I made friends with a man who often flew on the same commuter flight as I did to Appleton every Tuesday. Sometimes we sat together, but our conversations always centered on his life, his work, his family, not on mine. I would always hang back when we got to Appleton, taking extra time to gather my things so I would be the last one off the plane and the other passengers wouldn't see the circus created by the protesters when I entered the airport.
I sat near him one of the first times I wore a disguise. It was a hideous costume - brightly beaded jean jacket, an auburn wig, polyester pants, and a big purse. I hated the deceit, the fact that I was going to these extremes to avoid the harrassment. And now it meant I couldn't sit and have a pleasant conversation with a friend.
He didn't recognize me, and at the airport in Appleton I walked out with all the other passengers. The protesters never suspected. I walked right past as they craned their necks, searching the small group of passengers. That anonymity was the only thing that made the demeaning effort worth it.
A day later, on the return flights, I sat across the narrow aisle from my friend, undisguised. I had the unmistakable jean jacket folded carefully in my lap so that only the denim showed. We talked as usual, but at one point I dropped something and in bending over, the jacket fell open into the aisle. His eyes moved to the gaudy coat, back to my face.
"That was you," he said finally. "That was you yesterday. What the hell is going on? Who are you anyway? What's the gig? Are you running drugs or something?" He was really angry with me.
I didn't want to explain. The airplane was my place of refuge and anonymity. What would he think? But he kept interrogating me, unrelenting.
"No, no, it's nothing like drugs. It's much simpler. No. It's much more complicated. I'm a doctor. I do abortions. Every week I fly here to work in a clinic. There are people who try to stop me from doing my work. People who harrass me. Haven't you ever seen the protesters at the airport? They are waiting for me. I have had to resort to disguises because I can't stand them in my face anymore."
It all came out at once, in one big gushing confession. We talked the rest of the flight. I told him about my work, my ridiculous schedule, how I got started, the people at the clinics, the confrontations that had become such a torment.
After that, whenever we flew together, he waited for me as I got off the plane; with his arm tightly wrapped around my shoulders, we barreled through the protesters together. He made sure I was safely in a taxi before heading his own way.
For the first time I understood that I had potential allies as well as enemies.
I continued to use whatever means I had to get into the clinics. Disguises, riding in the trunk of a car, sometimes arriving at five in the morning and sleeping in the clinic until the rest of the staff arrived. It was exhausting and frustrating. It felt as if I had stooped to lies and subterfuge. I didn't want to interact on their terms, sink to their level.
It was the patients that kept me going. Their situations, their needs, their genuine thanks and relief. Without knowing it, they were the ones doing the comforting. They were helping me through situations I could never have imagined. (p. 57-59)
I had already been already planning to post this when I noticed that the New York Times has an article today featuring testimony from a Pre-Roe gynecologist who witnessed first hand the danger and tragedy that accompanied unsafe, illegal abortions. (Anyone who thinks that this won't once again become the norm if Roe v. Wade is overturned is delusional.)