Clinic Defense Over Roe

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I am a clinic escort in Washington DC for WACDTF. While I have been escorting with this organization for five years, every weekend has its own stories.

I am a clinic escort in Washington DC for WACDTF. While I have been escorting with this organization for five years, every weekend has
 its own stories.  The Roe Vs. Wade decision anniversary is a busy weekend for protests in DC, and our clinic is often on an anti-choice tourist route.
 On the actual day of ‘The March for Life’ there was little action for our clinic.  We were too far, I suppose, from the parade route, and if the metro was a decent survey on the marcher’s ability to get around DC, adding another destination would have been too hard for them to navigate.  We did have 1 tour bus show up – a motley crew of mostly 50+ aged protesters – with a pseudo preacher.  There were gems shouted like ‘Life spelled backwards is Evil’ and “they might say they are just doing a job, just like the SS were doing their job,” but the interaction from our out-of-state protesters and the local escorts was minimal. Another group in matching sweatshirts showed up only to later ask if were any other clinics in the area, presumably to protest at.  It was a light load for such a ‘special’ day, especially when so close to the Supreme Court.

In my five years doing clinic escorting, I have never gone to the protest in DC on Roe. There are often counter rallies organized by NOW, but usually I have opted out to head back into the office, or otherwise spend my time.  I think now I know why. Since I had been up since 7 I was already a bit tired and cranky. On a normal office day I am eating cereal, or maybe showering at that hour, not standing on a street in the cold, almost wishing protesters would wander by to validate the effort taken to reach my location. With a fellow escort in tow we metro’d closer in to the protest and followed the ‘Byzateens for Life’ gaggle (complete with own banner of multiple halo’d fetuses) to the steps of the Supreme Court. The scene was almost a reverse of the work that we do in front of the clinic. Pro-choice protesters were in front of the giant (and offensive) sign declaring that the U.S. would be punished for abortion, and there was a group of activists encircling the ‘bound for life’ gang. I soon joined the circle, figuring that if I kept moving I would be useful somehow.  While the chanting was invigorating, and I saw more than a few familiar faces it was an emotionally taxing experience. In attempts to break up our circle several of the pro-life protesters began to edge towards us.  I kept walking, sometimes brushing their shoulders, or sliding between but never moving my shoulders or hips so as to take up less space. This is a tactic I have to use at the clinic to buffer
women, and their friends from the shouts and ‘information packets’ that they have previously refused yet are still offered along with prayers all of the way up to the door.  When our group refused to give space the individuals on either side of us began running into us, shouting ‘baby killer’ and like so many high school bullies signing an “L” on their foreheads.  I made sure to smile during each chant, and find some balance between not giving up ground, and not agitating them to the point to attract the police on the actual stairs of the court.  After what seemed like an hour, but probably only half of that, I had to leave the circle, and mingle a bit in the rest of the crowd.  Once the earnest ‘pro life rock bands’ started I decided to leave the whole scene and practice a bit of self care to better prepare myself for 
the next morning at the clinic.

The following morning started similarly at our clinic. It was quiet, save for two local protesters for a while. Perhaps they had forgotten the significance of the date, because even our regulars had commented on the number of escorts who lined the sidewalk. Our numbers did not deter them from rushing at women holding large and wobbly hand made signs shouting about the dangers of abortion. Within a couple of hours busses were lining the street and the small lawn of the clinic, and opposite side of the sidewalk were lined with 300 protesters and prayers with a sprinkling of the tried and true weekly ‘sidewalk counselors. Their singing was better than average, for the most part they did try to stay out of the sidewalk (although there were two obstinate individuals) and few of them made eye contact with me. At the same time they shouted to each woman entering the doctors office ‘demand to see your ultrasound’ and a known anti-choice activist shouted through a megaphone about the holocaust.  The latter action seemed to even anger our local protesters who bravely went up and asked him to stop, and to focus instead on the women entering in a loving way.

I find their kind of love, to be honest, false, and oppressive. It is an insult to a woman to walk up to her on her way to appointment and claim, in no matter how nice a tone, that you know better than her. I will eagerly read the protesters take on their actions both Saturday and Sunday. The patient load was light, but it was a heavy visual of bodies lining the streets. Although, I do wonder, if the Planned Parenthood is a house of serial killing as one protester told me, why were some individuals mugging for photos before they headed home. If it was a horrific place, wouldn’t that be disrespectful and discouraged? Or is it really all a surface show?

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News Law and Policy

Three Crisis Pregnancy Centers Served for Breaking California Law

Nicole Knight Shine

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act.

The Los Angeles City Attorney is warning three area fake clinics, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), that they’re breaking a new state reproductive disclosure law and could face fines of $500 if they don’t comply.

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, advocates and the state Attorney General’s office indicate.

The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer served the notices on July 15 and July 18 to two unlicensed and one licensed clinic, a representative from the office told Rewire. The Los Angeles area facilities are Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

The law requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care, and for unlicensed centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities.

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“Our investigation revealed,” one of the letters from the city attorney warns, “that your facility failed to post the required onsite notice anywhere at your facility and that your facility failed to distribute the required notice either through a printed document or digitally.”

The centers have 30 days from the date of the letter to comply or face a $500 fine for an initial offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

“I think this is the first instance of a city attorney or any other authority enforcing the FACT Act, and we really admire City Attorney Mike Feuer for taking the lead,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told Rewire on Wednesday.

Feuer in May unveiled a campaign to crack down on violators, announcing that his office was “not going to wait” amid reports that some jurisdictions had chosen not to enforce the law while five separate court challenges brought by multiple fake clinics are pending.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In April, Rebecca Plevin of the local NPR affiliate KPCC found that six of eight area fake clinics were defying the FACT Act.

Although firm numbers are hard to come by, around 25 fake clinics, or CPCs, operate in Los Angeles County, according to estimates from a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California. There are upwards of 1,200 CPCs across the country, according to their own accounting.

Last week, Rewire paid visits to the three violators: Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

Christie Kwan, a nurse manager at Pregnancy Counseling Center, declined to discuss the clinic’s noncompliance, but described their opposition to the state law as a “First Amendment concern.”

All three centers referred questions to their legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based nonprofit and frequent defender of discriminatory “religious liberty” laws.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with ADF, said in an email to Rewire that forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs” and threatens their free speech rights.

“The First Amendment protects all Americans, including pro-life people, from being targeted by a government conspiring with pro-abortion activists,” Bowman said.

Rewire found that some clinics are following the law. Claris Health, which was contacted as part of Feuer’s enforcement campaign in May, includes the public notice with patient intake forms, where it’s translated into more than a dozen languages, CEO Talitha Phillips said in an email to Rewire.

Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the public notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

Even so, reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, a person who Googled “abortion clinic” might be directed to a fake clinic, or CPC.

Oakland last week became the second U.S. city to ban false advertising by facilities that city leaders described as “fronts for anti-abortion activists.” San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2011.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.