Saturday, October 25, 2008

On gathering support networks

I've always known it would be more difficult to gather a wide-range of support for our cause than, say, the activism I've done in antiwar efforts in the past. Being against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are decidedly easier causes to build up, mainly because of the social structures that can adhere to your ideals. When support for America's wars is at an all-time low, it's not all that difficult to step out and openly declare yourself as an advocate for peace.

Being involved with an anti-war or pro-peace organization has its advantages that way. These days, you can find support and camaraderie in many different communities; student unions, churches, community centers, and food banks all have their reasons to be anti-war, to oppose torture, and to support peace and diplomacy. Even when I worked with a secularist group that ran on an anti-war, anti-torture platform, we had no problem reaching out to churches and community centers for support. One such center that was a registered 501(c)(3) even agreed to handle our donations so that benefactors could receive tax deductions.

It's a hairier world for those of us crusading for reproductive justice (which includes abortion on demand) and against fake clinics that are usually funded by churches. While you might think church organizations that have supported anti-war efforts wouldn't be the same ones that fund CPCs, our experience has taught us otherwise.

One of our organizers sent an email to a faith-based organization that she knew to be progressive and supportive of women's rights for 501(c)(3) parthership. A practicing Christian herself, she highlighted how our mission in exposing fake clinics does, in fact, fit within the group's humanitarian mission in that we are out to support struggling women and fight deception. Here is the response she received:

Dear Ms. M,

Thank you for contacting (our organization) regarding your project. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer partnership to your group as its mission clearly conflicts with our religious beliefs.

Your arguments for support are well-articulated, and I cannot think of any reason why you should not be a part of this effort if it fits your moral convictions. However, for (our organization) to support you would create a conflict within our organization because we are already partnered with one of these "crisis pregnancy centers" you speak of and have seen no reason to believe they are all negative places. While we certainly support a woman's right to be educated about her sexual lifestyle, we simply cannot endorse a group that is pro-abortion as it conflicts with our beliefs about when life begins.

Thanks again for contacting us and we wish you and your group all the best.

God Bless,

This was an organization that had offered not only 501(c)(3) partnership but actual funding and use of space as well to local anti-war causes, as well as non-religious social justice groups. And yet mention of the "A word" was simply not kosher.

It's not that I was surprised; after all, progressive churches are generally anti-war because they are anti-killing, and their scripture views abortion as a form of killing. And at least they're (sometimes) consistent, preaching against the death penalty and poverty as well.

But I have noticed a clear change in dynamic from my years as an anti-war organizer. Even those who agree with you tend to tip-toe around notions of "choice," careful not to tip the scales into being seen as "pro-abortion" or, heaven forbid, "anti-life." For these supporters, wearing a pro-choice t-shirt or attending a CPC demonstration is simply out of the question.

It is for that reason that the reproductive justice movement tends to remain confined to the usual suspects: feminists, social justice activists, and reproductive healthcare advocates. And of course their time and support is always greatly appreciated and highly valued, but new ways to expand our numbers without pulling from the already-active would be a wonderful addition to our ranks. Unfortunately, abortion remains a cause that's dreadfully emotional and touchy, one that most people would "just rather not get involved with."

No comments: