Occupy The Antis

No, not the Aunties....

No, not the Aunties….

 

Antis, as in, anti-choice protesters. As in, the ones at Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter

One week ago today, after dropping off her daughter at Audubon Camp, SCM [1] drove past the Lovejoy Clinic on her way back to what was going to be a productive work day at home…until the product turned out to be not what she’d planned. She saw a small but visibly determined group of anti-choice protesters occupying the sidewalks around the clinic entrance, a sight which frosted her butt and prompted her to call moiself.

The possibility of protesting anti-choice protesters was something SCM and I tossed about many months ago, when she’d mentioned that she sometimes saw anti-abortion demonstraters outside the clinic. I had never seen protesters outside of Lovejoy, [2] but told SCM if she ever wanted to offer some spontaneous support to the clinic, I’d be there if I could.

Dateline: last Friday am. My phone rang (??? What? A phone call – no text?), and it was SCM. There were protesters in the sidewalk outside Lovejoy, she was stopping at a nearby office supply store for poster board and Sharpies, and did I want to join her?

Within 35-40 minutes I

–  changed out of my workout clothes [3]
– dismissed my computer reminders (the list of things I was supposed to be doing)

– found sign-substitute paper (alas, no poster board) in my daughter’s art stash
-hastily scribbled three signs
– drove to the corner of NE 25th & Lovejoy.

For the next couple of hours, SCM and I, according to a supportive passerby, “Occupied the protest.”

SCM told me over the phone that two of the protesters were holding signs which read Women Need Support Not Abortion. Therefore, one of my signs had to be

 

support

 

Our counterprotest was more…fun…than I’d thought it would be.  SCM and I had nice time people-watching and conversing on a variety of subjects, despite the periodic interruptions by the Antis, who just had to try to witness to us, every ten minutes. (Really – they were quite regular. I think they used an egg timer).

The Antis were a small group, totaling maybe seven white bodies: four or five women ranging in age from late twenties to sixties, and two middle-aged men. The men patrolled further up the corner sidewalks and seemed to be keeping “lookout.” The womenfolk took turns holding signs, and one of them playing pointman, trying to engage anyone entering the clinic. [4]

I’d had previous experience with anti-choice protesters, when I worked at three different Planned Parenthood clinics in the [5] Bay Area. Those encounters were sporadic and mostly benign. The Lovejoy Antis were not using the Bat-Shit Crazy Screaming Fundy ® approach;  instead, they followed the glowing smile, “You are beautiful – don’t you know you are beautiful…may I ask you/show you something?” method of chat chumming, and Pointman Woman complimented my posters:

Pointman Woman: “Your signs are so funny!”
Moiself: “And yours are so boring!”

I felt my pulse rate gallop the first time one of the Lovejoy Antis tried to start up a dialog with me. Despite their outward, assertively serene manner, I knew what those people were and are: fanatics who believe they are doing their god’s work by invading other people’s private business. Which makes them crazies, IMHO. And in the  Good Ole U.S.A. , everyone with a pulse – including and especially the crazies – has access to guns.

My pulse, however, quickly realized it had gotten a workout for naught, and returned to normal. Turns out the only weapons the Antis were packing were the verbal and intellectual gaffes with which they shot themselves in their own feet. [6] 

footshot

 

҉    Things I Learned While Occupying the Antis    ☼

* The four way stop sign intersection at 25th and Lovejoy is a dicey spot for cyclists and pedestrians. Yo, wealthy NW Portlanders: stop signs mean drivers are supposed to stop, y’all, not cruise through while checking your reflection in the mirror of your Mercedes SL convertibles (admittedly, you who occupied them did look fabulous) or dictating some jive-ass drivel into your burnt orange Blackberrys.

*  It was almost too much fun to watch SCM school the Antis on American religion; i.e., Pilgrim and Puritan and immigrant European (redundant, that) Christian theology and history. We hadn’t planned on speaking with the protesters and did not initiate conversation, but they would make some asinine comment that begged for clarification…and they were not prepared for how incisively intelligent SCM is (and how ignorant they sounded).

* I almost completely underestimated the entertainment value of watching passing automobile riders’ lips move as they tried to read SCM’s and my signs.

* After said lip-readings we received bemused looks and thumbs up, and some rolled down windows and Right on! s – from drivers who showed down and/or stopped long enough at the intersection to read our signs.

 

make that, NOT

make that, NOT

 

* We also received a couple of, er, favorite finger salutes, from a couple of male drivers who drove as quickly as they could through the intersection without even glancing at our signs. When I heard a few choice epithets [7] one of the bird-flippers tossed along with his finger, I realized that he and others like him, who probably drive through that intersection regularly, to and from work or whatever,, and didn’t even bother to look at SCM’s and my signs, assumed we were with them  (the Antis).  Thus, the next time I engage in such a venture, for clarity’s sake one of my signs may be a variation of the classic t-shirt message: I’m NOT With Stupid.

* One of SCM’s signs – The Flying Spaghetti Monster Hates Anti-Choicers – was our litmus test of sorts, for identifying the Cool People Who Get It.

 

shelleyprotesst

 

* Okay, the following is not technically a Thing I Learned While Occupying the Antis, in that it is not news to me. Rather, it could go into the category of a sad fact reinforced: people who think they have the Christian god on their side have no qualms about breaking one of their god’s rules about bearing false witness.

SCM and I saw a police officer park his cruiser on the NE corner of Lovejoy. Meanwhile, the spineless lying asshat one of the male patrolling Antis, whom SCM had seen speaking furtively into his cell phone a couple of minutes before the cop car arrived, high-tailed it around the corner as soon as the cop car arrived.

The officer exited his car and approached the clinic. I called out to him, “You’re at the perfect place if you want to do a traffic sting!” and started to tell him about the stop sign scofflaws, while SCM wriggled with excitement and gushed, It’s not really a protest without the police arriving!” The officer gave us a regretful smile, told us nah on both accounts, and said he wasn’t here about the protest or the traffic, but to check out a call they (presumably the cops) had received. He asked us, rather laconically – as if he already knew the answer but had to go through the motions – if we’d heard anyone yelling for help from inside the building.

yeahright

Of course we didn’t, because nobody had. “You’ve been set up,” I advised him. Officer Nonchalant tried to stifle a cynical grin from spreading across his face as he entered the building to check things out. He exited the clinic a minute or so later, just as I wondered aloud who had made the false police report. Within a minute of the cop car leaving, the spineless lying asshat the suddenly-disappeared- male-patrolling Anti returned to his post on the sidewalk.

* One of my signs was quite popular with drivers who had children in the car. Not only that, the sign seemed to motivate the female sign-holding Antis to change places on the sidewalk, so as not to be on the pointing side of my sign’s directional arrow. People who think they’ve a sacred obligation to tell other people how to live do not want to stand next to you when you’re holding up a sign that treats them with all the seriousness they deserve:

lovejoy1,jpg

 

* Yo, anti-choicers: If you’re going to attempt to proselytize you need to know your religion’s basic terminology. I’m not even talking complicated theological constructs, ala transubstantiation or theodicy or Catholic vs. Protestant soteriology. Jesus Christ up the creek without a paddle! – know your basic vocabulary, or shut yer yap.

Examples: When Pointman Woman declared that “we are all sinners,” I asked her to define sin. She ummm-ed and ahhh-ed before throwing the question to one of her older comrades : “It’s kind of…well, how would you explain it?”

 

facepalm

 

They finally settled on anything that “offends the holiness of god.”

Oh, like my fucking potty mouth?
(from the Department of Things I Almost Said)

During another slow moment on the sidewalk (no clinic patients to pester), Pointman Woman, already tantalized to discover that SCM was a minister’s daughter, asked me what my “faith” was. I offered up Happy Heretic and Avid Apostate, and told her she could use whatever term she found most entertaining. It quickly became apparent – and she admitted, when I asked her – that she didn’t know what either heretic or apostate meant.

Later in the morning another Anti made yet another attempt to engage me with a “May I show you something?” entreaty. She’d already flashed me her (supposed) aborted fetus pamphlet, and she was reaching for a blue velvet lined-jewelry case, which, as I’d seen earlier, contained fetus trinkets laid out in charm bracelet fashion.  I countered with, “May I show you something?” and removed what was intended to be my morning snack – a small baggie of almonds – from my pants pocket.

Moiself: “Would you like to scrutinize my nut sack?”

Anti:      “I don’t understand.” (She looked genuinely confused.) “How does this relate…”

Moiself: “Since you are so interested in policing other people’s bodies I thought you might like to examine an intimate part of mine….”

Anti:      ???

Her expression, to a tee.

Her expression, to a tee.

 

DANG! A perfectly good pun, wasted on a proselytizing pudding head.

Laaaaady ?!?! You’re standing outside a medical facility trying to tell strangers what to do with their reproductive organs and you don’t know what a nut sack is?

 

REALLY

 

Every so often, two or three of the Antis women put down their signs and formed a group to murmur, pray, exchange Jell-o salad recipes or whatever. Once, three of them began to sing the hymn Amazing Grace. SCM joined in – and of course, she knew more verses than they did. [8] Not to be outdone, I chimed in with the Mary Tyler Moore Theme song.

 

 

Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever

We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their grateful for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk. [9]  As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded their services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies. I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable. After working with women’s health all day, she replied, “it’s a nice change of scenery.”

*   *   *

After our counter-protest, SCM and I treated ourselves to sushi lunch in the Pearl district. Driving on home from Portland, I passed a guy, apparently hoping to hitch a ride to the coast, standing by one of the freeway entrance ramps, holding up a sign which read

SEASIDE
PLEASE

I caught myself wanting to yell out the window, that’s a boring sign!

*   *   *

May you take the opportunity to express your Anti-Anti convictions,
may your signs always be entertaining,
may you enjoy an occasional change of scenery,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She of the multiple slash identities: friend/attorney/fellow writer/wit and snarkstress extraordinaire….

[2] However, it’s not like I’m in that part of Portland on a regular basis.

[3] No time to shower, but I thought my exercise B.O. could be yet another turnoff for the protesters. As for SCM…she is a most tolerant friend.

[4] Actual in-and-out clinic traffic was quite spotty.

[5] Although the clinics I worked at were rarely picketed, and the picketers hadn’t figured out where the back doors were, where the staff entered.

[6] Let’s just pretend that was a smoother application of the shoot yourself in the foot idiom.

[7] Along the “mind your own !#$*! business you #@&$% asshole fanatics” line.

[8] They got the first two verses, then began to mumble/sing, like when you forget the lyrics and substitute whatever you think rhymes.

[9] A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting and in a private OB/GYN practice.