I wanted to know what it was like firsthand — what clients had to endure when entering the Vine Street clinic. So last year, I called the headquarters of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and an employee told me to meet her outside the clinic between 8 and 9 a.m. on a Saturday, the time when most abortions are scheduled.
If I wanted to increase my chances of "maximum contact" with protesters, I needed to follow some simple instructions.
1) Bring a female companion — in this case, my wife. Being a man, I was unlikely to get the royal baby-killer treatment unless the ever-present protesters thought I was coercing the object of my sinister sexual deviance into going through with the procedure.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
2) Drive around looking lost and dumbfounded for a few minutes, then park on Vine Street about a half-block south of the clinic. (Though most clients used the clinic's fenced-off parking lot, some parked on the street, and still others walked over from the bus stop.) This would give protesters ample time to pull out their signs and slogans to convince us that God was watching — and so were they.
3) Dress comfortably, and maybe bring some reading material. I would need to wait outside the facility while my wife would be escorted through the entrance into the vestibule, where she'd wait out our ruse.
At 8:30 a.m. last October 7, we parked our car on Vine and strolled up the sidewalk toward the clinic, a squat, cinderblock building set close to the sidewalk. With only a small strip of grass as a buffer to the street, there was no way to avoid the protesters camped out in front — and no way for neighbors to miss their shouting. Fifteen or so demonstrators were waiting just outside the gate to the clinic's parking lot.
"We got one!" a woman cried, and with that, the team mobilized with a practiced efficiency. While everyone else cleared the sidewalk and moved onto that strip of grass, two women directly in front of us walked backward, slowly, while they told my wife it wasn't too late to save her (non-existent) child. From the sidelines, other protesters alternately berated us and pleaded for us to turn back. Many seemed well within eight feet of me.
"God is watching you kill your child," one screamed.
"You will not escape judgment for the murder of this child!"
As we headed for the protection of the gated parking lot, where volunteer escorts waited to ensure our safe passage, the calls from behind took a turn — right at me.
"What are you gonna do with her, you pervert? Haven't you done enough to her already? Are you going to get her all cleaned out so you can use her again?"
I could sense my wife getting ready to respond, so I placed my hand on her back to keep her moving forward.
"Don't you touch her!"
"You make me sick! That's disgusting! Get your hands off of her!"
As my wife was led inside, I took a seat on a bench beside the double security doors leading to the lobby. Ken Scott was perched on his ladder in the alley. Looking over the fence, he yelled something about Nazi concentration camps and lesbians, but I couldn't really concentrate, because he was reflecting sunlight straight at my face using a sheet of what looked like Mylar. He tired of this after a few minutes, though, and instead focused on a nearby cadre of volunteer escorts, all clad in clearly identifiable Planned Parenthood vests, who were drinking coffee and talking. There will be no coffee in hell, Scott told them.
Then he turned his attention back to me: "Do you hear that, Dad? That's your child in there being cut apart and tortured. That's the sound of your child crying out for you, Dad. That's him saying I just want to live and for you to take me fishing. Dad, you can't escape judgment for what's happening in there, because you are just as guilty for killing that child as that doctor, Dad."
His diatribe was interrupted by the appearance of a red pickup.
"We got one!" the spotter cried.
The escorts rushed up as a young woman got out of the cab with a man who appeared to be her father. In broken Spanish, an escort told her that it would be all right, and took her into the clinic. She returned to the truck in less time than it takes to get your blood pressure taken — and Planned Parenthood does offer other medical services — carrying a small paper bag, the kind the clinic gives to patients taking home birth control.
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Now Jo Scott appeared on her own ladder, directly across the parking lot from her husband. She asked the young woman if she planned to keep her baby. The woman stopped in the middle of the parking lot and looked at Jo.
"Are you going to keep your baby?" Jo asked again. The woman shrugged slightly in response, then got into the truck. As it exited the parking lot, Jo cried out: "Ken, she's not going to do it! She's going to keep her baby!"
But at least that's her choice to make.