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.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s