Abortion

Will The Lilith Tour Fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers?

Rachel Larris

Announcements by the Lilith Tour Monday suggested that $1 from every ticket will be donated to local charities in each of the 36 cities the festival visits.  Will crisis pregnancy centers and anti-choice organizations be among them?

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.

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“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 Rewire’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.

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

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

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.

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.