

New People, New Responsibilities

It’s been pretty exciting in pro-choice land this week, at least for me. L and I met on Friday and she officially handed over the position of Volunteer Coordinator to me, although she will still be here for the next two weeks. There is a LOT more than scheduling involved. But I think I can handle it.

Today I started my three-week stint as receptionist while J is away. It went really well. S, who runs the clinic, was there to walk me through the process and everything went smoothly. It is very different being on the other side of the glass, I have to say. I miss the excitement of escorting, as well as the immediate feeling of doing something useful. But in general I like to organize things and I’m more of a thinker than a doer. I love being an escort, but I think the work inside the clinic is where I could see myself building a career.

Things were pretty crazy outside today – I could tell even though I wasn’t out there that it was getting nuts. The number of protesters was up, for one thing, and lately they have taken to spreading further down the street. Also, at one point they were up in the parking garage with a video camera. I called Fortis to let them know. S put a call in to the police too, because the protesters were having a pretty heated argument with a passerby and she was afraid it could turn violent. Thankfully it didn’t.

The other big news is that Peter Ryan’s wife (we’ll call her Mrs. Idiot) just got her big, bloody, fake aborted fetus sign back. It is so god-awful. Of course she was out waving that around – made me think of those Show the Truth people (I really hope they don’t show up again this summer). I think it was that sign, in combination with the number and intensity of the protesters, that was really upsetting the women coming in. Thankfully we had only one who was really upset and crying, and she sat in S’s office with her partner until she felt better. I just wanted to hug her. As if the decision to abort isn’t hard enough.

L has asked me to write a rebuttal to an Op-Ed piece by William Forrestall in the Telegraph Journal (yesterday’s issue). I have put one together but it’s too long, so I have some editing to do. I fear that my efforts will not matter anyway, since, as I mentioned last week, the Gleaner will not publish my pro-choice letters. L told me she knows of at least five others who have written since the Heather Mallick event, and have not been published.

The good news is that we had three new volunteers today and when I talked to them afterwards they all seemed keen to come back. One of them in particular was very feisty – she couldn’t believe what went on but she was very keen to stop it. Gotta love the new blood.