Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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5 0 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.14 T he only abortion clinic in Louisville opens at 7:30 in the morning, and that's when each woman, 20 or more on a busy day, is scheduled to arrive for her appointment. Five days a week for the past 17 years, Donna Durning has shown up about an hour before that. "Maybe one of the girls will come early, and I'll have a chance to talk to her before everybody else gets here," she says. "It's the last chance." On this February Saturday, she parks her white Mercedes Benz on the street in front of E.M.W. Women's Surgical Center, a one-story brownish-brick building on the south side of Market, between Second and First, across from a Subway and a business called Action Loan. She'd like to get a bumper sticker made for her car that asks, "Have you hugged your choice today?" Durning wears tights, knee socks and leg warmers beneath her conservative black slacks, plus "a wonderful shirt that's like long under- wear," a turtleneck, a sweater and a down coat. Her shoes are insulated. Some of those tiny packets that generate heat warm her pockets. A single-digit temperature transforms mouths into smokestacks of billowing breath. "People do make fun of me because I don't wear a hat," she says. "I just have to explain that red hair is hot hair." Her schedule as a realtor allows her never to miss a morning, unless she's out of town for an anti-abortion conference or the March for Life in Washington, D.C. "I just feel like somebody needs to be here every day," she says. Durning, who doesn't want to reveal how old she is in print, looks at least 15 years younger than her age. She's proud to say her medicine cabinet has nothing in it but aspirin and Pepto-Bismol. "I've been blessed with good health," she says. "As long as I'm able to get myself down here, I will do this." She holds a black velvet box that looks like it would contain jewelry but instead holds four to-scale plastic models, fetuses at seven, eight, nine and 10 weeks old. "When I have the opportunity to show these to the girls, they're really afected by it," Durning says. One of her friends gave her a palm-sized mechanical coun- ter that she uses to tally the women entering, in her words, "the abortuary," "the abortion mill," "the killing place." She carries a spare because a counter once stopped working on her. "Saved that one for parts," she says. In a spiral note- book, she tracks the number of women who go into the clinic, by her count 22 on Feb. 4, nine on the 5th, 10 on the 6th. Each Tuesday through Saturday, which is when the clinic's doctors perform abortions, she calls her total into WLCR-AM, the local Catholic station that broadcasts the number before the rosary at 8 a.m. and noon. In her notebook, Durning also writes down the frst names of the "deathscorts" and the "prayer warriors" who come to the sidewalk each day. Chuck Jones, a 70-year-old retired sheet- metal worker from Lanesville, Ind., arrives not long after Durning, driving the 62 round-trip miles to E.M.W. for more than a decade. "I just love babies," he says. He explains how, years ago, he and his late wife almost adopted, until the birth mother found out it was a boy. "Ten it became, 'Tis is our bloodline,'" Jones says, adding that the child — frst name David, middle name Shane — turned 12 on Jan. 15 at 4:36 in the morning. "He was almost ours. But he's alive, so what the heck," Jones says. Mike Sliter, who is 52 and lives in Pleasure Ridge Park, says one of the reasons he comes to the clinic is because his 19-year-old daughter weighed one pound, 15 ounces, when she was born. "It really stuck with me that there are aborted babies bigger than that," he says. For eight years, Philip Calvert, a 56-year-old sawmill worker from Fordsville, Ky., has trav- eled nearly 200 miles round trip. Fordsville is southwest of Louisville, and Calvert wakes at 2:30 a.m. — 3:30 our time — so he can make it to the sidewalk before E.M.W. opens. "We're just trying to save babies," he says. "Is that so bad?" Marking the property boundary is a line in the sidewalk, at the end of a column-supported overhang above E.M.W.'s glass-door entrance. Beneath this overhang sits a black backpack flled with thin mesh vests the color of an orange trafc cone, the words "Clinic Escort" stenciled on the back. Ampelio Isetti, 76, has decorated his with buttons: pink with "God" in black, red with "Satan" in black. One says, "Tis is what a feminist looks like." He almost always wears his Obama ball cap. Isetti is originally from Italy, which is why he says some of the prayer warriors call him "Mussolini." "I come here because they're the Christian Tali- ban, here to impose their beliefs," Isetti says. Saturdays are busiest. If the weather is nice, and sometimes when it's not, 20 escorts and 100 or more who oppose abortion will come to the sidewalk. Te clients are diverse; the prayer warriors and escorts tend to be white. Te Saturday before Mothers' Day, those numbers quadruple. On that particular holiday, the escorts hold a "pledge-a-picketer" fund-raiser, with their supporters donating, say, 10 cents for each person who's not wearing an orange vest. To fgure out the total, one of the escorts uses a counter like Durning's. Te escorts man several zones: the corners where Market meets Second and First; across the street; the alley behind the clinic; the entrance and exit to the parking lot behind A Woman's Choice, which is an anti-abortion facility that shares an interior wall with E.M.W. Te escorts watch for slow-moving cars, the passengers — one of whom will always be a woman — turning their heads left and right, a little lost. Although the escorts don't work for E.M.W. (they're not even volunteers for the clinic), staf tell clients to look for orange vests. "We have three kinds of protestors: pray-ers, chasers and preachers," says Fausta Luchini, a therapist in her 50s who has been escorting since her daughter got her into it several years ago. Te escorts have nicknamed one man "Screaming Preacher." "One of the escorts, who's actually deaf, says she can hear him," Luchini says, laughing. When he really gets going, Clara Harris, an escort in her 30s, says her yoga experience allows her to drown him out. Some of the other escorts have nicknamed 57-year-old Dan Rudyk "Zen Master Dan." He works as the vice president of production at a small cabinet shop and escorted for the frst time in 1999, then got back into it about six years ago when his college-age daughter was home from school and wanted to see what it was all about. "Tis is not about protecting the client," he says. "We give them space to be empowered in what they're about to do." Walter is a large and jolly escort who wears a bucket hat over what's left of his slicked-back white hair. He says hello to everybody on the sidewalk. "Good morning, Donna!" he'll shout, genuinely greeting her. Besides Walter, though, escorts generally don't talk to the prayer war- riors, besides yelling, "Don't block the sidewalk, please!" Meg, a 32-year-old escort who's been doing it since 18, says some escorts used to sing "Te Song Tat Never Ends" to try to drown out the prayers. "But that just escalated things and didn't serve the client," Meg says. Te escorts have a blog titled Every Saturday Morning and a private Facebook page with about 200 members, with an estimated 50 or so escorting with some regularity. Te core group is probably closer to 20. "Escorts don't want people to have abortions they don't want to An abortion battle between two sides, equally convinced in their beliefs, plays out every day on Market Street. 42-53 Abort BUS.indd 50 2/20/14 3:21 PM

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