Sunday, October 25, 2009


I just finished reading a very compelling post from Words of Choice about the anti choice movement's mission and what they really want to accomplish. As a former CPC "counselor" the post delivered nothing to me that I did not know already. But I am very happy to see it being exposed, and want to help the process.

After my first post here at CPC Watch, my heart was warmed beyond capacity by the thanks and well wishes left in the comments section. I've received private messages from women sharing their very similar accounts with me. I've connected with a clinic escort that I may very well have encountered while protesting in Louisville. Here we are, together. We're all in this. Together.

I thought my heart was going to leap from my chest the first time I heard the phrase "anti-choice" uttered by a reproductive rights advocate. "Anti choice" is, to me, the perfect label for the broad range of anti-abortion activists, from the clinic protesters to the CPC volunteers to the pastors who use their pulpit to invoke intolerance and misunderstanding of others' lives. You see, anti-abortion activists are not just against abortion; they are against just about everything regarding the woman's body.

Don't believe me? I was one of them. At the CPC I worked at, we gave out "statistics" about the high failure rates of certain kinds of contraceptive devices such as condoms and the diaphragm. We told women that the Pill and other hormonal methods caused "early abortions" that would "kill" a tiny, tiny baby. We also told them these methods were very unsafe and caused a number of undesirable side-effects such as weight gain, nausea, and of course, infertility. Not even giving information on natural family planning (delaying sex until women are no longer fertile) was encouraged. At my very mainstream CPC, as in so many others, it goes like this:
1) Sex is for reproduction.
2) Pregnancy is God's punishment for premarital sex (and pregnancy during marriage is, conversely, God's reward)
3) Abortion, and many contraceptive methods, kill innocent life.

Us CPC workers didn't even abide by the strict standards we imposed on so many women, and our beliefs were rarely as extreme as the beliefs we actually succeeded in guilt-tripping some women into. The idea was, of course, that no one is perfect and we all need to better ourselves in order to submit ourselves to do God's work. It wasn't until I got into the same "trouble" as many of our clients that the veil was lifted from my eyes (though to be fair, my "trouble" as a married, thirty-something mother of two with a decent household income differs slightly from the average CPC client).

But what's behind the anti-choice mission is not merely abortion. As my initial e-conversation with CPC Watch volunteers confirmed, the anti-choicers are opposed to basically any number of lifestyle choices that do not fit a fundamentalist Christian model: they are opposed to contraception, pre-marital sex, sex for the sake of love making and sensuality, sex for the sake of pleasure, single motherhood, gay and lesbian rights, and many others. "The issue, in our eyes, is not about abortion, it's about controlling women's bodies," Lauren wrote to me, so beautifully stating the things I myself had been striving to verbalize since what I've been calling my "reproductive rights identity crisis." And I think the article at Words of Choice verbalizes it further.

It's wonderful to be involved in such an inclusive and diverse movement! Thank you all for welcoming me and helping me find my voice.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The following is a cross-post with Choice USA.

I’ve found daily e-alerts regarding attacks on reproductive rights can be a better wake-up than my morning coffee. However, this particular one made me want to crawl back in bed, cover my head with a pillow, and never leave that spot again.

And Now A Word From Judy, The Talking Embryo

My first thought was that this had to be a parody. It’s just too… outlandish! Too offensive, too strange, and way too misogynistic!

If you listen to the actual voice-over from “Judy,” it seems like a weird joke. And you want to laugh, but the fact that it’s real makes it rightfully difficult to do so. After demonizing the woman’s body as a place where bad things happen (“All I want is to get out of here alive!”), a machete approaches the amniotic sac as Judy cries out for help. Yikes.

But creepy embryo voice-over aside, a quick deconstructing of Judy the Talking Embryo’s home site,, reveals more of the same BS consistently employed by the anti-choice camp, and then some. The radical factions that produced such a site so shamelessly utilized every last anti-woman cliché that it almost seems like a parody. Almost.

Let’s have a look at a couple’s highlights, shall we?

First of all, the logo kills me worse than Choice apparently kills Judy. It’s not just the fact that the image used to dot the “i” is clearly a microscopic embryo that, according to site creators, has consciousness, thought process, even a voice. The machete used to depict surgical implements to perform abortions reveals a horrific amount of ignorance about pregnancy termination procedures. If you’re going to argue against abortion, at least know what you’re talking about. Do we see any object that resembles a knife in the assortment of medical implements below?


I didn’t think so. That’s because abortion is a scalpel-free surgery. Aside from the needles used for intravenous fluids or to administer local anesthetic, there’s nothing really sharp about it.

Next up: obligatory testimonials from non-specific interviewees.

The three testimonials present run-of-the-mill regret stories that generally indicate the woman was being irresponsible and having unprotected sex with full intention of using abortion as birth control. (Why pick up free condoms from your local Planned Parenthood when you can miss school or work to pay $400 for outpatient surgery?) The coup de grace is the asterisked comment below: “Typical comments from typical young women but not necessarily these models.” What, they couldn’t even get real women to tell their stories?! (Who wrote these accounts, someone who’s never had an abortion before? Oh right.) But the real kicker is the way they choose to explain why more people aren’t so adamantly against abortion.

What grates at me here is the fact that I’ve been saying the exact same thing about the lack of comprehensive, inclusive dialogue about abortion in our society. Reproductive justice is such a complex idea with so many separate nooks and crannies that I never feel as though the pro-choicers can make enough of a compelling argument when so much of public opinion is shaped by headlines and sound-bytes. In fact, it seems as though every in-depth argument for choice can be so easily refuted by a generic anti-choice sound-byte that progress is simply not possible. Choice is complex; restricting abortion point blank is not. Besides, anyone else see the irony of decrying sound-bytes when Judy’s little voice provides only that?

I’m obviously being a bit comedic and satirical about this, but make no mistakes: not everyone will see this new attack on choice in such a light. To an impressionable ear, the sound-bytes used to frame abortion as a procedure that silences an adorable (?) little voice can indeed make an impact, be it an impact based on non-medical hyperbole. More people are being compelled to take sides on what other people do with their lives, and far too often the search for information takes them to one of these radical though well-funded anti-choice projects where opinions are shaped with propaganda. We need to be ready to stand up to that; we cannot simply dismiss that strange little voice crying for help as “the weirdest thing I’ve seen all day.”


The previous entry includes screen shots from CPC Watch makes no claims to ownership of those images.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Introducing Rosa

Ed. note: Rosa is our newest blogger. She lives in a small town outside of Louisville, KY and worked in a crisis pregnancy center until unforeseen events threw a wrench in the gears, changing her outlook on reproductive choices all together. We're pleased to have her on our side!

My name is Rosa. For my personal confidentiality I'd like to leave it at that, and I hope that is okay. I'm still very much involved in PTA, church groups, and social clubs with people from the following story, so I'd like to remain as covert as possible. But I will say that I live in a small town in Kentucky with my husband and two children. I have a college education, I work part time, and I'd say I have a wonderful life.

I am not an activist. Well I am no longer an activist. Not too long ago, I was involved in a women's group at my church. My church was pretty divided on the abortion issue, but when one woman, we'll call her Kathy, joined the congregation nearly a decade ago that began to change. Suddenly, abortion was the discussion. Kathy brought pamphlets with pictures of aborted fetuses (all late term I think) from her church in the town she'd just moved from. Our women's group got up in arms about it, hearing only the side Kathy's pamphlets told. Abortion, each read, is one of the most horrendous acts against God a person can commit. It harms women, and most importantly, destroys families. It kills a living baby and has a high rate of very serious complications.

Now Kathy's materials didn't come without opposition. But she was well-prepared and we were no match for her. After all, all our thoughts and feelings regarding abortion came from what Kathy called the "secular press" which didn't value life. We began reading the newsletters from groups like Focus on the Family and became even more horrified. The tales went on: women use abortion as birth control. Abortion causes drug use and depression. Abortion causes breast cancer and infertility. And the most common: women choose abortion because they don't think they have any other option.

So with our best intentions gathered up, we began to do what was called "sidewalk counseling" at the abortion clinic in Louisville. These scenes still take place weekly, or so I've read. We'd block women from entering the clinic and tell them of the crisis pregnancy center across the road that would offer an alternative to "killing the baby." I can tell you I did sidewalk counseling every week for over a year and never once saw a woman change her mind and cross the road to the CPC. I hear stories of that happening, but seeing how most women and their supports reacted to our methods I'd say it's far fetched.

Anyway. One thing led to another and I began to work in a Louisville CPC part time. By "work," I mean volunteer, but I gave up my job for it, commuted over 30 miles to get there, and worked four days a week. My family was having trouble making ends meet with just the two kids, but I spoke with my husband and told him that I'd been given a mission from God. I really felt that way!

Then God threw a wrench in the gears. Somehow, I became pregnant. It wasn't supposed to happen, as a complicated c-section with my second child made another pregnancy pretty impossible, or so they said. So there I was. Pregnant, nauseous all the time, with two children and a single income household. But the CPC wasn't all bad. They started paying me a very modest hourly wage to keep me on, as I'd had some experience with peer mentoring and was becoming quite valuable to the agency's more difficult clients.

But getting back to the CPC. Long before I began to think differently about abortion I was questioning the way the place operated. Not because I thought they were flat out lying to women, but because of the way they offered assistance. Our task in greeting new clients was to determine, on a scale from 1-10, how "abortion vulnerable" the woman is. That is, is she considering abortion, or did she come here because she's already chosen life and wants help with the new baby? If a woman was deemed not abortion vulnerable at all, they were often given nothing more than an opportunity to volunteer at the CPC itself, on top of whatever real job they actually had. They were paid in diapers, wet wipes, formula, some second-hand clothing. Nothing substantial. Certainly no prenatal care or anything like that. The abortion vulnerable women, however, they were offered the lot. High chairs, cribs, brand new clothing, even financial assistance for prenatal and pediatric care in rare cases! Doesn't that seem backwards? There are women who wanted to just have the abortion and be done with it, pay their $400 or whatever it is, and leave it behind. But they were getting what women who were struggling to make their choices should have had. I had many conversations with God about this, and with each one I became more convinced that what I was doing was not God's work at all.

So back to the pregnancy. I wasn't about to ask for assistance at the CPC, even though used our questionnaire to determine that I was, in fact, very "abortion vulnerable." Of course I couldn't tell my colleagues that. After all, the picture the CPC paints of the women who seek abortions is, I now know, very inaccurate: young, unmarried high school women who don't know Jesus and are generally irresponsible. If only I'd taken the time to speak with the many women I "counselled" in that clinic parking lot! I'd have learned that I, a Christian 30-something mother of two, was the face of abortion as well.

I really don't want to tell the story of what happened. All I will say is that I had to end the pregnancy. All I will say is that I could not go to a clinic because I was sure my fellow pro-life activists would see me. All I will say is that I ended up in the emergency room with a lacerated cervix and uterine hemorrhage.

It took months to get over what I'd done to myself. Everything I'd been telling women about abortion came spilling out with that one determined thrust. Fortunately, the hospital plugged me in with a support group of women who were having emotional difficulty after abortion. I wish I'd seen this group sooner. I learned, first of all, that my picture of who has abortions was horribly skewed. Here I was sitting with religious women and atheist women. These women were married, single, engaged, dating, divorced. They were 18, 29, 40. White, Black, Asian. Many of their accounts highlighted the parking lot protesters as a key thing they remember from their abortion. They charted their journey from entering the clinic in fear to leaving in shame. I couldn't help but think, "Did I help make them feel this way?" Conversations with God soothed my self-blame, but did implant in my soul the idea that I simply could not do the work I had spent so much time doing.

I learned so much about abortion by simply putting down the propaganda and letting the stories speak for themselves. Especially mine: it wasn't that I didn't "think" I had any other option. I truly felt, I KNEW, I had no other option. I cannot explain it, and I think very few women who have elected abortions can. Which I suppose is why it's so hard to put together a coherent argument for what we fight for. But I'm trying, and I hope you will too.