Last night–yes, last night–I escorted as shift supervisor at the Falls Church Healthcare Center during 40 Days for Life. It was my first time as supervisor and first time escorting during 40 Days.
Normally, I would be escorting early on Saturday mornings but was asked at the last minute to come in the evening to make sure patients and staff got into their vehicles without incident.
What is 40 Days for Life?
40 Days is a twice-yearly occurrence (Lent and 40 days before the election) where anti-choicers come out in DROVES to protest clinics across the country and the world. This year, they supposedly had 588 actions in 66 countries, though I take anything an anti says with a large grain of salt. Their goal is to have an anti choice presence outside of each clinic for 40 days straight.
In normal times, it’s extremely overwhelming, with THOUSANDS of antis surrounding clinics across the country. They bring microphones, hold marches, bring in politicians and church leaders to speak, block roads, sing and pray, and cause major delays in abortion care by preventing staff and patients from accessing the clinic. In COVID-19 times, this is reckless endangerment, especially because very, very few wear masks and none socially distance themselves.
Which brings me to last night. What many folks don’t know is that the national kickoff event for 40 Days actually happens at the Falls Church Healthcare Center. While Two of the national leaders for 40 Days spoke to a crowd outside of the clinic.
As usual, I decided to fundraise while I escorted. On Saturday mornings, I donate one dollar for every (adult) anti that comes to protest while throwing in bonus dollars for every Hail Mary said for me, every rosary, and pedestrians who thank me for being there or yell at the antis for not wearing masks.
Last night I raised money for the ARCH fund (Access to Reproductive Care and Health), the hyper-local abortion fund whose board I sit on, that fills the remaining financing gaps for patients at the Falls Church clinic.
No patient should have to face a single protester, let alone a crowd of protesters, alone. So the WACDTF volunteer escorts were there from 5-7 tonight to make sure no one faces them alone.
The night started off fairly quietly, with only a few antis at around 5:30. By the time the speakers started at 6, there were about 30 adults and a handful of children. For those who follow along on my Instagram story know that I purposfully do not fundraise of off children. They don’t know enough about these dynamics. Plus, I have quite a few friends who have shared that their parents made them protest outside of clinics and are now pro-choice.
As the hour went on, more and more antis joined. The speakers said horrible things about abortion, our clinic, and about my fellow escort and me. It’s hard to hear such lies about us (for example, we were accused of getting bonuses when more antis show up, which is hilarious because were volunteers) but raising money off of them has been such a boon. Of course, being there to help patients and staff enter the clinic and keep an eye on things is enough, but doing something proactive like fundraising, instead of something in reacton to their presence at the clinic feels really good.
And so far, we’ve raised almost $250 for ARCH by the time 40 adult antis showed up. I’m extremely pleased that this money directly benefits the patients who have to walk by and listen to these people when they’re trying to access care.
I still haven’t made my final donation to the fund yet, so if you are able, please donate!
-Venmo me directly at @stephanie-black-11
-dm me your venmo handle and the amount you’d like to donate and I can request you
-donate directly on the website: accessreproductivecareandhealth.com
Additionally, make sure to follow these campaigns and hashtags in response to 40 Days for Life: 40 Days of Choice, 40 Days of Indie Clinics, #My40Days. For more information on clinic escorting, indie clinics, and clinic violence, subscribe to my 7-week educational email series, Repro 101! I cover all of this and more.
From my Instagram: