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Your Guide to Starting a Pro-choice Counter-Protest at a Clinic near you

 

What is a "pro-choice counter protest" and why should I start one?

A pro-choice counter-protest is a demonstration at a clinic or rally wherein pro-choice forces speak out against the message that the anti-choice protesters are trying to convey. You should start one because it's a good idea, and because hardly anyone else is doing it!

It's easy to create a grassroots counter-protest in your neighboorhood! All you need to do is gather up a few of your pro-choice buddies, make some signs, find out where and when the antis gather, then join them on protest day. A lot of anti-choice protesting occurs on Saturday mornings, when clinics typically see patients for procedures. But do some research beforehand to find out the best time and place for your particular situation.

A few tips...

1) There is strength in numbers. Try to get as many people as you can to come together. Build a network. Find the other prochoice activists in your area and work together. If you're in school, check out the website of other schools nearby. Find their pro-choice organizations and build a coalition. Contact the clinic you are going to be counter-protesting and see if they have a clinic escort service. Find out how you can work together with clinic escorts/clinic security to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Make a MySpace page. Make a website. Make flyers. Get the word out.

2) At the protest, be prepared to get lectured by the antis. They spend their lives trying to coerce everyone within earshot into thinking that abortion wrong. They can be very good at it. But YOU can be better. Keep in mind that It is perfectly okay to stand in silence and hold a sign. That is a very strong and powerful form of protest. You do not have to engage with them to get your point across. However, if you do choose to engage with them, it might be a good idea to prepare talking points beforehand, so you can be armed with intelligent comebacks that puts the onus back on them. For instance, if the antis say "a REAL feminist should be working to protect ALL women, even the preborn" -- a good comeback could be "so you admit that you put the rights of fetuses before the rights of already-born women. Where is the "equality" in that? And what about after the babies are born? Would you support a tax to pay women who are unable to financially provide for the babies you are forcing them to bear so that they can provide adequate care for them? Why does your desire to "protect" fetuses end at birth?"

3) Make intelligent signs that convey your point. Use humor and irony when possible. A few good ones I have seen include: "Every child a wanted child," "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries," "My mind, my body, my choice," "She's having a hard enough day, leave her alone!" "77% of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will NEVER get pregnant," "Who would Jesus Harass?" Also, if you're by a busy street, "Honk for choice" can be a good way to get passerbys involved. You'll be surprised who honks in support of what you are doing!

4) Observe what the antis are doing. Then, if you are feeling like doing something truly radical, subtly try mirroring the tactics of intimidation the antis use to make women feel bad about their decision to terminate a pregnancy to turn it back on them. For instance, if the antis use a video camera to humiliate women coming into the clinic (see www.abortioncams.com) -- try bringing your own video camera and taping the antis doing their dirty work. Take pictures of them praying. Video tape them harassing women. Video tape the antis' license plates. It will make them feel uncomfortable. If the antis ask you to stop, tell them you'll stop taping them when they stop taping women going into clinics for the sole purpose of scaring and humiliating them. Or if antis are handing out pamphlets about why women are going to go to hell for having an abortion, bring your own pamphlets to hand out that say woman-positive, prochoice things. When antis try to tell women coming to the clinic that they should go home and have the baby, be the voice that tells them they are strong and brave and that they have every right to be there. Work with clinic escorts and clinic security, rather than against them, to ensure you are being helpful to the prochoice allies.

5) Be smart. Keep your emotions in check. If you find yourself in a coversation that's making you feel like you're about to lose control, walk away, take a few deep breaths, and then calmly return.