HARASSED IN TOLEDO

The sign you see is a trick.   As Amy (not her real name) explains to me: “First they see the sign and then we show them the ultrasound of the life they are about to kill and explain that not only are they killing their baby but God will send them to hell for all eternity”.   I imagine myself as a pregnant woman, scared, un-sure, and, according to statistics, likely to already have a child but without the resources to care for another one. We do not have a good safety net in our country. In this fragile state of mind I am tricked and harassed till the tears well.   Being neither pregnant nor a woman my heart breaks and can not imagine what they feel.

The clinic opposition in Toledo is well organized, and well funded.   In addition to the billboard they raised over $300,000 to purchase a portable ultra-sound truck to lure un-suspecting women in to what must truly be – hell on wheels.   The only thing standing between total humiliation and the clinic is Krys, her sister Julie (not real names), and the team of brave women they have organized to escort women into the clinic.

I meet Krys and Julie in a local diner.   They are both slight and super determined. Krys is the organizer and has been at this for three years, which is surprising for someone so young.  In the beginning volunteers were scant. As she says: “who can take off 9-5 to stand in cold and rain to protect women who want to exercise their legal options?” Many women have no place to leave their children so Krys and the other volunteers have had stand outside the clinic for hours in the cold to look after their children. The average woman only tells 1 to 2 people when they decide to have a procedure. So their support network is small and the sisters tell me that usually their economic means are extremely limited.   Julie’s eyes flash with true anger as she describes how the opposition bought the house next door so they can legally scream at people getting out their cars.   While the opposition can spend $300,000 on a sonogram bus, her group of un-paid volunteer guides are selling t-shirts to raise enough money for a new security camera system and: “just trying to keep us from going back to the coat hanger days”.

Since Planned Parenthood in Toledo does not do to procedures, and the other medical clinics in town have closed, there is only one clinic in the city and it is in jeopardy. Just this week the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to rule on a law that could close it. Considering one of judges just spoke at a pro-life meeting and refused to recuse herself – Krys is not sure how good the odds are.   But whatever the case these two sisters assure me they will not stop advocating for a women’s right to choose the option that best fits her needs and circumstances.

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