Thursday, May 20, 2010

What to/not to Say During Your Abortioneer's Security Threat

Dear Friend/Lover/Co-worker/Relative/Booty-Call/Partner/Spouse/Whatever of an Abortioneer:

In efforts to help you be better supportive of your Abortioneer when they’re undergoing security threats at work, here are the top 20 worst things to say:
1. Don’t freak out.
2. When are you going to get a new job?
3. Don’t worry about it. It will be fine.
4. There’s not really proof it’s as bad as you think it is, right?
5. Well, isn’t that to be expected?
6. Oh. (Then look away)
7. Don’t you have a security guard or something there?
8. They’re just trying to scare you.
9. They’re just trying to intimidate you.
10. Do you have a gun? No? Oh. You might want to get one.
11. Get a new job. It isn’t worth it.
12. Don’t you guys use the buddy system or something?
13. Why do you put yourself in that situation?
14. I guess you better get used to this. I mean. It’s part of the territory, right?
15. You need to think about your family. You’re putting everyone at risk.
16. Please look for a new job.
17. Are you sure that’s what you saw?
18. You better start changing all your routes and routines. What if someone’s following you?
19. Why do you work there?
20. Don’t freak out. Don’t worry about it. XYZ won’t happen. It’s not that big of a deal. But you should get a new job.
*Abortioneers: you may have more to add!

Are you confused? I’m sure you’ve said some of the above to us before. Don’t get me wrong; I think you’re well-intentioned. You want us to be safe. It’s uncomfortable - maybe worrying - for you that we do this work. You probably have concerns for our safety. What you should probably know: we know you worry. We usually try not to talk to you about the protesters that bug us every clinic day. So as not to worry you more. You see, we want your support. And we worry that if you hear about the regular-everyday nuisances that occur to us - which are part and parcel of our work - you might not be quite as supportive.

A lot of us wait to tell you anything unless something big happens. Like if we get a bomb threats and have to evacuate, or big vandalism occurs, or we get stalked, or we get a very threatening letter in the mail. I may or may not tell my loved ones when law enforcement gets more involved. (Don’t assume we always tell you even when the big stuff happens.)

What’s the big deal about telling us any of the top 20 bad things? It makes us feel worse. It does not help to tell us to get a new job. We’re already scared. Trust me. And when you tell us to get a new job, you belittle our work (which isn’t just “work”) and at the same time, you show us you don’t really know us/who we are. You don’t respect our choices. I mean, most of the time, people don’t question (at least not tons) if someone feels the need to serve our country in some capacity (running for office, getting into law enforcement, joining the military). It might help you to view it that way. We’re not much different. We feel the call to serve our community, too. Our women. Just in a different way. Senators get threats. Police officers are in constant danger, as are our military. Do you tell them to quit their jobs?

Co-abortioneers aren’t always perfect, either. In attempts to make yourself feel less scared/less threatened, be mindful not to diminish the actual incident around co-workers. As Abortioneers, we have to be able to support each other. We’re the only ones that really can understand one another; so if you’re turning around and questioning how serious the security threat was or downplaying it in any way, you could actually cause more harm to your fellow abortioneers who just experienced the same thing. Let’s say you get repeated bomb threats and one of you at work, in efforts to not freak her own self out, acts like she’s brushing it off, like it wasn’t that big of a deal. Your other co-workers may begin to second-guess their own feelings and their own experience of the threat, which could lend itself to additional trauma and stress. I know of abortioneers who were, very sadly, tempted to quit their jobs after a security threat not because of the security threat itself, but because of how their clinic administration or co-workers responded to it.

We need to show our love to our Abortioneers. On to the next list.

Top 20 things TO say to your Abortioneer during security threats:
1. Are you okay?
2. Do what you need to do to stay safe.
3. I’m so sorry.
4. How are you feeling?
5. How can I help? Do you need anything?
6. I wish you didn’t have to go through this.
7. I wish those bastards would just let you do your job in peace. I’m sorry.
8. Are you getting rest? Sleeping?
9. If you need me - really - I mean it - call me.
10. I know you probably can’t talk too much about it, but I’m here for you.
11. I wish I could do more.
12. Thank you for doing the work you do.
13. I’m sorry you have to live in fear for doing a job no one should think twice about doing.
14. I feel for you. If you need a vacation and want to come stay with me, you’re welcome!
15. I’m so sorry this happened to you.
16. You’re safety is most important! Do what you have to do!
17. I’m thinking of you.
18. Is there something extra you can have at this time to give you more peace of mind?
19. Ugh. I’m so sorry.
20. I’m here for you. I’m sorry. Can I help? I’m here. Thank you for doing this important work. Take care of yourself.

I'm grateful to have co-bloggers who would know just exactly what to say.


  1. Remember how antis make such a mundane task as going to work a terrifying experience?


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  3. Yeah, it's kind of like being in the military or the police, but kind of not - for them, danger really does "come with the territory," i.e. if it weren't for people in a position to endanger them, then probably their jobs wouldn't exist at all.

    And I still remember my incredulity when a published writer suggested, after Dr. Tiller's murder, that it was an "occupational hazard" "just like in the Mafia." You have to be really deluded to make a blithe comparison of that sort.

    We're also not exactly like senators or civil rights leaders or entertainers, who are also subjected to threats and sometimes violence, because we're not public figures and don't generally have a national platform from which to make controversial statements or decisions. We're careful about having our pictures taken, most of us don't seek publicity. So it's still different. I'm still trying to think of a closer comparison to our situation.

  4. Like the Secret Service, abortioneers uphold a tradition of excellence while working in relative anonymity. And similar to the Secret Service who upholds its mission, abortioneers uphold their reproductive and gynecological mission through a dedicated, highly-trained, diverse, collaborative-oriented workforce to safeguard the nation’s women’s reproductive rights and to protect their privacy, safeguard their health and preserve the integrity of every woman. Unlike the Secret Service, abortioneers work to safeguard all women, not just those who are politically powerful or publicly valuable.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.