Wednesday, October 31, 2007

There are days I wish I could yell back

On different days, we expect different protesters. There’s a family that shows up every Friday morning. They have their children with them. On Saturday mornings, there’s a group that says prayers as we walk past them. There’s also a woman who likes to yell really obscene things at our staff and our patients. She bothers me the most. And I’ll admit, there are days that I wish I could turn around and say something back to her. But when it comes down to it, I know that yelling at her isn’t going to make things any easier for the women and families in our community. The best thing I can do is walk through our doors and start serving our patients.

Protesters: 35

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I want to lessen anxiety for Planned Parenthood patients

So why do I volunteer at Planned Parenthood? It's easy -- I want our patients' visits to Planned Parenthood to be the best, most comfortable experiences possible.

Protesters: 13

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I’m proud to open the doors of our new health center

In a couple weeks, we’ll be serving clients in our brand new health center in Lufkin, Texas. I’m the health center director, and I have to say that when we started the project, I was a little anxious. We're a small community and this was a big campaign. And our sister affiliate in Austin, like the Aurora affiliate more recently, had experienced protests and boycott threats during their health center construction. But I shouldn’t have worried. The support for Planned Parenthood in our community was overwhelming and construction proceeded as planned. Just the other night, I looked around the room as we celebrated at a big reception with our supporters. I saw the mayor of Lufkin, the chamber president, our architects and our contractors all there to raise a glass for Planned Parenthood. It was a proud moment for me. But the moment I’m really waiting for will come in a couple weeks when I see our first client walk through our doors.

Protesters: 0 (!)

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I've never seen a protester turn someone away from Planned Parenthood

I spend about four hours a week as a volunteer escort for Planned Parenthood in Houston. Over the past two years of volunteering, I've spent a lot of time standing outside, waiting to greet our clients and listening to protesters harass them. The protesters claim that they make a difference, that handing out materials with false information and harassing our clients actually turns women away from the services they need. But I've never seen a Planned Parenthood client turn around because of a protester. And neither have any of the other volunteers that I work with. I think it's because women know and trust Planned Parenthood. But I like to think that having a friendly face standing outside of a health center has something to do with it, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some people can’t believe I’m a minister and a Planned Parenthood supporter

I’m a volunteer escort at my local Planned Parenthood center. I’m also a minister. And it upsets me that protesters at the clinics hold signs that say terrible things about Planned Parenthood, shout horrible things to intimidate women, and tell the patients, “You don’t want to go in there.” One day, while a young couple left the clinic and walked to one of the parking lots, the protesters screamed at her. When they got to their car, the woman didn’t get in. She stood by it, crying for a long time. The man tried to comfort her. She just stood there sobbing. No one should have had to listen to those words.

Some people in Texas can’t believe that I’m a minister and I support Planned Parenthood. But to me, it’s simple. If religious folks really want to do something for women in our area, they should support family planning clinics. They should want every child to be a wanted child. They should want proper medical care for all families — even those who can’t afford it. And they should want the young woman crying beside her car to feel safe and supported.

That why I’m always so happy to see young women like Jeannie and Mayra who you heard from yesterday. Like me, they are clinic escorts, they are religious, and they are proud to volunteer for Planned Parenthood.

Protesters: 8

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I want to protect our patients

The protesters at our clinic have gone to great lengths to put up hurdles for our patients. A while ago, they bought the building right behind ours, set up a fake clinic with a huge sign that reads "FREE PREGNANCY TESTS." They don't offer any health care services -- and they certainly don't tell women about all of their options (parenting, adoption, and abortion) like we do at Planned Parenthood. Instead, these fake clinics try to lure in unsuspecting pregnant women and pressure them not to have an abortion.

Sometimes it bothers me that these signs are the first things our patients see when they walk out of our parking lot. But I've realized that the women and families in our community really know and trust Planned Parenthood. And we do everything we can to make sure that they feel safe and welcome from the moment they turn the corner and walk toward our building. The windows of our clinic are lined with pink ribbons, each symbolizing support from a member of our community. And we have volunteer escorts (smiling, friendly people, who walk patients to our doors and make sure that none of the protesters bother them) at both of our entrances. And I happen to be one of them.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

They vandalize our clinic

The protesters vandalize our clinic. They spray graffiti on our building and throw chunks of asphalt on the walls. We do as much as we can to get rid of the graffiti, but it is still the first thing our patients see when they come into our parking lot.

It frustrates me that the protesters think that vandalizing our building with extremist messages will change someone’s mind about having an abortion. And it angers me that that they think the choices these women make about their bodies and their lives are political, not personal. This morning, I walked a woman from her car to the parking lot. She was there for an abortion. And I know she wasn't there because she’s a pro-choice activist. She was there because she made a personal choice about her life and her body. And the graffiti on the side of our building isn’t going to change that.

I felt a sense of relief when I walked this woman through our doors, and I think she did, too. Our clinic feels safe and warm. And it's not just because we have comfortable chairs and pastel paint on the walls. It's because she knows that the people who greet her at the front desk and in the exam room are going to accept her right to make the choice that she made.

It's my job to walk women into our clinic

It's the same protesters every Wednesday. They show up in the mornings, when most of our patients coming for abortions arrive. It’s my job to walk with our patients from their cars and make sure that they get through our doors safely. When we walk in together, they tell our patients that Planned Parenthood is not a medical facility and not to take anything we give them. No matter how many times I hear it, it always makes me angry. Our clinic is a great medical facility, and every woman I bring through our doors will be treated with dignity, respect and the best care possible.

Protesters: 4

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

I worry that she won't come in for a pap

Protesters: 30

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

She Took a Picture of My License Plate

I consider myself the mother hen of our clinic. The people I work with are my family, and I think it's my responsibility to protect them. So most days, I don't think of myself when I see the protesters. I think of my patients, and I think of my staff. But the protesters have gotten a lot worse in my 15 years working here. The other day when I came outside, a protester was taking a picture of my license plate number. I was furious. It's one thing to yell things at me and wave signs in my face, but it's quite another to violate my privacy and jeopardize my family.

I told the woman to erase the picture from her camera, and I stood there until she did it. Sometimes these things can get me down, but when it comes down to it, I love my job. And every morning when I come into the clinic, there are more patients waiting for our doors to open than there are protesters telling them not to walk through them. And that will always be enough to keep me coming back.

Protesters: 11

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The view from the parking lot

Every morning when I drive into our parking lot, there's a group of protesters standing along the street. Sometimes it's three of them, sometimes 10, once it was 30. As soon as I put my turn signal on, they turn their bodies and watch me park my car. They stand there and watch me, just like this:

Sometimes all I want to do is march over and tell them that we don't even provide abortions at this particular clinic -- when people come to our clinic, they are coming for things like Pap tests or birth control or an STD test. But I know that telling them won't make a difference, they'll still be there every day, trying to scare our patients away and trying to scare me out of serving them. But we're not going anywhere, and neither are our patients.

Protesters: 1 (and a note to the man with the sign -- even if we DID provide abortions, I'd still be driving into work every day.)

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Why I come to work every day

I’ve worked at reproductive health clinics for decades, and the protesters have done a lot to make my life difficult over the years. They invaded my clinic. They chained themselves to exam tables. They injured staff. They harassed my children. And every Mother’s Day, they vandalized my home.

So why am I still here? It’s pretty simple -- if I don’t come to work, women don’t have the care they want and need.

Protesters: 8

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

By the way, if you're new to this blog, check out the back story here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Better care

I get my coffee in the mornings from a Starbucks that's across the street from our health center. This was my view today:

When I drove in, the woman who always stands at the gate tried to hand me a pamphlet and said, “You should check out this pregnancy center. They’ll take better care of you.”

I know the type of “pregnancy center” she’s talking about. They are fake clinics set up to lure in pregnant women. Then they use scare tactics to pressure them out of having an abortion. Right, better care.

I’ll tell you about better care. When I walk into our health center this morning, one of our doctors is on the phone with a patient asking her if she has picked up her UTI medicine at the pharmacy. “Promise me you’ll do that today, sweetie. And listen, if you don’t have the money for it, bring in your receipt, and we’ll reimburse you. The most important thing is that you start taking those pills and feeling better.”

Protesters: 6

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"I'm here for birth control, lady"

There were 12 protesters outside the clinic this morning. One woman always stands at the gate and yells at our patients as they drive in. Today, as I walked through the parking lot, she shouted, "Planned Parenthood does abortions on Fridays, you know!" I rolled my eyes. One of our patients was standing outside the door with her young child waiting for the center to open. As I walked in, she glanced back toward the gate and said under her breath, "I'm here for birth control, lady." But I hope she knows that it doesn't matter if it's a Wednesday or a Friday or if she's coming for birth control or an abortion. When she walks through our doors, she's gonna get a smile from me.

Protesters: 12

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

The protesters are my family

Last night, my mother-in-law called me at home. She told me that she just read an ad in the local paper about the “40 Days for Life” campaign. She said that she wanted to get involved, she wanted “to get out and do something about Planned Parenthood.” See, she doesn’t know that I’m a doctor at a Planned Parenthood health center. It’s a part of my life that I don’t share with her. But I’ll share a bit of it with you.

My friends sometimes ask me why I do what I do, when it makes things in my personal life so difficult. To me, it’s an easy choice, but one worth explaining.

Protesters: 7

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

People Matter

This morning, as I drove into the clinic, there was one protester holding a sign that said, "Pray to End Abortion." I tried to ignore her, but I could feel her staring. I wonder if she knows that I work at Planned Parenthood.

Things at the clinic seem quiet today — lots of people are chatting about our rally last night and checking out the news coverage. I went out to grab a cup of coffee a couple hours ago. When I came back, the protester was still there, joined by four more. One was holding a sign that read, “Planned Parenthood: where money matters and people don't.”

Have they seen my paycheck? I don't spend my days here for the money. I spend my days here because the women who are in our waiting room when I walk into the clinic matter to me, and I know they matter to Planned Parenthood.

Protesters: 5

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Live! From New York!

I've been in Nanuet, NY for three hours.

The clinic here organized a rally during rush hour on a busy street corner. A couple of us Planned Parenthood types were sitting in the car when the ringleader from the other side walked towards us carrying a sign reading "abortion causes breast cancer." (It doesn't, of course.) She circled the car, tapped at the window and yelled at us. If that isn't harassment, then I don't know what is.

By the time I headed out to the rally, there were more than 30 Planned Parenthood supporters there. The best part of the day was when these families would get past the anti-choice signs and see the mass of clinic supporters and you could see their facial expression change from one of horror to one of relief. Most gave us a smile or a nod. Some gave us a honk, others a thumbs-up. and one yelled "thank god you are here!"

Protesters: 15

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.

My name is Emily

Hello, world.

We're in the middle of something here at Planned Parenthood (where I work). The anti-choice people call it "40 days for life." I call it another day at the office.

Basically, the anti-choice groups have decided to picket more than 80 Planned Parenthood clinics across the country for 40 days. September 26-November 4.

I'm used to picketers. Planned Parenthood is used to picketers. It bothers me very much that the picketers aren't just picketing our clinics -- that they're really about making it impossible for women to get health care. But...we don't let them faze us. As for me, the more picketers there are, the harder I want to work.

So, I've decided to do something a little different. I'm inviting you come to work with me. Seriously. Every day, I'm posting to this blog -- some notes about my day, some photos, some video. I want you to know what it's like to work for Planned Parenthood.

That's not all. Since the 40 days thing began, various friends and supporters have emailed us saying they'd like to donate money for every protester that shows up. So we set up a thing over there on the right, at the top of the column -- please pledge 5 or 10 cents, too! You have no idea how far we can make donations go at Planned Parenthood.

Oh! And if you have a medical appointment at one of our health centers -- don't worry! Planned Parenthood works around the clock to protect your health, safety, and security. Plus -- the protesters aren't at many of our clinics (that would be pretty hard, since there are more than 800 clinics), and...well, Planned Parenthood has been doing this for 90 years. We're pretty good at making women and their families feel welcome and well cared for no matter what. C'mon down!

Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your support.

I am Emily X.

I am Planned Parenthood.