Some women looking for abortions are being misdirected to “clinics” that have no intention of providing them with such a service.
"Misconception," a short documentary from Vice News, looks at the phenomenon of “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) — organizations staffed by anti-abortion groups, usually religiously-based, that encourage women to follow through with their pregnancies, even if they have already decided to terminate.
Some crisis centers provide factually incorrect advice about the process of abortion and its aftermath, others use religious rhetoric to shame women for their choices. Many such centers receive government funding through federal grants or state programs. Vice estimates that in 2014, CPCs could now outnumber abortion clinics 5 to 1.
The film, produced by Allison Yarrow and Claire Ward, investigates the deceptive practices these “clinics” use. Misrepresenting themselves as abortion providers using manipulative tactics like engineering their pages to show up in online searches for “pregnancy symptoms” or situating themselves next to abortion clinics, CPCs reel women in under false pretenses. Often, as shown in the film, these clinics refuse to provide abortion pricing information over the phone, often only revealing that the procedure is not offered there after subjecting women to a “counseling session” and sonogram.
The idea for the documentary came from Yarrow’s field reporting for a Newsweek feature, "The Abortion War’s Special Ops," which follows anti-abortion activist Lila Rose and pro-abortion rights activist Katie Stack. Stack, who was herself referred to a crisis pregnancy center following an unplanned pregnancy, founded The Crisis Project, which investigates the “medical misinformation, emotional manipulation and religious doctrine” that CPCs commonly use.
In “Misconception,” host Fazeelat Aslam attends the pro-life March For Life in Washington D.C., meets with a young woman in Texas who found herself at a crisis pregnancy center after searching for access to an abortion, and goes undercover with Stack to another CPC. Posing as Stack’s aunt, Aslam films a counseling session in which Stack is advised against abortion.
"[Abortion] could never be safe, because it’s so totally unnatural," an anonymous "counselor" tells Stack and Aslam. "Your body is meant to keep that baby, not to have someone put an instrument in and rip it out."
The film also features hidden camera footage from Stack’s visits to other CPCs around the country, revealing some of the shocking things CPC workers have said to her.
"If people die due to an abortion, later on a lot of times they’re finding parts of the fetus in like the lungs or the heart," one "counselor" says. (Hint: this is not true.)
Yarrow believes that “honest, well-run” crisis pregnancy centers have their place, but that the misrepresentation of their mission is unacceptable.
"Centers should reveal up front that they do not offer abortion services and that their counseling is inspired by an anti-abortion position and religious morals," she told The Huffington Post in an email. "We are all entitled to our own positions on abortion, but I bet many people disagree with taxpayer-funded deception."
Stack and other anti-CPC activists are pushing for CPCs to disclose that they do not provide abortions, so that women directed to these places are fully aware of the resources available to them. Raising awareness of this issue is working: organizations like Google have taken a stand, removing deceptive ads for CPCs from their search results.
"The best way to combat crisis pregnancy center deception is to know where these centers are located in your own hometown, and to inform other men and women in your community where they are and what they do," Yarrow told HuffPost. "Insist that your legislators support bills that require centers to adhere to truth in advertising standards."
Watch the full film above, and find out more about The Crisis Project here.
"Crisis Pregnancy Centers" = hotbeds of deceptive medical information for the anti-choice movement.
H/T: Nina Bahadur at HuffPost Women
Crisis pregnancy centers are sometimes called fake abortion clinics because of their tendency to locate themselves near real clinics and use deceptive names and advertising. Their real goal is to prevent clients from having an abortion, even if this means lying. These myths are perpetuated on CPC websites, advertisements, materials in the center, and in person.
1) Lie: Abortion causes breast cancer
2) Lie: Abortion causes infertility
Truth: While complications with abortion, just as with any other reproductive procedure, can have an effect on future fertility, abortion does not have a unique negative effect on fertility. [source] [source]
3) Lie: Abortion causes mental health problems
Truth: Sometimes referred to by anti-abortion activists as “Post-Abortion Syndrome” or “Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome,” these effects aren’t supported by the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association. [source] [source] [source]
4) Lie: Abortion is dangerous
Truth: Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with a risk of less than 0.05% of major complications that may need hospital care. The risk of death associated with abortion is 1/1,000,000 before 8 weeks and 1/29,000 at 16-20 weeks. [source]
5) Lie: Birth control and condoms don’t work
Truth: The effectiveness of birth control depends on how well it’s used. Condoms have a 98% effectiveness rate when used perfectly, but that goes down to 82% with “typical” use. Long-term methods, such as the IUD and implant, are over 99% effective.
Birth control works best when multiple methods are used together, such as consistently taking the birth control pill and using condoms, or having an IUD and using the pull-out method. [source] [source] [source]
6) Lie: Emergency contraception is abortion
Truth: Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning after pill” or by one brand’s name, Plan B, works primarily to stop the ovary from releasing an egg that can be fertilized by incoming sperm. This prevents a pregnancy from occurring in the first place, and EC will not work if a fertilized egg has already implanted in the uterus. There is no evidence to suggest that EC prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. [source] [source] [source] [source]
7) Lie: The abortion pill doesn’t work on ectopic pregnancies
Truth: This is a half-truth. The medication typically used in medication abortions, mifepristone, has no effect on an ectopic pregnancy. However, methotrexate is also sometimes used in medication abortions, either in pill or injection form, and it can treat an ectopic pregnancy. [source]
8) Lie: Embryos and fetuses can feel pain during an abortion
Truth: The current research finds that fetuses likely cannot perceive pain or distinguish it from touch until the third trimester of pregnancy. Nearly 99% of abortions happen before this point. [source] [source] [source]
A pro-choice student wrote a letter-to-the-editor about a crisis pregnancy center near his school http://buzz.mw/b5bcl_l.
Here’s what we think of the oh-so-professional email the CPC’s director sent back.
More than 50 abortion clinics across the country have closed or stopped offering the procedure since a heavy wave of legislative attacks on providers began in 2010, according to The Huffington Post’s nationwide survey of state health departments, abortion clinics and local abortion-focused advocacy groups.
At least 54 abortion providers across 27 states have shut down or ended their abortion services in the past three years, and several more clinics are only still open because judges have temporarily blocked legislation that would make it difficult for them to continue to operate. Nebraska and Massachusetts have each added one clinic since 2010, and the other 21 states and the District of Columbia, most of which have not passed new anti-abortion laws since 2010, were unable to accurately count their clinics because their health departments do not license abortion providers separately from other kinds of medical providers. The Huffington Post’s tally did not include hospitals that provide abortions.
"This kind of change is incredibly dramatic," said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. "What we’ve been seeing since 1982 was a slow decline, but this kind of change … [is] so different from what’s happened in the past."
A comprehensive survey by The Daily Beast found that as of January 2013, 724 abortion clinics remained operational across the U.S.
While some of the 54 closures were due to unrelated factors, the states that have lost the most clinics over the past three years are the same ones that have seen draconian new abortion restrictions and the biggest cuts to family planning funding. In Texas, which has lost nine clinics, lawmakers have slashed family planning funding in the state budget, required abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers and required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Arizona lawmakers passed similar legislation and pushed out a total of 12 providers; the state had 18 abortion clinics in 2010 and now has only six, according to NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona.
"This has turned into a nightmare," said Kat Sabine, executive director of NARAL’s Arizona affiliate. "The kind of efforts the women have to take to get family planning or abortion services are just incredible, and you can only get care if you can get out of the community to do it. If you’re on a reservation or rural part of the state, unless you have reliable transportation, you’re not going to get care."
In Lake Havusu, Ariz., there are several anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers and a Catholic charity hospital that does not offer abortion care, but women have to travel over 150 miles to either Phoenix or Las Vegas to find the nearest abortion or family planning clinic, Sabine said. The situation mirrors problems rural women face in other states. Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have only one abortion clinic each, and the first two are hanging onto their only clinics pending court decisions. Other larger states, like Alaska and Texas, do not have nearly enough providers to respond to the needs of women in rural areas, because the clinics are concentrated in a few major cities.
Compounding the problem, 26 states require women to wait at least 24 hours between their consultation sessions and abortion procedures, making it twice as difficult for rural and low-income women to access abortion care.
"These restrictions have an uneven impact," Nash said. "Women who have resources, have a car, have some money in the bank, can access childcare and take time off work can obtain an abortion, and women who are less well-off and don’t have those kinds of resources are not able to access abortion services."
While states have been passing abortion restrictions since long before 2010, the recent legislative trend has been to directly target abortion providers and make it harder for them to operate. In addition to passing mandatory waiting periods and mandatory ultrasounds, states are passing so-called “TRAP” laws — the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. These laws often require abortion clinics to undergo extensive and costly renovations in order to become ambulatory surgical centers, which are essentially mini-hospitals.
Anti-abortion advocates, meanwhile, argue that TRAP laws are designed to protect women’s health by forcing clinics to widen their hallways, install specific ventilation systems and build locker rooms for physicians. Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Americans United for Life, told HuffPost that the new restrictions are not the reason clinics are shutting down. “It was the choice of the abortion industry to locate their profitable abortion businesses in older buildings that would never pass muster for other outpatient surgical centers,” she said. “It was their choice to ignore the laws of any given state on building requirements for outpatient medical facilities — set by that state in line with a national standards board, not AUL — and choose locations that were not as safe.”
h/t: Huffington Post
College Is Free After You Have A Baby, And Other Lies That ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Tell Real Women
Crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, are notorious for spreading misinformation about women’s health care. Often touted as viable alternatives to nonpartisan health clinics, they actually function as front groups for the anti-abortion agenda, using shame-based messages and sometimes outright lies to dissuade women from choosing to end a pregnancy. Nonetheless, they often receive financial support from conservative lawmakers, and more than half the states in the U.S. funnel money directly to them.
NARAL Pro-Choice America has been working to hold CPCs accountable for years, and occasionally conducts undercover investigations to expose the misinformation that CPC employees are disseminating to their patients. On Monday, the group launched a national week of action to spark more widespread conversation about the underhanded tactics used by CPCs. NARAL partnered with the Feminist Majority Foundation and campus activist groups to launch the week long campaign, which involved petition drives, letter writing campaigns, documentary screenings, and a Tumblr devoted to collecting women’s stories about their own experiences at these right-wing “clinics.”
Indeed, when women decide they want to have an abortion, these type of emotionally manipulative tactics don’t actually succeed at convincing them otherwise. Ninety percent of women have made up their minds about having an abortion before visiting a doctor or a clinic. These shame-based messages do, however, contribute to the pervasive stigma surrounding abortion — which ultimately communicates that women can’t be open about their decision to have an abortion because they ought to regret it. Research has found that abortion stigma does increase women’s negative emotions about the experience, but not because they necessarily regret their choice.
A fierce backlash followed the liberalization of Mexico City’s abortion law in 2007. Is its resemblance to the US “pro-life” movement a coincidence?
On May 1, a familiar anti-abortion story line played out on Azteca 13, a popular television channel in Mexico. In the opening scenes of an episode of Lo Que Callamos Las Mujeres (What We Women Keep Silent), a Lifetime-liketelenovela series about “real-life” stories, a pretty brunette with a heart-shaped face, Alondra, discovers she is pregnant when overtaken by a sudden bout of morning sickness. Her sister Sofía is concerned, but later that night, when Alondra’s boorish boyfriend comes home and she breaks the news, he asks if it’s his, then tells her to abort.
Alondra complies and, in a series of hazy scenes, visits a clandestine abortion provider. But she’s haunted by what she has done, and is awoken at night by phantom baby cries that send her searching throughout her apartment until she collapses on the living room floor, her white pajama bottoms soaked through with blood. Her illegal abortion was botched, it turns out, and by terminating her pregnancy, a doctor tells her sister, she has forfeited her fertility as well. Some weeks later, Alondra’s boyfriend is accosted on the street by another woman, also pregnant by him, who begs him to acknowledge his future child. Sheepishly, he does, shrugging as he tells Alondra, “I’m going to be a papa,” before walking out the door to be with the other woman—the one who didn’t abort.
The message seems clear enough, but the story doesn’t end there. Two years later, when Alondra meets a good man who wants a family, she pushes the memory of the abortion out of her mind. In a state of manic delusion, she experiences a hysterical pregnancy, her belly swelling with her hopes, until Sofía forces her to see a doctor and Alondra breaks down, confronted with her unresolved grief. As Alondra again lies in a hospital bed, two years wiser and infinitely sadder, the doctor hands her a pamphlet. On its back cover, facing the camera, is the logo of the Instituto para la Rehabilitación de la Mujer y la Familia, or IRMA, a Mexican Catholic ministry that offers counseling for women suffering “post-abortion syndrome”—the medically unrecognized claim that terminating a pregnancy leads to serious psychological trauma.
When Mexico City’s law changed in 2007, allowing elective abortions in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, it was a substantial victory for reproductive rights advocates in a country, and a region, where the Catholic Church dominates daily life. Across Latin America, access to legal abortion is a rarity, and in 2007, all eyes turned to Mexico City to see how the experiment would play out—and whether it could be replicated. To date, only Uruguay has followed Mexico City in liberalizing its abortion law, and this June, the world watched as El Salvador denied a lifesaving abortion to a woman known as Beatriz for five months before finally allowing a C-section delivery for the nonviable fetus.
After decriminalization, however, a fierce backlash unfurled across Mexico. In the first three years, half of the country’s thirty-one provinces passed new constitutional amendments enshrining abortion bans—two of which were just upheld by Mexico’s Supreme Court this May. As a result of the amendments passed after 2007 in eighteen Mexican states, women in the provinces are increasingly being prosecuted for “attempted abortion,” often reported by hospital staff when they seek help after self-abortions, unsupervised use of the medical abortion drug misoprostol or unsafe back-alley terminations.
Regina Tames, a lawyer and executive director of the reproductive rights advocacy group GIRE (Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida) worked with several of the dozens of women being prosecuted for attempted abortion in 2012. If convicted, some of these women could face up to six years in jail, while others would be sentenced to fines or community service. Many were already condemned in their communities after newspapers printed their pictures and identified them as criminals and baby killers.
In Mexico’s so-called “Rosary Belt,” a band of ultraconservative states like Jalisco and Guanajuato in the center of the nation, anti-abortion advocates and other traditionalists are embracing US-style culture war tactics and rhetoric. Conservative Mexican Catholics have mobilized across the provinces to Catholicize public school education, block public health announcements for condoms, and even destroy public school books that contain comprehensive sex ed. Some anti-abortion activists have marched under a powerful old symbol: the flag of the 1920s Cristero War, which pitted devout Catholics against a secularizing government that persecuted religious expression. The bloody conflict resulted in atrocities on both sides, including priests being executed among their flocks—some since canonized as martyrs of the faith—and a 2012 film about the war has resonated with conservatives in both Mexico and the United States. (US Catholic commentator George Weigel recently went so far as to compare the contraception mandate in Obamacare to the legacy of the persecuted Cristeros.) Waving the flag now helps cast the terms of Mexico’s current abortion debate as a new clash in an ongoing war over religious freedom. Some abortion rights advocates say there’s a sense that today’s Mexican right “has the Cristero spirit again.”
Next to the harsh penalties of criminalization and the simmering threat of culture war, groups like IRMA and its peers seem to offer a softer, gentler approach to the anti-abortion cause. When I spoke with María del Carmen Alva López, she was preparing to meet with the ministry’s partners at Vifac, a nearby maternity home that houses women who have been convinced not to abort. Both IRMA and Vifac count themselves as part of a network of anti-abortion groups in Mexico, along with a proliferating number of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) that are adopting the same ostensibly women-centered focus that has marked the modern US anti-abortion movement.
On a sunny day in October, a 29-year-old Mexican-American woman named Katia walked into a CPC in the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Anzures, explaining that she thought she might be pregnant. After Katia entered and gave her name, she was taken to a back room by a Catholic volunteer, who asked her why she didn’t want her baby. If she was pregnant, the volunteer suggested, she should marry her boyfriend or, barring that, accept the center’s offer of a place to stay where her parents wouldn’t have to know. The CPC staffers told Katia that they would perform an ultrasound to show her the fetus, but first she was legally obligated to watch a video: a four-part movie starting with the miracle of life and proceeding to a graphic abortion, interspersed with testimony from women who had variously given birth to their babies and were happy, or who had chosen abortion and were devastated. When a CPC staffer who claimed to be a nurse finally performed the ultrasound, she puzzled at length over the image on the screen before suggesting that Katia was probably seven and a half weeks pregnant. When she left, they handed her a lollipop.
Katia’s experience would be nothing out of the ordinary in heartland America, where CPCs have been a fixture since the 1960s. What’s new is that this model has been exported to Mexico, where anti-abortion groups have established more than forty CPCs in recent years.
Frequently posing as medical facilities, and often located right next door to actual abortion clinics, CPCs function by attracting women with free pregnancy tests and implied offers of abortion services, only to ambush them with graphic videos, intensive anti-abortion coercion and strategic misinformation. (Some in the United States have even been sanctioned for fraud.) Now, thanks to the expanding reach of American evangelical and Catholic anti-abortion activists, CPCs are becoming important players in the abortion debates overseas, in countries as varied as Ethiopia, Israel, Serbia and South Africa. Mexico is just one of the forty-seven nations where Heartbeat International, an anti-abortion network based in Ohio, now has partner centers. Heartbeat International, which represents more than 1,000 similar centers in the United States and 1,800 groups worldwide, has partnered with a Spanish-language website to track and promote Mexican CPCs as well. In fact, it was Heartbeat International’s website that had listed the Mexico City CPC that Katia—who was actually my translator—visited.
In Mexico, the history of CPCs (in Spanish, centros de ayuda para mujeres or CAMs) begins with Jorge Serrano Limón, founder of the early Mexican anti-abortion group National Pro-Life Committee, or ProVida. In 1989, Serrano Limón traveled to New Orleans for a conference put on by Human Life International (HLI), an American group whose ultraconservative Catholic founder, the late Father Paul Marx, charged that Jews control the abortion “industry.” In Louisiana, Serrano Limón (who has his own unsavory connections with a Nazi-sympathizing Mexican historian) met HLI staff and CPC founders who inspired him to set up his own center in Mexico, fighting abortion before it was even legal.
Serrano Limón fell into disgrace in the mid-2000s, as ProVida became the focus of an embarrassing embezzlement scandal known as “Tanga-Gate” (Thong-Gate)—in which government funds meant to buy ultrasound equipment were instead spent on unauthorized purchases, including women’s clothing and thong underwear. Pro-choice activists gleefully took the opportunity to protest Serrano Limón’s appearances by waving cheap thongs at him in public. But HLI continued to sponsor Mexican and Latin American CAMs.
Greg Berger, a US-born documentary filmmaker living in Mexico, made a film about Mexico’s CAMs in 2008, El Derecho de Decidir en Paz (The Right to Choose in Peace). Implicit in the centers’ rise was a tactical shift: from Mexico’s version of noisy clinic protests—amplified sessions of praying the rosary directed at entering patients—to appearing instead to offer women help in making an informed choice. “I think they found that it was much better to pretend that they were providing information about abortions,” Berger says, “a much better technique than the fetus-in-a-jar model.”
After Tanga-Gate, ProVida seemed to take another lesson from the United States, where women have risen to leadership positions in the anti-abortion movement, when it named a female president, Rocío Gálvez, whose promotion was announced while she was pregnant. “She was [presented as] a pregnant woman who was proud to bring life,” recalled Eugenia López Uribe, a radical young activist who is executive coordinator of the sexual rights group Balance, which works on both reproductive and LGBT rights.
This shift not only mirrored the US anti-abortion movement’s trajectory but also marked a moment when US partners began exerting more influence. At Gálvez’s inauguration celebration in an expensive Mexico City hotel, recalls López Uribe, the featured speakers were all from the United States, and the organizers even screened an anti-abortion video clearly made in the States and featuring an African-American baby.
It’s no coincidence that the Spanish-language pamphlets that the CAMs hand out bear the exact same pictures of mangled fetuses as the anti-abortion protest signs on the Washington Mall. On the back of one gory leaflet collected by López Uribe’s group Balance, a black-and-white tract with images of dismembered second-trimester fetuses under the caption Human trash, there is listed, in small type, the name and address of its publisher—in Cincinnati, Ohio. And when Mexican women show up at a CAM, it’s often an American movie they see: a subtitled version of the gruesome anti-abortion classic The Silent Scream.
To Mexico’s pro-choice community, the ties between the Mexican and US anti-abortion movements are so blatant as to be self-evident. There is funding flowing from North to South, but probably more important is the wholesale migration of the US anti-abortion model. “Serrano Limón went and took courses in the United States, networked and got ready,” explained Sofía Román Montes, coordinator at the pro-choice group Equidad de Género. “He used tactics from the US: The Silent Scream, the screaming at women, the vans with ultrasounds. That was all from the United States. Nothing is made here.”
Well, there might be one part of the Mexican CAMs that is indigenous, a sort of local twist. Though my translator Katia emerged from her visit to the CAM with the suggestion that she was nearly two months pregnant, the ultrasound reading was false: Katia was not pregnant. According to Mexican reproductive rights groups, such false diagnoses by CAMs are routine, with widespread reports of women being shown ultrasound images of fetuses far more advanced than they could possibly be carrying—for example, a woman early in her first trimester being shown images from a late-second-term pregnancy—as well as numerous instances of women who were not pregnant being shown an ultrasound of their “baby.”
Abortion rights advocates believe that the CAMs are showing prerecorded videos instead of actual ultrasounds. When a nonpregnant student working with Balance went to a clinic, she was shown an ultrasound image of a 13-week-old fetus. And Equidad de Género’s Román Montes seconded the experience: every time she’s sent employees into CAMs undercover, she says, “all of our workers come out pregnant, too.”
* * *
Like the CAMs, María Del Carmen Alva López’s group IRMA was similarly inspired by the US anti-abortion movement. Twenty-five years ago, Alva conducted her college thesis work on US anti-abortion movement leaders, interviewing many at Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s official post-abortion ministry, which has chapters in more than 110 US dioceses. Alva dreamed of setting up her own group in Mexico. After a colleague in Monterrey offered to translate Project Rachel’s materials for her, she started her own organization and assembled a team of counselors.
Today, IRMA offers individual counseling and special Bible-study weekend retreats for women who have had abortions, modeling their therapy on a support group manual written and sold by Rachel’s Vineyard—another US organization that takes its name from the biblical Rachel, who mourns her dead children, this one founded by the New York–based anti-abortion group Priests for Life. On Rachel’s Vineyard’s website, IRMA is listed as the group’s Mexican partner.
Last year, an official of Human Life International spoke of visiting “as many key players as possible” to help coordinate the fight against Mexico’s “culture of death.” HLI also sponsored the creation of a large-scale, online anti-abortion resource site in Latin America. The Knights of Columbus send money. And on it goes.
Reproductive rights advocates say that with this support, the anti-abortion movement in Mexico has built a strong advocacy network to rival that of feminist NGOs, growing beyond the initial activism of the Catholic Church and ProVida to a coalition of hundreds, with new groups sprouting up “like mushrooms.” One “pro-family” leader in Mexico, Red Familia, aligns hundreds of partner organizations on a shared traditionalist platform. Red Familia is itself part of a larger network, the American-based global conservative coalition called the World Congress of Families. The WCF is an interfaith right-wing group that condemns the international expansion of abortion and LGBT rights as a form of US cultural imperialism, forcing decadent liberal social mores on allegedly orthodox, traditional nations.
It seems like a laughable accusation, given conservatives’ own abundant overseas networking, but it’s a familiar argument to filmmaker Berger, who was inspired to make his 2008 film on CAMs by the frustrating popularity of the charge that abortion rights are a form of “Yankee imperialism” aimed at limiting Latino birth rates. There’s a reason why the story has appeal: the shameful history of abusive population control measures enacted on the developing world, often by US groups or with US money, give potency to the claim that abortion rights are a form of contemporary eugenics being forced by Americans onto a life-loving Catholic people. But what Berger found instead was that the reverse was true. While Mexico’s Catholicism may be indisputable, the recipe for its “pro-vida” movement was the true US export: its leaders trained and supported in the United States, its activism model a mirror image of the US one.
Mexican women, on the other hand, have needed and obtained abortions since long before colonialism. “The desire for a woman to end her pregnancy when she doesn’t want to carry to term isn’t an import from the US,” said Berger. “That’s something that women go through every day and is a personal experience—not somehow imported from abroad.”
A girl walks into a fake pregnancy clinic…” This sounds like the beginning of a joke, and what comes next is so outrageous that it might be laughable if it weren’t dangerous.
When Caitlin, a volunteer for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, entered a “crisis pregnancy center” (CPC), as these fake clinics are called, posing as a scared woman in need of help, she got just the opposite. The video below highlights the lies:
Caitlin was told in this facility that birth control pills are a form of “enslavement,” that they would give her cancer and that condoms don’t work because they’re “naturally porous.” But Caitlin didn’t get her lies straight up; they also came with a side of shame. The counselor also told her, “I don’t think you should be having sex because you’re not married.” And, worst of all, when this young woman tested the counselor’s response to an assault victim by telling a hypothetical story about being raped while intoxicated, she was told, “OK, well just don’t do it again.”
Taking a page from the junk science that fuels climate change denial and “reparative” anti-gay therapy, CPCs claim to be medical facilities but are nothing more than outposts of an extreme movement whose agenda is to—by any means necessary—frighten women out of having premarital sex and out of exercising their constitutional rights to terminate an unintended pregnancy. Caitlin’s experience was not an anomaly. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia conducted an investigation of fifty-six crisis pregnancy centers in the state, and a full 71 percent of them shared bad information with women seeking their services, posing extreme danger, both physical and emotional, to the women who seek their services.
The obvious question is how these places stay open. In Virginia, part of the answer is Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general and Republican candidate for governor. He has said he was “proud” to help establish a “Choose Life” license plate as a state senator, the proceeds of which go directly to CPCs. (Similar plates fund CPCs all over the country, from Mississippi toMassachusetts.)
License plates aren’t the only way states divert money to CPCs. In June, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a budget that diverts money away from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and sends it to crisis pregnancy centers. That’s money meant to help the most vulnerable families pay for things like food or clothing or rent, now paying for facilities to harass and misinform some of those very same women who might need that assistance. And North Carolina’s budget moved $250,000 out of the Women’s Health Fund, which provides care for the poor and uninsured, and sent it to the state’s largest group of CPCs.
I’ve written before about the extreme lengths these politicians go to in order to pass unpopular mandates that rob women of our constitutional rights. Knowing that these measures are out of line with modern American family values, anti-choice politicians bury them in budgets, call endless special sessions and attach them to completely unrelated bills. In North Carolina, anti-choice restrictions were plugged into a motorcycle safety bill, spawning a glut of “motorcycle vagina” jokes that had women around the country laughing for days—we have to laugh not to cry.
Colorlines exposed the disturbing campaign to target women of color and poor communities by crisis pregnancy centers. The in-depth report looks at how CPCs use deceptive tactics to lure women into their facilities and then, with no regard for the issues they face, shame them into thinking they have only one choice:
Fueled by a race-baiting, national marketing campaign and the missionary-like evangelism of its affiliates, Care Net has turned the complex reality behind black abortion rates into a single, fictional story.
We can and must educate women about their full range of choices before and after they are pregnant. We must support policies that reduce unintended pregnancies and increase access to abortion for all women. We must fight the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and other high-quality health centers and fight to keep clinics that offer genuine medical services to women (and men!) when they need them.
While CPCs are the vehicle trying to rob women of our rights and our autonomy, the drivers are the politicians like Ken Cuccinelli who support them with special protections and taxpayer funds. Accountability starts at the ballot box. No politician who supports crisis pregnancy centers should see another term. That starts with making sure Cuccinelli loses his race for governor come November. This would be a victory not just for Virginia, but for women around the country.
My hometown of Granite City has such a facility in the name of Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers.
Chipping Away at Choice: Five Growing Threats to Women’s Healthcare Access and Autonomy | People For the American Way
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- TRAP Laws
- Crisis Pregnancy Centers
- Mandatory Waiting Periods
- Race- and Sex-Selective Abortion Bans
- Interference with Medical Providers
- Broadsides on Roe v. Wade: The Growing Danger of Personhood and Heartbeat Bills
The “War on Women” currently being waged by conservatives in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures is well documented. From attacking contraception to insulting rape survivors to threatening funding for reproductive healthcare, anti-choice legislators and activists are staging an assault on women’s health, privacy and autonomy.
But while extreme attacks on reproductive rights – such as radical “personhood” bills that threaten to criminalize even some forms of birth control – rightly receive significant attention and opposition, more incremental anti-choice proposals frequently escape wide notice and face minimal resistance as they become law. Often presented as “common-sense” or “women’s health” measures, these laws are in fact meant to gradually chip away at reproductive health access, undermining the foundation of long-standing rights.
By passing mandatory ultrasound and waiting period laws, or requiring doctors to provide inaccurate medical information, anti-choice politicians create a culture in which women’s rights are up for grabs. As conservatives call for smaller government, they pass laws that intrude into our most private and significant decisions, put a script in our doctors’ hands, and tell us we do not know our own minds. In addition, these laws are meant to chip away at women’s constitutionally protected right to autonomy over our own bodies in a deliberate attempt to undermineRoe v. Wade.
The list of anti-choice tactics below is by no means comprehensive. State legislatures in recent years have had some success in restricting women’s healthcare through defunding Planned Parenthood and other family planning services. At the national level, activists and legislators have staged a very public battle to restrict access to birth control and emergency contraception through the Affordable Care Act.
But this report outlines some of the quiet ways that anti-choice activists and legislators are working to restrict women’s access to safe, affordable and reliable reproductive care. These tactics are often overshadowed by louder, broader debates, but their ultimate goal is the same: to whittle down women’s reproductive rights, and eliminate access to safe and legal abortion.
Five Quiet Threats to Women’s Health
- TRAP Laws
One of the most common ways state legislatures restrict women’s access to healthcare is through Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (“TRAP”) laws, which subject clinics and doctors to burdensome and unnecessary restrictions in order to force them to close.
Designed to look like harmless regulations, TRAP laws often evade scrutiny and are frequently passed without significant opposition. But these laws are far from harmless: In fact, TRAP laws have a devastating impact on women’s access to quality, affordable healthcare.
Currently, 45 states and the District of Columbia have TRAP laws in place. State legislators claim that these laws make clinics safer for women and ensure that abortions are performed in an appropriate medical setting. In reality, however, TRAP laws burden clinics with overly stringent and unnecessary requirements that often necessitate major remodeling or other cost-prohibitive measures.
Some TRAP laws take the form of building regulations that require clinics to perform costly and unnecessary renovations. A Virginia clinic threatened by new TRAP regulations this year estimated that the cost of compliance could exceed $500,000. It ultimately decided to shut its doors. In Texas, a TRAP law proposed in early 2013 would require abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as surgical clinics, even though many of the clinics only administer medical abortions, which do not involve surgery. The bill stalled in the Senate, one vote short of the supermajority needed to bring it to the floor. It has since been proposed again, and is currently in committee in the Texas Senate.
Other TRAP laws require doctors providing abortions to obtain official affiliations with local hospitals. This can be a difficult or impossible task, especially for clinics that rely on doctors visiting from out of state. A 2012 Mississippi law targeting the state’s lone abortion provider required all doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges; when the clinic’s doctors sought those privileges, every local hospital denied their requests. (One concern was that anti-choice protestors would interfere with the hospitals’ work if they supported abortion providers. ) Fortunately for Mississippi women, a federal court granted an injunction against enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement. The court found that, by forcing the state’s only provider to close, the law would place an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
Anti-choice legislators often tout TRAP laws as pro-women. But these laws in fact prevent women from obtaining care. By closing clinics, TRAP laws cut off access not only to abortion services, but to women’s access to contraception, cancer screenings, STD testing and other vital healthcare services.
Because TRAP laws are often embedded within complicated legislation and involve seemingly reasonable or innocuous regulation, they can fail to attract attention from the public. This allows legislators to pass these harmful laws without meaningful opposition or debate. In addition to casting TRAP laws as beneficial for women’s health, anti-choice lawmakers have employed a deceptive strategy of loading TRAP legislation with more controversial provisions. The contested portions of the bill are later dropped, so that conservative lawmakers can make a show of compromising, even while they achieve their ultimate goal of passing TRAP laws. For example, in January 2013, Indiana legislators introduced a bill that would have required two transvaginal ultrasounds before a woman could be given RU-486 for a medical abortion, and included various TRAP provisions. In response to considerable public protest, the ultrasound provisions were later dropped. However, the TRAP provisions passed. In this way, legislators use extreme and controversial anti-choice measures as a Trojan horse for insidious laws that chip away at a woman’s right to choose.
- Crisis Pregnancy Centers
Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are so-called “abortion alternative” sites run by private organizations that claim to provide support, information and medical care to pregnant women. CPCs use misleading tactics to draw women in: The centers advertise themselves as legitimate health centers, purposely distorting the truth to take advantage of vulnerable women. In reality, CPCs do not present women with a full range of reproductive health options; instead, they use false information about abortion to pressure women into continuing unwanted pregnancies.
CPCs receive significant government funding but are subject to minimal oversight.
In 2011, Texas cut its annual funding for family planning services by two-thirds (from $111 million to $37.9 million) over a two-year period, while increasing state funding for CPCs.All but one of Texas’ 33 CPCs have overt religious affiliations, and a government contractor’s inspection found that many clinics failed to properly label religious material as separate from educational material.
A NARAL investigation in North Carolina found that most CPCs in the state had no medical professionals on staff, yet 75 percent of the centers failed to disclose that they were not medical facilities. What’s more, over two-thirds of the clinics that NARAL investigated provided false or misleading information about abortion to those seeking care. An investigator posing as a Jewish woman was told she would not go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity – at five different centers.
CPCs also receive federal funding. Between 2001 and 2006, CPCs received approximately $30 million in federal funds. A 2006 congressional report found that 20 out of 23 federally funded centers had given false or misleading information about the risks of abortion.
CPCs employ a variety of misleading tactics, including enticing low-income and uninsured women with promises of free medical care, usually pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Although many centers actually do provide these services, this is the extent of the medical assistance they offer. The results are then used as a tactic to pressure women into forgoing abortion. CPCs have also been known to rent spaces next door to legitimate women’s health clinics in an effort to confuse women seeking medical advice or abortions.
CPCs have become such an effective tool for the anti-choice movement that conservative legislators are increasingly including the centers in their efforts to block women from obtaining abortion care. In March 2013, South Dakota became the first (and, to date, only) state torequirea woman to visit a CPC before obtaining an abortion. The state also extended an existing 72-hour required waiting period to exclude weekends and holidays, with the alleged purpose of ensuring that a woman has ample time to schedule an appointment at a CPC before the procedure. The CPC visit law is currently blocked while a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood proceeds in federal court.
- Mandatory Waiting Periods
Mandatory waiting periods require a woman to wait a certain amount of time (usually 24 hours) between consulting with a physician and undergoing an abortion. To date, more than 25 states have passed such laws ; the longest current waiting period is in South Dakota, where women are forced to wait 72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, before accessing abortion care. Proponents of these laws claim they ensure that patients have time to receive counseling and consider all the options before having an abortion.In fact, studies have shown that mandatory waiting periods hurt patients, causing both emotional and financial harm.
Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties do not contain a clinic that performs abortions. This leaves millions of women without sufficient access to abortion care, forcing some patients to travel hundreds of miles to reach the nearest clinic. Waiting periods disproportionately impact low-income and rural women because these laws require a woman to make two separate trips to an abortion clinic within a short period of time. This may necessitate taking unpaid time off from work, making childcare arrangements, paying for lodging and traveling long distances. Many women seeking abortions are low-income single mothers, and these laws place an enormous burden on such women; their limited means are stretched by anti-choice laws, and waiting periods mean that they must spend more time away from their children and jobs.
Waiting periods do the opposite of what legislators claim – rather than giving women time to consider their choice, they simply make it more difficult and costly to access desired care. These paternalistic laws assume that women do not carefully consider their options before choosing abortion. In fact, evidence shows just the opposite. Studies show that waiting periods have an adverse emotional impact on women and do not change their minds about abortion. The primary impact – and intent – of waiting periods is to make it more difficult for women to obtain the care they need and want, and to which they are legally entitled.
- Race- and Sex-Selective Abortion Bans
Conservative lawmakers are increasingly turning to seemingly innocuous bans on race- and sex-selective abortion in the effort to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare. Evidence suggests that the actual incidence of race- and sex-selective abortions in the U.S. is minimal. In practice, these laws do nothing to combat actual discrimination, but instead serve as one more barrier to access, especially for minority women.
In 2011, Arizona became the first state to ban race- and sex-selective abortions. The law made it a felony to knowingly perform or finance an abortion sought due to the race or sex of the fetus. A federal ban – Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) – has also been proposed, but it failed to pass in the House.
The ACLU is currently suing over the Arizona law, arguing that it creates an unconstitutional interference with a woman’s right to choose, and that it requires doctors to engage in racial profiling and discrimination. A major concern is that Asian-American women will be profiled and discriminated against in seeking abortion care, due to stereotypes that such women would be more likely to seek abortions of female fetuses.
Advocates are also concerned that African-American women will face discrimination and incorrect assumptions about their motivations for seeking abortions. Higher rates of abortion among African-American women have led conservatives to claim that race-selective abortion is a widespread problem and even to allege that abortion rights advocates are perpetrating a “genocide” against African Americans. These claims are not only false; they are insulting to women making private, personal choices about abortion.
These laws are dangerous to women of color and immigrants, as they place yet another barrier in the way of accessing safe reproductive healthcare. Women may be deterred from seeking care if they fear discrimination, refusal of service or criminal liability. These bans are virtually impossible to enforce; they only make it more difficult for vulnerable women to access care, while doing nothing to achieve the stated goal.
- Interference with Medical Providers
Some of the most insidious laws seeking to limit women’s access to reproductive care create barriers between women and their doctors by mandating that doctors provide medically inaccurate information or perform medically unnecessary procedures.
Restrictive laws do not protect women or lower rates of abortion; instead, they worsen the burden on women and may have a deleterious effect on the trend toward early abortion.Such laws also waste medical resources by mandating unnecessary treatment and interfere with physician judgment. Instead of a decision made by a doctor, in consultation with a patient and considering her health and circumstances, the government tells doctors what they must do, regardless of patient needs or medical necessity.
Outdated Constraints on Early-term Abortions
In the early stages of pregnancy, a woman can choose medical abortion instead of a surgical abortion. In a medical abortion, the pregnancy is terminated by taking an FDA-approved medication that consists of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol (sold under the brand name Mifeprex). Medical abortion is a safe and effective treatment for women in the first seven to nine weeks of pregnancy. The pill is safe enough to be taken at home, and normally does not require any follow-up care.
The World Health Organization has long recommended that nurse-midwives, nurse-practitioners and physician assistants be permitted to prescribe Mifeprex. However, FDA guidelines state that only a licensed physician may prescribe Mifeprex, and the agency requires that women seeking to take the drug make three separate visits to a doctor. On the first visit, the patient is counseled and given a dose of Mifeprex. Two days later, she returns for a second dose. Two weeks after that, she has a follow-up visit.
These cumbersome requirements are severely outdated and place an unnecessary burden on women. One study found that by 2001, 83 percent of providers were not using the FDA guidelines for medical abortion. However, several states still require doctors to comply with some or all of these guidelines. Two states have laws requiring complete compliance with the FDA guidelines, while 39 others require compliance with some of the guidelines. Most of these states limit prescribing authority to licensed physicians, while 10 require an ultrasound before Mifeprex is prescribed and eight require a physician to be present when the patient takes the medication, ruling out telemedicine.
Nine out of 10 abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, partly due to the advent of Mifeprex. Laws that restrict access to medical abortion place a burden on women by requiring multiple unnecessary doctor visits, depriving them of the chance to take the medication in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, forcing them to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds and attend counseling sessions, and requiring them to see a physician for a simple prescription. Instead of respecting the judgment and autonomy of women and their need for healthcare access, these laws complicate what should be a simple medical treatment.
Mandatory Counseling Laws
Mandatory counseling laws are another tactic used by anti-choice legislators to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Such laws limit a doctor’s ability to adequately address a patient’s needs on an individual basis, and threaten patient health by requiring that they be misinformed by their medical provider.
Currently, 25 states require that a woman be informed about the abortion procedure and fetal development. Thirty-three states require that a woman be told the gestational age of the fetus, and 27 states require counseling on the stages of fetal development. Twelve states mandate that a patient be told of the ability of a fetus to feel pain, despite the lack of scientific evidence for such a claim. (An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fetuses cannot experience pain before 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy.) Five states require that a woman be told that personhood begins at conception (a blatantly unscientific claim). Twenty-four states require counseling about the potential risks of abortion. Several of these states mandate that a doctor provide inaccurate information on the connection between abortion and breast cancer, and abortion and infertility. Several states mandate that doctors give women biased information about the emotional and psychological impact of abortion.
By requiring medical professionals to provide biased and incorrect information, mandatory counseling laws corrupt the doctor-patient relationship and sacrifice women’s well-being. To the lawmakers behind these bills, it is more important to dissuade women from abortion than it is to provide comprehensive and accurate medical information. Doctors are often unwilling participants in this charade, in which they are given a politically motivated script that they must present to their patients. Instead of receiving competent medical care, patients are bombarded with anti-choice propaganda that disregards their wishes, needs and rights.
Mandatory Ultrasound Laws
Mandatory ultrasound laws are another way in which legislators interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Such laws require abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on a woman seeking a first-trimester abortion, even though such a procedure is generally not medically necessary. Anti-choice activists claim that these laws help women to understand their decisions by giving them the benefit of more information. However, by mandating unnecessary medical procedures, these laws burden women, make abortion more costly and time-consuming, waste medical resources and interfere with a doctor’s discretion.
One physician at a Texas clinic, forced to describe a fetus with a severe molecular flaw, told his patient, “I’m so sorry that I have to do this – but if I don’t, I can lose my license.”After reading state-mandated literature on the risks of abortion, the physician informed the woman that “the legal side” of her abortion care would be over only when she returned to the clinic after a mandatory 24-hour waiting period: “Then [after the waiting period] we’ll care for you and give you the information you need in the way we think is right.”
Currently, 21 states have laws requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds. Louisiana and Texas require a doctor to perform an ultrasound, and then show and describe the image to the woman. The other 19 states have varying requirements that a woman be given the opportunity to view an ultrasound image. In 2012, Virginia was at the center of a debate over a proposed law that would have required women to undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound before accessing abortion care. Facing a major public outcry, legislators amended the law to require an abdominal ultrasound instead, and this version of the bill was signed into law by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. A 2013 attempt to repeal the bill was voted down by Republicans in the state legislature.
Like many other laws that restrict abortion access, mandatory ultrasounds burden women and make it more difficult to obtain care. An abdominal ultrasound performed before 12 weeks of pregnancy (when the vast majority of abortions take place) is generally not medically necessary, making such laws a waste of time for women and medical providers. Mandatory ultrasound laws also cost women money. An ultrasound costs between $200 and $1,200, and many insurance companies will not cover the procedure, as it is medically unnecessary. Virginia’s law requires that a woman be given information on obtaining a free ultrasound. However, a list of free ultrasound providers compiled by the Virginia Department of Health was dominated by crisis pregnancy centers, which provide biased or false information and often do not have medical personnel on staff.
Mandatory ultrasound laws are also used in conjunction with waiting period laws to delay a woman’s access to abortion care. In states with both laws, a woman often has to wait 24 hours or more between ultrasound and abortion. These delays fall especially hard on low-income women and those living in rural areas.
Finally, mandatory ultrasound laws do not change women’s minds about abortion. A study by The American Independent found that viewing an ultrasound image or hearing a fetal heartbeat did not change women’s minds about abortion. In passing these laws, legislators betray a fundamental misunderstanding about the reasons women choose to terminate their pregnancies. In reality, women primarily have abortions due to external circumstances (75 percent of patients cited existing family obligations and financial constraints, and 60 percent already had children. ). Mandatory ultrasound policies are a coercive effort at emotional manipulation that has no place in the law and whose only result is to harm women.
Broadsides on Roe v. Wade: The Growing Danger of Personhood and Heartbeat Bills
Since the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to choose an abortion in 1973’sRoe v. Wade,anti-choice activists have been split on how to go about restricting abortion rights. Several major anti-choice groups, including Americans United for Life, argue for taking incremental measures in legislatures and in the courts to chip away atRoe’s protections. AUL’s general counsel once compared his group’s approach to carving a Christmas ham: “Each slice makes it smaller and smaller until it is no more.”
While this “slice-by-slice” approach still dominates the anti-choice movement, more extreme attacks on choice have begun to enjoy some success in states and in the U.S. Congress. These blatantly unconstitutional head-on attacks onRoe – including “personhood,” “heartbeat” and “fetal pain” measures – are frequently blocked by voters, legislatures and the courts. But even if these measures never become law, they present a real threat to women’s health: By spreading these extreme views, anti-choice activists create a culture in which established rights are questioned, abortion providers live in fear and women’s health access continues to be up for debate.
While incremental measures such as those outlined above provide the greatest immediate threat to women’s healthcare access, it is important to also understand the risks posed by extreme broadsides onRoe v. Wade. In fact,anti-choice advocates see even these extremist laws as incremental steps in chipping away at abortion rights: Even if personhood and heartbeat bills are overturned upon challenge, they have succeeded in calling abortion rights into question, and forcing pro-choice groups to spend time and money fighting these unconstitutional bans.
The “personhood” movement defines life as beginning at conception; a fetal personhood law would grant full legal rights to human embryos from the moment of fertilization.Personhood laws present an extreme threat to women’s rights and health, preventing doctors from providing appropriate care to women, even when their lives are in danger. For example, under personhood laws, doctors could face restrictions on the treatment of ectopic and molar pregnancies, life-threatening conditions that necessitate early termination. Personhood also leaves no room for considering the health or well-being of the pregnant woman. Under such a law, a woman would be forced to continue a pregnancy even if it was conceived against her will, through rape or incest.
North Dakota is the only state to have passed a personhood amendment to date, although several other states are considering such laws. Passed by the state legislature in March 2013, the measure will come before voters in November 2014. If successful, it would change the state’s constitution to include a complete ban on abortion with no exceptions. Personhood laws are in blatant violation ofRoe v. Wade andPlanned Parenthood v. Casey, which held that the state does not have a strong enough interest to justify banning abortion before viability (about 24 weeks), and would therefore almost certainly be struck down if challenged in court. But any decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court, which could overrule (or just find a way around) its precedents. The ultimate goal of the extreme personhood agenda is to overturnRoe v. Wadeand ban all abortions in the United States.
Heartbeat bills are less extreme than personhood bills, but, if passed and allowed to stand, would still severely limit abortion rights. Under a heartbeat law, abortions are banned after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected on an ultrasound. A heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy – before some women may even be aware that they are pregnant –but can only be detected using a transvaginal ultrasound. Under a heartbeat law, a woman seeking an early-term abortion may have to submit to an unnecessary and invasive procedure to find out if she can legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Heartbeat bills place an arbitrary limitation on a woman’s right to choose. The ability to hear a fetal heartbeat is completely irrelevant to the safety, necessity or legality of an abortion. Such laws are merely another attempt by anti-choice legislators to make it impossible for women to access safe and legal healthcare.
To date, North Dakota and Arkansas are the only states to have passed heartbeat bills, although similar laws are being considered by several others. North Dakota’s heartbeat bill will go into effect on August 1, 2013, but the Center for Reproductive Rights (among other advocacy organizations) has stated that it will file a lawsuit challenging the law before that date. ACLU and CRR are currently challenging the Arkansas law; in May 2013, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking the law from going into effect.
“Fetal pain” bills restrict abortion based on dubious scientific evidence that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Since 2010, 10 states have passed fetal pain bills.In June 2013, the U.S. House approved H.R. 1797, a national version of a fetal pain bill, which would ban abortion beginning at 20 weeks. However, such a law is unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny. Idaho’s law was the first to be rejected by the courts. A federal district court struck down the law, citingRoe v. Wade’s determination that pre-viability bans on abortion are impermissible. Similar laws in other states have been temporarily or permanently enjoined.
The proliferation of extreme, blatantly unconstitutional “personhood” and “heartbeat” bills rightly continues to dominate headlines. But behind this troubling trend, quieter attacks on choice continue to chip away at women’s constitutional right to legal abortion and reproductive healthcare. Reproductive choice loses its meaning if women lose the ability to access quality, affordable care. Anti-choice activists and lawmakers know that short of a reversal ofRoe v. Wade, these incremental measures are the best hope they have for eliminating reproductive choice.
“Don't be so humble, you're not that great.”: "Kasich Put Politics Before Women's Health: Fails to Use Veto Pen to Strike Dangerous Measures from State Budget" (Naral...
The five provisions that Governor Kasich signed into law today will:
- Create a new consent process for women seeking abortion care that forces a doctor to perform medically unnecessary tests and give medically ambiguous information about the viability of the pregnancy.
- Require that all ambulatory surgical centers have transfer agreements with hospitals and grant authority to the anti-choice director of the Ohio Department of Health to cherry-pick what constitutes a valid transfer agreement, or variance, for any reason. The budget also singles out and blocks public hospitals from having transfer agreements or allowing their doctors to use their admitting privileges to contract with abortion clinics.
- Reprioritize family planning funding to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning experts, many of whom serve the poor in rural counties. This will wreak havoc on tens of thousands of patients that rely on these facilities for cancer screenings, birth control and other basic health care, and could result in eleven counties losing access to subsidized family planning services entirely.
- Divert federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds intended to be used for cash support for mothers and their children to unregulated crisis pregnancy centers. A year-long investigation conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation into crisis pregnancy centers revealed widespread use of biased and medically inaccurate information.
- Ban rape crisis programs funded by state dollars from counseling rape victims about all their medical options if they get pregnant from the assault.
Ohio lawmakers are currently trying to pass a state budget, but many of the debates over the legislation have nothing to do with the state’s financial policies whatsoever. Abortion opponents have hijacked the budget negotiations to launch several attacks on women’s health, tacking on provisions that would defund Planned Parenthood, shut down abortion clinics, and redirect state funding to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers.” And the budget only continues to get worse for Ohio women.
On Tuesday, anti-abortion Republicans in the state added yet another budget provision related to reproductive health. The new amendment would require doctors to look for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion, presumably with an unnecessary ultrasound procedure, and then “notify the woman about the presence of the heartbeat.” Abortion doctors would also be required to tell women about the fetus’ likelihood of “surviving to full term.”
As the policy group Innovation Ohio notes, this language is borrowed from the controversial “heartbeat” ban that Ohio Republicans tried to push through last year. That radical legislation would have criminalized abortion after a fetal heartbeat could first be detected — which typically occurs around six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. Despite the fact that Republicans ultimately gave up on that measure at the end of last session, acknowledging it was too controversial to win support even among anti-choice groups, far-right abortion opponents vowed to keep trying.
Ohio’s budget bill passed out of committee on Tuesday night, and now heads to full votes in the House and Senate on Thursday. Both chambers are expected to approve it. At this point, Gov. John Kasich (R) is the only lawmaker who will be able to edit the budget bill — and, if he chooses, remove some of the abortion-related provisions. But so far, he hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to make any changes once the legislation lands on his desk.
“I think the legislature has a right to stick things in budgets and put policy in budgets… There’s nothing out of the ordinary here in the way in which they’ve decided this,” Kasich said on Wednesday when asked about the fetal heartbeat provision. He said he would make a decision about the bill when it gets closer to the July 1 deadline for its passage. “I’ll look at the language, keeping in mind that I’m pro-life,” the governor added.
Televangelist Pat Robertson warned today that America will face divine punishment if it doesn’t recriminalize abortion, telling 700 Club co-host Wendy Griffith today that only anti-choice laws can “avert the wrath of the Lord, but it will come upon this nation unless we do something.” Robertson and Griffith discussed a puff piece about a Pennsylvania program backed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbertt to fund anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers,” which frequently offer misleading and inaccurate information to women.
Robertson hailed Corbett and hoped that his leadership could end the “holocaust” of abortion, which he said is worse than anything done by Adolf Hitler. Griffith called legal abortion “insane” and Robertson warned “we’re going to have to pay a price one of these days for what we’re doing.”
The latest filings from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads show a last minute contribution of $1 million received just days before the election (10/29/12) from Gary Heavin — the co-founder of Curves International Inc., which calls itself “the world’s leader in women’s fitness.”
Curves, a chain of women-only fitness center franchises, claims nearly 10,000 locations in more than 85 countries. Heavin and his fellow co-founder, his wife Diane, sold Curves International to an private equity firm in October, but they remain prominently featured on the company’s website. The Heavins say they “share a passion for and commitment to women’s health and fitness.” But his massive donation to the right-wing super PAC is only the latest in a long pattern of their efforts
in support of policies that undermine women’s equality in the workplace and restrict women’s access to health care services.
American Crossroads spent $91 million to elect Mitt Romney over President Obama. Romney refused to endorse key pro-women legislation including the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, but backed reinstating the “global gag rule” on even discussing abortion as a family planning option and supported the infamous Blunt Amendment to allow employers to deny health benefits that go against their personal views. Crossroads also worked to help far-right extremists like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and George Allen. Much of the American Crossroads attack strategy focused on criticizing Obamacare and those who backed the effort to expand health insurance access to all Americans.
And this past election isn’t the only time that Curves and the Heavins have worked against women’s reproductive rights. Gary Heavin pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars for controversial “pregnancy crisis centers” that try to talk women out of abortions and have been accused to providing false information. They also made large donations to abstinence-only education programs — programs which often misinform and make teens more likely to engage in risky behavior and become pregnant. Curves also pulled its funding for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation over its objection to the charity’s funding for Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening services. In a 2004 editorial, Mr. Heavin attacked Planned Parenthood’s sex education literature, writing “I have a 10-year-old daughter. I would absolutely not allow her to be exposed to this material. I don’t want her being taught masturbation and told that homosexuality is normal.”
That anti-choice and anti-LGBT stance was further demonstrated when Curves partnered with the American Family Association — a group that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.”Gary Heavin has also been an outspoken enthusiast for televangelist Pat Robertson, who has blamed natural disasters on same-sex marriage equality and blamed 9/11 on abortion, the separation of church and state, and civil liberties groups.
Taxpayer Funded ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Tell Jewish Woman To Convert To Christianity Or Go To Hell
As ThinkProgress has reported, so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to help women in need are actually established by anti-abortion activists with the sole objective of shaming women out of having abortions. Despite receiving federal and state funding, they have a history of preying on and misleading pregnant women who are seeking abortions and giving them false medical information to dissuade them from making their own decisions.
After a year-long investigation, a new report to be released today by the pro-choice group NARAL reveals that those problems plague the vast majority of North Carolina’s crisis pregnancy centers. In addition to providing false medical information, many of the centers actively proselytize and tell women of non-Christian faiths to convert or face damnation:
In recent years, NARAL Pro-Choice state chapters have conducted investigations into the pregnancy clinics in New York, California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia, reaching the same general conclusions. Over the past year, the North Carolina office of the organization embarked on an identical investigation, studying the centers’ websites and other material, and sending staff and volunteers posing as pregnant women or couples into the clinics. […]
NARAL says it found the majority of the centers it investigated in North Carolina had no medical professionals on staff, and only a quarter of them disclosed they were not medical facilities. More than two-thirds provided distorted or false information about abortion risks and consequences.
The report says one Jewish investigator who posed as a pregnant woman was told at five centers she wouldn’t go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity, and that one volunteer challenged her to become a “born-again virgin.”
The number of centers in North Carolina has nearly doubled since 2006, and there are eight times as many of them as there are abortion clinics. Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the group’s investigators found numerous instances where crisis pregnancy centers were misinforming and misleading women. “Staff and volunteers often use propaganda to dissuade women from abortions,” she said.
North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers have flooded these anti-abortion centers with taxpayer money while defunding Planned Parenthood and taking money away from legitimate family planning centers that provide medical services. Two new state laws will drive even more funding and patients their way. Money from sales of the new “Choose Life” license plates will go to the centers, and starting this Wednesday, a state-run website will launch and list the places that provide free ultrasounds.
There’s one of these clinics in Laramie. When I called there to write an article about the center and its mission several months ago, they said they wouldn’t talk to me unless I was pregnant and in need of counseling. I called there a few weeks later, told the counselor who answered the phone that was pregnant (I am not) and that I was thinking about having the baby instead of getting an abortion. She invited me to participate in “Earn While You Learn,” their version of parenting classes. From their website:
This program allows you to earn points toward items you need while you learn about the following:
- The basics of the Bible
- Sexual integrity
- Prenatal development
- The ten basic needs for children to succeed
- Balancing discipline and love with children
The counselor also said “millions of women” are “permanently damaged” by the “unnaturalness” that is abortion, and that further, if I wanted to seek an abortion, I was probably past the point I could get one. Never once did she ask how far along I was, and I didn’t volunteer that information. She asked if I wanted to come in, I declined, so she wanted to pray with me on the phone. Before I said yes or no, she began a rambling prayer for me and my “unborn heavenly child.” I hung up when she finished and felt slightly queasy.
I can only imagine what these places actually do to women, particularly when they are in a vulnerable position. Adding “basic” health care for free is only going to make this worse. I wonder if there’s an “Earn While You Learn” for that - basic Bible lessons in exchange for basic health care. To me, that’s akin emotional blackmail.