Several other FMF interns, junior staff and I sat down to watch the new documentary 12th and Delaware that premiered Monday night on HBO. You may have heard about the documentary from sites such as Feministing and Democracy Now.
12th and Delaware chronicled A Woman’s World Medical Center which opened up in 1991 on 12th and Delaware streets in Fort Pierce, Florida. In 1999 a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) - centers posing as comprehensive health clinics that seek to use anti-choice stances to talk women into keeping their unwanted pregnancies—moved across the street from them.
Viewers are introduced to the lies and fear tactics that many CPCs utilise; showing fetus-like dolls to patients displaying fetal development, telling them lies of links between abortion and breast cancer amongst other things. Some of the young women who have come into the CPC have mistaken it for the abortion clinic. Counselors often use these tactics to persuade women that they shouldn’t pursue abortions like they had intended to, but should keep the baby.
The CPCs completely disregarded both the realities of women’s lives and patient confidentiality (read: Anne, a CPC counselor, sent a patient’s name out in an email to supporters to be prayed for). Clinic protesters (who often held posters showing extremely graphic and obscene pictures of aborted fetuses) had no respect for property lines and could often be seen protesting near the windows of the clinic. One counselor was so devastated by the fact that a young girl had pursued an abortion that she neared the point of breaking in to tears–this is not her child and is not her daughter, yet she is so heavily invested in what this woman chooses to do with her body.
The documentary did a wonderful job of showing that abortion clinics care about women’s lives and health and are invested in making sure that women are making the decision for themselves and are not being forced to do so, but need to do so. Abortion clinics, like A Woman’s World Medical Clinic, educate women about abortions and ask why they are seeking to have this procedure performed. The documentary also effectively displayed the dangers abortion providers face. For instance, an anti-choice protester stalked abortion providers attempting to find out their identity and where they lived.
12th and Delaware did a good job of expressing the diversity of conditions that might bring a woman to an abortion clinic: a mother of six walking towards the abortion clinic who is swayed by anti-choice protesters who lie and tell her that they’ll pay all of her bills and her food, a young girl who was influenced by Anne, a CPC counselor, to bring her baby to full-term at the young age of 15, telling the audience that she tried everything she could to miscarry, the 46-year-old woman who was diagnosed with rheumatoid who cannot carry a baby to full-term out of fear of not being able to care for it in her sixties.
Women should be able to have control over their own bodies and their reproductive rights. Women should be able to freely walk into abortion clinics without the threat of being harassed. We shouldn’t live in a world where abortion providers fear for their lives, where young girls are swayed into carrying pregnancies to full-term and not being able to care for the children that are produced. We must take action in our communities to protect women’s reproductive rights.
To take action in your community or campus by exposing crisis pregnancy centers, check out Feminist Campus’ Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics. To protect existing abortion clinics in your area, like A Woman’s World Medical Center, check out Feminist Campus’ Adopt A Clinic Campaign You can also watch a clip of the film 12th and Delaware.