What are clinic escorts?
Clinic escorts are volunteers who help patients and their support people enter and leave abortion provider clinics without being harassed or intimidated by folks opposed to abortion.
In Queensland, we don’t have what’s known as ‘safe access zones’ legislated, so there’s nothing to prevent abortion opponents from gathering outside abortion clinics and trying to change the minds of people trying to access services there. Their actions can vary from silent prayer through to yelling at patients and banging on the windscreens of cars as patients are being dropped off or picked up. Women have told us they’ve been called murderers, child abusers, and that they’ll go to hell for killing their baby. Clinic staff are similarly abused but are often more worried at seeing their patients arrive in tears or visibly upset.
We organised volunteer escorts for the first time in February 2018, at the start of the annual 40 Days For Life prayer vigil. These are held internationally across the period of Lent, and are supposed to entail 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week ‘prayer to end abortion’ outside clinics. Here in Brisbane the target clinic was at Bowen Hills, and we decided to see if having escorts there would help patients and staff feel more at ease while the vigil was being held. We hadn’t done it before so had no idea what to expect, but we were blown away by the response. We had over 70 people in three days put their hands up to help out, and it continued to grow from there. The clinic reported that the antis’ attendance was considerably down on previous years, and that they and their patients had really appreciated the supportive presence of the escorts outside.
Since the vigil ended, reports from several clinics are that anti-choice activity outside their premises has intensified. In many cases, those ‘protesting’ outside clinics are doing so with police permits. One clinic told us their patients are filmed as they enter and leave. So we’ve decided to extend the escort program, at more locations.
Check out the info here for how it works, and over here if you want to get involved. It’s really important you read the guidelines for escorts before you sign up, so you know what’s expected of volunteers. The most important thing is that you understand you’re not there to counter protest, or to engage with the anti-choice groups in any way. Your sole purpose is to act as a comfort to people entering or leaving the clinic, and to put yourself between them and anyone trying to harass them if that’s necessary. You can see what folks who’ve done an escort shift or two have had to say about their experience over here, and check out some photos escort vollies have taken on our facebook or insta.