November 13, 2015 —In an opinion piece for the Texas Observer, reproductive-rights advocate Melissa Arjona describes her experiences volunteering as a clinic escort for "Whole Woman's Health, the last remaining legal abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley."
Arjona writes that she has been volunteering as a clinic escort "since September 2014, when the clinic reopened amid the ongoing court battle for and against access to legal abortion in Texas." She helps three days per week, assisting patients as they walk from their cars to the clinic.
According to Arjona, "The clinic is situated on a corner lot in downtown McAllen, [Texas], and out front, patients have to run the gauntlet of protesters who line the sidewalk." She notes that most patients "enter through the back of the building, where a small parking lot keeps protesters at a distance."
She writes that protesters at Whole Woman's Health have become "increasingly aggressive, blocking off the front and back entrances to the clinic," since the Center for Medical Progress released misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, even though Whole Woman's Health is not associated with the organization. More recently, protesters held "McAllen's first-ever 40 Days for Life protest," she writes.
Arjona touches on several ways she tries to help patients, such as by offering to dispose of the antiabortion-rights materials protesters give the patients and by playing "upbeat music" to mask the sound of the protesters. Listing some of the threats protesters issue at her and patients, Arjona writes, "I will gladly put up with all of it if my presence as an escort helps even one patient feel safer, and I know it does."
However, she notes that while the 40 Days for Life protest ended on Oct. 31, "already the protesters have gotten bolder about trespassing and blocking the sidewalk" and have made the protest "an excuse to shame and harass patients." She concludes, "I don't know if this will be the new normal at Whole Woman's McAllen, but I'll be here no matter what, wearing my hot pink vest and amassing an ever-growing collection of anti-abortion paraphernalia" (Arjona, Texas Observer, 11/12).