We're In This Together

We Are In This Together

From ACP Grant Partner, In This Together Project, Jessica James

My reasons for putting on that bright pink vest every Saturday are not to validate my sense of right and wrong, or to make my point heard by opposing forces, or even to propel my patriarchy smashing agenda of vaginal superiority (though my personal politics are not too far off from the latter). 

My reasons for waking up at 6:00 am on a Saturday have everything to do with three separate groups of people: The abortion care providers, the patients, and their support people.  If those three groups of people are taken care of and feel protected, loved, and supported, my work is done here. 

I wanted those seeking abortion care services to know they were not alone. It was important to me that people understood having, or needing, an abortion is by no stretch of the imagination an indication of worth, destiny, morality, or propriety.  It is an experience built in a chunk of moments that is NO ONE’s business except the patient and their care provider.

Here’s Why and How…..

We met Joe and his companion Jane (names changed for privacy) who arrived early one morning, both a bit shaken by the graphic signage and verbal harassment they had to pass through to enter the clinic property.  While escorting them both to the door, they thanked us for being there and disappeared behind the glass of the entrance door. 

Now, I have made a habit of checking on people waiting in their cars.  I ask them if they need anything, give directions to local restaurants or stores, and just kind of act as the clinic parking lot concierge.  I noticed Joe had posted himself inside his black pick-up truck and was now on his 3rd consecutive cigarette. 

I made my way over to him and asked if he was doing okay and if he needed anything.  He made eye contact with me and simply responded, “Is it always like this out here?  Are THEY always here?”  I responded the only way I could, which was to tell him, “Yep, every day.  That’s why we are here.”  He turned his head back to the large signs and the faces plastered with the same faux looks of concern, and two tears rolled past his cheek and onto his shirtsleeve. 

He turned his head, looked at me, and said, “These people don’t have any idea who we are or what brought us here.  They don’t know anything about anyone in here.”  I agreed and asked him if there was anything I could do for him or his partner to help the situation.  It seemed like that small little instinctive question opened up any entire world for him. 

Joe spent the next 20-30 mins telling me about their situation.  I didn’t offer up advice, nor did I reassure them that everything was going to be okay.  What I did do was HOLD space.  We held a moment in time together.  This man, a professional fighter, 6’4 240 lbs., allowed himself to be vulnerable to a complete stranger in one of the most private moments of a couple’s life, and in that vulnerability, we were able to hold those few hours for that couple,

Joe decided he wanted to drive for a little bit.  Prior to doing so, he expressed his rage had begun to surface toward the protestors.  His desires to engage in a physical altercation with the anti’s were verbalized and frankly a bit concerning and I vehemently explained that while punching them might feel good for a second, hell, even a few minutes, there is nothing productive that could come out of that.  He eventually agreed and exited the parking lot.  

About 45 mins later Joe returned.  He pulled into the parking lot with intent, quickly and aggressively.  His rage was obvious and palpable.  He parked his truck next to our car directly in front of the protest line.  He sharply placed the vehicle in park with a jolt of the transmission, jumped out, slammed the door, and began rifling around in the bed of his pick-up.  My whole body went numb, my arms stiffened, my pupils dilated, my adrenaline shot through the roof.  My ears were acutely aware of the sounds of metal hitting metal, and the only thing I could think of was “He’s got a gun!”

I reached out my arm in his direction and pulled my legs out of the figurative quicksand that was swallowing me whole. My instincts kicked in and just as I pulled my phone and cued up 911, I saw a metal pipe rise from the bed of his truck, not ready to strike, not in rage, not in hate, but with a large white poster board attached to it that simply said

“Who are you to judge?”


He attached the pole to the back of his truck, walked over to myself and my partner, gave us both hugs, thanked us, and got back in his truck, where he would remain smoking, crying, laughing and talking with us for the remainder of the time he and Jane were at the clinic. 

What we were able to do that day was magical. 

Because we remained calm, because we held space for this couple, because we simply allowed this person to be vulnerable and express his pain in protected space, he was able to take that energy and rage he felt for the antis and turn it into something empowering.  He never once said a word to them, he never once threatened or yelled, he just sat and shared and smoked.  There was no shame in his presence there, there was no shame in hers.  She got one of the first POWER packs, and

I got some real insight into what was needed in clinic spaces… a feeling of NORMAL, some compassion, some empathy, and a bunch of support.

 In This Together

started as a program of my own that focuses on supportive structures in clinic environments as opposed to counter protest actions.  How can we add to this scenario to spark conversations on the normalization of abortion care and to create a space where stigma and shame do not exist? 

I wanted those seeking abortion care services to know they were not alone.  It was important to me that people understood having, or needing, an abortion is by no stretch of the imagination an indication of worth, destiny, morality, or propriety.  It is an experience built in a chunk of moments that is NO ONE’s business except the patient and their care provider. 

The Creation of Power Packs 

These ideas being in the forefront of my mind, I created POWER Packs for patients, that include an eight page coloring pack that offered affirming imagery and choice aligned quotes from everyone from Bell Hooks to Gloria Steinem, 3 maxi pads with empowering sentiments inscribed on them, a bundle of coloring pencils, and a card with our contact information. The items are packed in a manila envelope and stamped with a rainbow and “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  We also have a kids and support people versions of these, including snacks and a juice box for kids.

We received a generous grant from the Abortion Conversations Projects who encouraged us to add the juice boxes. Thanks for your support, your ideas and great resources!

By providing both our POWER Packs and our packs created for those waiting, we are creating a positive environment.  When my feet are inside clinic spaces, it is not my job to have opinions on circumstances or the justifications of wanting or needing abortions, my job and the job of In This Together Project, is to create a space that promotes peace, love, calm, support and assistance to anyone that shares these moments with us. 

Please know that whether you are an abortion care provider who benefits from our Snuggle bus perks, a patient whose choices and experiences are affirmed and supported with our POWER Packs, or a companion, family member, or child we keep busy with our Cool Kids Car Packs, we are here with and for you. 

We are In This Together