Patients have to go through so much to access abortion in Ohio. So volunteers have come together to create small tokens of appreciation meant to show these patients that the community unconditionally trusts and supports their decisions.
We joined 70 pro-choice activists at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday to demand that HB 408 be passed. The bill would protect patients entering a reproductive health care facility by making it a first degree misdemeanor to harass patients within 15 feet of the facility.
When people get together and raise funds for abortion, it can be life-changing for the women who need those funds the most. Two patients from Founders recently gave us permission to share their heartfelt abortion funding stories.
Remember that one time an abortion clinic worker put her cat on a shirt and then sold enough of those shirts to pay for pro-choice ads on an electronic billboard in Downtown Columbus?
Welcome to Ohio! A place where anti-choice extremists bomb and vandalize abortion clinics, intimidate patients, harass doctors at their private residences, and pass out postcards with the home addresses of abortion doctors. This needs to end NOW.
On Saturday, September 26, pro-choice students and staff from Ohio State University and Otterbein University came together to cover the sidewalks outside of a Columbus abortion clinic with uplifting messages of love and unicorns.
It was still pitch black outside when a young man stopped on the sidewalk along Broad Street and wondered aloud: “The artwork is beautiful, but why are you all out here at 5:30 in the morning?”
I broke away from the pack of 20 feminist volunteer artists and shined my flashlight on him as I answered cautiously, “Why are you out here so early? Are you an anti-choice protester?”
The bearded 20-something looked amused and replied, “No, I’m not a protester. I live in the neighborhood. I was just walking home from prayer at the mosque when I saw all of these women decorating the sidewalk. I stopped because I think it’s great that you’re doing this. What is this for?”
My nervousness immediately vanished once I realized he wasn’t affiliated with Created Equal. “Thank you for admiring our art,” I said with a relieved, sleepy smile. "We wanted to cover the sidewalks with positive messages before the protesters arrive at 8 AM and write cruel things with their own chalk."
“Yeah, I’ve seen their crazy signs out here before,” the neighbor dude said. "What exactly do the protesters write on the sidewalk?"
“Ugh, I’ve got plenty of example photos I could show you,” I replied, whipping out my phone. "They usually write ‘Mommy, my heart is beating. Please don’t murder me.’”
He grimaced when I said this, just like many other people do. Photos of the anti-choice chalkings outside of the abortion clinic (like the ones above) have disgusted the community so much that TWENTY women - half of them strangers from the internet - woke up at 5 AM on a Saturday morning just to cover every inch of the clinic’s sidewalk in supportive, uplifting messages and images.
I can’t even convince twenty people to come over to my house for a party at night… How the heck did I convince twenty people to come out to the abortion clinic before the crack of dawn? The truth is, it wasn’t really me that convinced them. It was the protesters’ actions that inspired this random act of early morning kindness.
Every Saturday, me and a few clinic escorts post updates about the harassment experienced by patients and volunteers at the hands of the religious extremists who stand outside of the clinic. Many people are sickened by the cheap, manipulative, and sometimes frightening tactics that these anti-choice “sidewalk counselors” use to intimidate and coerce patients.
The protesters have gone out of their way to make themselves and the environment around clinic look super scary. This has only fueled the community’s resolve to reclaim the neighborhood’s sidewalks and give our patients something beautiful to look at while they run away from the creepy old man carrying a giant cross.
It took twenty feminists about 90 minutes to cover the entire block with rainbows, unicorns, and jazzy robots.
These kind-hearted artists vanished as quickly as they appeared, but their positive affirmations were left behind to reassure every woman who walked past: “You are strong. You are beautiful. You are brave. Do what makes you happy."
Around 8:30 AM, I peeked out of the window to see how the protesters were reacting to the artwork. As I stood there, I overheard some patients talking. “Oooh yeah, that chalk is so pretty!” one patient exclaimed to another patient as they sat in the waiting room. I smiled across the room at her and she smiled back.
When I turned back to the window, I saw a mustachioed protester throw his arms up in frustration, gesturing at the other protesters. They all looked very irritated by the love that had engulfed the sidewalk, but who cares? This wasn’t for them. This was for the patients. And that chalk art made at least one patient feel a flash of happiness during one of the toughest days of her life.
Her smile made waking up before dawn totally worth it. This is why feminists chalk at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. No regrets. Not a single one.
Thank you to the talented, generous, and compassionate women who gave up their Saturday morning to make that woman's smile possible.
And thank you to the husband and wife who brought their middle-schooler into the clinic to drop off three pizzas for the staff around 2 PM. The mother explained that the family had driven past the clinic earlier in the day and they witnessed a few anti-choice protesters yelling at a female clinic volunteer while she stood there silently. "These women don't deserve to be treated like this," the mother said. "It made me mad and I wanted to show my daughter that this decision is okay."
"Can I volunteer with my mom here?" the middle-schooler asked. I almost started crying tears of happiness and gratitude. I wish my coworkers had been there to see it because it was one of the most touching moments of my life.
Every day yields more examples of the fact that Ohio is actually brimming with girls and women (and guys too!) who are passionate about choice. These women TRUST their mothers, sisters, and daughters to control their own reproductive health and futures.
We may have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and endure being screamed at by religious extremists, but we will continue to defend our right to choose and to not feel ashamed for accessing safe, legal abortions.
Written by: Amanda Patton
Anti-choice Republicans love to pretend like their extreme viewpoints on abortion are the norm and that the majority of American are against abortion. However, the facts show that this is far from the truth. According to the Pew Research Center, 51% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 43% who say it should be illegal all or most of the time.
Public polling shows that the majority of Americans are pro-choice and I’ve seen plenty of real-life examples of support from the local community. More and more Ohioans are becoming aware of the harassment and barriers that abortion patients and clinic workers must face every day.
Many people are shocked when they see disturbing photos of anti-choice protesters or read an article about the useless state regulations that threaten to close abortion clinics across the state. They say things like, “I had no idea any of this is happening. How can I help?” These generous individuals from across Ohio have stepped up and committed amazing acts of kindness towards our clinic and patients.
I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge these pro-choice heroes and shine a light on the positive responses that Founder's Women's Health Center and Capital Care Network have received from the community.
1. THANK YOU to the men and women who volunteer as patient escorts at Founder’s Women’s Health Center (in Columbus), and at Capital Care Network (our sister clinic in Toledo).
These caring individuals wake up early every Saturday morning so they can be here at the clinic to walk patients through the gauntlet of anti-choice protesters, who use all kinds of manipulative tactics to intimidate and shame these women. Thanks to the clinic's volunteer escorts, our patients do not have to face this chaotic crowd of judgmental strangers alone.
2. THANK YOU to Catherine Girves, a Columbus pro-choice activist, who donated FIVE giant rainbow golf umbrellas for the volunteers at FWHC.
Now our escorts will be able to shield our patients from the protester’s cameras as these women are walking into the clinic.
3. THANK YOU to the fabulous feminists who came out to the clinic this summer to “Chalk The Walk” with uplifting messages and images.
Your beautiful, artistic activism was recently acknowledged and celebrated in the August 2015 issue of 614 Magazine.
4. THANK YOU to Marina Bolotnikova for writing an op-ed in the Toledo Blade chastising ProMedica for refusing to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network - a simple act that would save Toledo’s last abortion clinic.
She voiced what many in Toledo were already thinking: Promedica has medical, civic, and moral duty to keep the city’s only abortion clinic open.
5. THANK YOU to the Toledo father who donated $1000 to Capital Care Network in his late daughter's name.
According to Marlena Ainslie, CCN's administrative assistant and patient advocate: "An elderly man called the clinic because he read the article in the Toledo Blade and was appalled to learn Toledo is so close to losing its last clinic. So I sat down with him and spoke for awhile about his dear daughter, who he lost 20 years ago. She had suffered from endometriosis, and at one point needed an abortion. He then wrote a $1000 check, to help more women in Toledo access the abortions they need."
6. Finally, THANK YOU to Amy D, a Columbus designer and business owner who sent a fun box of goodies to cheer up FWHC’s employees and volunteers after a really rough week.
Working in abortion healthcare can be a thankless job at times, so this unexpected gift of sassy merit badges and coffee sleeves made the clinic's staff feel appreciated.
Author: Amanda Patton
Dear John (Kasich):
It took me a few days to get up the courage to write you this open letter after you stood me up on Tuesday night. Me and 30 of my closest feminist friends waited peacefully outside of your Statehouse office for more than an hour, but we never saw you.
We wanted you to look us in the eyes as you headed into your chamber to sign the state’s budget bill. You know, the one stuffed with several unconstitutional anti-abortion regulations:
We gathered outside of your office to ask one small request of you: veto these back-door abortion restrictions from the budget.
Normally, we would have called you before just showing up outside of your door… Oh wait, we DID call your office, but no one answered. It went straight to voicemail every single time, even though we called during business hours on a Tuesday. It felt like you were avoiding us, despite the fact that we are your tax-paying constituents; the people who you were elected to represent.
So we showed up at the Statehouse to pass along our urgent message to you, our Governor, but instead we were met by the State Highway Patrol. Because a small group of feminists carrying hand-written notes is truly terrifying, I guess? As the officers questioned our group’s organizers, you slipped into your office through the back door like a coward. Like you were afraid of us. That had to be it, right?
Or maybe it wasn’t fear… maybe you just don’t give a damn about us? Yeah, I think that’s it. I came to this ugly realization when your Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor mockingly muttered under her breath, “I wonder how many of these people are vegetarians?” as she walked past me and my friends on her way into your office.
You used your veto pen more than 40 times, yet you purposefully chose to NOT veto anti-abortion provisions that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the budget. You knew these provisions violate the Ohio Constitution’s "single subject" rule, but you left them in anyways. Despite Lucas County Judge Myron Duhart’s recent ruling that it was unconstitutional for legislators to sneak similar abortion restrictions into the budget, you still signed this bill. It’s painfully obvious that you and the rest of Ohio's Republican legislators have decided that you can just pick and choose when to obey the courts and Constitution.
Because of this legislation, at least three abortion clinics could close, leaving Ohio with just six clinics to serve the entire state. But that was the whole point of this, right? You and your anti-choice administration claim these regulations are for the health and safety of women, but that’s just a clever cover-up for the truth:
The women of Ohio are keenly aware of your administration's strategy to quietly enact useless abortion regulations that make it nearly impossible for abortion facilities to legally operate, with the intention of closing every single abortion clinic in the state.
You seem to have forgotten that pro-choice women vote too. But we will not forget what you have done. While you’re on the Presidential campaign trail, the state will be wasting taxpayer dollars defending your administration's shady anti-abortion laws, which violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that women have a legal right to safely access abortion without the government placing undue burdens in their way.
It’s pretty laughable that you think you stand a chance at winning a national election when you blatantly choose to ignore the constituents, courts, and constitution of your home state. Do you really think you’re going to beat Hillary Clinton when you can’t even look a small group of women in the eyes as you use the state budget to screw us over?
Best of luck with your current campaign strategy. I'm truly looking forward to watching you lose in 2016.
Registered Voter & Patient Advocate at Founder's Women's Health Center