Activist Story Time: Backlash and a 4th Letter

Shortly after my third letter to the editor, which was published mid-August, there was a letter published in the paper from someone named Kelly Faust. Considering she has the same last name as The Pastor, I assume she’s either his wife or one of his daughters. Her letter, titled “Disappointed”, was written as a response to my letter.

I was disappointed to read Sam Simmon’s letter to the editor a couple weeks ago regarding those who are trying to help others. I felt she made some unfair assumptions about the people who choose to live out the belief to “love their neighbors”. Sam should be championing those (like 12-year old “A”) who are speaking up for the rights of the pre-born, because the very same people she is trying to discourage as they offer hope to others would help her if she was awaiting punishment for a crime in which she was innocent.

Sam is not omniscient and therefore is not able to state who is helped by those who are willing to stand for life. She does not know how many lives have been saved or the amount of financial help given or all the physical care represented by these people who genuinely care for both the mother and child.

Many times over the years, we have heard testimonies like, “I wish someone had been there to tell me the truth about abortion” or “Why didn’t someone tell us that condoms don’t protect from STDs?” To accuse crisis pregnancy centers as being “fake” clinic to manipulate and deceive women just so they carry out a pregnancy is incredible. Do the clinics that she supports give accurate information about all the STD possibilities even when contraceptives are used correctly? Do they warn of the health risks of having multiple sex partners? It is not the goal of those standing for life to cause offense or to interfere in “private” lives; the goal is to save mothers from a lifetime of regret and to rescue children sentenced to death solely for being “inconvenient.” The best “choice” for people that don’t want children or the emotional scars is to avoid the behavior that was designed to make children in the first place.

 

Seems I hit a nerve for having the audacity to point out that the protesters haven’t helped anyone and for telling the 12-year old protester to go out and do things that would actually help those in need.

I thought it was pretty bold of her to say that I made unfair assumptions about the protesters when they themselves have made plenty of unfair assumptions and accusations mostly due to a hyperactive religious imagination combined with the false belief that Gundersen Health, the hospital the clinic is affiliated with, does “elective” abortions (so Essential is guilty by association in the eyes of the pro-lifers). I also thought it was bold of her to question if a hospital affiliated reproductive health clinic that provides sex education presentations would explain the health risks involved with sexual activity.

Of course, I’m not all knowing like the letter said so maybe I don’t know for sure how many people they’ve “helped”. However, the fact that their “help” consists of harassing women on the street to give literature filled with misinformation to deceive and religion to put the fear of God in women is enough to find their help questionable. Their support of a Crisis Pregnancy Center makes their help questionable as CPC’s have been known to lie to women. I’ve heard from women irritated by their presence. None of the women I’ve personally seen talking to the protesters actually needed their help. The women either were stopped by the protesters on their way in or out of the clinic or the women approached them to give them a piece of her mind. I’ve repeatedly asked the Pastor how this demonstration is actually helping women or other ways they try to help people and I never really got a proper response. The staff at the clinic has told me one patient was afraid to come in to her appointment when she saw the protesters and there have been other women who admitted they waited to come in when the protesters weren’t there.

Somehow the pro-life protesters expect me to believe that their demonstration is helping.

Meanwhile, I can go to Essential’s website and pull annual reports detailing how many patients they helped and how they were helped. Estimations based on their numbers state that because of their services they prevented 1,200 unintended pregnancies, over 400 of which would have statistically ended in abortion. The protesters are against abortion, but at the same time refuse to acknowledge that without places like Essential Health offering access to birth control women would be more at risk of having unintended pregnancies that would end in abortion.    

What probably bothered me the most was reading the claim that they genuinely care about women and children and aren’t out to interfere with private lives or to offend.

It shouldn’t feel invasive when I have to walk into the clinic for my personal health care with a few old men with signs standing a few feet from the door, watching me as I head inside?

They don’t wish to interfere with private lives yet want to tell women that their best option if they don’t want children is to keep their legs closed? They’re not interfering when they ask me (and other women) about my life, faith, my position on abortion, etc. and if it differs from theirs they’ll try to persuade me that their view is the right one? Or when others like them that stand outside actual abortion clinics write down license plate numbers and snap photos of those going in and out of the building?

Was I not supposed to feel offended when I declined to take an anti-abortion card and was asked if the reason why was because I was illiterate? Was it unfair to assume that I couldn’t read based on this refusal? 

They want to help women, but then demonize a non-abortion health clinic and judge the women who go there for reproductive care just because the clinic has information on a pregnancy option they don’t agree with? Should I not be offended as a woman that they have that attitude towards women trying to receive reproductive care?

How is surrounding the block, holding out opinionated signage, and shoving religion down women’s throats because they believe a fetus is a person while they turn a blind eye to the millions of needy post-born individuals and do nothing to ease their suffering actually living out this “love thy neighbor” belief they keep preaching? How is lying to, manipulating, judging, harassing, criticizing, insulting, embarrassing, and creating a negative atmosphere for the women they claim to want to help “loving thy neighbor”? More importantly, why wouldn’t I want to discourage those types of behaviors? Why wouldn’t I want to encourage individuals like “A” to do something that would actually benefit those in need instead of idly standing outside a health clinic with their anti-view plastered onto their signs? 

I’ve been going to the same location for my reproductive health care for ten years. I hadn’t had sex when I first went.  At 19, I had my first yeast infection, but didn’t know it and thought I had something worse. I was scared and vulnerable. They helped me and assured me what I had wasn’t a horrible disease and was easily treatable with antibiotics. They were there when I had a pregnancy scare and I couldn’t afford to buy a pregnancy test. When the test came back negative, they asked if I was interested in getting on the pill to better avoid pregnancy. For nearly a decade, I’ve been able to avoid an unintended pregnancy because of them giving access to birth control to women who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. A few years ago a pap smear came back abnormal enough that I needed biopsies to check for cervical cancer. The news was already worrying without having a mother with a history of having to have pre-cancerous cervical polyps removed. I was fucking terrified. The women at the clinic assured me that everything was going to be okay just as they did when I first came in.

The truly unfair and disappointing thing in all of this is not the “assumptions” I made about the pro-life protesters. It’s having this place that has helped a lot of women like me and the people working there genuinely caring about women like me….and one day it’s being criticized, picketed, and lied about and the women who go there are being harassed, judged, and humiliated by these zealots simply because the clinic has abortion information that could be easily Googled.  

I had never intended to write anything past my first letter to the newspaper in regards to protesters and reproductive choice. Yet I found myself writing my fourth letter after another letter got published a week later criticizing me while making the false claim that Gundersen makes money off women when it does elective abortions (which it doesn’t do) and claiming that’s why Essential requires abortion to be included in the pregnancy counseling. I felt I needed to write in order to defend myself and the clinic that has helped me and other women throughout the years.

In response to K. F.’s letter:

My “assumptions” are based on months of research, observation, and discussion as well as interactions with the protesters. I’d call it an educated “assessment” rather than “assumptions”.

A protester admitted that he’s not helped any woman seeking advice on her options since they began demonstrating. The protester’s resources include information on contraceptives and abortion that has been medically disputed or discredited. A recent discussion with clinic staff revealed there are women who explain that the presence of the protesters made them feel intimidated, and they come in when the protesters aren’t there. I have yet to have a discussion with anyone, including mothers and those who identify as pro-life, that didn’t feel negatively after witnessing their demonstration or speaking with them.

I don’t know how anyone believes the protesters are not judgmental or interfering with anyone’s lives when they’ll ram religion and their view on abortion and reproductive rights down your throat if given the opportunity.

It’s these things that have led me and others to the conclusion that these people are not of help to women, but a hindrance to women, specifically those seeking help with family planning and reproductive help.

Can the protesters state how many lives have been saved because the clinic provided access to contraceptives that greatly reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancies that may be terminated, treatments for STDs, exams that detected cancer early, etc. I’m sure they are unable to as they are no more omniscient than I am. Thankfully, Essential Health has some annual reports to help answer that. The most recent report (2014) states there were 6,053 patients, 2,070 people treated for STDs, and 1,030 pap tests performed. It’s estimated that Essential Health prevented 1,210 unintended pregnancies and saved Wisconsin $8,258,730 in tax dollars via pregnancy prevention, STD testing, and pap testing. The same tool that got those estimates also estimates that 410 abortions were prevented.

Kelly questioned if clinic I support provide accurate information on things like abstinence and sexual health risks. Being that they are a clinic owned by a hospital and staffed with RN’s: yes! They also provide the means to practicing safer sex for those who want to be sexually active at a low cost or free for those who qualify.

I cannot say the same of the crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) that I stated were fake clinics that deceive women. Undercover investigations revealed CPC’s often give false information and most aren’t licensed facilities, yet they advertise themselves as such without disclosing they are really operated by pro-life ministries. Some cities have tried passing laws that would have curbed deceptive advertising or the use of misinformation in their counseling. CPCs fought back saying the laws violated their freedom of speech. If they were indeed real clinics that were about giving women accurate information, then why would they fight legislation that would have required them to do just that?

I went to a CPC for pregnancy test to see if any of this was true. Before leaving, I was given a packet they offer to any women with a negative result. The pamphlets in the package didn’t contain any useful information to help avoid another pregnancy scare. The advice was “save sex for marriage” and “condoms aren’t the answer for pregnancy or STDs”. Overall, it seemed the reading materials were designed for a non-religious, unmarried woman with the intention of shaming her.

Therefore, I refuse to champion misogynists who attempt to masquerade as crusaders for human life. To quote George Carlin, “They are not pro-life. You know what they are? They are anti-woman.”

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Meet the “Protesters”: The Children

Little children with anti-abortion signs began showing up a couple months after this idiotic weekly demonstration outside my clinic began. Personally, I saw it as a guilt trip tactic. What better way to further your belief that abortion is comparable to murdering an actual child than to put a small child behind an anti-abortion sign? The Pastor disagrees that the children are brought to guilt women, but I don’t buy it. He’s explained to me on two separate occasions that a presumably pro-choice woman with a child told him that protesting outside the clinic was wrong and how he pointed to her child before saying something like “Let’s say you wanted abortion. Why not just kill this child instead of getting an abortion? Problem solved.” Course, the woman leaves appalled at what he suggested and he believes his view is right because of the reaction he got out of her. Funny how he says the children they bring to hold signs aren’t meant to shame women, but he’s perfectly fine with using a woman’s own child for his anti-abortion agenda as a means to shame or to rile up her emotions.

The arrival of the children started with a middle aged woman bringing what I assumed were her two granddaughters, who couldn’t have been in the double digits in terms of age. (Maybe 7 years old tops.) Luckily, when the woman stopped showing up to protest so did those two girls.

However, the Dicktator has two daughters of his own and he has them parade around the block whenever he is able.

His youngest is five and insanely adorable. She obviously has zero understanding to the sign she carries or the cards she hands to people. One time, to be nice to her, I did accept one of the cards she was carrying, which was for the alternative birthing center further up on Main Street (In case you’re wondering, the birthing center isn’t some pro-life, funded by anti-abortion Christians sort of place. It’s simply an alternative to giving birth in a hospital.)

The older girl—who I will call “A”—is twelve and seems passionate about fighting against abortion for the Lord. She isn’t like her father, who has been known to be a bit of an asshole towards the women coming into the clinic. In fact, she seems very sweet and kind.

Sometimes the Dicktator has brought two boys around the age of his oldest daughter and they never seemed that enthusiastic about being there. I’ve seen him instructing these boys on how to hold their signs so that everyone can see and scold them for dropping the propaganda cards on the ground.

During the summer when there was no school, the children were coming earlier and staying outside longer. Summers in Wisconsin can be quite brutal and this year was no different with the humidity. Sometimes the children were standing on the west side of the building, which the sun hits during the hot afternoons. I also noticed none of the kids having water to stay hydrated as they were protesting in the heat. It seemed irresponsible of the adults to make these kids stand outside when it was 90 degrees and extremely humid, but it also seemed detrimental to their abortion crusade. They want to tell women not to abort because “abortion kills children” or that abortion is the same as torture and murder…and then make their own children suffer for their cause by standing outside in the blistering heat with no water? Whenever I saw the kids, I would note how many there were and run down to the hardware store a couple blocks away to buy water for them. Usually I’d give the bottles to “A” and ask her to give the rest to the other kids. She always was very gracious and thanked me.  After the first couple times, the Dicktator would passive-aggressively say, “Oh, we have plenty of water.” I noticed he brought water for the kids only after I started bringing water for them. I still gave the water to the kids regardless. I made a point not to buy enough for the fucking moronic adults.

I wished I could have talked to “A” about how she feels protesting like her daddy is actually helping women. It seems whenever the Dicktator caught sight of me near the children he’d swoop in and try starting a chat with me. Maybe he didn’t want the Satanist atheist putting strange ideas into his kids’ heads. In any case, I’d lose the nerve to ask whenever he was around.

“A” did, however, write a letter to the editor and it was published in the August 3, 2016 paper. It reads:

On January 22, 1973, abortion was legalized. Since then, its estimated that more than 58 million innocent children have been murdered, which is seven times the estimated lives than those taken in the Holocaust. The way the abortions are performed is horrific that I cannot state it here. The procedure is so bad; it is worse than how they killed the Jews. This is happening over 3,000 times a day to babies! When you abort a child, you are taking the life, the breath from a human being. All that baby wants is to be loved and wanted by his/her mother. That child has a right to live; that child has a chance to change the world.

There are many famous people that have impacted out life that would never have existed if their mothers would have followed their intentions of abortions. There are also many people that were adopted that would not be here if they were aborted. Abortions kill children! There are lives being wasted away, children helplessly being slaughtered. How would you like it if your mother, the one that you rely on, the one that feeds you and protects you, is the person to take away the one right that you have…life. The baby shouldn’t have to pay for the parent’s bad decisions. That baby is a gift from our Creator, the Author and Giver of life. He loves that baby, He has a plan for the baby and wants the child to follow Him. I was not let this casualty go unnoticed. I will fight against the brutal slaughter of babies. What are you doing to stop this casualty? It is our job to protect the unprotected, the orphans, the fatherless. Proverbs 24:11 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering towards slaughter.” Please, join me in this fight to save lives, to save the future. There are many ways you can stand locally.

If you are pregnant and need help, there are better choices. There are people that want to help you and your baby. Several low income birth centers that do not encourage abortions are ready to help. Please don’t kill your baby. Your baby is a gift from God!

—“A”, 12 years old.

 

When I read her letter, I didn’t feel like I was reading her words. “Over 3,000 times a day”, comparisons to the Holocaust, quoting Proverbs 24:11, and asking people what they’re doing about this “atrocity”: these are all things her father has repeatedly preached. Yet I had this sense that her desire to want to help people was genuine. I felt that her father and the other adults have brainwashed her into thinking that trying to “save babies” by holding a sign was more important than going out there and pro-actively helping living, breathing, actual people.

So I wrote a letter of my own in response:

Alisa Aish’s letter states, “There are people that want to help you and your baby.” There is a difference between wanting to help and being helpful.

According to a recent Banner Journal article, Sam Faust’s reason for being outside the Essential Clinic every Wednesday is to “hold out a lifeline for women in crisis.” When I asked him if there had been “women in crisis” asking for his help in the five months the group has been there, he said not a single woman had. He reasons that perhaps some woman will be in crisis in the future and remember what she saw.

I guess it’s better the protesters believe they’re being of help to women in eventual crisis than to do something proactive that would help those in need right now.

That same article quotes him as saying, “We are a group of concerned people who want women to know that there is hope and we share resources with them.” The resources include cards with incorrect information. One website on the card, AbortionNo.org, lies by saying many contraceptives cause abortions and abortions cause cancer. It also recommends fertility awareness-based birth control methods without mentioning its 24 percent failure rate. The OptionLine.org website was crossed off the cards after my last letter pointed out two-thirds of the clinics it works with in Wisconsin claimed to be similar to Essential Clinic. The confusing thing is the website is supported by AbortionNO, making me question the truthfulness of the information provided by the clinics connected with OptionLine. The group also distributes cards for Apple Pregnancy Care Center, which pro-choice advocates, one pro-life group (Life Chain Milwaukee—Mr. Faust holds signs for them every October), and a few Internet reviews state is a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC). CPC’s are fake clinics run by anti-choice groups that have been known to use deception and misinformation to manipulate women into carrying out a pregnancy.

I guess its better for the protesters to misguide people with wrong information and support liars for their cause than to offer anything that would be beneficial to the women they claim to want to help.

The reason the group is outside Essential Clinic every week is because it’s affiliated with Gundersen. They claim to have seen Gundersen’s abortion policy and that the hospital performs elective abortions. A handbook on GundersenHealthPlan.org states, “Abortions when necessary to protect the health or life of the patient or when the pregnancy was the result of sexual assault or incest.”

I guess technically a woman could get an abortion through Gundersen if it’s a risk to her life or after she’s been violated and humiliated.

I’ve done a lot of questioning when it comes to the actions of the anti-abortion protesters and how it’s effectively helping women. But what I don’t question is who is really helping women. It’s not the protesters, but the staff at the clinic. They have accurate, unbiased information on ALL options to help women make an informed decision, offer contraceptives to reduce unintended pregnancies, and help with obtaining assistance and do adoption referrals so children are being taken care of.

I believe Ms. Aish’s intention to help people are genuine. However, I urge her to stop crusading against abortion with the adults and get in contact with non-profit organizations to ask if she can donate money, items, or her time to help those who are really in need.

Because sidewalk counseling isn’t helping anybody.

Activist Story Time: The Ultimate Dishonest Weapon of the Pro-Life Movement

Back in late June of 2016, I took an anti-abortion card from one of the young boys the pro-birthers force to demonstrate with them from time to time. It had been a couple of weeks since the Dicktator, the asshole of the protesters outside my clinic, had insulted my literacy after I politely refused to accept one these cards. I suppose researching every aspect of that card was my way of dealing with the bitterness I still felt about what happened and my way saying, “Fuck you, asshole, and your assumption that I can’t read.”

The card titled “Six Facts on Abortion” is about as factual as a conservative fake news website meant to stir up the feelings of Republicans that don’t fact check. Half of the facts have been proven false by real facts, studies, and research while most of the other half is debatable. The back of the card is plastered with Biblical scare tactics in order to convince the reader not to terminate her pregnancy. There were three websites on the back of the card. Not surprisingly, one is for an anti-abortion website that gives false information like abortion causes breast cancer while the other is for a Christian adoption agency.

The third website, OptionLine.org, was a bit intriguing and completely out of line with the rest of the card. Rather than trying to scare women out of abortion with lies and Christianity, it seemed to have accurate information on ALL options. It seemed supportive of a woman’s right to choose abortion. It even included a checklist on what to look for when choosing an abortion provider should a woman decide she wants to terminate her pregnancy.

Option Line has a network of centers and further research indicated that 2/3 of the clinics in my state were exactly like the clinic the protesters were demonstrating outside of in terms of pregnancy options counseling and supporting a woman’s right to choose.

Or so I thought.

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Printed pages of the centers’ websites. The two piles on the left, highlighted in pink, were the pro-choice centers. The pile on the right, highlighted in blue, were the pro-life ones.

I had written my second letter to the editor about the hypocrisy of the protesters handing out cards directing women to places similar to the one they were demonstrating in front of. Two weeks after it was published, the Pastor showed me how they had crossed off the website off all their cards as a result of my letter. As he put it back into his shirt pocket, I noticed he was carrying around a second card and inquired about it. He handed me one. It was for a place called Apple Pregnancy Care Center in Eau Claire, WI. I realized this was a place listed on the Options Line website and he was pleased to find they had included because, according to him, they are pro-life.

The alarming thing was this was one of the places that seemed to be pro-choice.

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They really did cross OptionLine.org off of every single card

Months later, I noticed larger versions of the Apple Pregnancy Care Center cards began showing up at the library, no doubt left by the men who protest at the clinic across the street. By this time, I had forgotten about the red flag the Pastor raised, but the cards showing up prompted me to dig a little deeper into the centers affiliated with Option Line. Finding the truth about these centers left me embarrassed and disgusted with myself for having written that letter to the editor stating these places were similar to my health clinic. I cried and nearly vomited—that’s how disgusted I was. It was like finding out a perfect boyfriend is in fact a lying scumbag.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had gone to see Otep about a month beforehand. I had stuck around afterwards so I could meet her again in order to give her copies of my two letters and nervously explain how her music and activism inspires me to stand up to these fucking idiots outside my health clinic. (“You’re right: they ARE fucking idiots!” she said in that deep, LA accent of hers.)  So not only did everyone in town who picked up a newspaper that week read the letter…so did one of my idols. Cue the face palm.

 

What had happened was I had unknowingly fallen for the biggest trap of the pro-life movement: the Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

Typically run by pro-life Christian groups, CPC’s are non-profit places designed with the purpose to counsel women out of getting an abortion. Unfortunately, like the protesters outside my clinic, they’ve been known to resort to giving inaccurate or misleading information. My second round of research discovered deception is also one of their tactics to try and get women through the door.

APPLE’s official website, like the other seemingly pro-choice centers, had presented itself as a sort of family planning center promising women accurate information on all options, pregnancy testing, resources, etc. When I re-researched the centers, I ended up finding a second website for APPLE further down the search called Friends of APPLE. This website revealed what they truly were: a pro-life ministry staffed with volunteers. It went into further detail that they don’t refer to abortion or birth control and that their “educational services” shouldn’t be a substitute for professional medical advice. These were things that their official site and their cards had failed to mention. They are also listed as a Care Net member, which I hadn’t known in my initial research has one of the largest networks of CPC’s in the nation. APPLE is listed on websites pro-life groups. The big pro-choice group, NARAL, has a list of known Crisis Pregnancy centers and APPLE is one of them. In addition, there were scathing internet reviews pointing out their misleading advertising and wrong information and a couple articles that explained what they really were.

APPLE wasn’t an isolated incident either: every single center that was seemingly about choice turned out to be a pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Center, but hadn’t been quite honest about being one on their official website. Half of the centers turned up on NARAL’s list of CPCs.

My mistake in my initial research had been to trust the official websites of these places. What better way to know about anything than to go to their official site? Quite a few of them looked professional and all appeared straight forward by listing what services they provide, who they were, etc. When I looked at them again, I saw a number of keywords being repeated: “choice”, “options”, “help”, “care”, “non-judgmental”, etc. I never thought to question that. And it occurred to me that maybe the way they misrepresent themselves is the point.

Would a woman question a place if they were honest about their pro-life, Christian view and their goal of “saving lives” and convincing women of making “life affirming choices”? Maybe. I would assume some would wonder if their information is biased or accurate or if she would be put through a religious guilt trip.
Would a woman question a place if they were offering help and understanding in a non-judgmental environment for her crisis situation while stating that she has choices? I think not.

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An assortment of APPLE pregnancy cards promising facts on pregnancy options and help and understanding when facing a difficult decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy. As you can see, these cards look professional and don’t reveal APPLE is really a pro-life ministry.

Heartbeat International, the largest CPC network in the world, recommends that CPC’s use two websites: one fundraising website stating its anti-abortion mission to secure donors and one that claims it provides medically accurate information to attract women seeking counseling, contraceptives, or abortion. This would explain why several of the places I had researched, including APPLE, ended up having a second website while their official site at the top of a Google search made them appear neutral or even pro-choice.

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Websites for Women’s Care Center in Milwaukee. The top image is from their official site, womenscarecenter.org, where they tell women of the services they offer while appearing they want to help women in making a choice that’s right for them. The bottom image is from their second site, womenscarecenterfoundation.org, where they try to secure donors to help fund the center so they can continue the pro-life agenda they fail to mention on their official website.

Many CPCs have set up shop near or right next to abortion and family planning clinics with the intention that women will wander in by mistake. Some have even gone as far to use similar sounding names as the abortion clinics nearby or names that sound like they are about choice. In fact, several of the clinics in my research had names with “Options”, “Choice” to make themselves appear pro-choice when the reality is they’re only in favor of the choices/options where you give birth. The deception continues on in the center with things like doctor office décor, volunteers with clipboards acting like medical professionals, and/or misinformation about options presented as medical facts.

It isn’t a gross oversight, but a calculated move. In the VICE News documentary “Misconception”, which is about Crisis Pregnancy Centers, there’s an audio clip of pro-life activist Abby Johnson leading a CPC training session. She explains,“Women that are seeking abortions, women that are pregnant, that are vulnerable: they are going into Google and they are typing ‘pregnancy symptoms’. There’s a way in Google where you can basically set that search to your website. Your website would be the first one that would come up. We want to look professional. We want to look business-like. And, yeah, we do kind of want to look medical. The best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic, the ones that think you provide abortions.”

If the research for the letter I wrote is an indication of anything its that their dishonest tactics are working. But they’re not targeting reproductive rights activists wanting to write an opinion piece for the local newspaper: their target is vulnerable women who need help navigating unplanned pregnancies.

I went to APPLE Pregnancy Care center as a woman facing a pregnancy scare to experience what women go through when they go to one of these Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

When I walked into their office, there was a front desk with computer terminals near the entrance much like my clinic. Two white, middle aged ladies politely greeted me as I flashed one of their cards I had swiped from the library that advertised to scared, possibly pregnant women and nervously asked about their free pregnancy tests.Truthfully, I was terrified as I heard countless horror stories of these sorts of places and wondered what would await me if my pregnancy test happened to come up positive.

I was asked if I wanted something to drink before being given a clipboard with a paper for some basic information about myself and was shown a seat in their little waiting area. I wrote my maiden name instead of my actual name because I was unsure how they’d use my information once I left.

So far everything had been exactly like going into a real doctor’s office with the overly pleasant staff and the clipboard of paperwork. As I glanced around, the décor looked like a doctor’s office: professional yet warm and inviting at the same time. If I hadn’t known any better I would have thought it was an actual medical provider.

But I began to notice little things that were “off”. There was an end table next to my chair that had a Bible placed on it instead of the usual random assortment of magazines. The wall ahead of me had cubby holes for pamphlets like any health provider might have and were labeled things like “pregnancy” and “adoption”, but I noticed one was labeled “marriage”. Why would a clinic need marriage pamphlets? I almost missed the extremely fine print on the paper I was writing on that stated ““This center does not offer or refer for pregnancy terminations or birth control. Information is provided as an educational service and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.”  This was the exact writing that was listed on their donor website, but not their official one.

I handed in my paperwork and one of the ladies took me into one of their offices. The set up and décor of the office reminded me of my chiropractor’s office with its matching furniture and bookshelf of professional looking books, which I recall some of them were religious. Only after I had sat down did she finally inform me that she was a volunteer counselor and not a doctor. By then I figured out they wouldn’t personally reveal such information until they had a woman through the door and in one of their offices. Yet for only being a volunteer counselor with no medical background she asked me a lot of questions regarding my health and sexual activity that were similar to what my RN at my clinic would ask me at my checkups. I passed myself as an unmarried, sexually active, condom using woman with a long term boyfriend.

In the middle of this questioning, she politely tells me, “Okay, we’re going to change this up a bit.” Not one fiber in my being had a good feeling about this.

“Are you religious in any way?”

This was not a question I’ve ever been asked at a doctor’s appointment. Religion has never come up at the women’s clinic as a topic of conversation until it was in reference to the protesting zealots outside the building. I had no problem telling off the asshole protester that I am an atheist/Satanist yet I was caught off guard when this woman, who hadn’t given me any indication this would turn religious, asked me about my faith. All I could get out was a “Um…not really?” I wondered why such information was needed, why would she want to know, or what purposes does it serve in the context of receiving a free pregnancy test?

She continued on with questions like if I knew who the father was if I were pregnant, if he knew I may be pregnant, if I had anyone to confide in other than my boyfriend, if I knew what option I wanted to go with if I were pregnant, and how my feelings were on abortion. The whole thing felt invasive and uncomfortable. It was probably about 20 minutes of questions before she sent me into the bathroom to pee in a Dixie cup. And I mean a literal Dixie cup and not one of those urine sample cups with the screw on cap like at a normal health facility.

When we went back into the office with a pregnancy test and my urine, she instructed me—and I can’t make this up—-to take the dropper to drop my own urine onto the pregnancy test. I suppose this was to avoid some sort of liability involved with administering a cheap pregnancy test while not being an actual medically licensed facility. Still, making me do my own pregnancy test was extremely bizarre. A medical facility would have you pee in a cup, you give medical person said cup filled with urine, and you wait for your result without having anymore involvement with your urine sample.

Good news: not pregnant. But I had to deal with 20 minutes of questions to get a test that takes a couple minutes to get results from.

I thought my experience was over until the lady said they offer a packet to women with negative tests, though I was free to decline. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to see what sort of information they offer to women, I gladly took one and proceeded to look through its contents once I had left the office.

The contents of this package included:

*A pamphlet on STD’s which had “SAVE SEX FOR MARRIAGE” at the end of it.

*A pamphlet which stated “Condoms are not the answers for STDS” and “We can show you how you can be proud of your lifestyle and give you the tools to help you choose a man who will be a good father to your children.” (The second bit made me realize the reason there was a cubby hole for marriage pamphlets).

*A pamphlet that said “Many guys just want sex. That’s how they are made” and that I can commit to “renewed virginity”.

At least from the counselor’s prospective, I had just gotten through a pregnancy scare. Then she offers me this packet for women with negative tests that might as well say, “Congratulations, you irresponsible hussy. You dodged a bullet. We suggest you keep your legs closed until you find Jesus and a good husband.” No matter how many times I read and re-read the information that was given to me, I felt like it was slut shaming through leaflets. There was no information on birth control except that I shouldn’t engage in sex until marriage. The information on condoms was condemning simply because they’re not fool proof. The whole thing seemed like it was designed for the unmarried, sexually active woman with the intention of shaming her for having sex outside a traditional, Christian marriage. It also made me feel like there was no room for my own personal beliefs and what I really wanted. The overall view of the information was, “God is great! You should submit to him! Abstain from sex until you find a husband to have kids with!”

Compare that with my reproductive health clinic where they have unbiased, medically accurate information and have NEVER forced their personal beliefs on me or made me feel ashamed for being sexually active before I was married or when I don’t want children. When I went to them for a pregnancy scare and my test was negative, they asked if I was interested in birth control pills instead of telling me I should stop having sex because the Lord says so.

After my experience, I wondered how the Crisis Pregnancy Centers are allowed to operate being that undercover investigations have shown that these places have lied to women and given them medically inaccurate information. I discovered a few cities had passed legislature that either would have curbed the misleading advertising or have forced these places to provide accurate information, which shouldn’t have been a problem if these places truly weren’t dishonest. The CPC’s fought back saying that such legislature violated their free speech. Because they’re non-profits that offer women their services for free, they are able to get around false advertising regulations as they are not commerce that can be regulated. Loopholes allow them to continue to lie to the women they claim they want to help.

Perhaps they feel they’re somehow justified in lying to women in order to “save lives” or maybe they truly don’t believe their tactics are dishonest. It doesn’t change the fact they’re targeting and exploiting women who are at their most vulnerable. It doesn’t change the fact that their tactics are completely deceitful. They’re still liars whether or not they believe their own lies. Claiming to be “pro-life” or morally right because of a faith in God doesn’t make anyone less of a vulture preying on women who are scared and uncertain.

So whenever I spot those damned APPLE cards the protesters leave in the pamphlet cubby holes inside the library’s entrance area, I swipe them so that maybe some woman won’t end up going there. I believe women should have access to unbiased, accurate information and resources when facing an unplanned pregnancy, which women are not getting at these Crisis Pregnancy Centers. It’s not a pro-choice or pro-life issue. It’s simply a matter of human decency and women don’t deserve to be lied to.   

Dictating Charity

I probably won’t be doing much advocating for reproductive rights these next few weeks as I will be busy volunteering as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army and trying to collect non-perishable foodstuffs for Project Christmas, a local organization that gives boxes of food and presents to those in need during the holidays and one that helped my family during my childhood. As of this writing, I already have put in about 10 hours of volunteer work for the Salvation Army, collected 10 non-perishable food items, and made countless little girls lose their shit over seeing their favorite Disney princess in the flesh (I cosplay as Princess Anna if its not too cold).

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Cosplaying as Princess Anna during one of my bell ringing shifts. I look very, very awkward in this photo. 
There has been a massive shortage of bell ringers this year. Barely any of the open shifts have been taken. Only once in my almost 10 hours of bell ringing has another volunteer showed up to bell ring at the other entrance of the Wal-Mart. In Wal-Mart’s case, the red kettles get put away when there aren’t any bell ringers so the Salvation Army loses out on potential donations with the utter lack of volunteers.

On two separate occasions, the Pastor has bumped into me while I was bell ringing. Any public run in with the Pastor is always awkward with that fake “Stepford Wife” persona of his and him pretending like were acquaintances when in reality we have squabbled over the rights of the women his group harasses every week.

Yet the encounters during my volunteer work have got me thinking: Why isn’t he out here ringing? Actually, what have those pro-lifers, the moral crusaders that want to help people, done to help the less fortunate?

Part of me isn’t surprised considering the Dicktator’s Facebook page is sprinkled with criticisms for people who choose to do fundraisers or acts of charity over standing for the unborn. Reading through his posts, which most revolve around abortion, he gives the impression that everyone’s singular priority should be standing for the unborn and that you’re not a true Christian if you’re not.

He says things like:

“It is sad to see that even Christians who rely on God’s Word cannot see priorities and the significant difference between feeding somebody for a couple hours compared to fighting against the torture and murder of over 3,000 children every day.”

“I don’t know how you can equate giving a bowl of soup to a needy neighbor while ignoring the slaughter to our unborn.”

I don’t know how anyone can believe that a living, breathing human being is comparable to a fetus, but maybe that’s just me.

He is completely right on one thing: the significant difference between helping the needy and fighting for the unborn, though maybe not in the way that he thinks.

In this country, there are about 1.2 million abortions performed every year. In his mind, that means slightly over 3,000 children are being “tortured and murdered” every day.

 

But he says nothing of…

…the 43.1 million people in poverty, including 14.5 million children.

…the 42.2 million, including 13.1 million children, living in food insecure households—meaning there’s not always enough food for everyone. Of the 15.8 million households that were food insecure, 6.3 million of them were experiencing very low food security.

…the estimated 2.5-3.5 million homeless. It’s estimated that 1 in 50 children, 1.5 million children, will experience homelessness every year.

 

If we divided those numbers over the course of a year like he does abortion statistics, we would have:

*118,082 people per day living in poverty. 39,726 of them would be children.

*115,616 people per day would be living with hunger. 35,890 of them would be children.

*6,849-9,589 people per day would be homeless. 4,109 of them would be children.

So….he’ll speak up for the 3,000+ fetuses being aborted every day, but is completely silent on the 4000+ outside-the-womb children who are homeless every day (statically speaking)? Or the thousands more experiencing poverty and hunger? Its likely that if they’re homeless they’re also experiencing poverty and hunger.

His whole argument sounds completely hypocritical when he repeatedly posts pictures containing certain Biblical quotes alongside his “what are you doing for the unborn?!” posts.

 

As an atheist, I was not familiar with Matthew 25: 42-43. Obviously, he’s using it to criticize those who are ignoring the unborn that are aborted, but the quote itself seems to have very little (if anything) to do with the abortion debate and is critical of those who ignore the needs of the less fortunate. I learned the quote is part of a bigger piece of scripture called “The Sheep and the Goats”. In the piece, Jesus divides the world’s people into two groups “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”. He tells one group (“Sheep”) that they will inherit the kingdom of heaven while the other group (“Goats”) will inherit the eternal fires of Hell. The division seems to be based on whether people committed acts of kindness and mercy to their disadvantaged “neighbors” such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned and sick. He explains that doing these acts of kindness for someone is the same as having done them for Jesus himself. The quote the Dicktator posts is the part where Jesus points out to the cursed group how they saw people who were in need and ignored helping them. It makes sense to me because the stories I know about Jesus involve him seeing people who are needy and immediately helping them.

It seems a bit hypocritical of the Dicktator to criticize anyone for doing charitable things Jesus himself would have done (like giving that bowl of soup to a needy neighbor) over standing against abortion and then post scripture that has little to nothing to do with abortion to further his anti-abortion message where Jesus criticizes those damned to Hell for not having done the charitable things the Dicktator is criticizing people for doing in the first place. It seems hypocritical to post about showing mercy or standing up for the poor and needy when he himself hasn’t done those things unless its in regards to the pre-born. He’s posting these things to lots of followers and several will blindly reply back with “AMEN” without question.

It reminds me of another Biblical quote that he posted to judge the Christian leaders for not standing against abortion: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” 

Concerning the Pastor, the other main protester, he’s happily told me of the group’s annual Life Chain event, the seminar for teenagers where they lie to them about abortion, and potentially protesting other places in the future, but hasn’t told me of any efforts to help the less fortunate. He seemed to be put off guard whenever I have asked him of other ways they’re helping people beyond this weekly demonstration yet has never missed a beat when it came to his anti-abortion crusade. He has the time to put in at least an hour holding a sign every week no matter what the weather, organize pro-life events, and write letters to the editor trying to convince everyone that fetuses are people, but so far seems to have done little to nothing that would help actual people. Through my own research I found in 2013 his church sponsored TWO anti-abortion billboards in town for the year, which would range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. I’m sure an expensive billboard claiming that your baby had a heartbeat 18 days from conception does nothing for the woman with an unplanned pregnancy who can barely afford to take care of herself.

Here’s what I don’t get in all of this: if they truly believe fetuses at any stage of development are people, then why are they doing practically nothing for the living, breathing people outside the womb who experience things like hunger, poverty, or homelessness?  You want to tell women not to terminate their pregnancies, but don’t want to do anything to ensure that any fetuses you save will grow into children that are taken care of? Has it occurred to any of these pro-lifers that these sorts of issues just might be reasons women get abortions in the first place and abortion rates will drop if these issues are taken care of? I’m sure they haven’t. They probably want to go on believing women who get abortions are irresponsible nymphomaniacs who should’ve kept their legs closed if they didn’t want children. I’m sure they want to continue believing that they’re helping by standing outside holding a sign with an opinion.

At the very least, why criticize those who are making efforts to help people meet their basic needs? “Love thy neighbor” if you will. Are the needy somehow not their “neighbors”? Isn’t prolonged hunger, poverty, or homelessness torturous and a death sentence like they want to claim abortion is to children? What if the unplanned pregnancies they save end up becoming a part of those statistics? Would these children be helped by the very people who sought to save them from being aborted?

In response to a letter that the Dicktator’s 12-year old daughter wrote, I suggested she get in contact with non-profit organizations to ask how she can be of help and called out the adults that she’s crusading with for not doing pro-active things that would actually benefit those in actual crisis. Instead of taking note of it, I got a response from one of the Pastor’s relatives (well, they share the same last name and town anyways) who was “disappointed” in my letter and that I should be “championing those who are speaking up for the rights of the pre-born, because the very same people she is trying to discourage as they offer hope to others would help her if she was awaiting punishment for a crime in which she was innocent.”

Why should I champion them? While they stand outside a health clinic that doesn’t offer abortions (and wants to prevent unintended pregnancies!) with large signs, misinformation, and Biblical scare tactics in their attempt to try and save at least one pregnancy from being terminated, they’re ignoring the millions more who are sick, poor, hungry, or homeless. Many of which are the children they claim to want to protect!

That’s why there’s a tiny part of me that is surprised I haven’t seen any of them out there this holiday season ringing bells in the name of a charity that greatly helps people or telling others that they should volunteer for the good cause. They claim to be moral crusaders that up for those who cannot help themselves while preaching that “love thy neighbor” commandment as if it were proof that they care about people.

But I suppose their actions speak so loud that I cannot hear the agenda that they preach. Maybe they need to demonstrate outside a clinic in an attempt to prove to their God that they’re good people that are helpful to the disadvantaged while doing nothing that would provide for them.

If anything, their lack of real charity somewhat motivates me to help in any way I can. I may not have Jesus’ abilities like being able to feed an entire village or healing the sick. What I do have is the ability to ring a bell to help bring in donations to a charity that can feed, clothe, shelter, and help those who are in need and handing out cheap chocolates to bring a little joy to those who donate.

Course, I never started bell ringing to prove I’m somehow better than the protesters who claim to cherish human life. I freeze in my Princess Anna costume mostly for the people I recognize need these services from this organization. Several people have come up to me during my shifts to explain how the Salvation Army helped them. I ring for those people.

It’s just a bit sad seeing others who claim to be devoted to Christ not doing the same. To quote a comment made by one of the Dicktator’s followers (though maybe not in the same context): “Sad when people are too busy leading righteous lives to connect with reality.”