Once someone has decided to have an abortion, there should be no shame or pressure. However, the number of people showing up to harass patients at reproductive health clinics in Florida is escalating and the harassers are getting more aggressive toward patients as they arrive and depart. Public shaming, trespassing, creating a noisy, chaotic scene, and obstructing and redirecting traffic are typical tactics.
The threats and intimidation patients face would not be tolerated at any other facility.
Many of the protesters have little regard for COVID-related safety precautions, regularly flouting CDC-recommended limitations on gatherings and not wearing masks or socially distancing.
More volunteer escorts for clinic patients are desperately needed. Here’s what that entails: You accompany patients seeking reproductive care on the walk from their transportation to the clinic, during which it’s likely the patient will encounter anti-abortion protesters who attempt to shame or dissuade them from going through with the procedure. Patient escorts contribute to creating welcoming, supportive environments for patients, and play an essential role in de-stigmatizing abortion — a normal part of health care.
We have heard directly from four Florida clinics in urgent need of volunteer patient escorts and urge you to consider signing up:
- Clearwater – Bread and Roses Woman’s Health Center. Contact escort coordinator Judy for training information. Escorts are scheduled on Saturdays on a monthly rotation; about one shift each month.
- Jacksonville – A Woman’s Choice. Complete the online Volunteer Escort Application.
- Lakeland – Lakeland Woman’s Health Center. Join the Polk Pro-choice Advocacy League (P.A.L) Facebook group where a schedule is always posted at the top of the page or contact escort coordinators via email.
- West Palm Beach – Presidential Women’s Center. Contact escort coordinator Ellen for training information. Escorts are needed on Saturdays.
If you live in a different community than those listed above, find your local abortion providers here. Then, once you’ve decided on a place or two where you’d like to volunteer, reach out to the provider to inquire about their needs.
Another way to support patients in your community in need of abortion is to make donations to your local abortion fund – organizations committed to removing financial and logistical barriers to abortion access for patients in need. Major fundraising drives are going on for abortion funds during the month of April. Find the fund serving patients in your region of Florida here.