My Morning as a Viagra Sidewalk Counselor

Roe v. Wade anniversary, sidewalk counselors, abortion rights(In honor of the upcoming 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the cultural issues it has produced, The Broad Side is cross-posting this piece by Aliza Worthington, originally published on July 3, 2014 on The Worthington Post, on the practice of sidewalk counseling.)

On June 26, 2014, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot “buffer zone” outside women’s health clinics (at which legal abortions are performed.) While my instincts cried foul, my intellect told me that since the decision was unanimous, the law itself must have had some pretty massive fundamental flaws. Surely, the trifecta of my girl crushes on the highest bench in the land wouldn’t have concurred otherwise in ruling against the buffer zone designed to protect women seeking legal medical care.

The SCOTUSBlog’s “In Plain English” column broke down the decision and the reasoning behind it in terms that I can (almost) understand. While I’m pretty smart, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I speak fluent Constitution, so some of it was a little hard to follow.  But I got the gist. Basically, as the law was written and subsequently argued, it violated anti-choice protesters’ First Amendment rights to free speech. Eleanor McCullen, lead plaintiff in this case, has been vindicated. The Huffington Post quotes her as saying, “It’s America. I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody.”

I wondered , though, where a citizen’s privacy came into this discussion. I don’t know about you, but I find medical matters to be intensely personal. (HIPAA guidelines seem to support me in that.) This may seem painfully and ridiculously obvious, but doesn’t a woman or couple seeking medical attention regarding reproductive matters deserve privacy – regardless of whether they’re seeking an abortion or treatment for an STD or a breast exam?

“COUNSELOR” to woman entering clinic: DON’T KILL YOUR BABY! FETUSES FEEL PAIN! YOU’RE A MURDERER!!!

Woman entering clinic: Um…I’m just getting medicine for my gonorrhea.

“Counselor:” Oh. Never mind.

I’m telling you, I’m just DYING to go to one of these clinics for the SOLE PURPOSE of being accosted by one of these people.

“Counselor:”  God loves your baby! Don’t kill it!

Me: Actually, I have a super-itchy hoo-ha, and some goo is coming out of it. It sort of has a funky smell, too. Do you mind if I discuss THAT with you?

In fact, just to switch perspectives, I decided that I would do a little “sidewalk counseling” of my own. I like to challenge gender roles occasionally, and stick it to the man – so…I parked myself outside of a doctor’s office near where I live, and attempted to “counsel” the people going into that office about the dangers of…can you guess it?  Of course you can!  VIAGRA! (Insert Kermit the Frog Arm Flail here…) I “walked and talked with people gently and lovingly” about why they shouldn’t take Viagra. Just for funsies, I made a video of how I spent the morning after SCOTUS decided my free speech was more important than how I spent the morning after. (Credit Emily Bock with recording and editing said video.)

In all seriousness, what right does ANYONE besides my doctor have to even know, let alone advise or counsel me about any medical decision – especially a medical reproductive decision – I might make? Here’s a radical idea: If a medical procedure or medicine is legal, I have a right to pursue that remedy unencumbered – even if some people wish it weren’t legal. Say it with me. “My medical decisions are none of your business.” Sing it. Scream it from the rooftops. “MY MEDICAL DECISIONS ARE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” Every time you say that phrase, the sweet baby Jesus smiles, coos and claps his hands, trust me.

Aliza Worthington grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Baltimore. She began writing in 2009 at the age of 40. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both. She blogs about Life, Liberty and Happiness at “The Worthington Post.” Her work also appears in Purple Clover, and before that, in Catonsville Patch and Kveller. She has been featured in the Community Spotlight section of Daily Kos under the username “Horque.” Her piece for The Broad Side, Leaving Gender at the Door, was chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year in 2013. Follow her on Twitter at @AlizaWrites.

To schedule an interview with Aliza or to talk with her about a speaking engagement, contact her at alizaworthington@gmail.com.

  • Faryl Palles

    Brilliant! Now we need to clone you and deploy you all over this backward-sliding country…

  • Ann

    Great example. This is so absurd but horribly true. We allow the protester rights that are not afforded to those entering the medical clinics.

    How is it that there are lawyers fighting for the rights of Ms. whateverhernameis but not the rights of those seeking medical care/procedure. Backroom abortions should be mandatory for the wives, daughters, sisters, cousins of the male & female politicians who keep trying to regulate women’s rights to choose. (I don’t really endorse them but it would serve them right).

    Yet, we have children wallowing in foster care, orphanages & living on the streets bc they do not have adequate parents or parenting. smh…this country needs a revolution…
    Thanks!

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