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From Hate to Love: Why “40 Days of Prayer” is Under Attack by the Christian Right

12:37 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Below is a an interview with Reverend Rebecca Turner of Faith Aloud, conducted by Carole Joffe. Faith Aloud is a pro-choice religious organization which seeks to eliminate the stigma associated with abortion and sexuality, and to provide support to both women and providers.

“Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they know they have choices.”

“Today we pray for the men in our lives, that they may offer their loving kindness and support for women’s difficult decisions.”

“Today we pray for Christians everywhere to embrace the loving model of Jesus in the way he refused to shame women.”

Above are some of the individual components of the “40 Days of Prayer,” a series composed by the Rev. Rebecca Turner, a United Church of Christ minister, and the head of Faith Aloud, a pro-choice religious organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. Turner originally wrote these prayers to counter religious-based protests against women’s rights to choose abortion.  For some years, the “40 Days of Prayer” were used in various ways by clinics but ignored by the anti-choice movement. However, recently when a clinic in northern California reprinted the prayers in a brochure,  the movement took notice, and Turner’s prayers—and by extension, the concept of a religiously-based prochoice group—drew much attention from the religious right, including interviews by Fox News and Focus on the Family, and follow up stories in various anti-choice publications.

Below is an interview I conducted with Rev. Turner about her organization, the 40 Days of Prayer, and the reactions of opponents of abortion when news of her activities went viral.

What is Faith Aloud? Read the rest of this entry →

Right-wing Focus on the Family’s Chilling New Agenda on “Marriage Defense”

8:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

So ~ the “refocus” of FOTF is shifting away from opposing same-sex marriage and instead focusing on making it more difficult to obtain a divorce.

Does anyone else think this is scary? … and I was seriously pissed when I read Jim Daly’s remark, “… so it’s not just ‘we don’t like each other any more.’” WTF? What woman is ever so flippant about divorce?

Truthfully ~ filing for divorce for me did mean a major step down financially ~ my income and assets took a huge hit ~ and we actually were already living close to poverty level before the divorce. BUT ~ IT WAS SO TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!! I’ll take poverty over abuse any day.

If FOTF and similar “pro-family” organizations succeed in reducing the Christian divorce rate to 5% ~ that’s going to represent a huge increase in misery for a lot of Christian wives who are already seriously oppressed in their “traditional” marriages ~ with husband as patriarchal head of the home and wife as subservient “helpmeet.”

These women do not need divorce to be more difficult ~ it’s already almost impossible to leave an abusive marriage when it’s supposedly God’s will and the domineering man is simply fulfilling his biblical role as head of the home.

Daly’s thinking is that by reducing the divorce rate among Christians and holding up the ”Biblical family” as the key to marriage “success,” the secular world will have to admit that God’s way is truly the best way ~ and somehow, that’s supposed to convince gays to repent of their deviancy, I guess.  Ugh.  As though the only reason gay people are gay is because they’ve never seen a long-lasting heterosexual marriage. … Read more

CBS Behind Anti-Choice Billboards in Atlanta

6:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

What, exactly, is happening with CBS?  Has it suddenly merged with the Christian Right and become the "Christian (Right) Broadcasting System?"

It would seem so.

For the past month, reproductive justice groups in Atlanta, Georgia have been fighting against an anti-choice campaign by Georgia Right to Life and a group called the Radiance Foundation.  The two groups have collaborated to buy billboard space throughout the city calling black children "an endangered species," and advocating for laws to limit the reproductive choices of women of color, as well as to push for laws banning abortion based on "the race or the sex of the child." 

Now it turns out that the billboards are the property of CBS Outdoors, a subsidiary of the multi-media CBS corporation.  This is not the CBS of my childhood (I Love Lucy, the Ed Sullivan Show) or of the once venerated show, 60 Minutes.

This is instead the CBS that "suddenly changed its advocacy policy" to air a Super Bowl advertisement earlier this month from Focus on the Family, the ultra-right conservative organization that seeks to limit the rights of women, homosexuals, and people of color generally.  Meanwhile, they denied ad space to several organizations representing gay rights and gay advertising interests.

It is the CBS that then pushed for inclusion of Focus on the Family ads on the website of the NCAA.com, and for airing ads by the same during the March Madness college basketball tournament, until the latter pulled those ads in response to protests from the LGBT community and likely after someone, somewhere in the NCAA finally (re)read their own guidelines against ads coming from messengers that, for example, denigrate gay people.

That CBS. 

There are currently 65 billboards throughout the Atlanta area, and Georgia Right to Life told the New York Times that it intends to soon have 80 such signs.

These are owned by and rented from CBS Outdoors, which is now the target of a campaign by women’s rights groups in Georgia seeking to remove the Georgia Right to Life signs.

One of the groups leading the campaign is SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, an organization that works to address the complexities of the lives of women and girls.   

"SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW respects and defends Black women," says a statement from the group, "and all people’s, reproductive health decisions including the right to abortion."

"Black women know what is best for our lives, our families, and our communities and are capable of making these decisions without a coordinated assault by organizations that are not genuinely committed to addressing the host of social issues confronted by the black community. We strongly reject and denounce these billboards and the sponsoring organizations, Georgia Right to Life, the Radiance Foundation, and Operation Outrage for speaking about us, demonizing our decisions, and assuming they know what is best for our lives."

The suggestion by these billboards that "black women somehow are perpetrators of a coordinated and intentional effort to “execute” black babies is harmful, deplorable and counterproductive," states SPARK. "Black communities and our allies will not stand by while black women’s character and moral agency are persecuted, demonized and intimidated by these ads and their supporters."

"We urge people interested in the lives of black children to look at black communities more holistically and commit themselves to issues such as poverty, food insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, the school to prison pipeline and the broader prison industrial complex, environmental degradation and affordable housing."

Yet rather than working on these issues, the "pro-life" community in Georgia is focused on passing House Bill 1155, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Bill, which  asserts that abortion providers in the state of Georgia solicit women of color to have abortions based on the race or sex of the fetus.

"While such allegations are unfounded and inflammatory," states SisterSong, another group leading the opposition to both the legislation and the billboard campaign, "the bill has sparked much interest. This bill also proposes a ban on sex-selective abortions, furthering the criminalization of women of color without any regard to the broader ubiquitous issues of gender discrimination that are deeply embedded in the fabrics of our lived experiences."

A statement opposing the bill has been signed by more than 40 national leaders from communities of color committed to reproductive justice and other leaders in the reproductive justice movement.

According to SisterSong, HB 1155 was heard and voted on in the Non-civil Judiciary Sub-Committee last week. It passed and was then presented in the full Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 17, and Republicans in Georgia are attempting to fast-track the legislation.

"This bill seeks to ban the solicitation and targeting of women of color by abortion providers throughout the state," says Sistersong in another statement. 

"This misleading issue of abortions for sex- and race-selection in Georgia means that we have to use facts and science to stand up for women of color without undermining our support for abortion rights or without enforcing racial stereotypes about women of color.  Intent on driving a wedge between reproductive justice and racial justice organizations, and pro-choice advocates, the bill reflects the false assumption that abortion providers throughout the state “solicit” women of color."

If implemented, this bill will adversely impact abortion providers by requiring them to prove that they are not targeting women of a certain race or ethnicity. This burden could result in delayed medical services, particularly for women of color.  Creating such delays are a common tactic of the anti-choice movement, creating additional burdens on women facing unintended pregnancy.

Additionally, this legislation would alter the racketeering laws of the Georgia Code to include abortion providers. This is unacceptable as abortion is legal in the State of Georgia, and the alleged abuses of this medical procedure are unfounded. Such a bill would have a terrible effect on women’s ability to access reproductive health care services throughout the state.

"This bill comes on the heels of a controversial billboard campaign that targets Black women in Georgia," said SisterSong.

The blatantly sexist and racist billboards declare Black children as an endangered species and prey on the conscience of Black women. The mere association between the born and unborn with endangered animals provides a disempowering and dehumanizing message to the Black community, which is completely unacceptable.

Why CBS is allowing itself to become so deeply enmeshed with the anti-choice, anti-science, anti-rights community is a mystery, but given the confluence of recent events, it clearly underscores the need for a greater degree than ever of coordination among reproductive justice and pro-choice advocates with the LGBT community in the United States. 

Meanwhile, in response to the billboards, SPARK has launched a campaign asking CBS Outdoors to remove the ads.  Information on the campaign can be found here.

 

Radical Anti-choice Group Rocked by Founder Resignations

6:31 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Wendy Norris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Lost in the chaos of the U.S. House vote on health care reform and the machinations of Rep. Bart Stupak was an unexpected and unreported schism in the hard core anti-choice movement fueling the state "personhood" ballot drives.

A Nov. 15 letter that only surfaced this week reveals the stormy resignation of the founders of American Right to Life Action, a Denver-based political organization created after a high profile catfight with national anti-choice groups and James Dobson of Focus on the Family. In the correspondence addressed to its former ally Colorado Right to Life, the two leaders cryptically refer to an "incident involving a key person in the Personhood movement" among other unspecified reasons for their immediate departure from the group.

The sudden split by President Brian Rohrbough and Vice President Steve Curtis caps off a series of controversial antics at the tax-exempt nonprofit ARTLA. In its brief two year tenure the group sought to end abortion within an unexplained 12 year timeline, "challenge the ‘wicked courts’ and oppose ‘child-killing regulations’" through state ballot measures, like promoting constitutional rights for fertilized eggs.

The group’s first salvo was launched after national anti-choice activists praised the Apr. 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding restrictions on late-term abortion. Rohrbough, then president of Colorado Right to Life, lead a public relations assault with a veritable Who’s Who of the absolutist anti-choice faction who seek nothing less than an unequivocal ban on abortion, contraception and assisted fertility care.

Several weeks later, ARTLA published "An Open Letter to James Dobson" as full page newspapers ads condemning the incrementalist approach of the national groups who favor stacking Congress and the courts with reproductive choice foes to further restrict abortion services. But they reserved a special brand of vitriol for Dobson, whom the ads attacked as a "moral relativist" — a particularly nasty "your mother wears Army boots" insult in evangelical Christian circles.

Curtis signed the letter along with Operation Save America director Flip Benham, Human Life International president Rev. Tom Euteneuer and Judie Brown, president of American Life League. Denver Bible Church pastor Bob Enyart, who refers to himself as "America’s most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice radio talk show host" also joined in.

The reaction to the ads was swift. National Right to Life immediately delisted its Colorado affiliate.

Rohrbough, a sympathetic figure in Colorado after his son, Danny, was tragically killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, set about with Curtis, the former chair of the state Republican Party, and Enyart to challenge the street cred of the national anti-choice establishment by founding ARTLA in Nov. 2007 with the blessing of its ad partners.

The group feverishly attacked its former allies while promoting the "Abortion Vigilante Worksheet," a logically-convoluted justification for the so-called necessity defense infused with dark, violent Bible quotes.

And they wasted no time mixing it up on the presidential campaign trail to make their point. In Feb. 2008, ARTLA produced an email attack campaign and a series of television ads slamming Republican presidential primary candidate and Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney for his alleged flip flops on reproductive rights.

The group claimed credit for derailing Romney’s bid and then quickly upped the ante with increasingly more bold attacks on conservative Republicans they considered movement weaklings. Several month later in Sept. 2008, Enyart, his brother and a local anti-choice activist acting on behalf of the organization were arrested, fined and later jailed for staging a sit-in at Focus on the Family to protest Dobson’s endorsement of GOP presidential nominee John McCain, whom the trio also criticized for not being sufficiently anti-abortion.

In the meantime, ARTLA’s cause de jour — Amendment 48, the 2008 Colorado personhood ballot measure — was going down in flames and was eventually defeated in a 73-27 landslide.

Prior to the May 2009 sentencing for trespassing at Focus, the bombastic Enyart spurred fellow ultra-conservative Christian radio hosts to ambush acid-tongued conservative pundit Ann Coulter over her support of Romney. Said Rohrbough in a statement that accompanied ARTLA’s video of Coulter’s on-air freak outs:

Ann Coulter has misrepresented and even defended some of the most egregious and immoral behavior. When Ann covers up aggressively anti-marriage action, and pro-abortion legislation that actually funds the killing of unborn children, she apparently is motivated by a desire to distort the truth and deceive Christians for some personal gain.

So it all comes as more than a bit curious that Rohrbough and Curtis’ letter alludes to "the confusion of purpose that currently surrounds CRTL, Personhood CO and Personhood USA." All three groups are actively involved in a renewed but quixotic scheme to outlaw abortion, contraception, stem cell research and in-vitro fertilization in one fell swoop by awarding zygotes civil right protections via state constitutional amendments.

In a biting comment left at Jill Stanek’s blog about the dismantling of ARTLA’s leadership, Personhood Colorado director Gualberto Garcia Jones called Rohrbough and Curtis "irrelevant to our efforts."

Stanek attributes the falling out to Prolife Profiles, a Web site promising a rogues’ gallery of conservative icons ranked by their public commitment to promoting "personhood" laws. The site officially launched the day following Rohrbough and Curtis’ joint resignation letter. It attacks conservative heros Sarah Palin, Romney and others as anti-abortion hypocrites while holding up the Dobson ad signatories — including Rohrbough himself — as saintly paragons of the cause.

However, that would suggest a fairly drastic change of heart for Rohrbaugh and Curtis who were actively involved in and publicly crowing about ARTLA’s attacks on Romney, McCain and Coulter just two years ago.

One possible explanation for the rift is the letter’s mention about "recent press articles" — a reference to Garcia Jones’ penchant for spilling the beans about the true purpose of the personhood amendments. An Oct. 31 World Net Daily article extensively quoted the ex-American Life League legal analyst, who does not appear to be licensed to practice law in Colorado, about using the state measures to force a challenge to Roe v Wade in the courts.

That’s diametrically opposite the 2008 Colorado campaign, with which ARTLA was quite active, that religiously stuck to a strict set of talking points that avoided mentioning abortion or contraception bans. When an early spokesman dared to raise the specter of a Supreme Court case he was quickly hustled out of the campaign never to be heard from again.

It’s also just as plausible that ARTLA hasn’t quite become the cash cow and national force once envisioned by Rohrbough and Curtis, who jointly operate a nonprofit firm specializing in sinister anti-choice videos.

ARTLA has since missed three consecutive financial reporting periods this year though it contacted the IRS in Sept. to change its official name to "AMERICAN RIGHTS [sic] TO LIFE ACTION" a month after an RH Reality Check investigation into the finances of anti-abortion groups behind the personhood movement. It’s a fairly common political campaign trick to use misspellings and all capital letters to thwart efforts at tracking records in case- and keyword-sensitive search engines.

Aside the record-keeping shenanigans and dramatic resignation of its founders, the situation doesn’t look so rosy for the group.

In the last quarterly filing posted on March 18, 2009 reflecting the post-election period thru Dec. 31, 2008: ARTLA reported a mere $80 in receipts and a $2,000 expenditure. The big outlay? It was the second of two loan re-payments totaling $9,000 to a suburban Denver woman, who coincidentally happens to be an office worker employed by none other than Rev. Bob Enyart.