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Don’t call HR because we brought two interns along with us to counter-protest Operation Save America last month and oh boy did they have to see some true monsters (and I don’t just mean me without my morning coffee)! Honestly, the interns put the rest of us to shame and worked so hard: standing in front of the extremist anti-abortion posters, grabbing water for everyone who needed it, driving around in the truth truck! Previously our wonderful Jessica wrote about how she felt about the kids OSA was using as props! Now, our amazing intern Michael, who has a background in public health, writes about how his experience battling the worst of the worst in anti-abortion extremism reaffirmed his commitment to reproductive rights. ENJOY! 

I became interested in public health after first trying to work in the field of Criminal Justice. However, I wanted to be a part of the solution not the problem, so I was intrigued when I learned about Public Health. It is a field dedicated to social justice, population health, and disease prevention among other things. 

At the beginning of deciding my major I took a course on health concepts of sexual development. I learned about TRAP laws and how difficult it has become to access abortion care and I was infuriated that this was going on. While studying this I also learned that three of my immediate family members had abortions but had never opened up about them. Additionally, my partner got pregnant while we were both in college and she had an abortion. This culmination of experiences moved me to reach out to my local abortion care clinic to volunteer. I ended up applying for a job as a patient care technician and now I am the director of marketing and public relations for the clinic. 

I wasn’t quite sure what  the Garbage Fyre Fest was going to be. I thought there would be a handful of us protesting the protestors. This was not the case. People from all over the U.S. flocked to counter the terror and hate tactics put on by Operation Save America. I knew we would be countering anti-abortion protests but I had no idea it would be as up close and personal as it was. This experience was extremely rewarding for me.

This was an experience like none other.  At work we regularly get anti-abortion protestors. At Garbage Fyre, OSA was next level. They all but chained themselves to the clinic they spent a week terrorizing. There were well over 100 people outside of the abortion clinic yelling obscenities with loudspeakers, holding huge posters of fetal remains, and intimidating patients who needed care. Seeing them doing this made my blood boil. I kept my cool but on the inside I was enraged. How could they claim to come in the name of love, compassion, and understanding and behave this way? To say they are hypocrites is an understatement. 

At our clinic in Nebraska we have had several patients tell us that making the decision to have an abortion was not hard, but the social climate including the stigma and protestors are what make it so overwhelming and burdensome. I’ve heard amazing stories from patients. We had a patient once say something along the lines of “Them being out there really made me want to get this abortion, they’re trying to control me and I won’t tolerate it.” Her abortion was in part an act of resistance and self-care. 

Anti-abortion people operate under the guise of love and compassion. However, this could not be further removed from the truth. Being toe-to-toe with the people who follow this ideology made it extremely apparent that they are indeed a malicious group who perpetuate hate and intolerance for people who do not subscribe to their acrimonious views. 

I really believe that some of the greatest people in the world are committed to abortion care and access. Abortion is such a unique reality. I believe that you really have to have a compassionate heart, mind as well as an empathetic understanding of people’s needs and lived experiences. Abortion providers are painted as people who give no thought to what we do. The opposite is true, we are well aware of what we do and we are deliberate in what we do. We know that bringing new life into the world is not a decision that should be left up to chance and we are here to support people’s pregnancy decisions.

This experience was very affirming for me. It affirmed my belief that we need to bind ourselves to the continuous fight for abortion rights and justice and fight back ten times harder than the anti-abortion fanatics do. As my boss, friend, and mentor Dr. LeRoy Carhart once said “Those of us committed to reproductive freedom cannot rest while anti-abortion extremists work overtime to rob women of their health, lives, and autonomy.”