This past Thursday New Hampshire resident and activist Nelle Douville was awarded the Volunteer Service Award from Volunteer NH for her tireless work in defense of women’s reproductive rights. Nominated by Planned Parenthood, Nelle was recognized for her dedication to women’s reproductive rights, particularly her brave service as an escort at the Manchester Planned Parenthood clinic.
Nelle was recognized in particular for her dedication to acting as a greeter/escort for women coming to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Manchester, NH for services. Every Thursday, the day when most of the state’s most dedicated religious wingnuttia shows up to harass women, Nelle can be counted on to provide a much needed buffer of sanity. As an escort, Nelle provides protection to women from the judgmental to those in need of services. Modest about her work but realistic about its importance, “Most days are pretty uneventful in terms of the protesters. It isn’t my job to pick fights with them, so I try to avoid interaction. I’m there for the patients.”
Usually she says that the average count of protesters runs at about fourteen, with one time the number as high as sixty-one. “They are there in all weather, rain, snow, heat… and sometimes some have children with them in poor weather conditions.” Private security detail provides a security person on duty during these days to ensure that the protesters follow the law. Nelle says that for a time the police would provide security but they weren’t always regular in showing up, the security service though is reliable, which is important. “There were two days they weren’t there. Those were particularly crazy, because the protesters didn’t feel under scrutiny for their behavior.” she adds.
Since Operation Rescue started the trend in the 80’s of harassing and shaming women entering into reproductive services clinics nationwide, the role of on-the ground escorts provides that final bridge in real time, over the troubled waters of women’s rights to secure access to proper medical care. Asked about what sticks in her mind about her experience as a clinic escort, “Anytime someone is in tears bothers a great deal. Some of the comments can be quite cutting, and the usual ploy is to yell out all manner of uncouth things until people near the door, then they hurry a spiel to get them to go to their choice of quote family planning clinic.”
Women like Nelle supply the mundane, yet essential service to other women who go to Planned Parenthood for a wide variety of healthcare services tailored specifically to women’s needs. As Nelle reminds, “Planned Parenthood offers a wide array of services and people try to misrepresent what it does.” While religious fundamentalists focus entirely on Planned Parenthood’s early term abortion services, most of their work provides education and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, essential healthcare such as PAP screenings and check-ups and also of course, affordable birth control.
Nelle also has helped out at rallies, providing the much needed assistance with manning tables and booths that help distribute information to the public about Planned Parenthood’s variety of healthcare services to women.
The Planned Parenthood Clinic in Manchester can always use a helping as Nelle most usually does her work alone. Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming an escort (training is necessary to learn to deal with the protesters and provide the services needed to the clinic) one can go to the Planned Parenthood site here. One thing to note: Planned Parenthood is not interested in counter-protesters or those feeling the urge to have the Great Battle with the protesters. The job is to make sure that women get the services they need as easily and safely as possible. Thanks Nelle for providing that much needed service to women in New Hampshire!