Tag Archives: anti-choice

Reclaiming a Crisis: Backline is Working to Open the First All Options Pregnancy Center

20 Jun

By: Catrina Otonoga

If you dare utter the initials CPC in a room full of pro-choicers in a positive light, you better be prepared for some backlash. Talking about crisis pregnancy centers as a positive institution among reproductive justice, reproductive rights, and reproductive health advocates elicits a room full of negative reactions.

CPCs manipulate women at a vulnerable time in their lives.

CPCs don’t educate people about all their options.

CPCs hurt women.

So imagine my surprise when I was talking to Parker Dockray, Executive Director of Backline, about how she wants to emulate the crisis pregnancy center model.

“The model that CPCs have developed is valuable,” said Dockray, “but pregnancy  centers should not be deceptive.”

Dockray and the board and staff at Backline have decided to embark on an unparalleled mission, to create the first all options crisis pregnancy center. Crisis pregnancy centers are some of the most available institutions out there for women who are unsure about their pregnancy. Indiana has over 80, and they are one of 34 states that funnel money directly to crisis pregnancy centers. But they are full of misinformation and missing information.

However, as Dockray told me, CPCs often appear to meet the needs of women, even when they clearly don’t. Backline wants to reclaim the CPC model and create a brick and mortar place for the people of Indiana to turn to for support and community.

For the last 10 years, Backline has been answering the phone and offering support to people looking for options and judgment free counseling surrounding pregnancy. The Backline Talkline answers hundreds of questions each month about pregnancy options, parenting, abortion, adoption, pregnancy loss, miscarriage and other reproductive health topics. While the phone offers confidentiality, a new model could provide women with tangible support.

“The prochoice movement is not always great about visibly supporting parents,” said Dockray. Dockray hopes Backline’s new initiative will become a tangible place to demonstrate support for women across all options. Backline wants to create a place for women and their partners to receive counseling on abortion, adoption, and carrying their pregnancy to term as well as carrying diapers and other items for people to support their partners.

Opening the center in Indiana strikes a cord in a new way. The center will find its home in the middle of a red state, in a college town, surrounded by fields and conservative ideals. Reproductive rights, health and justice organizations are too siloed from each other, with each sticking to their own areas without much overlap or conversation. Backline’s All Options Pregnancy Center would bring these together under one roof, without agenda or pretense. Instead of being siloed, they are setting up shop amidst the silos in America’s Midwest heartland.

Bloomington is a town divided, one side of town is home to Hannah House Crisis Pregnancy Center, and the other is home to Planned Parenthood of Bloomington. Backline would create a middle ground, a place for women and their partners to go for real information. At a time when the middle ground seems like an impossibility in American politics, the Backline All Options Pregnancy Center will be an oasis. An oasis of information, moderatism, and choice, at a time and in a place where that hasn’t existed in a long time.

Welcome to the Midwest, Backline. If you want to help Backline build some walls, knock down some silos, and give people a place do go; click here if you’d like to donate, and click here if you live in Indiana and would like to join in.

Anti-choice Attitudes as a Manifestation of Princess Culture

1 Aug

A few months ago I was talking with my friend’s two little girls, 4 and 6. I’m not sure how we got to the topic but the youngest pipes up that she wants to be a princess when she grows up. So I asked her, what do princesses do? She didn’t have an answer for me. So I asked her, wouldn’t she rather have a job where she helps people, like a doctor, or be a lawyer like me. At that stage the eldest declares that she wants to help people.

I tell this story because it is an all too common one. Most little girls, at some point in their childhood, want to be a princess. Society has taught them that this is something they should strive for. Some women never grow out of it and declare they want to “feel like a princess” on their wedding day. My retort is that I want to be the damn Queen and run the show and not be a measly princess, but truly I wouldn’t want either. I admit it, I watched the Royal Wedding. Even still I don’t envy Kate’s position. Diana made being a princess into a legitimate gig in my opinion, but only because she refused to act like a “proper” princess.

The problem with “princess culture” is that it teaches little girls to wait for a strong man to rescue them and it teaches little boys that it is their job to take care poor, defenceless women. It is no surprise that when these little boys grown up they want to tell women what to do with their bodies; children in our society grow up with this notion that a woman needs a man to take care of her. Anti-choice attitudes are merely a manifestation of the culture of princes and princesses.

Many of you may know of Melissa from Pigtail Pals, the mom who is trying to “redefine girly” so that it isn’t all pink and frills and princesses. I love what she is doing. She is empowering her daughter to step outside princess culture and dream big. She has a clothing line designed for little girls featuring jobs like astronaut, doctor, scientist, among many others. The whole point is to stop little girls from only wanting to be a princess, waiting for a man to rescue her, and to “rescue” herself. The more little girls, and little boys, who are reached by this sort of campaign the more likely it is that we will eradicate anti-choice attitudes. But we must start young. We are never going to convince the hardcore antis that they are wrong. Even if they have doubts, they are so beholden to their position, they are likely to take it to the grave. We must grow pro-choicers from birth. It doesn’t have to be explicit, discussing abortion with them. If we impart on all children that the most important thing is bodily autonomy and that women and men are equal, pro-choice attitudes will flow naturally.

I don’t ever remember discussing abortion with my parents, but I always remember growing up truly believing that I could be anything that I wanted to be. Heck, I still believe that. It is because I grew up knowing I was equal and knowing the only thing stopping me from getting what I wanted was me, I respect a woman’s right to choose. Children need to be taught to be anti-choice but they can be pro-choice naturally if we just empower them. As adults, we need to challenge princess culture. Clearly not aggressively with children, but by doing what I did. Asking little girls what a princess does, and offer a suggestion for a job that empowers them. Little girls want to be empowered but we as a society must help them when they are little.

Let’s go slay the princesses, ladies.

“Pro-Life Silly Bandz” — What will they think of next?

26 Jul

As a new Aborton Gang blogger, I was (and still am) very nervous about my first post.  Thoughts kept running through my head: “What will be my blogging ‘voice’? Will I be able to live up to my fellow bloggers’ expectations?” Hence, it was super difficult for my overactive brain to decide on topic for this first post, and trust me, staring at a blank Word document, cursor blinking, just gets more and more stressful as the minutes pass by.  Then I stumbled across this image.

The Indiana Right to Life county fair booth was actually distributing Pro-Life Silly Bandz. And upon further research, you can actually buy these things in bulk!

Silly Bandz are marketed primary towards pre-teens and adolescents. Personally my three nieces, all between the ages of eight and ten, are completely obsessed, excitedly ripping open each package, trading shapes, arguing over who has the “best” Band, Well girls, how would you like to wear an unborn fetus on your wrist?

As someone who has worked in the movement for many years, I’m no stranger to anti-choice propaganda for children, but how far is too far? (Shockingly, a search for “Pro Choice Silly Bandz” yielded no results.) This is how one particular website, Heritage House, advertises their Silly Band packages for purchase:

“Kids aren’t collecting Silly Bands, the Silly Bands are collecting kids! Lead-free, PVC-free, safety-tested silicone and FUN! Share these six brand new pro-life designs with youth groups, school groups, church groups and centers. They are light-weight and fun to wear.”

Elsewhere they write, ”What’s the latest rage kids are into? SILLY BANDS!! These crazy little shaped bracelets are making a huge hit all around the country! Now we carry them in Pro-Life words and shapes! Take advantage of this kid-friendly trend and share the messages of LIFE.”

This is outright propaganda and a blatant attempt to exploit a harmless childhood trend for a political (and religious) cause. In general, the ethics of marketing to children is highly debated.  Some countries (hello Sweden!) have gone so far as to completely outlaw advertising directly to children under 12. Usually this debate is focused around unhealthy foods such as Happy Meals and bubble gum; however, it is even more dangerous to bring this issue into the abortion debate.

In one scene in the documentary “Jesus Camp,” children are shown playing with a series of plastic fetus models, their mouths covered with red tape with the word ‘life’ written across…..ultimately these children, some no more than eight years old, begin praying to overturn Roe v. Wade.  With camps like these across the country, and parents and churches indoctrinating children before they are old enough to read, do we really need to add products like Pro-Life Silly Bandz into our lives? It’s just scary. What will they think of next? Needless to say, I will definitely be adding “Pro-Life Silly Bandz” to the list of things I will not be buying my nieces next year for Christmas.

Letting Antis Speak for Themselves

15 Jul

We spend a lot of our time debunking anti-choice misinformation, and rightfully so–there is a lot to cover! What we often spare our readers from is the sometimes graphic, always disrespectful comments left by anti-choice people on blog posts. My personal philosophy is to delete these, since this blog is not the forum for a debate between accurate, scientific facts and straight-up hateful nonsense.

But I’m breaking that policy today. For one day, instead of having us explain to you how rude antis are, I will let them do it themselves. Below are highlights from a few anti-choice comments we’ve received in the last few weeks.

In response to Why YOU Should Be An Abortion Provider, from someone named Suzie Oliver:

“My mission today is not to get you to change your major…” So I guess abortion providers’ major would be Murder 101?
“However, maybe you have it in your heart to become an abortion provider.” Have it in your HEART?! Are you FUCKING kidding me?! A person has NO HEART if they murder a baby. Fucking disgusting and vile. It’s one thing to have stupid thoughts but to speak them and then POST ON THE INTERNET for the world to see?! I’m at a loss, I really want to meet this ‘provider’. Fucking idiot.

In response to the same post by someone named Marc:

Excuse the caps please. NO DOCTOR SHOULD BE PERFORMING ABORTIONS PERIOD! THE PURPOSE OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION IS TO HEAL PEOPLE, NOT TO KILL. EVERYONE PRO ABORTION OR PRO LIFE MUST AGREE ON ONE THING. WHETHER YOU CALL IT A CLUMP OF CELLS OR A BABY IT IS STILL SOMETHING LIVING AND EVOLVING TO AN EVENTUAL BIRTH OF A HUMAN BEING. AN ABORTION ABORTS OR EXTERMINATES THIS LIFE. THIS IS CONTRARY TO WHY THE MEDICAL PROFESSION EXISTS IN THE FIRST PLACE………..

In response to this post from someone named Leslie:

Interesting review of Life Zone. I have not seen it. I have however had an abortion. And I liken it to something similar to what you said. Abortion is like being raped by satan. It is a horrible, painful, terrorizing experience. If you have never had an abortion yourself, I wonder how you can promote it so much? I hope one day your eyes will be opened to the truth about abortion. I was once like you in my feminist pro-choice stance. Then I had an abortion.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Maybe I will start publishing these comments so you all can see the truth about the people we are dealing with–that they use repulsive scare tactics, completely reject medicine and logic, and have absolutely no respect for pregnant women.

The Right Uses the State to Harass Abortion Providers

28 Jun

A guest post by Peg Johnston, an independent abortion provider in New York State and member of the Abortion Care Network.

It’s official, the antis have found a way to use public funds to wage their campaign against abortion providers. (Or ANOTHER way, I should say, since funding for their propaganda centers and abstinence education is sizeable, but this is more direct.) Their first target, ironically, is Whole Woman’s Health, arguably one of the best clinics in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the state they have manipulated is Texas, one of the worst states in which to offer women abortion services. Says Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, “I feel like I live in another country where abortion is illegal.”

Here’s how it works: the anti-abortion folks make complaints to various state agencies, anonymously of course, triggering an inspection –many inspections. If you work in a hospital or nursing home or any medical setting you know that a 100% perfect inspection is a rarity. There are always little nitpicky things that you could get caught on, none of which have anything to do with quality patient care. But a spontaneous inspection is its own form of harassment. And in these times more importantly, the state of Texas is nearly bankrupt; the taxpayers should be fighting mad about state agencies wasting time and money on an anti-abortion fool’s errand. But of course, this is Texas we’re talking about.

So, when this story comes to your attention, don’t for a minute think that the abortion clinic is doing something shady. They are not. In the light of the hideous conditions revealed by the investigation of Philadelphia based Dr. Kermit Gosnell, you might understandably be suspicious. The difference there is that the state of Pennsylvania failed to inspect. Had they kept up with regular scheduled inspections women might have been protected from Gosnell’s illegal and substandard practices.

The weight of state scrutiny is considerable but in places like Texas it can also be capricious. Not only is it burdensome, but when the state suddenly shows up it can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong—particularly when anti abortion websites try to make something over a labeling error or other non-patient care issue.

Always remember that the anti-abortion extremists are trying to stigmatize abortion providers. Don’t assume abortion providers are doing bad things. And if this state sponsored harassment of abortion providers comes to your state, call your representative to protest the waste of state funds. Abortion providers are all for inspections—exactly what any medical facility can expect, and not more. But the taxpayers should not be paying for the state to do the bidding of the anti-abortion movement.

Violence towards the Anti-Abortion Right

27 Apr

Personally, I find any form of violence against another person to be abhorrent. I don’t support war or the death penalty, which are generally approved of by the public. Obviously, I don’t believe a fetus is a person, or I wouldn’t be writing for the Abortion Gang.

Now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s discuss Ted Schulman. Raised by a famous women’s-lib activist, Alix Kates Schulman, who was very vocal about her own abortions, it makes sense that Ted would be passionate about the subject. But, when does passion go too far?

Ted is accused of threatening anti-abortion organizations and outspoken members of that community through phone calls, in writing, and online. His threats implied that violence would follow the actions of the harassed, never explicitly stating that he would be the perpetrator of this violence.  But, as anyone who has experience harassment knows, an implied threat is the same thing as an explicit one. Violence would have been visited on these people, likely perpetrated by Mr. Schulman.

I am not here to play the finger-pointing game nor am I going to write a comparative essay. I don’t live by an eye-for-any-eye philosophy. I understand “cause and effect,” but that is not the topic of my discourse. If this is what you are looking to read, please go elsewhere.

I digress. The behavior that Mr. Schulman is exhibiting is repugnant. Every person born in this country has the right to live free of fear. Our society states that this is the case. People seek situations that make them feel safe. It is a human desire. To cause someone else to fear, especially for their lives and the lives of their loved ones, is not only morally appalling, but it is, thankfully, illegal.

This behavior is not condoned by the Abortion Gang. The idea that Mr. Schulman holds dear, that violence will solve our struggles, is incorrect. Peaceful discussion, disagreement and discourse are the only way for progress to be made. Radicals on either side who use violence to make their point only serve to hurt their cause, regardless of where they stand.

We expect and hope that Mr. Schulman will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And we would also hope that this serves as an example to both sides of the abortion debate: violence is never the answer.

What Kind Of Fuckery Is This?: An Anti-choice Legislative Primer

14 Apr

This past weekend at the CLPP conference, Amanda Allen, a Legal Fellow from the Center for Reproductive Rights, gave a quick-and-dirty breakdown of the legislative shenanigans no reproductive rights activist could possibly have failed to notice. Amanda tracks these bills at the state and federal level as part of her fellowship. In addition to the kind of anecdotal evidence we’ve all been tossing around – she mentioned that no one at the Center can remember a legislative season which so clearly had it in for the health and choice of female-bodied persons – she’s got cold hard numbers that speak volumes; this amazing woman is tracking hundreds of anti-choice bills right now.

The hundreds of anti-choice bills, however, aren’t the big problem. There have always been anti-choice bills, if the numbers have perhaps been less staggering. The real problem, as Amanda noted, is that the last election cycle brought changes in state legislatures and, even more importantly, governorships, which means that bucket-o-crazy bills like the Ohio “heartbeat” legislation can now pass the state House and Senate and be signed into law. It’s that last bit – the actually-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell-of-being-signed-into-law bit – that is relatively new, unusual, and highly alarming.

Amanda pointed to 5 distinct trends in the ever-evolving whirligig of fun that is the avalanche of anti-choice legislation we are currently facing:

1) Later abortion bans and complete abortion bans. The Ohio “heartbeat” bill, which would prevent abortions as early as 18 days into pregnancy, falls under this category, as does the Nebraska ban on abortions after 20 weeks. It is very possible that a challenge to these will eventually end up in the Supreme Court, where a 5 to 4 conservative majority that recently declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals could very well do the same with fetuses. I don’t mean to be alarmist here; this possibility is very real and in fact, in my opinion, very likely.

2) Personhood laws.
These laws give a fetus the legal protections of a person. One of these bills passed the North Dakota House but died in the state Senate; more have been put forth in the last two weeks in Alabama. For my part, I would like it noted here that my spellcheck does not recognize “personhood” as a word. My spellcheck is probably pro-choice.

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