Abortions (and thus Planned Parenthood) are a currently hot topic in the news, debates, and even the Supreme Court. Regardless of the moral or legal status of the matter, abortions happen, and in some cases they have to happen for the safety of the woman involved. What many people fail to consider, or simply forget, is that someone has to do the job. Although it can be mentally hard on the doctor, the mental and emotional stress, fear, and overwhelming pain are a hundred times worse for most women who choose to (or have to) undergo the process. Who is there for these women, in what most people consider to be one of the hardest experiences to endure? Enter, volunteer Taina Montalvo-Teller. The half-Puerto Rican has been volunteering as a Planned Parenthood escort for almost five years, and tells her inspiring story and experience to Latina Magazine.
What does an abortion escort actually mean, and what does one do? An escort helps guide patients (and sometimes staff) in and out of an abortion clinic. This may seem odd, unless you consider pro-life protestors, and how violent, cruel, and harassing they can be. The escort is responsible for protecting the patient and her companion or companions from harms way, both physical and verbal. Additionally escorts act as a welcoming and calming presence for visitors and patients. According to Montalvo-Teller, anti-choice protestors tend to target patients of color.
“Regardless if I’m volunteering for a clinic in Manhattan or the Bronx, and no matter if I’m at a Planned Parenthood clinic or a private one, demonstrators don’t harass white patients as much as they do those of color. And the remarks are often racialized, too.”
Montalvo-Teller volunteers to help women who are already going through a hard time, because in her youth, she had an abortion experience. It was a situation that could happen to anyone, her and her partner used a condom, they did everything right, but it broke. She turned to Planned Parenthood. Yet her experience going to the clinic is what stays with her to this day, and influenced her to become a volunteer.
“I was alone that day, and my anxiety grew to terror as protestors tried to block me from entering the facility. Amid the frightening demonstrators I saw a welcoming face. With her volunteer vest and red lipstick that I can still remember more than a decade later, the clinic escort asked: ‘do you need me to walk you in?’ I nodded, walked alongside her and, filled with gratitude, knew that I’d want to offer other women with the same comfort she was providing me.”
Becoming a volunteer was a clear choice for Montalvo-Teller, following her own abortion story, and the less-than organized and dangerous abortion her own mother had. Without proper access to a facility like Planned Parenthood her mother turned to hazardous chemicals as a last resort – this resonates with Montalvo-Teller to this day.
“This is why accessible abortion care and reproductive services are so crucial: we will have them regardless, but when it’s not available – or when people try to block it from us with physical, legal or psychological barriers – it can be life-threatening, especially for those who are the most marginalized.”
Montalvo-Teller’s story is one that is often untold, and unrecognized, but volunteers like herself, and pro-choice activists, are truly making a difference in the fight for female reproductive rights and health.