Monday, June 29, 2009

My Real Beef with CPCs

If there was a large network of organizations that sought to support women and couples during unplanned pregnancies and offer unbiased, fact-based information about options, I'd be all for it.

If there were centers that dedicated themselves 100% to providing resources and a sense of community to young women who have autonomously chosen to carry a pregnancy to term, I'd want to volunteer all of my free time to such a cause.

Unfortunately, such organizations don't exist. Reproductive health clinics are too underfunded to offer a wide range of free services and assistance most of the time, and they're often forced to spend most of their resources on clinic defense and security due to the more "controversial" options they provide, thanks to the anti-choice camp's threats and harassment. And crisis pregnancy centers are, of course, nothing more than an appendage of the anti-choice camp's meddling in the decisions of others.

It's easy to come across as a legitimate medical or counseling facility when you wear a white lab coat and have a nametag, especially when your clientele are vulnerable youngsters who are seeking confidential (and free) help from any adult that has even the slightest appearance of professionalism. I'd assume a person running an ultrasound machine was a medical professional too.

It's also easy to sound like you know what you're talking about when you say it confidently enough with a tone of concern and compassion. But I'd implore any woman to inquire about the specific data CPCs offer to women entering their centers. I found this gem yesterday while updating our list of deceptive centers:

Serious complications do occur in as many as 1 out of every 100 early abortions and 1 out of 50 later abortions:
Perforated uterus or damage to other organs.
Excessive bleeding requiring blood transfusions.
Chronic and acute infections; intense pain.
Incomplete removal of the baby or placenta.
High fever, Convulsions, Shock, Coma
A greater increase in miscarriages.
Ectopic (Tubal) Pregnancies.
Premature births and still births.
Infertility and breast cancer.

While most provide no sources to back up their information whatsoever, several of the complications listed link to another page where the stats are backed up with specific studies. The problem is, most of these studies were performed before or in the years immediately following Roe, many of which specifically sought to reflect the dangers of unregulated, illegal abortions or self-induced procedures. Others reflected procedures that, while legally performed, followed a similar method as the "backalley" abortions from the past decades. Huge advancements in abortion care were made in the late-1980s through early-1990s, and more recent data reflects these increased safety measures; such data, from studies that utilized a more reliable methodology, unequivocally debunks the claims made by this CPC's website. In addition, many "studies" come from religiously-affiliated publications known to manipulate studies or fabricate the data all together.

It saddens me that caring for young women choosing to carry to term carries such a range of lies and deception, especially considering CPCs operate under a religious umbrella. "Caring for women facing unplanned pregnancy" means one thing or another: either giving her an abortion or lying to her so that she will more likely choose to carry to term (and probably go with adoption as many CPCs are against single motherhood). I wouldn't at all be against centers that fully disclosed their religious biases and assisted those who were fully informed of what they would (and more importantly, would not) receive at the center. However, I think CPCs know full well that simply preaching moral opposition to abortion does little to sway the opinions of the general public, which is why fabricating medical data is such a cornerstone of CPC operation. Pretending to be actual reproductive health clinics or "cybersquatting" on a family planning clinic's website are other common tactics that tell us "providing options" is hardly the mission of a CPC. If they were truly confident in their ability to provide true and "unbiased" information about pregnancy options, they wouldn't need to do any of these things, not to mention that they're against contraception education and other methods that have been proven over and over again to decrease the instances of unplanned pregnancies in the first place.

I guess when it comes to preventing what these places unequivocally define as "murder," any measure, no matter how harmful, can be used. In such actions, the true mission of "crisis pregnancy centers" shines through. And that's my real beef.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Help NARAL-Virginia counteract CPC funding

This past Spring, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine signed into law a bill that would allow the sale of "Choose Life" license plates. The plates, available now in 24 states, will funnel money through the government DOV agency and into about 40 crisis pregnancy centers in the state. $15 of every $25 license plate will go toward helping unlicensed, unregulated CPCs spread false and misleading information about reproductive health. To date, no pro-choice alternative exists anywhere in the country. When proposed, state legislatures reject them because they consider the alternative too "political" to be on government-issued tags.

Nearly $9000 is expected to be funneled into Virginia CPCs on the day the plates become available (July 1) alone. NARAL-Virginia is asking supporters to help match this amount and counter the false and misleading information put out by CPCs. Virginia residents can also get involved with NARAL-VA's Crisis Pregnancy Center Education Project.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

RH Reality Check's new reporting on CPCs

RH Reality Check has a new feature article on CPCs. Even for those of us who are all too well-versed in deceptive centers' tactics, the testimonials from the accompanying video are worth a listen.

The blogger, Myra Duran, writes an excellent account of her experience at a CPC. The embedded video offers an in-depth look at how CPCs are not only anti-abortion, they're anti-contraception, anti-single motherhood, anti-choice overall.

Props to our sisters and brothers over at RH Reality Check... great reporting!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

NC Residents Take Action... Healthy Youth Act in Trouble

The Healthy Youth Act in Trouble

[Letter to NC Planned Parenthood supporters from Steph Shaw]

I know I've already asked you to take action today about the Adolescent Parenting Programs, but something urgent just happened at the General Assembly and we need your help.

A few minutes ago the Senate Mental Health and Youth Services Committee caved to the religious right and passed a stripped down version of the Healthy Youth Act.

The version of the bill that is now headed to the Senate Floor would mandate that all children in grades 7-9 receive 5 days of medically inaccurate, biased, abstinence-only until marriage education, followed by just 2 days of comprehensive sex ed.

Please take action right now to tell this committee, as well as Senate President Pro-Tempore Marc Basnight and Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, how disappointed you are about this move.

thank you,
Steph Shaw

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Senator Charlie Dannelly
Senator Edward Jones
Senator Eleanor Kinnaird
Senator James Forrester
Senator Jim Jacumin
Senator John Snow
Senator Malcolm Graham
Senator Martin Nesbitt

Below is the sample letter:


Dear [decision maker name],

I was deeply disappointed to learn that your committee allowed a version of the Healthy Youth Act that denies parents the right to choose their children's sex ed track to head to the Senate Floor.

It is a fact: 99.5% of parents think that information about transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS and STD's should be part of a sex education curriculum. It is also a fact that the abstinence-only until marriage curriculum, of which 5 days are mandated for every student in grades 7-9 in the new version of this bill, does not address infection transmission or provide ways for teens to keep themselves safe when they do become sexually active later in life.

Our parents and our teens deserve better than what is now a watered down version of a bill that had the potential to go so far to reduce our state's alarmingly high teen pregnancy and HIV rates.

What were you thinking?


[NC Resident]

Sen Rand and Basnight

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Your Abortion, Your Voice Needed

Note: The following is a message sent to many pro-choice and pro-voice groups around the country from Aspen Baker, founder of Exhale ( and probably one of the most dedicated visionaries in the reproductive justice movement today. Please forward widely as Aspen's project will require the voices of the most knowledgeable authorities on abortion: the everyday women who have had them. Positive experiences, negative experiences... all is welcome and will be used not to make sweeping claims about "abortion is always right" or "abortion is always wrong", but to create a very realistic, very NEEDED critique of the state of choice in society today, and how we as a movement (including providers) can continue the important work of ensuring not only a CHOICE to all women, but ACCESS and POSITIVE OUTLOOKS on those choices as well, regardless of the chosen option (abortion, adoption, parenting, etc).

Hello NLNI,

In the wake of the tragic murder of Dr. Tiller, I have been inspired to see so many blogs, bloggers, news outlets, journalists and reporters prioritize the voices and experiences of women who have had the kinds of abortions Dr. Tiller performed at his clinic. Not only do these stories help to humanize the debate, they can be a source of real comfort to thousands of other women who have had abortions. The ability to see yourself and your story reflected in public dialogue is a real gift and it is a pro-voice strategy for creating a more supportive and respectful social climate around abortion.

Many of you write to Exhale to ask how you can be a part of the pro-voice movement and be a source of comfort and support to women after an abortion. Today, I am writing you with an opportunity to make a significant contribution to creating a pro-voice future – and for the chance to reach thousands of women after an abortion.

Early next year, Exhale will be publishing my self-help book for women after an abortion, titled: “Be Well: Your Guide to Well-being After an Abortion.” It will be a comprehensive, easy-to-read, step-by-step guide that covers physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well as addresses how women can build a support network of family, friends and community members. The book uses an empowerment-based model that helps women identify and work from their unique strengths.

One of the most important aspects of the book are the words of people like you – people who have had abortions – who share their feelings, needs, strengths and experiences with abortion in its pages. Imagine the feeling of relief and comfort you will offer a woman who reads this book and finds herself, and her story reflected back to her through your words. By telling your story, you can have a real, direct impact on a woman’s life.

I invite you to share your abortion story to be published in my book, “Be Well.”

There is no wrong or right story, or feeling for “Be Well” – there is only the need for your story. I hope you decide to share it. If writing your story feels overwhelming or too time consuming to write, my research assistant is available to interview you over the phone. Please write to share your story in writing and/or to schedule a phone interview.

You have seen the power of personal story-telling on political debate, now imagine its power to promote the health and wellbeing of every woman who has had an abortion. Imagine the possibilities for a group of women who feel heard, supported and respected after an abortion to change culture, climate and dialogue.

Join us!


P.S. In thinking about your story, please consider the following questions:

§ How did your BODY feel before, during, after the abortion? What was unexpected? How quickly did you heal?

§ What kind of EMOTIONS did you have surrounding your abortion? And now? Has anything changed?

§ How did your spiritual self respond? Was your religious practice affected? What did your SOUL need?

§ What was going on in your RELATIONSHIPS? With partners, friends, family? How did they help? Or Hurt? What’s it like now?

§ Was your cultural COMMUNITY a hindrance or a source of strength? Do you feel more or less connected?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Good news from New Hampshire

“Today we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law.”
- Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire

These words were spoken after signing into law a bill that approves same-sex marriages in the state. The law will go into effect January 1st of next year.

Thank you, Governor Lynch, for taking a stand for equality!

Monday, June 1, 2009

An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly, et al

Dear Mr. O'Reilly,

I would like to take this moment to condemn your actions against the late Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas who was murdered yesterday in his church.

I am familiar with your tirades against the doctor, and railed against them during his life while he continued to provide women and couples with a choice. Now that Dr. Tiller has been murdered, I wish to add an extra dimension to my opposition to your continued misunderstood rants about abortion: your show, watched by thousands nightly, is complicit in Tiller's murder.

Understand the word "complicit" does not mean I think you killed Dr. Tiller. Former President Bush is complicit in the murders of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, but of course that does not mean he pulled the trigger. Given your celebrity status, your unrepentant anti-choice hatred, added to your refusal to understand reasons for later-term abortions, is far more effective in fueling violent actions against abortion doctors than are radical groups like Operation Rescue or the Army of God. You carry a strong influence over the way people think and act, and you know this. I believe "every day" conservative commentators like yourself, those who consistently targeted Dr. Tiller specifically, have as much of a hand in creating clinic violence and violence against providers than you'd readily admit.

Mr. O'Reilly, I do not believe you understand late-term abortion like you think you do. On your program, you suggested a woman would seek an abortion because she was "depressed ... feeling a bit blue." As someone who suffers from clinical depression and has been taking a medication that makes me want to avoid pregnancy for the safety of the fetus, I can tell you depression is hardly just "feeling a bit blue." In browsing the internet for testimonials about how Dr. Tiller saved women's lives, I came across this:
My pregnancy brought back the depression I thought I had conquered. By the time I entered the fifth month, I was having suicidal thoughts. While my doctors were positive the hormonal changes during pregnancy had everything to do with it, none would prescribe any sort of medication that worked. By my 22nd week, I was so overcome with unimaginable depression that I would have done anything to stop it. Just before my 24th week, I attempted suicide. The blood loss was so intense that they swore I'd have a miscarriage; but I did not. The doctors suggested institutionalization, but we couldn't afford it, so they suggested abortion. I was in such pain that my husband and I made the decision ... Dr. Tiller's clinic literally saved my life.
Surely you and your outright sexist comrades would readily denounce this as a woman who was "irresponsible" for the well-being of her child, but you obviously have no idea what depression is like, how it affects the body and mind, and how it can pose great risks to those suffering from it.

I have two hopes for the way we move forward following Tiller's murder. One is that people realize the importance of late-term abortion, the reason people choose it, and how "elective late-term abortion" is not just fickle women getting to their seventh month and saying, "Gee, I don't want to do this anymore." "Elective" can mean a woman or couple who gets to later pregnancy and discovers a defect or disorder in their fetus that may not affect the woman's health, but they choose abortion anyway because of the horrors that birth will bring to the baby. This choice should be protected.

My other hope is that people begin to realize the weight their words carry, such as when you spoke about what Tiller would face come "judgment day." I'm positive you will appear on your show tonight and denounce the killing of Dr. Tiller the way other vehement anti-choice forces have already done, but to do so without addressing the role your show played would be seriously hypocritical. Sure, you and very few anti-choicers or "pro-lifers" would go so far as to murder another human being, but the anger and passion involved with how you verbalize those beliefs can and sometimes do create monsters, monsters like the Army of God and the man who shot Dr. Tiller Sunday morning.

I have also viewed on your show a few of the women who were at one time clients of Dr. Tiller's clinic. You did your very best to demonize the doctor, to make his clinic seem like a place where only bad things happen. I remember you asking a fourteen year old girl if Dr. Tiller ever even spoke to her. She shook her head no. You did not ask about the support she received from the nurse staff, the counselors, etc, and you fail to realize how difficult it can be to "connect" with your patients when you work in the environment Dr. Tiller was somehow able to survive in. Protesters outside, consistent threats of violence, vandalism... hell, Dr. Tiller himself was shot in the arm, twice, in 1993, and yet through it all he continued to practice. Excuse him if the constant negativity towards him made him a little jaded. Besides, how easy is it to take extra time with patients when you're one of three doctors in the country that does the kind of work Dr. Tiller did? Women came from across the country to Tiller's clinic, and his practice was rushed and crowded by necessity, not because Tiller was some sort of heartless practitioner. And who's to say he wouldn't have taken extra time with each one of his clients if anti-choice forces like yourself didn't demonize his work to the point where only the thick-skinned are able to survive?

Any way you slice it, you and other rabid anti-choice factions of the media should feel ashamed of yourselves for the role you most likely played in the murder of Dr. George Tiller yesterday. And yet I'm sure you will move around it, claiming you "didn't mean" what you said when you spoke of the doctor's "judgment day" and claimed he was a "disgrace upon everyone who lives in Kansas." Your constant targeting of one specific provider, putting him directly in the public lens, helped to equate Dr. Tiller himself with the whole concept of late-term abortion, an equation that inevitably led to his untimely death at the hands of a radical anti-choice murderer.


Lauren Guy McAlpin
Crisis Pregnancy Center Watch
Project Coordinator