Her first two years in college, Kaitlin Bushinski of Women's eNews worked as an abortion clinic escort in East Cleveland. Recently she went back to talk to the protesters she used to face down.

Of her earlier experience, Bushinski writes:

No matter how early I arrived at the clinic, the signs would be up: grotesque images of mangled, bloody human limbs with captions screaming: "Murder!" and "Are you next, Mom?!"

Clusters of people—many of their faces became familiar to me—would pace back and forth outside the clinics; some with placards tied to their bodies, others praying or singing "Ave Maria." Sometimes people wave red-and-black flags with fetuses depicted on them.

Warm, sunny days would attract larger crowds. Improvised hot dog stands would pop up to serve lunch and parents would bring toddlers and young children.

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Saturdays, Bushinski says, was the day most of the abortions were performed at the clinic so, for many it was a regular Saturday activity. But, for the 2 years she worked as an escort, she was prohibited from talking to the protesters that harassed her and the women she walked to the clinic.

You also adhere to a strict no-talking rule with the protesters. Only when a protester is blocking the driveway or stopping patients on foot can we ask him or her to move. That's the only form of communication we are allowed.

Protesters called us homosexuals, lesbians and women-haters. They told us we'll burn in hell, blood was on our hands and our parents would be so disappointed in us if they found out what we were doing.

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Heading back more than a year later, Bushinski encounters some familiar faces, and some familiar forms of crazy, all in the shapes of the all-male protesters out that morning.

One, a man named Grover Lynn, described himself as a prophet. "It's better to waste your seed in the belly of a whore than to spill it on the sands," he said, claiming to be paraphrasing a passage from the Bible.

Yeah, actually, I know that passage, and it's from Genesis 38:8-10, and Tamar wasn't a whore:

And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Tamar (Onan's older brother's wife) was a childless widow of the first-born, but, if she conceived a son via the brother of her late husband, that child would be considered the heir to Judah's wealth. Onan, seeking to take advantage of the fact that Tamar wasn't allowed to refuse sex, would have sex with her but withdraw before ejaculation, seeking to have his cake (sex with Tamar) and eat it too (inherit from Judah). This is the passage cited by most Christian sects as the reason that they condemn masturbation and/or birth control, but it's not really about that, unless you're a short-sighted religious scholar with blinders on who fails to see the larger problem with Onan's behavior.

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Anyway, back to the crazies.

Ernie Banar, whom I recognized as one of the regulars, said he was a missionary dedicated to saving children's lives. He said he found God after paying for a girlfriend's abortion in the 1970s. He interrupted our conversation to suddenly growl at a staff member of one of the clinics. "How many children are you going to kill today?!"

Ah, yes, the abortion guilt. Let's make sure no other man can evade the responsibility you once so happily shed, eh, Ernie?

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One guy there figures the only reason women ever volunteer for clinic escort duty is because they've had abortions themselves.

One of the men, Hugh, wouldn't give his last name. I recognized him as the protester who had been ordered by a judge to stay away from the center for a few months because of a frivolous lawsuit he'd brought against the doctor. He was the most confrontational. He repeatedly questioned my motives in talking to him and asked me if I had ever had an abortion.

The one protester for whom Bushinski walks away with any sympathy is also the one who doesn't seem to be there to harass and shame women.

Only one of the protesters, Bob Thomas, slight and with a crossed eye, said he didn't believe in yelling at women seeking abortions or clinic staff members or volunteers. He said his goal was "to make eyes see, to make ears hear" through his presence.

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The thing is, abortion protesters change very few minds on either side of the ideological fence. Someone with a supposed fetus on a flag isn't going to convince me that abortion should be legal any more than every argument I can muster about choice is going to convince a religious person that it isn't a sin. In fact, it's fine if they think it's a sin; they're just not allowed to impose their religious convictions on other people. And if the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, calling women baby-killing lesbos isn't helping — but, as Bushinski's account shows, many would probably rather call names than accomplish anything important for their cause.

Former Abortion Escort Returns to Old Battle Line [Women's eNews]

Related: Genesis 38 [Bible Gateway]