Cold Reception

By Lisnoff, Howard | The Humanist, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

Cold Reception


Lisnoff, Howard, The Humanist


The late January night has produced A sheets of wind-driven rain that have knocked out the power several times. It takes several attempts to get out of the warm comfort of my bed to leave through the still dark streets just after six o'clock in the morning. The rain has now turned to a fine but steady drizzle, the air heavy with a penetrating cold I know will cause discomfort after a short time performing escort service at a women's health clinic forty minutes away in the city.

I pull my car into a parking space in the fenced-in parking lot of the clinic. Traffic is light, as it's a Saturday, and mine is the first car in the lot as the street lamps turn off one by one in the gray winter dawn. Three-story, wood-shingled houses border one perimeter of the clinic's property, a flock of pigeons sits nearly motionless on one roof. The cold drizzle continues; it is a few days after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which made abortion legal.

The parking lot begins to fill with clinic patients and workers. I follow one of the clinic's staffers to the back door of the red brick building and wait for her to return with the heavy orange sweatshirt that is the identifying mark of a volunteer escort. Within minutes, anti-abortion protesters begin to gather at the perimeter of the women's health center beyond the chain-link fence. It mercifully holds cedar slats that somewhat shield patients, staff, and volunteers from the posters of fetuses and the hackneyed slogans of the anti-abortion movement.

As my fellow escort approaches from the parking lot to where I stand beside the clinic, one of the protesters addresses me through the fence. I see she appears to be in her late sixties, dressed in a heavy dark overcoat, holding the likeness of a fetus. "One of you people don't happen to be Jewish...." she says. I lose my composure immediately. …

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