LOUISVILLE, KY – A case over a Kentucky abortion law is being heard in federal court this week. Attorneys have been and will be making their cases inside a heated courtroom (as in, literally heated). Meanwhile, a handful of passionate people have been making their cases out in the cold for quite a while.
Whatever the weather, you’ll see them out on the sidewalk of West Market Street in downtown Louisville, in front of the only abortion clinic in Kentucky. Many of them have been coming to the spot for years—a few have been coming for decades—because they believe strongly in their positions.
Both sides of the abortion debate are present.
“Yes, we hope the dismemberment bill is upheld because it’s a barbaric, gruesome procedure that literally tears the infant out of the mother’s womb,” argued Ed Harpring, who walks the sidewalk each morning to try to talk women out of having abortions.
Meanwhile, Keith McGill joins a small army of “clinic escorts” donned in orange vests. Their goal is to walk with women to and from the clinic, shielding them from abortion opponents.
“I just felt like women who wanted to exercise their choice shouldn’t be hassled by people mentally or physically because they want to exercise their right to choose,” McGill said.
The opinions on the sidewalk are split, and passionately so. However, if you expect the opinions to clash with hostility, you might be surprised. In an era where shoving and shouting and all caps tweets make headlines, the folks on Market Street report a usually calm and civil presence.
“I think that’s the misconception—that we’re out here with our pitchforks and we’re yelling hateful things—that’s really not true,” Harpring said. “Generally speaking, I think both sides are trying to be civil.”
“I think both sides have their opinions about what the women who come into the clinic should do,” McGill echoed. “I can’t say that ‘you’re right’ or ‘I’m right.’ I just say we have a difference in opinion."