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We’re never surprised, but always over it

On April 6, we showed up at that church in Manhattan for an action that we’ve done lots of times before. Just to quickly recap: we picket a church where anti-abortion protesters meet before descending on an abortion clinic down the street, we gather in front of them on the sidewalk and walk slowly to delay them on their way to the clinic, and then at the clinic itself, we take the sidewalk with the most direct view of the entrance, forcing the antis to stand farther away. The groups that make up this crowd include the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Frassati Fellowship, and the Sisters of Life, along with some civilians who just want to intervene in the healthcare decision-making of strangers in their free time. The church itself is called the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, in Little Italy; they also offer candlelight catacombs tours that cost $35.00 per person. 

This time was different, because the antis got a police escort to the clinic. They always coordinate with the police, but this is the first time we’ve seen them claim to have a parade permit, and get a dozen or so cops on motor scooters to flank them all the way to the clinic and back. When we stepped off the sidewalk to join them in the street, the cops threatened us with arrest. Truly the red carpet treatment from New York’s finest! Of course, it’s never a surprise when the state enacts or props up violence, but it’s just funny, because here’s a list of physically violent acts I know about that have occurred in the time since we started showing up at this church:
  1. Last summer, a man standing at the front of the procession of antis shoved two of our people and sucker-punched a third in the head, giving him a concussion. Charges are still pending.
  2. Earlier this year, a man wearing a leather Pro Bikers for Life vest (whom we call “leather guy,” not to be confused with a leather daddy, which would be an insult to leather daddies everywhere) body-checked a female clinic escort standing right by the clinic door. She was about a foot or so shorter than him, and we’ve heard that charges are also pending against him.
  3. In December, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal named Fidelis Moscinski invaded a clinic in New Jersey to perform a “Red Rose Rescue”—a tactic from the worst years of anti-abortion violence that’s meant to shut down clinics and is on the rise again.
  4. At our most recent action, a different Franciscan friar—I’m not sure of his name, but he was wearing a gray hoodie with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal logo over his gray friar robes—elbowed one of our members. While looking straight ahead, arranging his face carefully into a look of martyrdom, he stuck an arm out and landed a blow on a comrade walking next to me.
A few other incidents happened on Saturday, too: on the walk back from the clinic, a woman walking behind me pushed her body against mine a few times; another woman who looked like she was in her sixties or seventies stepped on the back of my shoe a few times, and wouldn’t look at me when I turned around to face her. But these acts aren’t exactly violence, are they, they’re just covert little signs that the right gets so very indignant when someone finally stands in opposition to their fundamentally violent worldview: that women don’t have the right to control their bodies.

Don’t miss how willing the NYPD is to roll out the red carpet for people who are trying to take our autonomy from us. Don’t miss how this happened two days after a white supremacist militia leader stood on the steps of the Georgia state capitol with an AR-15 fitted with a bump stock and threatened violence against abortion providers in states where abortion will remain legal after Roe. We must protect ourselves, because the RHA won’t protect us; no law, court ruling, or politician can protect us. And even if it could, how can we settle for relative safety (or the veneer of it) here in New York when what we need is freedom everywhere? 

After six or seven times of getting up in the morning and doing this action, it still feels profound to me. It’s not a popular thing to do. Yelling at men in gray friar’s robes is a bad look. Doubling down on a strategy that Planned Parenthood actively opposes is an even worse look, for some. Any time we can gather thirty or forty people who are willing to do both—I could live off of the solidarity I feel with those people for a few extra years at least. 

But we do what we do exactly because it is so unpopular. The presence of a hundred or more antis in front of a clinic in Manhattan on a Saturday morning, escorted by the police? Too ordinary to make the news or even comment on. Less than fifty of us trying to mitigate the impact they make on patients? An aberration that scandalizes the right and that many in the center and on the left force us to defend over and over again. Abortion should be normal, and protecting people who are trying to access abortion should be normal. This is what should not be normal: Individuals and institutions who use religious guilt, social stigma, emotional manipulation, bad science, fraudulent “clinics,” physical intimidation, and the power of the state to convince women that they don’t know their own minds, or to force them out of acting on what they know to be true. Another thing that should not be normal: Our collective comfort with this order of things.
We mark our calendars

Anti-queer group Focus on the Family is descending on New York with an anti-abortion festival, the highlight of which will be a live 4D ultrasound broadcast on a billboard in Times Square. They’re mad that we can get later abortion care here, now that the RHA has passed. WE’RE mad that this fundamental right isn’t available to everyone, everywhere, for free, no apologies. 

Join us for a speak-out and then a march to Times Square to show them what super queer, super abortion-having New York looks like.

WHEN: Saturday, May 4, 1:30–4:30
WHERE: New York Public Library at 42nd Street/Bryant Park (then march to Times Square)
Facebook event here.

P.S. Also honestly the name “Focus on the Family” is just an outrage in its own right, we all know that by “family” they mean white cis Christian women in heterosexual marriages reproducing whether they want to or not (unpaid, to prop up capitalism)!!
This newsletter is written by Christine Pardue. First-time reader? Subscribe here. 
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