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Crisis Pregnancy Center That Makes Expectant Parents “Earn” Baby Supplies Through Bible Study Seeks Federal Loans for Expansion

11:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sofia Resnick for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article is published in partnership with The American Independent.

A close up of Psalm 63 in a bible

Memorize this to 'earn' baby supplies?

Should taxpayer funds be used to help a “Christ-centered ministry” buy and renovate a building in which it will offer Bible instruction and other services aimed at preventing abortion?

That’s the question at the center of a lawsuit filed by Care Net Pregnancy Center of Windham County, Vermont, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rejected the center’s application for a federal building loan.

Care Net is a self-described “pregnancy resource center” that works to prevent abortion by offering an array of services, including free pregnancy tests, parenting classes, and counseling. The USDA denied the group’s loan request due to the “inherently religious” nature of some of its programming.

Care Net’s most troubling offering, as far as USDA officials were concerned, was a rewards-based learning program called “Learn to Earn,” wherein expectant parents had to take a certain number of parenting and Bible study classes in order to receive free baby supplies. (Care Net’s executive director has said the center has since suspended the Bible study requirement.) The center also offers, according to a brochure, a “bible centered program” called “Post Abortive Teaching and Healing” that “enables women to process their abortion-related experiences and emotions with the goal of healing and recovery.” In addition, Care Net conducts an abstinence-only sex-education class called “Why Am I Tempted?” or WAIT.

Backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom — an influential Christian conservative legal group — and a New Hampshire law firm, Care Net is arguing that the USDA’s actions violated the Fair Housing Act and its constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection under the law. In October, a federal judge ordered a USDA hearing officer to consider these arguments in deciding whether Care Net should get the loan.

Care Net’s attorneys hope the case will have a broader impact and will help lead to more religious groups being able to access government funding.

‘Learn to Earn’

Read the rest of this entry →

In Maryland, Free Speech Protects the Right of Crisis Pregnancy Centers to Lie to Women: An Analysis of the Baltimore CPC Case

11:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Imani Gandy for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In the wake of the more than 1100 bills that have been rammed through state legislatures across the country, and as state legislators try to legislate women’s bodies while at the same time preventing them from calling a vagina “a vagina,” one important front in the “war on women” has gotten very little media attention — the scourge of crisis pregnancy centers (CPC).

In clinics nationwide, young women — mostly poor women — are lured into so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” which falsely advertise themselves as health clinics, but which are anything but. These crisis pregnancy centers are often set up and run by Catholic churches, which, for obvious reasons, doesn’t bode well for any woman seeking information about contraception or terminating a pregnancy.

Instead of offering counseling about a woman’s choices, these CPCs steer women towards a right-wing, anti-choice agenda, using Jesus and guilt as weapons. Some of the more pernicious CPCs manipulate women using tactics that include scheduling appointments weeks after they are requested, such that women who finally visit a CPC and realize that the center does not provide abortion services may be too far along in their pregnancy to terminate. These despicable tactics are calculated to force women into carrying pregnancies to term even if those women have already decided that they want to get an abortion, and visit a crisis center believing that abortions are available at that particular center. These tactics also deprive women of the freedom to make a choice for themselves without having a self-righteous third party take credit for a difficult choice that they made on their own.

Some of these crisis centers outright lie to women. A 2006 Congressional investigation by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) found that 20 of 23 crisis pregnancy centers gave women false medical information, such as telling women that abortion can lead to breast cancer, suicide, and fertility problems. Additionally, the investigation found that these CPCs lure women into limited services pregnancy clinics that do not provide abortion services by placing ads in the Yellow Pages under “abortion services” and on the Internet generated by keyword searches of “abortion” and “abortion services.”

In 2009, the City of Baltimore adopted an ordinance requiring organizations that provide pregnancy-related services for a fee (but which do not provide abortion or birth control services) to post a disclaimer stating as much. Relying on reports which found that pregnancy centers in Baltimore used some of the deceptive tactics described above, as well as on testimony from a 2009 City Council hearing during which several women complained about being deceived by pregnancy center advertising, the City of Baltimore acted to protect the health and safety of Baltimore women, in an effort to ensure that none would be misled or deceived by false advertising and dishonesty.

In response, Archbishop Edward O’Brien, St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Congregation, Inc. and the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. sued the City, arguing that requiring such a disclaimer infringed their First Amendment right to free speech. The City of Baltimore counter-argued that the disclaimer was necessary because the City has an interest in protecting the health of pregnant women and in ensuring that pregnant women who seek abortions have prompt access to medical services.

The Pregnancy Center disagreed, apparently believing that it should be allowed to withhold critical information because to disclose that it doesn’t offer birth control and abortion services by placing a sign in the waiting room violates its — and the Catholic Church’s — moral and religious beliefs. One would think that if a CPC doesn’t plan to offer a full range of pregnancy-related services or disclose that it limits the services that it does provide to those services that are Church-approved, that particular CPC should get out of the pregnancy-related services business. But that’s just me.

The Pregnancy Center also complained that the Baltimore ordinance specifically targeted pro-life pregnancy centers and thus regulates “regular communications at the Pregnancy Center that are personal, moral, political, religious.” (Yes, the Pregnancy Center called its false advertising “personal communications.” Remember — corporations are people, my friend.)

Absurdly, the Pregnancy Center protested that the disclaimer, which consists of a single sentence — “We do not provide or offer abortion or birth control services” — somehow “compels [the Pregnancy Center] to deliver the implied message that these services are available elsewhere and should be considered,” and thus “legitimizes” such services. I suppose that might be true. To the extent that any woman in Baltimore is completely unaware that abortions and the pill exist in the first place, a disclaimer that a particular CPC doesn’t offer such services might put an idea in that woman’s heads. Then again, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any woman that is not generally aware of her reproductive choices in the event of a pregnancy crisis, even if she may not specifically be aware of the specifics of those options.

And, as if all the nonsense hand-wringing about morals and religion wasn’t enough, the Pregnancy Center seemed downright insulted that the ordinance required it to post a sign saying that it does not provide birth control services. The Pregnancy Center offers birth control services in the form of “education about abstinence and natural family planning,” you see, which, according to the Pregnancy Center, is a medically recognized means of birth control. (Sure it is — it’s also super useful when one is pregnant and in a pregnancy crisis. I’m sure the first thing on any pregnant woman’s mind is “Where can I go to get some education about abstinence with a side of moral judgment?”)

Upon even the most cursory examination, the Pregnancy Center’s claims collapse under the weight of their self-righteous absurdity. A disclaimer that a CPC does not provide or make referrals for certain services does not imply that such services are available and should be considered. Women who walk into a CPC likely have expectations about what sorts of services will be available to them, even though they may not know what their choice ultimately will be. The Baltimore ordinance simply safeguards against false advertising, and protects women from being lambasted by religious zealotry when they walk into a CPC expecting that abortion services will be available.

Similarly, women likely have expectations when they walk into a CPC for birth control services. They want to know what their options are. Abstinence and natural family planning is a fine way to manage one’s sex life, I suppose, but neither is particularly useful in a pregnancy crisis. When you think “crisis pregnancy center” you think “There’s a place I’m going to go in order to get the morning after pill.” Right? I simply refuse to believe that any woman would go to a “crisis pregnancy center” in order to chat about abstinence with overbearing religious zealots who are required to “sign a statement affirming his or her Christian faith and belief that abortion is immoral,” as the employees of the Pregnancy Center are.

Given the sheer absurdity of the Pregnancy Center’s claims, it is hard to believe any court would swallow the sort of twisted logic that the Pregnancy Center served, but swallow it is exactly what the Court did:

We begin by noting that the ordinance does indeed compel the Pregnancy Center to speak, mandating it to post a sign that it “does not provide or make referral for abortion or birth-control services.” Moreover, in compelling that speech, the Pregnancy Center is, in this case, required to participate in the City’s effort to tell pregnant women that abortions are available elsewhere as a morally acceptable alternative, contrary to the moral and religious beliefs of the Pregnancy Center. A representative of the Pregnancy Center stated that absent the ordinance’s mandate, the Pregnancy Center would not speak to clients and potential clients in the manner required by the ordinance. (emphasis added.)

Nonsense. The City was simply requiring that CPCs disclose information: “No abortions here!” The disclaimer does not have to say, “Get Your Abortions Over There! Jesus Says It’s OK!” The notion that simply disclosing full and accurate information is somehow suggestive is patently ridiculous. Moreover, the fact that these CPCs actively seek to hide that information suggests that they are acting in bad faith from the outset, to the detriment of women.

The Court also concluded that the ordinance targeted pro-life speakers:

By its terms, Ordinance 09-252 does not apply to all speakers who “provide information” about pregnancy. Rather, the law targets only those speakers who refuse to provide or refer for abortions or certain types of birth control. This qualification effectively limits the law’s disclosure obligations to organizations whose moral or religious codes lead them to oppose abortion and birth control. These speakers are disfavored because they have chosen, for whatever reason, not to adopt the City’s preferred perspective on appropriate reproductive decisions.

To that, I say WHAT?!

The ordinance applies to pregnancy centers, defined as “any person” (1) whose primary purpose is to provide pregnancy-related services; and (2) who: (i) for a fee or as a free service, provides information about pregnancy-related services; but (ii) does not provide or refer for: (A) abortions; or (B) nondirective and comprehensive birth-control services.

Such statutory language could cover any number of groups, as the dissent rightfully points out, including Lamaze classes, doula services, or fertility clinics. Such groups would have no need to provide abortion or birth control services. More importantly, no woman going to a Lamaze class would feel deceived if abortion and birth control services were not available to her. The court simply pulled out of thin air the conclusion that the ordinance was targeted at specific speakers who disagreed with the City’S preferred perspective on reproductive choice.

Setting aside all of the logical failings in the court decision, here’s the kicker: The Pregnancy Center representative’s claim that absent the ordinance, the Pregnancy Center “would not speak to clients and potential clients in the manner required by the ordinance” is not really true.  The Pregnancy Center actually does provide a disclaimer on its website. As the dissent points out:

[T]he Center’s website already provides a disclaimer explaining its position: “Our mission is to protect the physical, emotional and spiritual lives of women and their unborn children. We do not perform or refer for abortions because of the physical and emotional risks involved.” Center For Pregnancy Concerns, http://www.cpcforhelp.org (last visited June 19, 2012). The existence of such a disclaimer featured conspicuously on the website contradicts the assertion of the Center’s “representative,” referenced by the majority, that “the Pregnancy Center would not speak to clients and potential clients in the manner required by the ordinance.”

What the dissent does not lay out is the obvious reason that the Pregnancy Center objected to putting a sign in the waiting room, in addition to its website disclaimers. Given the manner in which these CPCs operate, it is likely that the Pregnancy Center intended to lure vulnerable women into its “clinic” and then put the Jesus squeeze to them. Such underhanded operational tactics would be undermined if a woman who found the Pregnancy Center listed in the Yellow Pages under “abortion services,” showed up to the clinic and saw a sign in the waiting room disclosing that the clinic doesn’t provide what she may already know she needs and what she expects to be available, whether it’s an abortion or the morning after pill.  That woman would walk out of the Pregnancy Center. 

Essentially, the Pregnancy Center (and others like it nationwide) want to pretend that abortions don’t exist, and that if only people stopped reminding women that abortions not only exist, but are legal, women would not get abortions. Problem solved! These crisis pregnancy centers play “hide and seek” with women’s health, and the Fourth Circuit has just paved the way to allow religion to trump common sense and women’s health concerns. As with reproductive health issues in politics generally, the health of women is treated as some sort of academic or religious inquiry, rather than the life-and-death matter that it is.

An unseemly comparison of women seeking medical care to purchasing a car underscores my point:

The district court in the Baltimore case suggested that a regulation requiring a non-American car dealership to post a sign that says, “We do not offer cars built in the United States” would be impermissible under the First Amendment because it would “handicap” BMW salespeople who didn’t want their customers to think about the fact that they are purchasing a non-American car. The district court remarked that, similarly, the Baltimore ordinance would harm the Pregnancy Center because when a woman “comes in and [the Center] says we don’t offer abortions” the woman thinks, “Oh, abortions, yeah, I guess I better ask about that.” The dissent remarked that “[c]omparing a woman’s right to seek lawful medical treatment to a salesperson’s economic interest in keeping his customers ignorant is, as the court initially thought before it made the comparison anyway, ‘a stupid example.’”

So there you have it. Regulations of communications designed to protect women’s health are as unnecessary as regulations of speech regarding types of cars sold, and abortions are nothing more than products sold by abortion salespeople.  Just like a BMW enthusiast would not think about the fact that BMWs are not American cars, women wouldn’t even consider an abortion if they weren’t reminded that they exist.  

We’re just that stupid.  Thankfully, we have the Catholic Church to protect us from ourselves.

[You can read my marked up copy of the Fourth Circuit decision here on Scribd.]

Idaho Senate Set to Vote On Forced Ultrasound Bill

1:49 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Probing Politics of the GOP (image: Mike Licht, notionscapitol via flickr)

Probing Politics of the GOP (image: Mike Licht, notionscapitol via flickr)

Written by Robin Marty for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

When Idaho Senator Chuck Winder proposed a bill that would force every woman to undergo a mandatory ultrasound prior to an abortion, he admitted two things: he had no idea exactly what sort of ultrasound he was mandating, and he had no idea how women would pay for them.

Neither issue has been cleared up in the final bill, but that hasn’t stopped it from passing through committee on a 7-2 vote, or being sent to the senate where it is expected to be voted on as early as Monday, March 19th (today).

Citizens rallied against the passage of the bill as it was heard in the judiciary committee.  One woman brought a petition signed by 4000 voters demanding that the law not pass.

Even the judiciary committee itself was divided. In testimony against the bill, expert witnesses underscored the problem with the government mandating an unnecessary medical procedure, pointed out that the cost of the unnecessary procedure would prove prohibitive to many women, and questioned the constitutionality of the bill. Experts also criticized the fact that in order to obtain a “free” ultrasound a woman would have to visit a crisis pregnancy center, the raison d’etre of which is to do anything–including lying to women–to talk them out of an abortion, but that ultrasounds performed in these centers wouldn’t meet the legal requirement anyway.

Republican Senator Patti Ann Lodge highlighted the double standard of Idaho’s far right politicians who are fighting federal government health mandates while imposing their own, saying she was “concerned about the state mandating a procedure when we are also fighting against procedures that are placed upon us on the federal level.”

But the panel, including Lodge, passed the bill onto the senate, where it was supposed to be heard on Friday but got delayed.

Why the delay?  Could it be because even those senators who publicly support the bill, like Lodge, are feeling the pressure of actually passing what is becoming one of the most contentious abortion restrictions facing the nation?  Pennsylvania has already put their own vote on hold and a similar bill in Alabama has been dropped. Read the rest of this entry →

Surprise! Crisis Pregnancy Centers Don’t Separate Education, Religion

9:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The Texas Independent reports today on violations ranging from fire safety to client privacy in Texas’ many “alternatives to abortion” contractors. You know them as crisis pregnancy centers, and also as one of the few state-funded programs that saw their funding increase in this atrocious budget year–from $4 million to $4.15 million, despite the fact that they provide no medical care, no medical advice and are staffed by religious-motivated volunteers who undergo a minimum of training. Actual medical care that serves women and children in Texas been slashed, and Planned Parenthood has lost $47 million in funding.

The Texas Pregnancy Care Network conducted what amounts to an internal audit–with faith-based, religious-motivated inspectors looking into violations in clinics they have a vested interest in keeping afloat. There has not yet been an official third-party, or even Texas Department of Health and Human Services inspection into these CPC’s.

The Independent has the entire CPC inspection report available to read, but I’d just like to pluck out one totally not surprising finding: 15 percent of contractors did not, during supervised inspections, separate religious and educational material….

Continue reading…

South Dakota: What the Hell Are They Thinking?

7:04 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Charlotte Taft for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Now that South Dakota has actually passed legislation requiring every woman seeking an abortion to be ‘counseled’ by a Fake Clinic, it’s obvious that, in all fairness, every pregnant woman who is considering having a baby has to be counseled at an abortion clinic. Of course that wouldn’t make any sense because, unlike the Fake Clinics, abortion clinics don’t have an agenda for the patient except that she make the best decision for herself!

What would happen if a woman who wanted a baby were counseled at an abortion clinic? The counselor or advocate would ask a few questions and then probably say something like “It sounds as though you know what you want. Congratulations. Can I help you find any community resources to help?”

What will happen when a woman who wants an abortion is counseled at a Fake Clinic? The monstrous deception that occurs in the Fake Clinics has been exposed in films such as the HBO Special 12th and Delaware. Because the Fakes have a well-hidden agenda, everything they do is designed to frighten and shame a woman who knows it is not the right time for her to have a baby. This fraudulence is clearly set out in the instructions given by the diabolical Robert Pearson, who came up with this brilliant and evil plan way back in 1967 when abortion was first legal in Hawaii. Pearson himself acknowledged and defended the deception in a 1994 speech: “obviously, we’re fighting Satan… A killer, who in this case is the girl who wants to kill her baby, has no right to information that will help her kill her baby. Therefore, when she calls and says, ‘Do you do abortions?’ we do not tell her, No, we don’t do abortions.” The volunteers in his centers and others like them don’t mind tricking women because they think they are following some ‘higher law’.  They don’t mind lying and misrepresenting things like the specious breast cancer-abortion link, the dangers of abortion, and most cruel of all, the help available to a woman who realizes that she honestly cannot support a child financially. … Read more

Unmasking Fake Clinics: The California Edition of 12th and Delaware

6:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Alexa Cole for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The premiere of HBO’s documentary 12th and Delaware marked the first time a mass audience got an inside look at a so-called “crisis pregnancy center” (CPC). Like many of you, I watched as the “counselor” at the CPC featured in the film manipulated and misled women in crisis situations. I still can’t get some of the scenes out of my mind, such as the one in which the CPC director tells a woman that going forward with her pregnancy could make her verbally abusive boyfriend change his behavior.

The film gave vivid examples of threats CPCs pose to women’s freedom and privacy, and I am glad it’s starting a conversation in the blogosphere and beyond—but, one thing bothers me. The documentary takes place in Fort Pierce, Florida, across the country from my state of California.

I work as a pro-choice advocate in California, so I often hear from friends that bad things going on in Florida or other parts of the country wouldn’t happen here. I mean, how could a CPC operate in California? It’s the most pro-choice state in the country, right? And if CPCs are here, they must be few and far between.

Well, CPCs are here, and I can relate to the manipulation that many women in the film were subjected to because I experienced it myself right here in my backyard.

During the summer months of 2009, NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation staff sent volunteers to CPCs around the state.  These volunteers posed as women who might be facing an unplanned pregnancy and who needed both a pregnancy test and knowledge of their options.  As volunteers on the project, they were trained to be unbiased and neutral throughout the investigation in order to ensure accuracy and after each visit filled out a lengthy debriefing form on everything they saw, spoke of, and read in the center.  

Their stories are troubling. One volunteer was told that “women who have abortions have strong reactions when they hear vacuums because they use vacuums to remove the fetus.” Another volunteer was asked if she “wanted to be branded as a loose woman…to have [her] name written on bathroom walls.”  Others’ questions about abortion and contraception were ignored or met with hostility and judgment. If and when abortion was brought into the conversation, CPC employees used delay tactics and graphic images to deter women from seeing abortion as an option. 

The results of this investigation, published by NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation in its report Unmasking Fake Clinics, demonstrate that the pro-choice state of California is under attack from the “fake clinic” arm of the anti-choice movement.  While only 59 percent of California counties have an abortion provider, 91 percent of California counties have at least one CPC. For women who are young, live in rural areas, or have low incomes, the “counseling” these centers provide may be the only resource available when they are faced with a decision that could affect the rest of their lives.  More than half of centers in this study specifically offer “free” counseling.  More than two-thirds of CPCs represent their counseling as unbiased, when in fact, our report documents that CPCs provided false information to women seeking assistance or information about abortion and birth control.  No matter how a person feels about the question of legal abortion, everyone can agree that women should never be misled when seeking information about pregnancy, birth control, abortion, or sexually transmitted diseases.  

NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation found that CPCs in California often use propaganda and delay tactics to dissuade women from considering birth-control or legal abortion.  These include misstating statistics about the effectiveness of condoms (60 percent of CPCs in the study advised that condoms are ineffective in reducing pregnancy and the transmission of certain STDs) or providing misinformation about the consequences of undergoing an abortion (85 percent of CPCs in the study advised that abortion increases the risk of infertility and that abortion leads to mental health problems).  Most troubling is that eschewing medical integrity seriously endangers women’s reproductive health, as it ultimately may delay women from seeking appropriate comprehensive medical care. 

NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation seeks to change this.  Many lawmakers at all levels of government have expressed interest in working on this issue.  Nationally, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced the Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act, which aims to prescribe rules prohibiting deceptive advertising of abortion services.  Locally, the organization is sharing these findings with community leaders around the state and hopes to work with city-level officials at passing ordinances similar to those in Baltimore and Austin.  Enacting more ordinances like these will help to offset another common deceptive strategy CPCs employ: just like the CPC in 12th & Delaware, many position themselves near or even next to legitimate clinics to confuse women intending to go to the reproductive-health care provider located on the same street.

While CPCs in California are currently not being held accountable for their deception, continuing to expose their practices through reports like Unmasking Fake Clinics provides women with the ability to make healthy decisions and lays the ground work for advocacy that will ensure these centers can no longer use misinformation and delay tactics to discourage women from pursuing safe, comprehensive, and legal options.

What’s happening in Florida, as seen in 12th and Delaware, is not only happening here in California but all over the country. NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation’s investigation highlights that though California has long been considered the top state for respecting women’s reproductive privacy, it is not immune to the threats that are being documented around the country.  

(VIDEO) Baltimore’s Pregnancy Ministries Must Now Disclose Their True Mission. And They Don’t Like It

6:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Keiren Havens for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

If you are a woman between the ages of 18-24 and you are having sex, you are a target. A local pregnancy ministry, also known as a “crisis pregnancy center,” wants to have a heart-to-heart conversation with you. The nice lady won’t tell you that she believes birth control is bad. But she will offer you a free pregnancy test and even an ultrasound. She will make you feel just like a patient in a health clinic.

Over 1,100 evangelical Christian pregnancy ministries across the US seek to create “a culture where lives are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and every woman chooses life for her unborn child.” Volunteers and staff lead women to Christ by keeping them away from birth control and abortion. These ministries are devoted to ensuring that sexually active women and girls get pregnant, stay pregnant, and become mothers. After all, that is what happens to women who do not have birth control, regardless of whether they are willingly having sex.

A new law took effect earlier this year in Baltimore City compelling local pregnancy ministries to post signs that say that they do not provide or refer for birth control or abortion. Now they are disgruntled, shocked, appalled. These signs give a hint to unsuspecting women that they are not at a doctor’s office. A simple sign helps women make an informed decision about whether they want evangelistic help or a gynecologist.

But this means that pregnancy ministries must give women–wait for it–a choice. No wonder they’re appalled.

“Why doesn’t Planned Parenthood have to post signs?” they protest. Well, Planned Parenthood (1) is not a religious ministry; (2) is a respected gynecological health care provider; and (3) follows CDC and AMA guidelines, just as city health clinics, private practice gynecologists and hospitals do.

Maybe pregnancy ministries don’t like the fact that Planned Parenthood provides affordable birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and referrals for adoption and prenatal care. These ministries certainly don’t like the fact that women trust Planned Parenthood as a safe and non-judgmental abortion provider.

Pregnancy ministries are not concerned about the practice of gynecology. They are evangelists spreading a form of Christian anti-birth control, anti-abortion morality, which they carefully shroud in the guise of a health clinic. (If they were merely reaching out to their flock of already converted, then why try to look like a health clinic?)

The crux of the problem for pregnancy ministries is that the economic and social structure of the Western world depends upon the ability of individuals to plan families and space children. Nearly every person, when given a choice, will choose a health care provider who offers factual, science-based options to them and their partners.

If these ministries want to pray and offer baby formula and diapers to women who want to start families, that’s one thing. Not fully disclosing their true evangelical, anti-birth control mission, however, is another. Thank goodness we have a government that recognizes the public health value of truth-in-advertising.

Will The Lilith Tour Fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers?

7:01 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rachel Larris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Lilith Fair, the women-centric music concert from the nineties is back. The all-female music festival will be touring this summer and on Monday, via their Facebook page, Lilith Tour organizers announced “$1 from every Lilith ticket sold will be donated to a local charity in each of the 36 cities the festival visits.” The page urged fans to vote for the charity in their city they thought Lilith should support.

However among the charities listed are several so-called crisis pregnancy centers, an odd choice for a women-centric music festival. Crisis pregnancy centers have a noted history of giving out false information about birth control and abortion.

Becky Smith, 27, from Minneapolis, started a Facebook Fan page titled “Lilith Fair: No money for crisis pregnancy centers!” with her friend Katie Blair, 26, of Indianapolis. In less than 48 hour it garnered over 500 fans.

Smith, who was in high school when the last Lilith Fair concerts happened, said she was excited for months when she first heard about the concerts.

“They really put together a dream line-up, for a fierce, feminist rocking good time,” Smith said. “I was particularly excited by Mary J. Blidge, Erykah Badu, the Gossip, Loretta Lynn, Heart, the Go-Gos…the list goes on [and] I have been anticipating buying tickets and taking off work for months.”

Smith said after she heard on Monday about the $1 donation from ticket sales her first thought was that this was a great idea. “I live in Minneapolis, so naturally, I clicked on that city first and immediately red flags went up when I saw ‘Metro Women’s Center,’” Smith said.

The Metro Women’s Center, whose mission is described on Lilith’s own voting page, is a crisis pregnancy center.

The Metro Women’s Center is described as follows: “To actively promote and maintain the sanctity of human life through educating women and the community at large about pregnancy alternatives so that informed decisions concerning the outcome of pregnancy may be made. We desire to do this by respecting the lives of both the mother and the child equally. We believe that the answer to a problem or unplanned pregnancy is not to abort the child, but to seek alternatives which allow both parties to live.”

Smith said her friend Katie Blair in Indianapolis almost immediately contacted her and noticed Life Centers, another crisis pregnancy center, was listed on the voting page for her city. As the women note on their Facebook protest page:

The Indianapolis voting page describes Life Centers, an anti-choice CPC which seems to be even less interested in covering up the fact that they do not support choice – "We empower women in unplanned pregnancies to make informed decisions about themselves and their future by offering pregnancy testing, confidential counseling services, information about abortion alternatives, and referrals.”

The two women then looked over the list of charities and found others with notable anti-choice missions. On their Facebook page they write that one questionable choice in Atlanta:

… a Beacon of Hope Women’s Center, Inc., offers a key component to many CPCs: a free ultrasound accompanied by misleading information about safe and legal abortion procedures. A Beacon of Hope freely admits on their website that, "We do not offer or refer for abortion services." The description on the Lilith Fair voting page reads (without any correction to spacing edits),"A Beacon of Hope is a counseling center for women who have unexpectedly become pregnant.”

And in Seattle:

…a decidedly anti-choice (though NOT a CPC), organization is also being considered for funding. The Seattle voting page reads as follows: "The New Beginnings Home AKA ADOPTION MINISTRY OF YOUTH WITH A MISSION. For twenty-five years, New Beginnings Home has been available to help young mothers who have chosen life for their babies. Do you know someone who is facing an unplanned pregnancy who perhaps is alone, rejected or just needs a place to live? New Beginnings is a safe haven where unconditional love and friendship are the norm and woman can plan what is best for themselves and their babies while having their physical and emotional needs cared for.”

Smith said there are also “group homes” for pregnant teens and adults on the list of charities including Mother’s Refuge in Kansas City and Our Lady’s Inn in St. Louis that offer “such things as bible studies, adoption counseling, etc.”

It’s not clear if any of the charities on Lilith voting page were even notified that they were nominated to possibly receive any funds from the Lilith Tour.

Reached by telephone Colleen Tronson, director of the Metro Women’s Center in Minneapolis, said she didn’t know anything about the Lilith Tour nor that her organization had been nominated for the contest of charities.

“I get a lot of spam email so it’s possible I might have missed something,” Tronson said.

Jessica Hopper, writing for the Chicago Reader, reached a director at Beacon of Hope in Atlanta who declined to comment but said they didn’t know what Lilith Tour was. A communications director for Life Centers in Indianapolis also declined to comment but mentioned she “saw an email” from Lilith Tour but didn’t know anything about the music festival or a contest. She referred us to the organization’s lawyer who did not return RH Reality Check’s call.

So how was the initial list of charities created? It’s possible that mere google searching might have been involved.

The Chicago Reader asked Nettwerk CEO and Lilith cofounder Terry McBride how the list of charities was drawn up.

"The seeding at the start was done with a basic digital search in each market of woman’s charities," he said. "It’s not perfect. Nor could it be, as we simply don’t have the local expertise even within our own city of Vancouver." McBride insists that the intent of the contest is to have each community help Lilith select a worthy recipient. The "seeding" he refers to, aka the initial vetting step, consisted of looking online for woman-focused organizations with federal tax ID numbers. He claims no other criteria were employed.

On Tuesday afternoon the organizers behind the Lilith Tour pulled the list of charities from their Facebook page but restored them by 7 p.m. EST with a statement.

The Lilith organizers opened the local charity selection process up to the public because we strongly value and respect your input, and feel you should have a voice in what your money will support. We understand that no one knows these communities better than those who reside in them. In the coming days, we’ll open up this selection process even further by allowing you to suggest charities you feel should be recognized and included in the Choose Your Charity campaign. Stay tuned for more information.

The Chicago Reader asked how the Lilith Tour organization, which had been historically viewed as pro-choice so much that in 1999 the anti-choice group Feminists For Life complained that they were barred from exhibiting materials during the concert, could include anti-choice organizations on their list of charities.

McBride insists that the Lilith organization hasn’t changed its principles and that it didn’t "purposefully" select the anti-choice groups featured on the Facebook voting site. He says the organizers haven’t even read the mission statements that appear there. "What is posted are the results of the most cursory search, and it’s really up to each community to help us decide," he says. "We aren’t the experts, and so it needs to be up to people working in those communities."

However the vote itself will not determine which charity is selected. The Lilith Tour webpage notes: “The Lilith founders—Sarah McLachlan, Terry McBride, Dan Fraser and Marty Diamond—will hand pick the local charity winners from the top three charities with the most votes in each city.”

Becky Smith and Katie Blair are hoping Lilith Tour organizers will change their mind about including any anti-choice charity in the round of voting.

“We want to see a complete break between Lilith Fair and the CPCs,” Smith said. “We are requesting that the CPCs be removed completely from the ballot and selection process. While we believe in democratic systems, we are concerned that, even through a democratic process such as voting, Lilith [Tour] is condoning such actions as misinforming, lying [to] and deceiving women, all of which stand in direct opposition to a ‘Celebration of Women.’”

“Further,” Smith added, “We believe that placing CPCs on the ballot legitimizes their negligent practices, and gives them parity with organizations that strive to provide essential services such as homeless and domestic violence shelters, youth organizations and family planning clinics.”

Smith said she has been trying to reach out, via Twitter and Facebook, to various musicians scheduled to play Lilith Tour cities about the inclusion of crisis pregnancy centers on the charity list. “I personally left a message on the Gossip’s Facebook wall as I know that the lead singer, Beth Ditto, is a strong pro-choice advocate,” Smith said.