Speaking Out: Manipulated By a CPC

Allyson Kirk

I knew I needed abortion care, but I ended up at a crisis pregnancy center that force-fed me medically inaccurate claims and anti-choice propaganda. Now I'm speaking out so that other women won't be misled by these fake clinics.

When I called the National Abortion Federation Hotline in January 2005 looking for help finding an abortion clinic in my area, I had never even heard of a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I was 23 years old and in college completing my biology degree when I found out I was pregnant. Although I was in a committed relationship and deeply in love with my partner, I was not ready for a child at that time and chose to seek an abortion. The NAF Hotline operator gave me the location of a women's health clinic in my area, which I promptly called and made an appointment for an exam.

The day of my appointment, I pulled into the parking lot where the women's clinic was located and parked in front of the first building I saw. The sign in the window said "AAA Women for Choice" next to another smaller sign advertising "Free Pregnancy Testing." I was slightly confused by the bumper stickers on the SUV in front of the building with many anti-abortion, religious statements such as "It's a Child, Not a Choice," but didn't think much of it due to the prevalence of these anti-choice ideas in my area.

When I walked in the front door of the clinic, an older man sitting behind the counter welcomed me. I quickly gave my name and said that I had a two o'clock appointment. He acted like they were expecting me and asked me to have a seat in the empty waiting room while they prepared for my appointment. The waiting room looked like any family medical practice: there were magazines and children's books, and a basket filled with toys and stuffed animals for children to play with as they waited. Within minutes, a middle-aged woman, dressed professionally and appearing like a nurse, came out to escort me to my appointment.

She brought me into a different room and gave me a form to fill out. The form asked for basic contact information, but also asked for the personal information of my partner or spouse. The form asked about my medical history, including how many times I had been pregnant, obtained an abortion, and if I had children. As I was filling out the form, the woman began asking me questions, too. She asked why I was seeking an abortion, if I was sure that I was pregnant, and how many weeks I was into the pregnancy. She then began asking questions about my partner, such as did he know I was pregnant, did he want me to terminate the pregnancy, and why he wasn't there with me. I answered her questions, but began to feel guarded.

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She then asked me about my religious beliefs. I was immediately defensive at this point. I asked her why this was a relevant question to ask in a medical facility. "Because I can't properly counsel you on the issue of abortion unless I know your moral standing," she said. I decided that this was not the kind of place I felt comfortable seeking medical care so I asked her to complete the free pregnancy test and then I would be on my way. I gave her a urine sample and she agreed to run the test, but only if I watched an educational video while the results were processing.

The video I was forced to watch made false claims including: doctors who provide abortions graduate at the bottom of their classes and can't get real jobs; abortion is dangerous and often results in serious injury, even death, to women, and abortion causes severe psychological and emotional damage to women. The woman on the video said many women who have abortions have nightmares of babies crying and have guilt about their decision so intense that it sends them into depression.

The second portion of the video showed an illustrated enactment of a surgical abortion procedure. A picture of a uterus with a fully formed fetus inside filled the TV screen as illustrated metal instruments appeared. The instruments were shown probing inside the uterus and dismembering the fetus. Then a suction device entered the screen, pulling the fetus out of the illustrated uterus for disposal.

I was appalled and insulted.

I stood up to walk out of the room just as the woman was re-entering. She must have seen the look on my face because she stopped and asked if everything was okay. The older man at the counter was just behind her in the waiting room. I told them that I wasn't sure what kind of an operation this was, but they should be ashamed of themselves. I said they were obviously using fear tactics to manipulate women who come to them looking for guidance in an emotionally unsteady state. I walked out the front door without ever getting the results of my pregnancy test.

After calling the NAF Hotline again, I found out this anti-choice organization was called a Crisis Pregnancy Center. They had strategically picked a name and displayed signs in their windows to fool women like me into coming there, thinking that they were visiting the women's reproductive health clinic just two doors down. The more I read about these places, I couldn't believe that what they were doing was legal: blatantly lying to women about medical procedures, using fear and guilt to force them into completing pregnancies. I have since been speaking out in support of stricter regulation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and I hope my story helps prevent women from being misled by these fake clinics.

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.