An Open Letter to a Protester Outside the Boston Planned Parenthood This Saturday

An old mall and other stores sit vacant and empty in a deserted parking lot.
An old mall and other stores sit vacant and empty in a deserted parking lot.

Dear Planned Parenthood "petitioner,"

Thank you for the work you have done today. In honor of the hours you spent outside the clinic this beautiful June morning, a donation of $125.25 has been made to the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion (EMA) Fund to help people living in or traveling to eastern Massachusetts access their abortion. With 64 of you present this morning, the donation totals $8,027. That's a lot of people who will be helped by your presence.

142 people came together to make this donation, pledging between $0.05 and $5.00 each, because last Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned the buffer zone law. And people are upset about that -- not because they hate the first amendment, but because this law was put in place after years of violence and harassment outside abortion clinics, including one day in 1994, when seven people at two abortion clinics in Boston were shot. Massachusetts passed this law not because our state is so liberal that it cares about abortion above all else, but because, even here, employees and patients of clinics that provide abortion were not safe.

I started going to Planned Parenthood in 1997, and since then have gotten all my reproductive health care there, because once inside, I feel respected and listened to, and able to access the medical care I need without judgement. Outside, however, it's another story.

As I approach the clinic, I look for parking. This can be an ordeal in itself; often clinics that provide abortions have to keep their lots small and secure, because protesters have copied license plates and shared the information or used it to stalk and harass employees and patients. After finally parking, I walk to the clinic, and through a crowd of people holding signs and yelling. (Once, a protester -- was it you? -- told me that if I had medical questions, I could ask her, because her sister was a nurse! Which was far sweeter than some things I have heard, but still unhelpful: my sister works in development, but if you ask me to bring in some $20,000 gift I am almost guaranteed to instead say something awkward and completely blow it.) Once I walk through this crowd, I can breathe for a few paces, before going inside. When I'm in the building, I pass through a metal detector; I get screened by a security guard; I go through a double-locked set of doors; I show my ID. Thanks to you, it has become this hard to access health care. Remember at the end of this ordeal, I don't get a vacation, just a pap smear!

And now, it's going to be harder. I won't have those few paces to breathe. Clinic staff won't have the buffer zone to protect them from threats and intimidation on their way to and from work. Patients coming to the clinic, some already raw and scared, will feel even more panic as they approach the health center, often after having already gone through so much to get there.

So many people have to overcome enormous obstacles to get the abortions they need. The decision-making process. The logistics. The stigma. The telling of family and friends who may need to bring you to or from the clinic. And the cost. In my six years working with the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, I have talked to literally hundreds of callers going to this very location who are very clear on the decision they need to make with their own bodies. There are so many reasons -- health, cost, family, futures, every decision as personal and necessary as the last -- but often, the cost stands in the way. $650 to come here when someone is six weeks pregnant. $12,000 if they find, after a 26-week ultrasound, that there are fetal anomalies incompatible with life. Insurance may or may not cover it. Access is what is lacking, over and over and over.

So the reason I raised over $8,000 for the EMA Fund is simple. Because I know that lack of access is your goal. You call yourselves "sidewalk counselors," but you have neither the training nor intent to counsel people. Your tactics are based in fear, and limiting access through instilling that fear. And so I am flipping the script. Each of you that tried to stop someone from accessing the clinic this morning helped get one more person the services they need. Each sign with malicious inaccurate information generated a donation that will go directly to funding someone's abortion. Each grim reaper suit... well, you get the idea.

So, though I never thought I would say it, thank you for being out there today. Because of you, a lot of people will be able to get abortions who otherwise wouldn't have been able to do so. Organizations like the EMA Fund and Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts will keep fighting for safe access to reproductive health care. We will keep escorting patients to keep them safe from your intimidation. We will keep speaking though you try to silence us with militaristic threats, in person and in internet comments.

We will ensure that safe, legal abortion is available for everyone in Massachusetts.


and the other 141 people who donated.