116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
“Can I hold your arm?”
I had met the young woman’s mother in the Emma Goldman Clinic parking lot after the mother got out of her car. Her daughter had an appointment, but was terrified by the protesters there. I let her take my right arm, and calmly explained that the people holding umbrellas were there to defend her rights. She gripped my arm tightly as we walked to the door. She wanted me to wait with her at the door, which I did.
I tell clients, “I long for the day I don’t have to be here, and the clinic doesn’t have to use a locked security door.” I’ve heard stories, like the mother who told me her daughter has high blood pressure and nearly died delivering her fourth child. She was not going to risk delivering a fifth time. Another client told me, “I’d normally be standing with them” as they gestured to the anti-abortion protesters. They were over 40, and could not risk carrying the pregnancy to term.
I’ve seen plates in the client parking lot from Illinois, Nebraska, even Minnesota. Iowa plates have come from Scott, Henry, Muscatine, Blackhawk and other counties throughout Eastern Iowa. Most encounters have been friendly, if nervous. One client’s brother didn’t see my “Clinic Escort” vest, got out of the car, and shoved me. His mother shouted at him, “Can’t you see he works here? Get back in this car before I beat your a**!”
Most of the anti-abortion protesters stand on the city parking and recite the Hail Mary over and over and over again. One, whom I call “the loud one” wears a body camera to film the clients, and shouts out slogans: “we can help you choose life,” “you’ll always be a beautiful mother,” “you’ll regret this for the rest of your life.”
The pro-rights protesters carry umbrellas, very useful for blocking the body camera and screening the clients. Whenever “the loud one” tries to approach a client, they block her to keep her away. One plays a kazoo whenever “the loud one” starts shouting her slogans. The clients never engage her. One person who was the driver for a client did turn to her: “you don’t know why we’re here.” “The loud one” weakly replied “it's abortion Thursday.”
I know women on both sides of Roe v. Wade who have had abortions. I participated in the clinic defense back in the 1990s when “Operation Rescue” tried to shut down Emma Goldman Clinic. I use gender neutral language above because a good friend who has had three abortions reminded me that I can’t assume all clients identify as “women.” Behind all the fury from the anti-abortion people is a simple proposition: they want to tell clients what to do. We need to defend abortion rights: join us at Emma Goldman Clinic Thursdays at 7:30 a.m. The clients need you; their freedom is being threatened.
Jeff Klinzman of Coralville taught at the University of Iowa and Kirkwood, and is an activist defending reproductive rights. he has escorted clients at Emma Goldman Clinic since 2021.