“You are worthy of nothing but disdain”

There are not many jobs that require you to stand there and take it while you are yelled at and verbally abused, but being an Planned Parenthood escort is one of them. We are under strict orders not to engage with the protesters, and we don’t. Sometimes, though, that can be really, really difficult.

In those moments when there are no women entering the clinic, the protesters often turn their energies toward the escorts—and that means me. (For more on what it’s like to be an escort, read this post.) Sometimes what they say is fairly innocuous, and other times it’s the expected “there is blood on your hands” and “you are leading those women to the slaughter.” But lately the protesters at my local clinic have begun taking things even further.

You are a wicked woman. 

Women like you are utterly vile. 

You are worthy of nothing but disdain. 

The disgust in their voices is palpable, and I have no recourse but to stand there and take it. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t emotionally taxing. Fortunately, the other escorts and I are usually not to close too the protesters, and fortunately the protesters don’t usually keep this up the entire time. But for that time when am standing close to them, waiting for someone to get out of a car on that side of the parking lot, listening to this? It’s hard to keep my face passive and not respond. I am beginning to understand why there is such high turnover among escorts.

Do me a favor, will you? If you ever have a chance to make an escort’s day brighter, whether it’s bringing him or her a treat as a thank you or just offering kind words and a hug, please do.

The Abortion Rate Is Falling. Why?
The Totally Unoriginal Atheist Case against Abortion
Sad but True
When Abortion Restrictions Mean Jail Time
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • RobinMK

    You are so incredibly brave to be out there. I’ve been trying to get up the nerve to volunteer, but I don’t know if my skin is thick enough to handle people like that. Keep being awesome! And the next time I drive past PP, I will definitely stop and give some love to the escorts :)

  • henglish

    We don’t have escorts where I live, because it’s not the issue it is in the USA. I just wanted to say you’re doing amazing work and are clearly an incredibly brave person. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • A Reader

    There isn’t a Planned Parenthood for miles where I live, but I know if there were, the escorts would face exactly this. You & the others are so brave, and I know every (non-protester) person at the clinic appreciates you too.

    • Anonymouse

      If only the “pro-life” people would put their time and energy into actually supporting women and children, instead of screaming, bombing, and throwing bodily fluids at them

      • Khaliah

        “screaming, bombing, and throwing bodily fluids at them”

        Wow. Sounds like the Women’s Suffrage movement all over again.

  • http://truthspew.wordpress.com Truthspew

    Wow – kudos for you for not saying anything! Me, I couldn’t stay silent in the face of bullshit like that.

  • Yoav

    I have an immense amount of respect for you and the other escorts as well as to the stuff of PP and other clinics who are there providing an often life saving treatment at great personal risk. I don’t think I would have been able to hold back too long when faced with the sad excuses for human being that think they can do nothing better then torture women when they already in pain but I know that while punching such assholes in the face may be extremely satisfying in the short term, in the long run it would probably do more harm then good.

  • Julian

    I just found out recently that one of my favorite co-workers has been a pro-Planned Parenthood activist and volunteer for over 20 years. I have immense respect for the work she’s done on their behalf, and for yours as well, Libby Anne. Thank you.

  • Louise

    Telling someone they are worthy of nothing of disdain and are wicked without even knowing them is vile. What you are doing is helping scared, vulnerable and desperate women in their time of need. The protesters continue to take women out of the equation. What you are doing is wonderful and it is something that I don’t think I can do. I wouldn’t be able to handle it hearing it about myself, even though I know it is complete BS, but it is worse to hear it yelled at the women, even the ones that go there who are not having an abortion. These women are lucky to have someone like you and your fellow escorts.

  • Red

    What makes me really angry is that those same people probably wouldn’t put forth any effort to help the young, desperate women who come to PP because they are trying to make decisions about what to do. At a time like that, support from others can be a vital factor in the decision-making process. People who are TRULY concerned about the decisions that young women make should be ready to back those young women when they need help. Period.

    • louise

      I agree. Many of these people do not want their “tax dollars” going to “irresponsibility.” I see a lot of comments like that on the PP’s facebook page. They want that zygote born but afterwards, you must figure out how to live because I don’t want my tax dollars funding anything that might be helpful to you…

  • Nea

    Thank you, Libby Anne. For doing it, and for blogging about it.

    I will pass on two of my tips for keeping my cool under fire. When I first started, I carried some sort of chewy food with me – rice krispie treats, for example – so when I opened my mouth to yell back or explain, I could stuff it in and stick my teeth together until the feeling passed.

    The other one is to play a form of bingo in my head, based off the quotes. (If they let you at your PP, you might even get away with actually *playing* bingo in front of them; that’s up to you.) I know another escort who makes mental bets as to how soon she’ll be called a bitch. Another one is angling for one of the antis to give her a rubber fetus, so that’s the game she’s playing in her head.

    In a weird way, I’ve been lucky. The one person who constantly addressed us directly was so unhinged that none of us could take her seriously; she’d be yelling things like “You stink of the blood of innocent children!”

  • Shari

    I wish I could help this cause in some way. There’s only one clinic in my whole state that does abortions, and I don’t live anywhere near it. It just boggles my mind that people would be so hateful toward someone who is doing something that takes so much courage to do. Women having abortions most likely are not doing it lightly, and have been through a lot before they even head to the clinic. That they need escorts in the first place is awful, and the escorts being verbally abused is even lower. It never fails to amaze me how low people will stoop in the name of “Christianity”.

  • Random Lurker

    I didn’t even know PP needed escorts. I live in California. My local PP (which my wife uses for her exams, we are poor) is in a little strip mall and shares it’s parking lot with an outlet clothing store and a Wiener Schnitzel. I’ve never even seen protestors there.

    It amazes me how we can be so closely linked by a common nationality, but live in such different worlds anyway.

    • Rae

      Yeah, I currently live in the part of CA where there’s like 15 local PP branches, and almost all of them are in strip malls, and I’ve never seen protestors at any of them.

      I have heard stories about the protestors near some of the locations down in Orange County, though…

      • Khaliah

        Orange County is called the “retiring place for conservatives” so, there you go.

      • http://undulantfever.blogspot.com/ Bruce Arthurs

        I used to be a security guard at strip malls. The reason you probably don’t see protesters there is because the entire mall property is privately-owned property: buildings, parking lots, and all the roads and sidewalks off of public roads and sidewalks. So to protest, you either have to have the property owner’s permission, or stay on the outside fringes of the property where “public” sidewalks start.

        I never worked any property with a PP office, but there were a couple of times where unions wanted to protest working conditions or anti-union activities. Even though I usually sided with the unions, I still had to tell them to stay off the “private” portions of the strip mall, i.e., all of it.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    I wish I had an adequate response for you. I can think of no circumstance where I would say these words to another human being. The fact that you have not returned insults to the protesters even on this blog speaks volumes about the type of person you are. You deserve a medal for every day you put up with this kind of nonsense.

  • Carys Birch

    I work in a call center, and as such come in for my fair share of verbal abuse. And it does get to me after a while. I had a near snap today after a string of calls where impersonal issues were made personal by the slew of verbal abuse that accompanied them. I can’t even begin to imagine how I could cope with that degree of abuse in a face to face situation, let alone one that I feel so intimately personally connected to. I second everyone who’s said that you’re brave and strong to be able to take on that work.

    My local clinic (for the record) has protesters, but they are gated out and have to stand a LONG way from where any of the patients and volunteers park. I’ve never been heckled there, although I’ve seen people waving signs a few times. If protesters could keep it at signs everywhere, things would be a lot better.

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

    What you do is amazing, and I have the greatest respect for you.

  • Melanie

    You do amazing work, thank you!

  • Gordon

    Funny, their shouts seem to accurately reflect my view of them. I wonder how they sleep at night.

    • Khaliah

      They sleep well, I’m sure.

      I’d wager a good majority of them honestly feel they’re doing something worthwhile, that somehow harassing women to a near mental breakdown is justifiable in the “slaughter of innocent children.” You know. The children they never touch bases with after their mothers go through screaming agony to bring them into the world.

      I wonder how many pro-lifers have gone in with a woman in labor, a woman they talked into having her child. I wonder how many held her hand while she pushed, coaxed her through each contraction. I wonder how many of them know the names of the children they “saved.” I wonder how many of them put up hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to ensure that Pro-Life Victory Jr has clothes and food because Mommy didn’t have a job at the time she got pregnant/gave birth.

      But my guess? Not that many have. Once that child passes through the birth canal, it quickly goes from being a “blessing,” an “innocent little baby”, to a “consequence” and “punishment.” A literal rite of passage, I suppose.

      And yet, in the midst of all this ugliness, yes, they do sleep well. They love to be hated, to be talked about on sites like this; it feeds into the cancerous persecution complex that has crippled American Christianity. Too many people look to the Beautitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount and believe “persecuted for righteousness” is what they’re experiencing. It secures their faith, their conviction, their rightness.

  • ewok_wrangler

    I suppose this would count as “engaging” them, but if not, you could make like a 3-inch yellow button for your lapel that just reads “MATT. 5:11″. ‘d probably drive em nuts….

  • Katamaran

    Pardon my French, but those clinic protesters are cowardly pieces of shit. I could not do what you do, because about five minutes of their spittle and vitriol and I’d probably lose it. It’s their laziness that gets me. Working towards actual solutions is HARD. Standing around screaming and stomping your feet is what toddlers do, and it’s easy as hell. And I guarantee that not one single fetus has ever been saved by their bilious grandstanding. Anyway, keep on fighting the good fight. Don’t let the pricks get you down.

  • ERose

    You stay silent because you have a job to do, and it’s to help a woman who needs you. That’s more important than anything you could say to those people. To keep them from distracting you and keeping your focus only on the good you are there to do makes you brave and praiseworthy.

    It takes no effort to indulge in ugliness. That’s why so many people do it. Don’t let them make you ugly. That’s for all of us.

    In my job, for different reasons, I get a lot of thoughtless vitriol, and I can tell all my fellow commenters that the smallest gesture of appreciation goes a long way toward canceling out the bad feeling it causes. A quick thank you note when someone was expecting hate mail is awesome, and arguably does more good than adding more anger to a volunteer’s day, even if that anger is on their behalf.

  • Mirta Sanchez

    Hello, I’ve come to you via Shakesville.com and I’m glad to have this opportunity to say THANK YOU for your willingness to be a soldier in that war, in spite of the really damaging cost to you personally. I live in CA like some of the other commenters and have never seen this kind of behavior in physical space but of course, know that it happens.
    So I guess what the dissenters and antis and straight up hateful people are saying is, DON’T GET PREGNANT but if you do DON”T HAVE AN ABORTION but if you don’t WE WON’T HELP YOU CARE FOR YOUR CHILD. Sorry, you are shit out of luck or whatever. Amazing.
    Anyway, THANK YOU for your work in this terrible war. I’m calling you a hero!

  • lucifermourning

    thank you for doing this.

  • http://kellythinkstoomuch.wordpress.com KellyK

    Thank you for your work.

  • RachelB

    Thank you for being there, Libby Anne. No one should have to deal with the threat of assault or terrorism while going to a medical appointment.

  • observer

    Just pretend they’re beating like sheep; God knows it’s suitable.

    • observer


  • http://pushthepulldoor.blogspot.com Don Gwinn

    I’m glad you do it, but I know it can’t be easy. But then, what would it be like for that woman trying to walk in without you?

  • Catherine

    I wonder how many of these people protest at invitro fertilization clinics. I mean if embryos are people and killing them is murder. Invitro fertilization clinics discard almost as many embryos as abortion yearly.