By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Clinic Escorts Sunday 4493 Pittsburgh Post Gazette (reprinted with

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By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Clinic Escorts Sunday 4/4/93 Pittsburgh Post Gazette (reprinted without permission) Abortion foes imitate clinic escorts By Ellen M. Perlmutter On at least two Saturdays a month, 18-year old Heather Hoff dons a yellow T-shirt with the word "Escort" across the front and posts herself outside an East Liberty abortion clinic. But there is one key difference between Hoff and the usual escorts who accompany patients into abortion clinics -- Hoff opposes abortion. Its the latest wrinkle in the street-corner struggle of anti-abortion and abortion-rights activists. Anti-abortion advocates, usually teens, have started wearing the same kind of identifying t-shirts as abortion-rights escorts and accompanying the women as they approach the clinics. Hoff is clear about her mission: "We're here trying to confuse the girls," she said of the women who were entering Allegheny Reproductive Services yesterday. Retorted Ann Harris, a spokeswoman for the National Abortion Rights Action League: "It concerns us that this is an obvious attempt to deceive. Women [entering clinics] are told to look for people in yellow t-shirts. This is an ugly tactic." Hoff and her friends from Pittsburgh Full Gospel Church in Plum planted themselves yesterday of four corners of North Highland Avenue and Broad Street. Hoff and her friends' t-shirts read "ESCORT" in black letters, while abortion rights advocates' t-shirts read "PRO-CHOICE ESCORT" in similar black letters. There were about 20 escorts from each side, focusing on women who came to the clinic every half hour or so. The t-shirted anti-abortion activists tended to be boys and girls from 12 to 18, while the abortion-rights escorts were all adults. "Kids are a little less imposing," said Rob Kline of Lower Burrell, a regular anti-abortion protester. "They're not as intimidating as a full-grown man or woman coming up to you." Harris countered: "The thought of a 12-year-old dancing up to a pregnant woman to talk about her reproductive rights is almost ludicrous. Besides, woman don't come to this street corner to make a decision. Our goal is to try and keep things calm and focus on the woman." It was impossible to tell how the women entering the clinic were affected by the competing escorts. Most quickly headed to the clinic's doors, being careful not to look at the people huddling around them. In each case, almost as though they had practiced it, two anti-abortion activists and two abortion-rights advocates rushed to both sides of the woman , surrounding her in yellow. The anti-abortion escorts tried to hand the woman brochures and said they urged them not to go through with the procedure. The abortion-rights escorts said they tried to keep the woman calm and let them know they could enter the clinic safely. "It's not that we're being radical," said anti-abortion escort Angie Dawson, 15. "I'm here because my friends had abortions and there's no need for that." Lesley Dick, 18, said she had seen women turn back because of her group's efforts. But Harris said the latest tactic was nothing more than "an annoyance". The anti-abortion teen-agers, she said, "gallop toward" women. "We don't do that. We're not going to change what we do because it will only escalate the problem. The patients are getting inside effectively. There are no differences in that respect."


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