From the Front Line: Perspectives of a Clinic Escort
Pro Choice Voice, Spring 1998
The vitality and longevity of any grassroots organization always depends on a small group of activist members. For nearly fifteen years, Lee P. has been one of the moving forces at Brooklyn Pro-Choice New York.
During the mid-1950s, Lee began participating with BPCN at pro-choice marches and petition campaigns. Several years later. after learning about the anti-choice demonstrations being held each week at a Sunset Park abortion clinic, Lee became involved in helping to organize weekly pro-choice rallies outside the clinic. After months of counter-demonstrating, Lee and other BPCN members decided to shift the group's focus. They began scaling down their demonstrations, and placing more emphasis on providing escorts for patients assailed by the virulent anti-choice crusaders stationed outside the facility's doors.
From the beginning, Lee. a Sunset Park resident herself, viewed the actions of the anti-choice protesters as offensive. She also recognized how dangerous these demonstrators were when viewed as part of a widespread campaign to chip away at reproductive freedom through local, as well as national, assaults. Turning her outrage into action, Lee began escorting at the clinic once or twice a month.
Although the efforts of BPCN escorts made it easier for patients to enter the clinic, Lee and other BPCN activists recognized that clinic access continued to be a serious problem. They began discussing strategies to improve the situation. A series of meetings with local police officials, clinic administration, and BPCN leadership resulted in establishment of rules to protect patients' right of access to the clinic. Several of the restrictions, i.e, keeping protesters behind a barricade, limiting the number of anti-choice "sidewalk counselors" to two. and ensuring regular police presence at the clinic entrance. remain in effect today.
Lee, who continues to escort often, is now in the unique position of monitoring progress and setbacks in local clinic access which have occurred during the past decade . . . and taking action whenever necessary.
In addition to her work as an escort, Lee has taken on many other responsibilities and roles within BPCN. She has served as escort coordinator. been active on BPCN's Coordinating Corirnittee, organized numerous special events, contributed to the newsletter, recruited dozens of new escorts, and helped with countless mailings.
No one who knows Lee, a child advocate in the foster care system by profession, would be surprised to hear her describe herself as someone who knows she will be "pro-child and pro-choice for the rest of my life."