Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guest Blog: My Experience

Crisis pregnancy centers are not simply anti-abortion and anti-contraception; many also take part in adoption coercion, a practice that, to be effective, must first involve convincing a pregnant woman that she is unfit to parent her own child. Most victims of adoption coercion are young, unmarried, and financially vulnerable. The following was sent to us from a woman in Carson City, Nevada who visited the Community Pregnancy Center for support. Reprinted here with her permission.

I went to the crisis pregnancy center for multiple reasons which included: the pain I was in and fear of a ectopic pregnancy, that I needed a support system since I had moved 1700 miles away from family and friends, and that I needed a confirmed pregnancy paper because I was planning to go on Medicaid and resources to help me in my pregnancy. Surely these people would be able to help me and calm my nerves. Boy was I wrong!

So my boyfriend and I showed and it was by appointment only, so we made an appointment and came back 2 hours later. We got there and two older ladies met me. They made it very clear that my boyfriend was not allowed to come with me, which wasn't okay with me because he was my only supporter at the time. We talked a little bit. They asked me questions, how I was doing I told them I was scared and in pain. They asked me where I was from and if I was in school. A bunch of other small talk. Finally, they handled me the test told me what to do and showed me the bathroom. I took the test, it was of course positive. Two other test were, so why would this one be any different? After the 3 minute timer had dinged and the test results were in and they made me read the results out loud to them. Not sure what that was about, but whatever. They then asked me if I had planned to keep it.

I answered that I wasn't sure. Not because I was thinking about adoption or abortion, but because I was deathly afraid that it was ectopic and I would be forced to terminate. My counselors then proceeded to give me the “facts” on abortion. Most of which were lies, including that I would get breast cancer, be infertile, and I would without a doubt be very depressed and suicidal over it. They even went as far as to tell me that I shouldn't "cover one sin with another sin."

They then switched to the loving choice of adoption. To which I quickly replied that the father wanted his baby, was more than willing to marry me and had a very nice stable job. When I was finished they looked at me and just continued on talking about adoption. Like everything I had just said had absolutely no merit whatsoever! In the middle of it they asked me if I had told my parents and how my mom felt about it. I told them yes and that my mom was very excited and wanted a girl and that she was more then willing to support me while I finished up my degree. Again, blank stares and the continuation of the adoption speech. They then handed me some papers. One compared adoption to abortion. One had a bunch of numbers with doctors on it to call and the Medicaid address and number. Which by the way was wrong. That led to a vacant parking lot. The last was a booklet about the loving option of adoption. Here is some of the stuff it said:

Q 1: "If I keep my baby maybe my baby's father will... (marry me, stay with me, come back). Sorry but babies rarely have that effect on guys... especially guys who have sex with you before saying ‘I do.’ Statistically, you're much more likely to meet and marry Mr. Right later on if you release your baby to a loving adoptive parents than you are if you choose single motherhood."

(What I took for it: My boyfriend was pretty much just using me for sex and now that was knocked up he was never going to marry me and in fact leave me. After he left me I would never found “Mr. Right” because no sane man would ever want to raise another man's baby.)

Q 2: "Ultimately, You are the mother of this baby and it is you - Not your parents, friends, or the baby's FATHER - who should make the final decision."

(What I took from it: So even though this baby was half Josh's, he really had no right to it and that I and only I get to make decision for it.)

Q 3: "Adoption saves your child from the all too frequent damage that comes from being raised in a fatherless home … Children in families without fathers are five times more likely to grow up in poverty, four times more likely to commit suicide, two to three times more likely to abuse drugs. 70% of long term inmates grew up fatherless and girls without a father in the home are more likely to get pregnant before marriage."

(What I took from it: So apparently I am going to such a horrible parent that my child needs to be saved from me. So that he or she doesn't turn into a low life criminal.)

Q 4: "The realities of single motherhood mean that your opportunities for dating, marriage, higher education, good jobs, and a comfortable standard of living may be severely limited."

(What I took from it: Pretty much any hopes and dreams I had have gone up in smoke and I'll never make anything of myself.)

Q 5: "Now, with the prevalence of open adoption, you not only choose your baby's adoptive parents, you can get to know them and stay informed about where and how your baby is. Depending on the specific arrangement that you and the adoptive parents agree to, you can have varying degrees of news and contacts as your baby grows up."

(The Truth: Open adoption is not legally enforceable in most state. In fact only in 4 states is it. The adoptive parents can and often do close the adoption at any time. Cut all contact from you, move to another state and not even have to give you a reason why. Statistics suggest that as high as 80% of open adoptions close with in the first 2 years.)

We soon finished our talk. They said close to nothing about parenting. They did offer parenting classes but that was about it. No kind encouragements. Nothing along the lines of, "I bet you'll make a great mom" or "children are a blessing from God, wait and you'll see." Out of all the papers they gave me, none of them where about parenting. Nothing about how if I wanted, I could make it work, or anything. They almost reluctantly gave me the proof of pregnancy that I need to get on Medicaid. They did offer me a free ultrasound, but I feel that even this was to serve their purposes. I believe they thought that if I saw the ultrasound then there would be no way I could abort. I was however thankful for this because it relieved me of the fear of having an ectopic pregnancy.

Now this may not seem like much to you, but it was overwhelming when I was pregnant. I went to these people looking for help and advice. I was scared, highly hormonal with no real support system and facing a life-changing event. But how was I treated? I was told I was a sinner, that the man I loved would leave me, that my child would suffer majorly if I kept him, that my son needed to be saved from me, that I would never achieve my goals and dreams, and that there was better more deserving loving people out there that my child should go to. It was like getting hit by an emotional truck. It quite frankly ruined my pregnancy to hear this stuff. I was angry for a long time by the way I was treated and a small part of me felt that they were right. I was still in school, I had no job, I wasn't married, I hadn't done it the “right way” and as such I felt like I didn't deserve my child. Because of that I never bonded with my son while he was in the womb. I was actually terrified that if I allowed myself to love him, if I dropped my guard let him have his rightful place in my heart, something bad would happen to him. I would miscarry, or go into way to early labor, or he would have some kind of birth defeat that would cause him die shortly after birth.

Pregnancies are supposed to be a joyous time. A time of celebrating and welcoming a new person to the world. But the way I was treated robbed me of the joy I should have experienced while I was pregnant. My son didn't ruin my life. He didn't crush my dreams or goals. Josh wouldn't have and didn't leave me. I make a damn good mother if I say so myself! My son is healthy happy and very much loved. He didn't need to placed because he was wanted.

Carson City, NV

Sunday, November 7, 2010

O Hai!

Sorry for the break in blogging posts. We've been in transition. Check back soon for more!

-CPC Watch bloggers

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Public Apology to Asheville Pregnancy Support Services

I've always said an organization that cannot admit its own mistakes has no business being in existence. In a world of polarizing ideals, especially in regards to reproductive health, CPC Watch set out to offer a clear picture to women facing a difficult decision. Specifically targeting deceptive health centers that use misinformation and skewed research to manipulate women's health care decisions, we have been called a "beacon of truth in an otherwise turbulent sea."

Our commitment to honesty and respect isn't flawless, and we don't pretend it is. We make mistakes, occasionally misreporting on an issue or publishing a testimonial that we later find to be false.

I received an email today from Dr. Cummings, owner of Asheville's FemCare, the only abortion clinic in the Western NC area. She had received a call from the CEO of Asheville Pregnancy Support Services regarding a man picketing her center with a "FAKE CLINIC" sign. When questioned, he said he had gotten word from CPC Watch that her center was a deceptive crisis pregnancy center. Dr. Cummings told me that, while APSS was pro-life, they were not deceptive and should be removed from our list.

I had to check my records. I know we rarely list a CPC without first checking to see if it fits any part of our criteria. We are very public in our process. Our criteria includes:
  • Center has affiliations with/are promoted by anti-choice organizations (must also fit one or more of the below criteria; we decided last year that a promotion by an anti-choice organization is not enough to be labeled a "deceptive health center").
  • Center falsely advertises that it offers abortion services when it does not; or, center suggests that it offers abortion services or referrals when it does not.
  • Center's website and/or informational materials contain false or misleading information about abortion, contraception, or sexual health. Such false information may include claims regarding a link between abortion and breast cancer/infertility/clinical depression, equating certain forms of contraception with abortion (including emergency contraception), or dishonest claims about when abortion is available in an area.
  • Center hides its affiliations with anti-choice organizations and/or religious groups.
  • Center actively uses scare tactics to dissuade women from choosing abortion or single parenthood.
  • Center offers no medical services and claims it does.
  • Center lies to women about how far along they are in their pregnancy, or regularly delays appointments to put women further along in their pregnancies.
  • Occasionally, we will list a center when we receive a negative testimonial, as was the case with APSS.
Asheville Pregnancy Support Services, while pro-life in its mission and highly religious, does not hide anything about what it is there to do. From what Dr. Cummings told me, the center provides and accurately reports ultrasounds. She says she is comfortable referring her own clients to APSS when they choose to forgo abortion. APSS does not tout any sort of "options counseling" and does not manipulate research on abortion or contraception. Basically, Asheville Pregnancy Support Services operates the way a pregnancy-to-term support center should operate.

Personal testimony was indeed the reason we initially listed APSS as a deceptive health center. However, looking back at the initial reporting, I see a run-of-the-mill account of a CPC visit with very limited detail and a few holes. I was wrong for believing such account point blank, and I wish I had taken further steps to fact-check the story. I made a mistake, pure and simple, and for that I take full responsibility.

In light of this, I wish to offer a sincere apology to Ms. Deb Wood of Asheville Pregnancy Support Services and her entire staff, plus any clients that may have encountered the picketer. While we may disagree on issues such as pregnancy termination or sexual activity outside of hetrocentric marriage, from what I understand I have absolutely no reason to keep the center on our list.

A word about the picketer: CPC Watch claims no affiliation with the man.

Once again, I regret the confusion that brought a picketer to APSS, and thank Dr. Cummings of FemCare for helping clear things up. Additionally, I want to invite directors of CPCs everywhere to email me if they believe their center does not fit our criteria for listing. We strive to offer accurate, evidence-based information on all reproductive options and only wish to target centers that willingly ignore sound research to suit their agenda.


Lauren Guy-McAlpin
Project Coordinator

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why I'll Be In Raleigh August 10

The following is a ChoiceUSA cross-post.

The National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay, anti-gender equality, unapologetically theocratic organization, is currently touring the nation in its "Summer for Marriage" tour. According to the group's website, the mission of the tour is to "stand up and make it clear that [they] will not let marriage be redefined." The NOM claims that "the institution of marriage, the very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning."

Stopping in major cities all over the country, the NOM is promoting anti-gay candidates for office, intimidating local LGBT communities, and attempting to build its ranks. I say "attempting" because the number of NOM supporters at all stops have been embarrassingly low. According to the NOM itself, the "largest crowd" they've had at any stop has been in Madison, Wisconsin, with NOM-supporters topping 54 individuals. The kicker? Pro-marriage equality and LGBT rights activists outnumbered this "crowd" with a whopping 466.

The problem with this, however, is now the NOM can play the victim card. And play it they have. Just as their buddies in the anti-choice movement have done in the past, the NOM's organizers have found a way to convince supporters that their unifying belief in marriage inequality is the majority opinion while simultaneously being a poor, oppressed minority. Their website is full of terms like "anti-marriage bigots" and "bullied by pro-homo activists;" not surprisingly, these blog entries contain story after story of undocumented (read: conveniently unprovable) "attacks" by the opposing side. One member wrote that the pro-gay rights activists "frightened small children." Now, I've been going to demonstrations for a few years now, and one thing I've learned is that protests surrounding heated topics like abortion and gay rights are no place for children. Unless of course you're parading your children around specifically to prove your... oh, right.

It occurs to me that the NOM may be intentionally drawing small crowds in order to put on just such an act. In fact, gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign fathom the same. From Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president of communications:

"NOM's highly-touted bus tour is less about so-called 'traditional marriage' and more about creating an elaborate and cynical stunt. NOM rolled out a summer of nationwide events in order to draw lawful protesters, all so that NOM and its allies can pepper ongoing lawsuits challenging public disclosure laws with made-up stories of harassment. This unprecedented victimization crusade is the lowest denominator of political activism, and it won't fly."

Stunt or not, I still believe it is vital for pro-equality forces to be highly visible at these anti-gay rallies. These are not your run-of-the-mill homophobes; the NOM draws the worst of the worst to their rallies. Still, the conservative-fringe nature of the NOM and supporters does not mean they lack political clout. These highly radicalized organizations, in the vein of Operation Rescue and the Tea Party Movement, carry a high amount of influence over the voting population at large: they are not at all without a financial and social power.

The important thing, however, is not to allow their intentionally infuriating rhetoric lead "our side" to becoming reckless ourselves. The anti-gay camp (just like the anti-choicers) know their presence is infuriating to us, and in many cases the present themselves in a way that is explicitly meant to incite rage from their opposition, rage that is videoed and edited together to make us look like the bad guys. This is not to say we should be at all apologetic in our counter-protests and demands for equality, but we need to be aware that everything we do can be used against us.

Now, I am not one of those activists that believes marriage equality will somehow end all discrimination against the LGBT community. How could it? But I do believe that the "traditional marriage" camp is using marriage specifically to target the LGBT community as a whole, not to mention couples and individuals everywhere who refuse to define our relationships in such strictly hegemonic terms. It's one of the many things same-sex couples do not have the right to do in most U.S. states, and marriage in and of itself provides a way to not only attack same-sex couples, but unmarried couples, single parents, and couples with egalitarian views and "non-traditional" role sharing as well. Under the incantation "One Man, One Woman," the National Organization for Marriage exists to challenge not only LGBT rights, but the rights of all men, women, and everyone in between to choose their own way to express their commitments for one another and define our families on our own terms.


Is your city on the map? Organize against the National Organization for Marriage in your community by contacting Equality Across America or GetEqual today!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Note from a former CareNet employee

The following was mailed to Cedar River Clinics in Washington State in October of 2009. It is reprinted here with permission from the Feminist Women's Health Center.

"prolife" centers don't do much to help women after their child is born

John Kerry said "You can be certain and be wrong." This is how I feel about myself after having worked in the prolife ministry for over 9 years for CareNet and their affiliate "prolife" centers as a software vendor.

I believe that personal information between a client and her counselor should never leave the room. My client intake software is designed to store data on-site at the center so that I never see it. No one has any business seeing personal information except a client and her counselor.

CareNet doesn't feel this way. They heavily endorse an internet based company ekyros.com. Hundreds of their affiliate pregnancy centers use the internet based ekyros.com client intake software. These centers make clients think that their pregnancy history and other confidential information will never leave the room, then they turn around and enter it online and this personal information leaves the center and gets into the hands of ekyros employees.

I am losing my business because I will not change my software to send client data outside the walls of the center. A client already has enough on their mind. They do not need their right to privacy violated.

I don't care about losing my company. The client's right to confidentiality is more important than my business.

I only bring up the point to say that I worked for CareNet and their centers for years for 15 thousand a year and without health benefits and now my wife and I are going under. My wife is ADHD and her medicine is expensive. My situation has convinced me that CareNet and their affiliates don't respect the women who visit them. I know this because they had no respect for my wife and I even though we worked for them for years without medical benefits barely above the poverty line. They won't help the girls after they have their child and have proved this time and again. My situation just helped bring this fact home to me through personal experience.

The very name 'prolife' is deceptive, because it implies that pro choice is pro death. It is fringe prolifers that have murdered innocent people at abortion clinics.

CareNet and their prolife affiliates treated my wife and I like a non-person.

They don't do anything to help the young girls who visit them stay off welfare. These prolifers wash their hands when the child has to grow up in low income housing projects and does nothing to keep the child from turning to crime to support the household. In fact many voted for Bush who believes in tough prison sentences instead of providing educational and other programs to help ensure that these youth do not turn to crime in the first place.

Check out CareNet's financials. They take in millions a year. Their president and board members each make over 100,000 a year, yet they give 0$ back to their affiliates or to the girls they say they serve.

Ask a center who uses ekyros.com if it bothers them that they promise absolute confidentiality to the client and then place the client's information in the hands of the employees of an outside internet company. Ask them if they inform the client where their information is going? You will see that the client is a non-person to them and (in their eyes) doesn't even deserve the basic respect of asking the client whether they are comfortable with their personal information leaving the center.

All this is just to say that when the prochoice people say the prolife centers are deceptive and don't look out for the welfare of the client in the long run,

The prochoice side is the side that really looks out for the mother and offers family planning and even works with the mother to have her child and looks out for her and her child in the long run if she decides to have the child.

The prochoice side is the side that is not deceptive and really treats the mother and others with respect.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ACTION ALERT: Demand honest advertising in online business listings

In our recent project to create a Google Map of all CPCs in the country (that will hopefully replace our typed-out list once we get it integrated), we've noticed a number of CPCs advertising themselves as something they're not. In more than a few situations, CPCs have created Google business listings and categorized themselves as abortion clinics. In other situations, they list "abortion services and referrals" and "contraception referrals" under their services. As we all know, crisis pregnancy centers by definition do not offer any of the above.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has noticed this tactic as well.
Focusing primarily on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com, NARAL has published a letter to these high-traffic internet business directories asking them to hold CPCs accountable for false advertising:
Our Letter to Superpages.com and Yellowpages.com

NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than one million of its members and activists across the country call on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com to remove deceptive anti-choice ads that violate your terms-of-use policy.

We understand that you are probably unaware that the advertisers post misleading listings.

To date, we have identified approximately 112 anti-choice organizations advertising under "Abortion Services" on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com, even though the directories have a category called "Abortion Alternatives." We have verified that none of the 112 anti-choice organizations provides or refers for abortion services.

We are confident that you will agree that ads posted by anti-choice organizations under the category of "abortion services" violate your terms-of-use policy. These listings are clearly "purposefully deceptive," "false, misleading," and "fraudulent."

We ask that you remove the material immediately, and protect the millions of people who rely on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com every month to provide accurate information.

You can add your name to the letter here.

CPC Watch does not have nearly the capacity of large-scale organizations like NARAL, but we are still doing our part to help keep high-traffic business directories free of deceptive advertising. Through our Google Maps Project, we are informing Google of misleading categorizations and false statements about provided services. But we still could use more help.

What can you do? For starters, help us alert Google that their listings are inaccurate. Here's how:
  • Go to Google and type "abortion clinic" followed by the name of your city or town (or any city/town you want).
  • Compare the agencies listed in the Google Maps area with our CPC list. Know, however, that we are in the middle of updating our records and may not have all CPCs listed. If possible, click onto the center's website. CPCs are almost uniform in the way they present themselves on the web; read about them here.
  • If you see a CPC that is listed as an abortion clinic, an abortion provider, or is categorized under abortion services, abortion referrals, etc, you can report it to Google. Click "reviews directions, and more" to get to the main listing page.
  • Click "more" and then "Report a problem."
  • Fill out the form. Select “Listing contains incorrect information or spam” and select "category." In comments, type: "This center is listed under ‘abortion services’ but it does not provide or refer for abortions." Keep it simple; there's no need to get inflammatory.
You can also help us continue to build our Google Map. With the map, people who view the Google business listings for an included CPC will see that the center is in a map called "Deceptive Health Centers." If they choose, they can click over to our website and read about CPCs, then decide for themselves if they wish to utilize their services or look elsewhere for reproductive health care and counseling. View our progress here!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Medical News Today Exhibits Poor Research Reporting

The following is a ChoiceUSA cross-post.

Those of us who seek out plain-English reporting on medical research often turn to Medical News Today (MNT) as a source of comprehensive health-related information. MNT is owned by MediLexicon International, a UK-based internet publishing group that boasts "timely, accurate and unbiased" reporting on medical and health-related research trends.

I have used reports from MNT to dispel the myths of purported "health consequences" of abortion and contraception from a fully scientific standpoint, which is why I was shocked to see this article published last week:

Researcher Finally Admits Abortion Raises Breast Cancer Risk In Study That Fingers Oral Contraceptives As A Probably Cause of Breast Cancer

My first reaction was to panic; I've been arguing the exact opposite for years now, citing studies from highly respected medical organizations, fact-checking every last bit of new information on the topic, often using MNT for just that. As a women's health advocate, this was big news for me, news that I needed to spread.

Then I read the article.

The study in question was published in April of last year and has already been refuted or point-blank ignored by a number of medical research groups, the main reason being methodological inconsistencies and poor data interpretation. Technical writer Joyce Arthur explains:

The anti-choice movement has been touting a 2009 study (Dolle at al, Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention) that concluded that abortion raises the risk of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) by 40%. However, they never mention that this is a rare type of cancer that typically strikes women under 40 years of age. Because TNBC makes up such a small subset of all breast cancers, the overall conclusion that abortion does not lead to breast cancer has not changed. As Kathi Malone, one of the study authors, stated: “The weight of scientific evidence to date strongly indicates that abortion doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer.”

Even the reported 40% increased risk for TNBC needs to be treated with caution. The statistical adjustments the researchers used to arrive at that figure may simply be an error caused by not accounting for all possible factors that might be contributing to the increased risk. The abortion data was apparently not adjusted for important factors like income or education. Further, to put things in perspective, a 40% increase in risk is not considered substantial in the field of epidemiology — a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer increases by 200-300 per cent if her mother had breast cancer.

Statistical misinterpretation, poor sampling, failure to recognize other risk factors... not at all unusual for studies on the topic that "prove" a link between abortion and breast cancer, but that hasn't stopped anti-choice organizations such as the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer from using it to push their agenda. The MNT article quotes the Coalition's president, Karen Malec: "Although the study was published nine months ago ... the NCI, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other cancer fundraising businesses have made no efforts to reduce breast cancer rates by issuing nationwide warnings to women."

Maybe that's because these organizations have done their homework:
Is Abortion Linked To Breast Cancer? -- America Cancer Society
Abortion, Miscarriage, and Breast Cancer Risk -- National Cancer Institute
ACOG Finds No Link Between Abortion and Breast Cancer Risk -- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Additionally, the Susan G. Komen Foundation published a highly comprehensive table on a number of studies regarding the purported link, examining the methodology and findings, still concluding abortion is not a significant risk factor.

So why is Medical News Today exhibiting such poor standards on research reporting? It truly escapes me, but I might have lost my faith in a news source I once respected greatly.

DYK? Quick Post

Did You Know? Many CPCs have what they call "earn while you learn" programs to ration the baby supplies they often advertise as "free." These "learning" opportunities occasionally take the form of parenting and infant CPR classes, but the vast majority of them are Bible studies and other religiously-oriented activities, even though most CPCs claim to offer assistance "regardless of faith."

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I remember the morning of May 31, 2009. I'd slept in, like most Sundays, made myself my usual coffee and a bagel, and slouched into my office chair to check the weekend's emails.

Google.com. News feed. Top headline: "Abortion doctor shot at church." I knew right away who it was.

Dr. Tiller had become the central figurehead in the so-called "abortion wars." The fact that he was one of the nation's few later-term abortion providers made him an easy target. He had been harassed, stalked, threatened, brought to court (but never convicted), and even shot once before. Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion extremist, was the culprit. Found guilty of murder and aggravated assault last January, Roeder is currently serving a life sentence with no parole for 50 years.

What can I say that hasn't already been said? Dr. Tiller gave his life for his work, and his absence in the American medical field is a grave loss for women and their families. It's easy to demonize the women who visited Dr. Tiller when their own privacy concerns keep them from speaking up, but make no mistakes: Dr. Tiller's patients are not faceless enigmas. They are women who faced the most difficult decision they will likely ever face, sometimes never quite knowing whether or not it was the right one. These were rarely your average 12-week abortion patients; these were women who chose to end a pregnancy late in the game, most often due to a wanted pregnancy gone horribly awry. These are women who had no real choice, at least none with a happy ending.

And now, women facing similar predicaments are significantly less able to make what they may perceive as the best choice. Doctors Carhart and Hern have done their part to step it up, but at what cost? They are both being targeted as well, and while I shutter to think that their careers might also end at the hands of some anti-choice lunatic, I think they both know that's a very real possibility. Is it any wonder so few doctors will (or can) provide the services that Dr. Tiller gave his life to provide?

I remember the morning so clearly. Ani Difranco's "Hello Birmingham" echoed clearly in my ears. I remember crying as I wrote the very first blog post on the tragedy. I remember sobbing again, several months later, at an anti-Nazi rally in Greensboro, where I tried (in vain) to deliver a memorial to the American Hero and discuss the consequences of radical right-wing factions organizing.

And so here we are: one year later, Roeder behind bars, but the anti-choicers as organized as ever. Join me in promising Dr. Tiller's death won't be in vain; we owe it to every family who will face that no-win situation to remember and honor his life's work, to destigmatize what he did for the families he helped, and protect that same right for generations to come.

"Women and Families are intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and ethically competent to struggle with complex health issues -- including abortion -- and come to decisions that are appropriate for themselves."

-Dr. George Tiller, American Hero

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Protesting CPCs vs. Protesting Clinics

During a recent Google search, I found several anti-choice organizations have "discovered" us and chosen to make sweeping claims about who we are without contacting me directly. One discussion in particular took place at anti-choice extremist Jill Stanek's blog. I hope my readers here will understand if I do not wish to promote her blog or increase her web traffic, so I'll just advise you to Google search the discussion if you want to see for yourself (or take part in the debate).

This particular article focused on the organizing of protests outside CPCs. One recurring comment accused us of doing what we complain about antis doing outside of abortion clinics.

Which is completely false. Here is a list of what our protesters do, and more importantly, what we definitely do not do:
  • Our demonstrations take place on public sidewalks in front of or near CPCs. We do not attempt to block entrances, driveways, or parking spots.
  • We do not engage with potential CPC clients unless approached first. We do not shout at them as they are entering the center; we feel that most women entering a CPC (and an abortion clinic, as the case may be) are already in a vulnerable place and should have their privacy respected and protected.
  • In the event a potential CPC client approaches us, make every effort to discuss her situation with her, on her terms. If she has a question, we answer it honestly. Our protests in Greensboro (in front of the Pregnancy Care Center) are usually attended by one or two women who have visited the center themselves and can vouch for the false or misleading information they received during their visit.
  • We do not try to convince any client or potential client to choose any pregnancy option. Our protests are made up of pro-choice, pro-feminist women and men who want to make sure women are aware of the services (or lack of services) offered at the CPC.
  • We do not use sound-amplifying equipment to shout down CPC staffers or clients. When approached by a CPC staffer, we remain civil.
  • We do not attempt to frighten any woman away from the center with false information.
  • We do not display graphic images.
  • We do not use inflammatory language or try to incite extreme action.
  • We do not promote or actively engage in any kind of vandalism or arson.
  • We do not promote or actively engage in harassment of CPC staff members, volunteers, or supporters. We do not make death threats, we do not stalk, and we do not publicize the private information of any CPC staff member or volunteer.
  • We do not engage in civil disobedience in an attempt to shut the CPC down or disrupt its operation. Moreover, there has never been an arrest at a CPC protest that CPC Watch endorsed or organized. We obey local laws and remain in places that are not disruptive to passing traffic or pedestrians.
Take a look back at this list and realize that for every "we do not" statement, there has been a documented case of anti-choice protesters engaging in such activity at abortion clinics. That is why we "whine" about the protests in front of abortion clinics: the harassment and fear-tactics, the threats and blockages. No pro-choice demonstration in front of a CPC has ever used such tactics.

We believe women's privacy and choices should be protected, but that they should be educated. Our protests are mostly aimed at educating passersby, and not in any way to make a threat against the CPC.

I hope this clears some things up. And if not, here it is in pictures:

And here it is in video...

Anti-CPC Protest:

Anti-Abortion Protest:

Any questions?

Friday, April 2, 2010

News Update: Roeder Sentenced

After an exhaustive hearing, Judge Warren Wilbert gave Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. Tiller last year, the maximum sentence of life imprisonment with parole eligibility after 50 years. The judge tacked on two additional years for assaulting the men who tried to stop Roeder as he was making his escape.

The judge could have given Roeder the lesser sentence of life imprisonment with parole eligibility after 25 years, but the District Attourney pushed for the "Hard 50" on the grounds that the crime was especially heinous, was committed in a church, and the fact that Roeder had stalked Dr. Tiller for over 15 years.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Four Year Old: 'It's important not to kill doctors.'

I'm sitting in the play room with my four year old son, arranging blocks into towers and catching a glimpse of the Roeder sentencing every few minutes. My son, always inquisitive, wants to know what it's all about and why I'm watching it so closely.

I explain to him, "There was a doctor in Kansas. A doctor that was one of the few doctors who knew how to do a procedure that helps women. And this man didn't like what the doctor was doing, so he shot him."

"Did he die?"

"Yes. He did. And now they're trying to figure out how to punish the man who shot him."

My son thought for a moment. Then he said, "Mommy, I think it's bad to kill people. But I think it's important not to kill doctors. If you kill a doctor, who will help people?"

If only this sweet little boy could have understood the weight of what he had just said! As a mom, I understand that young children cannot possibly comprehend the weight of reproductive choices. I plan on explaining it to my son one day. But right now he's four, and I cannot explain to him exactly what Dr. Tiller did or why it was important. But still, his words were spot on.

The State of Kansas addressed this very issue in the court proceedings: that Scott Roeder's actions were meant not only to kill Dr. Tiller, but to deplete the number of later-term abortion providers in this country by a third. The number of women and families who needed Dr. Tiller's care face even greater obstacles now after his assassination more than ever before.

There are so few in this country who are willing to sacrifice their lives to provide women with one of the most difficult choices they'll ever make. Dr. Tiller knew, I believe, that his life would be ended at the hand of an extremist such as Roeder. It is that life he led that is keeping others from taking his place, and Roeder likely knew that.

Killing anyone is a heinous act. Killing someone who provided so rare (yet so imperative) a service as Dr. Tiller is something else entirely.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Archdiocese of Baltimore Sues Over CPC Regulation

The following is a ChoiceUSA cross-post.

Archdiocese of Baltimore, MD has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming a recent CPC regulation bill violates the right to free speech and religion. The regulation, which went into effect in January, requires all area crisis pregnancy centers to clearly display a sign advising potential clients that they do not refer for birth control or abortion.

If you fail to see any First Amendment violation in requiring CPCs to be up front about their services (or lack thereof), you are not alone. If anything, the lawsuit is a last-resort effort to restore the status of Baltimore-area crisis pregnancy centers to their previous
cachet: a place where women can go believing they will receive comprehensive information when they will be handed anything but. How do these CPCs plan on deceiving massive numbers of women with bunk information and a complete lack of medical accuracy if there's a pesky sign that may clue women into what they're getting into?

What's the
Archdiocese's real problem? As RH Reality Check's Jodi Jacobson so beautifully puts it:
Forcing medical professionals to perform and forcing women to comply with unnecessary and costly counseling and 'medical' procedures; forcing women to endure unnecessary waiting periods, and suffer through medically inaccurate and/or outright false information not to mention other restrictions is ok. Treating women of all ages as juveniles is also ok.

Requiring CPCs to provide accurate truth-in-advertising about the legal services it does not provide to avoid ensnaring women into a system that will lie to them is not ok?

If you were looking for yet another example of CPCs allowing their true colors to shine through, this is it.

Abortion and Women of Color

What Heidi Williamson said:

Black Abortion: Battleground Georgia

The video, featuring Loretta Ross, is worth a watch.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Statement on HCR

Late last night, the House of Representatives passed a historic bill aimed at increasing access to health insurance.

As a grassroots, non-partisan organization, CPC Watch has struggled to take a clear position on the bill itself. Our main organizers range, in political affiliation, from centrist to honest-to-god socialist. Our email discussions on the bill have been spirited but respectful. For that reason, we have never officially endorsed or supported any partisan effort to increase access to health care.

But if there's one thing we have been able to agree on, it's that this bill falls short. While we commend any effort, political or otherwise, to increase access to what many of us believe should be a fundamental right, we simply cannot pretend we're wholeheartedly pleased with the outcome of last night's vote.

While we understand the positive impact the regulations on insurance companies will have, allowing for more people with "pre-existing conditions" to purchase health insurance, we all feel a little slighted by the deal made between Bart Stupak and President Obama to ensure no federal money will go towards abortion care. What has been named a "deal with the devil" by some pro-choice groups seems, to many of us at CPC Watch, to be just another example of Obama backing down in the face of some very minor opposition. And while we recognize the importance of just getting a bill through, we feel this move will only further the belief that, when it comes to health care, abortion does not count.

In the words of our supporters:
I cannot pretend I was not at least a little happy to see something happen last night. Though comprehensive women's health was bargained away for a single vote, I know that women and families who could not previously be insured will soon be able to do so. Preventative care, contraception, pre-natal, and pediatric care will become a little less burdensome, and I suppose that's a start.
-Becca James, Outreach and Fundraising Coordinator

I am thoroughly disgusted by President Obama's actions. After months of looking up to him and believing that he would uphold his position against Stupak/Nelson, hearing he made a "deal" hit me hard. Thousands of women will continue to have their reproductive choices made for them by their financial situation. Any limit on abortion access is an attack on true Choice.
-Rosa, Blogger

The for-profit system is not benevolent. Simply creating the space for costs to go down will never be enough if insurance companies are not regulated, if they are not rivaled by a not-for-profit option. We have the ability to manufacture food and clothing for dirt-cheap, and yet people still go hungry and cold. Simply making things cheaper for corporations is no solution, and requiring tax payers to pay these private companies with no commitment to the well being of its customers is not going to fix the inherent problem.
-Lauren Guy-McAlpin, Project Coordinator

I feel that this is less a health care bill than it is a mandatory insurance bill filtered through the "decency police." Our country still seems sold on the idea that health care is expensive, rather than acknowledging the truth of the matter: The bulk of the expense is in the drugs or surgery that become necessary as a result of making bad health choices that are tolerated (or even encouraged) in our country simply because someone is making money off those bad choices. Those who are making the money form those bad choices will continue to make money through the bill as it stands now, and the bulk of our population will accept that such is the way it is. It is a complete failure in making the "change" that we need to make for our efficiency. As far as the Stupak thing is concerned, it's just another example of how some people are making things unattainably expensive by attaching their personal values onto public healthcare, yet these are the first people to scream and whine when taxes are raised for services that they can't deny that they themselves depend on. Wouldn't it be great if we could "pay" for this insurance on two different scales? The "I support abortion/ natural medicine/ home birth when possible" scale, and the "I put all my faith in western medicine and don't support abortion" scale, which would naturally be more expensive. If we could fill out surveys like we do when we're getting car insurance, then maybe there could be some fairness here. -- from my left brain. Mari Gallion, singlepregnancy.com

Other statements from pro-choice and women's advocacy groups can be found here:
Pro-Choice Groups Commend Historic Health Care Reform, But Concerns Remain

Saturday, March 13, 2010

PSA: Check Yer Rubbers.

In honor of Daylight Savings, Planned Parenthood would like to remind you to check the expiration dates on your condoms.

Condoms are very effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy and the spread of STDs including HIV, but only if used correctly and before the expiration date! I can attest: I'm 90% sure I got pregnant from an expired condom fiasco, and while I love my son more than anything in the universe, I'm lucky he was all I got from it and not an STD!! So cover it up, and make sure its outfit is in season.

(Click on Mr. Condom to learn how to put him on.)


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Choice Advocates in Greensboro, NC: Represent Yourself on April 17!!

What: A peaceful visibility event for Choice

When: April 17, 12:30pm - 3:00pm

Where: Greensboro, NC, near the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center (917 N. Elm St). Exact location TBA.

Who: The pro-choice community in Greensboro and surrounding areas. Our message: the right to access accurate, comprehensive information regarding reproductive health is imperative to ensuring a quality of life for women everywhere.

Why: The Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center, a local crisis pregnancy center (CPC), is hosting a "walk for life" to raise money to further their mission of giving out inaccurate and biased information about abortion, contraception, and sexuality. As members of the pro-choice and reproductive justice community, we will be out along the route to represent ourselves and bring light to the deceptive mission of the CPC.

In the United States, CPCs outnumber actual reproductive health clinics by 100%. They are often designed to look like actual medical clinics and counseling facilities, but offer dangerously inaccurate information regarding a woman's reproductive options. They are usually run by far-right Christian organizations with a mission to undermine choice and manipulate women into choosing adoption over any other option (including single parenthood). They falsely teach that abortion causes breast cancer and infertility, that many contraceptive methods cause abortions, and that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured with prayer.

Join this peaceful contingent of choice and reproductive justice advocates on April 17 as we line the march route in support of comprehensive access to reproductive health care! Women deserve honest information regarding their reproductive options; indeed, it is required for autonomy over our own bodies and our lives!

Contact: CPCwatch@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jane co-founder Jody Howard dies at 69

The Chicago Tribune reports feminist, reproductive rights activist, and co-founder of the Jane Collective Jody Howard has passed away at age 69.

In the days before Roe, obtaining a safe abortion was difficult. Women often ended up with infections, perforated uteri, or worse from back-alley providers. Many women took it upon themselves to self-abort and ended up dead or unable to carry a healthy pregnancy again. Others report being mugged and raped by people who told them they would provide an abortion.

Jody Howard sought to provide women in the Chicago area referrals for abortion providers that they knew to be safe and honest. The Jane Collective eventually took it upon themselves to provide the abortions in a rented apartment. They estimate they performed 11,000 procedures themselves and never faced a serious complication.

Today, though abortion is legal throughout the United States, women continue to face financial, legislative, and personal barriers to obtaining a safe and legal abortion. 87% of counties in the United States have no provider, meaning women in especially rural areas must travel long distances to get to a clinic, and often anti-choice legislation (such as ultrasound requirements and waiting periods) forces them to make repeat visits. Around the world, the Guttmacher institute estimates approximately 219 women die from unsafe abortion every day.

Howard's life's work helped bridge these barriers for thousands of women. After her work with Jane, she worked on the board of the ACLU. She was a mother, an anti-racist advocate, anti-war activist, and feminist. Though the battle for unrestricted access to all reproductive options continues, Jody Howard's work undoubtedly brought increased rights to countless women to live their lives as they choose.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ending Violence on V-Day

For years now I've chosen to forgo Valentine's Day celebrations and instead honor V-Day events that take place around the country (though I'm not saying you cannot do both, I just happen to choose not to partake in the more traditional, commercialized celebration). In case you don't know about The Vagina Monologues and V-Day projects, it's a movement to end violence against women. Productions of The Vagina Monologues are staged around the country near Valentine's Day, and I just love attending them, getting a good laugh, being inspired, and helping to raise awareness about the system of violence against women and girls.

I've been thinking a lot this week about sexual harassment. For the sake of my job and the confidentiality of others, I'll just say that the other day at the place I teach, a pre-teen boy was sexually harassing one of the girls. The girl came to me in tears. When I went to the head teacher about it, she shrugged it off, almost as if to say, "Boys will be boys." It really got to me that she would be so obtuse about sexual harassment, the profound impact it can have especially on a 12 year old girl, and lenient about what was to me an obvious offense. Maybe this particular boy didn't know that what he was doing was harmful; it's easy for kids his age to just think of such an act as harmless flirting, and unless he's told otherwise he will likely not change his behavior.

This stirred me, obviously. Then today, while shopping at Target, I was victim to a little harassment of my own. I was looking for a new top to wear to a client interview on Monday. I had several items in my hand when I went up to the dressing rooms. There was an older man standing there, not in a Target uniform, just watching me approach.

"You gonna buy all that?" he asked.
"I dunno... maybe."
"Can I help you try them on?" Okay. Not cool. But my austere glance at the female dressing room attendant only brought additional frustration. Not only did she not respond to this man's obvious harassment of her customer, she just rolled her eyes and went about her business.
"Aren't you going to say something about that?" I asked her in a whisper. She literally shrugged it off.

As I walked past the man into the dressing room area, I heard him say to another woman, "Oh yeah, I bet you'd look real nice in that." I bit my tongue to avoid saying something to the effect of, "Bet you'd look real nice with a boot up your ass."

By the time I was finished trying on the clothes, the man was gone and so was the previous dressing room attendant. I'd chosen a dressing room close to the front so I could hear if she'd asked him to stop or leave, but I didn't hear such a conversation. Once again, I suspect this obvious example of sexual harassment was merely shrugged off.

What gets to me is this: in a few short days I witnessed two blatant examples of sexual harassment shrugged off by a female who could have done something about it. Those of us targeted by the harassment likely didn't feel as though it was our place to say something (or felt too vulnerable to do so), and the offender went on unchallenged.

Is this how we treat such offenders? Just let them be, excuse their actions with some sexist anecdote about how they can't help it, that it's in their nature to be creeps? It reminds me of a study we discussed in a college psychology class. Two actors, one male and one female, were placed in an alley near a busy pedestrian walkway. They pretended to quarrel, and then the man began to "beat" the woman. Almost 100 people passed before anyone said or did something. I can only imagine the rationalizations from the bystanders: "I didn't want to get involved." "It wasn't my place to say something." "I didn't know the situation; it was their private business." Concern for one's own safety is one thing, but in this particular study no one even thought to call the police on behalf of a woman who was obviously in danger. Another study concluded women should not yell "rape" if they are being assaulted because people are less likely to help. The study concluded yelling "fire" instead of "rape" is a more effective way to get someone's help.

Now granted an actual assault is far more serious than a 12 year old's antics or a creepy man's suggestive remarks, but where do we draw the line? Especially considering these "petty" actions make the man more likely to commit a more serious act of violence if the harassment is allowed to continue, there is no excuse to not speak up for someone being treated with such disrespect.

People often ask me why I continue to identify as a feminist. I get these comments about how "sexism is over" and "feminism isn't needed anymore," almost right in the face of a culture that so obviously teaches men that women are easy to control. It's in TV shows, commercials, print ads, and ingrained in a child's psyche from a very young age, sometimes reinforced by the dynamics on one's own family. Ads that display controversial images of women being controlled are met with some outrage, but usually end up boosting the advertised product even more.

On the day-to-day level, harassment and assault are good examples of proof that patriarchy is alive and well. They exist because men still think they can take advantage of a woman due to her vulnerabilities, and in putting her in a vulnerable situation, men prove to themselves that they are dominant. To be sure not all men behave this way (and yes, I am aware that men get assaulted by women, but that's hardly an epidemic and not nearly as exemplary of the power dynamics that continue to thrive), but given the "liberties" men are taught they can take with a woman's body from ads, from schoolyard banter, possibly from their fathers... well, you get it. And it wouldn't surprise me in the least to find that the man who made the comments at me was once the kind of kid who took physical liberties with his female classmates, called it "harmless flirting," and was never told that it's not okay. Let's be honest... unless he's a complete sociopath, no man would commit such a vile act against a woman without first rationalizing it or concocting some excuse that makes it okay.

On a public policy level, violence against women rears its ugly head every time a woman is denied access to her own rights, be it through restrictions on abortion or a court system that blames her for her own rape. Crisis pregnancy centers (though often run by female volunteers who, I have no doubt, likely think they're doing the right thing) are the result of a male-dominated movement that seeks to control women's bodies and turn us into incubators, or whatever whimsical tool they wish us to be. It doesn't matter that these groups claim to be anti-rape; the system that makes Christian evangelists control women through denial of reproductive health care is the same one that controls women through sexual abuse, beatings, and forced dependency.

My parents used to always send me those mass emails that tell women what to do if they are getting stalked, assaulted, mugged, etc. Though I could go for days on the feminist problems surrounding what basically teaches women that we should be afraid of the outside world, I'm not unrealistic. I appreciate the information, and I know that the people who pass it on to me do it because they care. I know Rape Aggression Defense courses have saved lives. But while we're being armed with tricks and tips to avoid such assaults, where are the mass emails and public campaigns that tell young men it's not okay to enact violence over women's bodies? You say it's too idealistic because "some people are just bad," but these ideas are not innate. They get it in their heads somewhere that it's okay to do this, whether it's lewd comments at a random woman or forced sex with a female acquaintance. All the defensive remedies in the world will not stop violence against women if the problem is not attacked at its core.

On this Valentine's Day, pledge yourself as a true advocate for women. If you truly love a woman, you will never hit her, repress her, control her, or otherwise impose yourself on her forcefully. It's a question of women's right to live free of violence and fear.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Roeder charged with first-degree murder

The following is a Choice USA cross-post.

Scott Roeder has been found guilty of the first-degree murder of Dr. George Tiller, the later-term abortion provider from Wichita, KS who was shot and killed in the foyer of his church last May. Roeder faces a life imprisonment sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years, MSNBC reports.

Roeder's defense had hoped to push for a voluntary manslaughter charge, which would have resulted in significantly less prison time, because Roeder felt he was acting "in defense of the unborn." Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that the jury could not consider such a charge.

The trial of Scott Roeder is significant in the abortion debate for obvious reasons, among them the rejection of a "necessity defense" in harming a doctor providing a legal medical procedure. However, regardless of Roeder's conviction, anti-choice forces are highly organized and emboldened by a continuing trend of violence against clinics and providers. Even though the murder of a provider or the bombing of a clinic are relatively rare occurrences, clinics all over the country continue to experience escalating threats, increased sidewalk bullying, and more legislative and financial barriers to providing such a service almost daily.

Anti-abortion groups can denounce Roeder's actions all they want, but their inflammatory hate speech and activities that push the limits of clinic protection laws are at the core of extremists like Roeder's actions. Roeder testified that he received most of his information regarding Dr. Tiller from Operation Rescue's "Tiller Watch" website, which listed the doctor's home address, his place of worship, the fact that he wore a bullet proof vest, and the fact that he drove an armored car. In light of these facts, we must ask key questions about the complicity of the anti-abortion movement at large in the death of Dr. Tiller and other providers who have been murdered or harmed, clinics that have been bombed or vandalized. Roeder may have acted alone in the actual shooting, but he was emboldened by the work of anti-abortion groups that are largely seen as law-abiding organizations simply exercising their First Amendment rights.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Abortion is about my life

I hate that I missed Blog For Choice Day! Things have been crazy around the house, as my oldest child has had a really bad head cold. Thankfully not the flu (whew!), but bad enough to keep me on my toes.

Anyway I've been meaning to jot this down for a while. I mentioned when I contacted CPC Watch that I also wanted to share my illegal abortion story, and I think I'm ready to do that now.

Shortly before the Roe v. Wade anniversary, Lauren sent out a link to a video featuring Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider from Kansas who was killed this past year in his church.

The part that got me was towards the end when he said, "Abortion is not about babies and it's not about families. Abortion is about women's hopes, dreams, potentials and the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women."

This, to me, is the crux of choice. To be pro-choice is to believe fully in the rights of all women to control their own lives. Feminism, you could call it. I just call it being a compassionate human being. Whether you're a man, a woman, a Christian, a Democrat, or a Republican, you really cannot claim to believe in the idea of women's freedom without supporting her right to abortion. This was the most difficult thing for me to come to grips with when I was an anti-abortion crusader. I always believed that women could do anything as well as men, and when faced with the question of abortion rights, I responded with one of the many scripted answers that the anti-choicers use: "What about the rights of unborn women?"

What about them? This "woman" doesn't exist yet, at least not on the level of fully developed, breathing human beings. I remember very well the night I forced my own miscarriage. I was in such despair at the hospital. Being a woman who fully believed abortion was murder, and yet to commit it in my own life out of my need to not have another child, I was a wreck.

The nurse, however, was angelic. I was sobbing in recovery. They'd gotten the bleeding under control, and I was to stay overnight to make sure everything else was okay (it wasn't, but that's another story). After inducing a miscarriage, I had to undergo a D&C to make sure there was no "products of conception" left over. This is not easy in Kentucky, as we have some very restrictive laws on where this procedure can be performed. I've heard of women who need a D&C following a miscarriage having to go to the EMW Surgical Center, the only abortion clinic in Kentucky, just to make sure the "products of conception" don't cause infection. But since they suspected a perforated uterus (which they found), and the hospital happened to have a licensed D&C provider on staff, I got the procedure. "Would you like to see what we extracted from the procedure?" the nurse asked. "Sometimes it helps."

Now I was just under 11 weeks along at the time. The pictures and videos I'd seen and shown at the CPC brought horrible images to my mind. An 11 week fetus? The poor thing had fingers, eyes, a mouth and jaw hinge, oh no I told the nurse I couldn't handle it. My husband said he wanted to see, and I told him that was fine.

When he came back he was in tears. He, too, had seen all the anti-abortion materials I used at the CPC. When he knelt at my bed and took my hand. "Rosa," he said, "you really should have a look."

I was shown the fetus, and I was shocked. I couldn't believe I'd been so afraid to be rid of something no larger than a lima bean! It did indeed help, and in fact was the breaking point for me to decide to end my relationship with the CPC and all the anti-choicers I'd worked with.

Now I do have to add I still believe very much that I ended a life that day. While I saw no jaw hinge or fingernails, I did see a shape. The shape of a forming human being, a potential life. Not human life, not a full-fledged human being, but a forming one nonetheless. If I had to do it over again I'd still have ended the pregnancy, but with a legal abortion, because it just wasn't that little potential's time. And that's just the way things are. And it should always be a woman's choice. Because the decision is not just about potential life, it's about your life.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice Day: My Choice to Carry

When I found out I was pregnant with my son several years ago, a million thoughts ran through my head. Can I finish school? What about money? Can I do this? Should I end it?

My online search for pregnancy options took me to OptionLine, a web and phone resource that links women to CPCs and only CPCs. I called. The woman who answered was really evasive and, while I told her straight up I just wanted to talk over the phone, she only seemed interested in connecting me to a nearby "clinic" (her words) that could tell me everything I needed to know.

I went to a nearby CPC that was dressed to look like a clinic. The waiting room had fetal development posters, pictures of white ladies with big beautiful bellies, and framed Anne Geddes photos. After confirming my pregnancy with a store-bought pregnancy test, they asked if I would like an ultrasound. For free. Well, sure! She then informed me that the "next available" they had was in three days. Well, okay. Also, they won't discuss options information with me until I get the ultrasound. Um, alright.

Not about to wait three days to figure out what I was going to do, I pretty much decided on my own that I was going to have an abortion. Thinking that was all my local Planned Parenthood did, I phoned them for an appointment. They could get me in the next day.

After once again confirming my pregnancy (yes, I get it, I'm pregnant), they sent me into a room to talk with a counselor. "You don't need to do an ultrasound first?" "Our tests are very accurate. If you'd like to see an ultrasound image, we can set that up. But let's talk."

The woman was very open. We talked for maybe a half hour, and every time I had a question or concern, whether about the abortion or becoming a mom, she handed me a very detailed pamphlet and went over the information with me. It was all very easy.

Well in the end you can guess what happened! I decided to go for it. My mom (who went with me to Planned Parenthood) was very supportive, and I could never have done it without her. Single motherhood has been hard, but I think I made the right choice, and I think the woman at Planned Parenthood made it really easy for me.

Today I am concerned with the amount of access all women have to this information. Not every community has a Planned Parenthood or clinic that offers so much detailed information about each option, but most have a CPC. I now know the CPC was trying to delay me to keep me from maybe obtaining a legal abortion or make me second-guess myself. The information they had was very one-sided and didn't help me think straight at all. I felt like my decisions were being made for me.

I love my son and have loved parenting, but I understand why a lot of women wouldn't make the same choice to parent (not to mention going through pregnancy and birth!!!), and I will always fight for the same open and honest information for every woman regardless of what she wants.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Update on FOTF Super Bowl ad

It now appears CBS has agreed to air the anti-choice ad from Focus on the Family, a clear reversal of their previous ban on political ads. In recent years, the network has refused to run "ads of a political nature." In 2004, MoveOn.org attempted to run an anti-Bush ad during the Super Bowl, but was rejected. Later that year, the network rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ for its (obviously offensive) message: "Jesus Didn't Turn People Away. Neither Do We."

You may send your comments and criticisms to audsvcs@cbs.com.

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia begins CPC regulation campaign, publishes investigation

We need this in each and every state in the country! From WAMU.org:

NARAL Va. Investigates Pro-Life Pregancy Centers

January 21, 2010 - By Jonathan Wilson

Virginia could soon impose stricter regulations on pro-life pregnancy centers requiring them to give clients more information about the services they do, and do not provide.

The abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia is pushing for the new rules.

The group conducted an investigation into pro-life, Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Virginia, and alleges that more than two-thirds of the centers offered inaccurate medical information to undercover investigators.

Tarina Keene, the group's executive director, says though Baltimore recently passed stricter rules for the centers -- no state has done the same.

"We would be the first state to actually take on this issue and be successful at it," says Keene.

Kristine Hansen with Care Net, which represents many of the centers,says there's a reason similar bills have failed at the state level in other parts of the country.

"Whether these legislators are pro-life or pro-choice, they say, 'These pregnancy centers are doing good work. This is unnecessary and it's not warranted,'" says Hansen.

NARAL says it wants stricter regulation partly because many centers are eligible for state-regulated funding, through the Virginia's new "Choose Life" license plate program.

You may connect with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia at http://www.naralva.org/

You can download and read the executive summary of Virginia-based CPCs here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Testimonials

Below are the new testimonials we've added to our Women's Stories page. If you have visited a CPC and want to share your story, email cpcwatch@gmail.com. You may use an alias if you wish to protect your confidentiality.

Greensboro, NC

The Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center in Greensboro, NC routinely schedules clients five to seven days after they first call, claiming that's their "first available" appointment. This week in delay could be the difference between an easy, relatively inexpensive abortion procedure and a more expensive, more invasive one. One of our volunteers called the CPC for a visit to learn more about the "morning after pill" or emergency contraception, a backup method of birth control that is effective if taken 1-3 days after unprotected intercourse. The CPC staff told her they had no available appointments for another four days, conveniently delaying her past the time frame where it would be effective. The staffer never said they did not carry the medication.

Louisville, KY

I used to counsel women in an abortion clinic that was located near a CPC. I saw more than a handful of women who had visited the CPC purely by accident. Many others visited the CPC for the free ultrasound (which was not a medical ultrasound, meaning our clinic could not legally accept it to fill the pre-abortion ultrasound requirement). At the CPC, women had told the "counselors" that they were getting the free ultrasound for their procedures at the clinic. These women were terrified of going through with the abortion due to the things they learned at the CPC. Women asked me all sorts of questions: What if I bleed to death? What if I can never have children? Is there really a risk of breast cancer? Depression? The thing was, they still were getting the abortion despite what they'd been told. But they were terrified of what would happen to them. In essence I think the CPC did its job: even though the women went ahead with the abortion, they were made to feel awful about their decision and went through Hell just to access their legal right to an abortion.

Anti-choice commercial during the Super Bowl?

The following was originally posted at ChoiceUSA.

I remember being incensed when CBS refused to air an anti-Bush PSA during the Super Bowl in 2004, though I understood why the network would choose not to air something so obviously political in nature. (Granted I knew well that the corporate overseers at CBS wouldn't be, let's say, "supportive" of such an ad, even if the ad's creators did raise the dough to pay the outlandish advertising costs.)

Which is precisely why I'll be watching this closely: Football Player to Feature in Anti-choice Super Bowl Ad

Yes, according to the Huffington Post, Focus on the Family has produced an ad for the Super Bowl that uses Pam Tebow (mother of Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow) as the crux of an anti-abortion message. Tebow's mother was diagnosed with a serious illness in her 5th month of pregnancy and was encouraged to terminate. She didn't, and that's why we have Tim. Similar to last year's effort (which asked, "What if Obama's mom had aborted him?"), Focus on the Family is looking to send their anti-choice message to thousands upon thousands of wing-eating, beer-drinking football fans (and those of us who just love the commercials).

A 30 second slot costs advertisers between $2.5 and 2.8 million, which Focus on the Family raised from their network of "very generous and committed friends." Will CBS veto this obviously political ad the same way they did six years ago, or do "personal stories" with obvious political messages somehow "transcend" political nature like those apparently "non-political" Choose Life license plates? I hate to say it, but CBS: the ball is in your court.