A Crisis Pregnancy Center in Ironwood

Over the holidays, my husband and I traveled to Ironwood, Michigan to spend Christmas with his family. On the way to a surprise birthday party, I caught the words “pregnancy support” on a building sign as we drove by.

The suspicions that aroused from seeing this phrase were confirmed with a simple Google search on my phone: Ironwood has a crisis pregnancy center. And according to their website, they’ve been offering their services to the area for ten years.

New Beginnings Pregnancy Support Services in Ironwood, MI. 

Why I hadn’t noticed the crisis pregnancy center in Ironwood until then? It stuck out like a sore thumb because I’ve done a lot of research into crisis pregnancy centers, but the last time I was in Ironwood it had only been a couple months since I discovered what crisis pregnancy centers were and began learning how to spot them. Because of the way they present themselves, they typically go unnoticed by the general population while appearing like beacons of hope to women facing unplanned pregnancies.

New Beginnings Pregnancy Support Services is a rarity among crisis pregnancy centers by at least stating somewhere on their website that they do not provide, recommend, or refer for abortion and that their information should not be relied on a substitute for medical/professional advice. Interestingly, their website also isn’t completely wiped clean of their Christian, pro-life agenda and you’ll find the tiniest hints of it sprinkled throughout their website. They also don’t seem to have a secondary website meant to attract donors that states their true intentions of being a crisis pregnancy center.

However, they’re like other crisis pregnancy centers in other aspects. With the exception of admitting they don’t support abortion and the small references about their pro-life view, they present themselves like any other crisis pregnancy center.

*Professional-looking website layout with high quality stock photos of women, pregnancy tests, etc.? Check.

*Lot of empathize placed on being a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment? Check.

*Insistence on being confidential, supportive, etc.? Check.

*Claims of offering accurate information? Check.

*Not calling themselves a faith-based crisis pregnancy center? Check. Despite the few references to a pro-life view and Christian beliefs, they don’t actually come out and state they are a pro-life, Christian crisis pregnancy center. Instead, they refer to themselves in a vague way while still appearing to be supportive and confidential: “We are a safe, welcoming place for individuals, and families to receive education, services and support.  All of our services are free and confidential.” (from their Facebook page)

Additionally, NBPSS states “Client information is kept confidential to the full extent allowable by law.” This gives the impression that they are a professional place that safeguards client information, but this statement is useless. Perhaps the ones that have gained medical status to be able to use ultrasound machines have to follow HIPAA laws to keep client information confidential, but, generally speaking, crisis pregnancy centers are not medical. Therefore, they’re not required to protect client information. Not surprisingly, there have been numerous instances of centers harassing abortion-minded women afterwards or even contacting her family, friends, and co-workers about her abortion plans in order to shame her out of getting one.

NBPSS’ website lists the logos for Heartbeat International and Care Net, the nation’s two largest crisis pregnancy center networks. NBPSS is officially a Care Net affiliate as they are listed on Care Net’s website as one of their crisis pregnancy centers, but not Heartbeat International. The center can also be found on Option Line, a website created by the two organizations to direct women to their pro-life Christian crisis pregnancy centers. Both organizations have a nasty history of falsely advertising themselves and offering inaccurate information in order to lure women and potentially scare or shame them out of getting an abortion, using birth control, having pre-marital sex, or anything not in line with Christian beliefs. Being associated with either one of these organizations is not a good thing.

Despite NBPSS’ website claiming to offer accurate information about abortion procedures and risks, the section on “Abortion Risks” indicates that at least some of their information may be inaccurate. It mentions that some studies suggest connections between abortion and breast cancer, which is something the pro-life movement has pushed like its fact despite there not being reliable, hard evidence to prove a link between abortion and breast cancer or that abortion increases a woman’s risk to get breast cancer. NBPSS’s “Abortion Risks” section also alludes to symptoms related to Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome, a term coined by the pro-life movement for a perceived connection between abortion and mental health. Though the pro-life movement insists women are likely to suffer from extreme negative emotions following abortion, PASS is not recognized by any health organizations as studies show there’s no link between abortion and mental health problems and more current studies show only a small percentage of women regret their abortion. In general, NBPSS seems like any other crisis pregnancy center by treating abortion as problematic—insisting that women thinking of abortion to schedule an appointment to be educated on with their own version of the facts—while parenting and adoption are presented as positive, noble, and perfect as if either of those options cannot possibly be riddled with their own issues.

Crisis pregnancy centers are strategically set up in key locations. The best spot for a crisis pregnancy center to set up shop is right next to an abortion provider, using a similar name and outward appearance in order to mislead women looking for the abortion provider into the center. They are also found in poverty-stricken areas and college towns as unplanned pregnancies are likely to occur in those places. NARAL’s report “The Truth about Crisis Pregnancy Centers” states that crisis pregnancy centers have also been setting up in areas with high concentrations of African-American and Latina women, noting that “the rate of unplanned pregnancy among African-American women, particularly among teens, far outpaces that of other groups—51% of African-American teen girls will become pregnant at least once before they turn 20.” A crisis pregnancy center in Ironwood seems out of place considering the town doesn’t have any of these ideal features…until you consider its geographical location.

Guttmacher explains, “In 2014, some 6,050 abortions were provided in Wisconsin, though not all abortions that occurred in Wisconsin were provided to state residents, as some patients may have traveled from other states [emphasis added].

Women in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where Ironwood is located, are severely lacking in access to abortion services. The sole provider of any abortion services in the entire UP is the Planned Parenthood Marquette Health Center, which only offers the abortion pill. Women in the UP seeking abortion in Michigan beyond nine or ten weeks would have to travel to Saginaw County in Michigan’s mainland. Saginaw County is at least a three hour drive from Michigan’s UP. As Ironwood is located right next to Wisconsin’s northern border, it’s possible a crisis pregnancy center was set up there to catch upper Michigan women who find it would be easier and are willing to cross state lines to receive abortion services.

Whatever the reason for a crisis pregnancy center in Ironwood, it doesn’t look good between the association with deceptive crisis pregnancy center groups and hints of false information on pregnancy options. Perhaps someday I’ll go in to see for myself if my gut instincts and research are correct.

Note: At the time of posting, the NBPSS website appears to be down. 


Possible Pro-life Intimidation (and Disney analogies!)

As mentioned in “The Irritating Sand at the Life Chain”, crippling depression and anxiety has greatly affected my ability to do activist work.

One aspect that wasn’t affected by my emotional struggles was writing opinion letters for the paper. Faust is perfectly content with constantly beating a dead horse when it comes to the pro-life agenda, continually recycling the same language and phrases to the point where all his letters sound alike with subtle variations. For me, there wasn’t much point in continuing to write. Facts and statistics don’t matter to a movement that believes they are helping women by lying to them and shaming them in front of healthcare providers and feel their actions are justified by religion. I didn’t have anything new to add so I stopped writing following my last letter earlier this spring.

New subject matter to write about came in the form of Apple Pregnancy Care Center, a pro-life crisis pregnancy center out of Eau Claire, advertising on the high school sports calendar. I am against crisis pregnancy centers due to them presenting themselves as women’s healthcare clinics when they’re actually pro-life ministries with false information and zero medical services. This crisis pregnancy center in question was (and still is) discreetly advertising in the paper and now they were blatantly advertising on a free poster that anyone could pick up, including business owners that would want to display the sports schedule in their establishments. It had the potential of ensuring that these sorts of places continue to dupe women facing pregnancy scares or an unplanned pregnancy.

I struggled to write it for a couple of weeks, but finally managed to submit something to the paper towards the end of September:

“Bad Apple Part of Spoiled Bunch”

Those who picked up the Black River Falls (BRF) Tigers sport schedule poster may have seen the sponsored advertisement for a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), a type of faith-based non-profit established to counsel women against abortion. I suspect it went unnoticed by most due to the way it presented itself

If you thought Apple Pregnancy Care Center was anything but a religious anti-abortion organization, you fell for the questionable advertising tactics crisis pregnancy centers often employ. I was fooled, too, while researching Option Line. Eleven of the fifteen places listed for Wisconsin appeared to be reproductive health clinics. However, the “pro-life” protesters outside Essential Health began distributing business cards for Apple PCC, praising their anti-abortion views despite its website stating that it discusses abortion as an option.

Option Line is run by the two biggest CPC networks in the country, Heartbeat International and Care Net. All the “clinics” were crisis pregnancy centers, most having secondary donation websites explaining they were anti-abortion organizations (example: friendsofapple.org)

Apple PCC’s poster ad is a perfect example of how most CPCs don’t disclose they are an anti-abortion organization in their advertising, official websites, and other media. They’ll use keywords like “options”, “choices”, and “informed decisions” in order to sound neutral or pro-choice. When presented alongside “free and confidential” services like pregnancy testing and all-options counseling in a “non-judgmental environment”, it subtly creates the illusion they are a hospitable women’s clinic that advocates for choice. Because of this, there are countless stories of women that went into these places assuming they were trained medical professionals that offered accurate information and resources only to leave feeling duped and mislead.

What CPCs offer is worse than how they lure unsuspecting women into their establishments. CPCs have consistently touted falsehoods about abortion and reproductive health based on poor research and outright lies. Examples of false hoods include “condoms are porous”, “birth control are abortifacients”, and “abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, and/or psychological damage.” Though their advertisements imply they’re medical, the most CPCs offer in terms of medical services is a basic urine-based pregnancy test that is self-administered. As HIPAA laws only apply to actual medical facilities, CPCs aren’t required to safeguard any client information, which may include contact information, S.S. numbers, and medical history. Not surprisingly, there have been instances where CPCs have harassed women considering abortion at home and work, even going as far to reach out to her friends and family to expose her personal information with them.

CPCs typically do offer material items to women that decide to parent, but only on a one-time emergency basis unless enrolled in an education program (“Earn While You Learn”) where points to purchase items are earned by participating in classes and/or Bible study. Despite its potential benefit, it does not make up for the shady tactics and spreading of misinformation.

Yes, parenting and adoption are both legitimate options and its perfectly acceptable for women to choose either of those options. The thing that is completely unacceptable are organizations that exploit the vulnerability of scared and uncertain women in order to promote those options while discrediting the third legitimate pregnancy option through negative propaganda.

Women deserve to have access to accurate, unbiased information and resources; not be misled and lied to.           

Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Faust popped into my workplace a couple days after the letter was published and on the day his pro-life group was having a bake sale across the street. Maybe I didn’t think anything of it since he’s left me alone these past few months. He hasn’t been appearing in front of my counter at work or going out of his way to greet me in public like he was before. The only time I’ve been truly bothered by him these past few months was when the occasional Planned Parenthood donation made in his honor resulted in mail being sent to my personal address, either in the form of a copy of a letter he wrote to the president of Planned Parenthood or a thank you card informing me he donated Bibles in my name. (Currently, eight Bibles have been donated in my name and I have three copies of letters he supposedly wrote to Cecile Richards). Aside from the random donation and swiping all the Apple PCC cards he leaves at the library, I’ve been mostly inactive. I suppose he wouldn’t have any reason to go out of his way to see me.

Writing that letter for the paper gave him a reason to visit. It doesn’t seem like an accident that he would appear almost immediately following the publishing of my letter when he hasn’t bothered to show up in months.

Between my major depression and the overwhelming workload that day, I was already distressed even without Faust coming over to carry on awkward conservation. He spoke with that programmed politeness that has earned him the name “Stepford Wife”. He thanked me for, as he put it, “coming out of retirement”. Odd that I write a letter condemning the kind of organizations he supports for being dishonest and he thanks me for it like he was an adoring fan of my work. I felt like he was mocking me under that polite facade that sounded like he was reading a scripted speech from a teleprompter. I wasn’t in the right state of mind to deal with him and certainly was in no mood for his presence, but he approached me while I was on the clock at my workplace. I just stood there and was forced to listen. What else was I supposed to do? If I told him off at work, I have no doubt he would go straight to management outraged by the employee that was rude to him. I think he knows he backs me into a corner by approaching me at work and that I’m powerless to stand up to him without potentially risking my job for it.

Then he pretended that he remembered something he was supposed to tell me as if it weren’t the main reason he stopped by out of the blue: Melinda Gardner, director of Apple Pregnancy Care Center, was going to be speaking at their annual youth pro-life meeting and apparently wanted to meet me, extending an invitation for me to come.

Everything else is kind of a blur. With that unwanted conservation piled on existing stress, I think my brain shut down manual mode and started running on auto-pilot. I vaguely remember a co-worker who was standing by asking what that was all about and then going to the bathroom to wait out a small panic attack.

It sounds a bit strange, but all I could think about in the bathroom stall was the scene in “The Little Mermaid” after Ariel’s grotto gets destroyed. If the “Dicktator” is like Judge Frollo, then Faust is Ursula. Popping up at the precise time to seize the moment, both Faust and Ursula display kindness and claim to be sympathetic and helpful toward the “poor unfortunate souls”, but it doesn’t take much to realize that the compassion is superficial and part of a calculated act. He might as well have said, “Oh! And there is one…more…thing!” like Ursula did concerning the price for helping Ariel when he suddenly remembered having to tell me about the speaker at their meeting. I can’t rule out that his visit was possibly a means of intimidation or shame even though he halfheartedly acted like he was supportive of what I wrote. It doesn’t seem all that far-fetched when I consider what occurred following the counter protest of the “life chain” he was in charge of a couple weeks later: He approached us, thanked us for coming, and even encouraged us to write letters to the paper…then we found ourselves vilified in the paper by another pro-life supporter (and featured a picture of us taken by yet another supporter) because we stood up to them. Ursula was also encouraging and supportive of what Ariel wanted to do, but made every attempt to sabotage her because she didn’t want the mermaid to succeed in her goal.

Maybe it’s just a crazy thought from overthinking it too much. Then again, pro-life supporters have tried to silence pro-choice supporters through shame, intimidation, and even threats. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that Faust wishes to take my “voice”, so to speak.

Silly mermaid analogies aside, why on Earth would a director of a secretly pro-life crisis pregnancy center want to meet with someone that has spoken out against such places? An activist I’ve been speaking with for the past year or so provided a possible answer: “They really like to try to talk in circles and get people to back off.” She has a point. Every time I’ve written a letter and both times I’ve counter protested the Life Chain, a pro-life supporter has been quick to write a criticizing letter in response. Faust has appeared at work whenever I wrote a letter and was quick to approach us at the Life Chain. I expect thank you letters for Bible donations made in my name or copies of letters to Cecile Richards whenever I press that donation button on the Planned Parenthood website. Basically, I stand up to them and they go on the offensive. Honestly, I think the director of the crisis pregnancy center that I was overly critical of wanting to meet with me was another attempt by pro-life supporters pushing back against the lone pro-choice woman that dares to speak out against and question this movement.

Last year, Faust invited me to this annual youth meeting so I could learn what they were about and what they were teaching teenagers. “At the very least, it’ll give you more fodder for your letters,” he said, still speaking in that programmed politeness. At the time, I had just written a letter that had referred to these pro-life supporters as “anti-woman” and I swear the speaker looked straight at me when she explained to the teenagers that her pro-life beliefs didn’t make her anti-woman. I’m sure this year’s meeting would have been more of the same: pizza, annoying hymns, and adults giving teenagers misinformation about abortion and birth control while staring down the elephant in the room wearing the Butcher Babies t-shirt.

Obviously, I didn’t go this year’s meeting. I imagine the director of Apple PCC would wear that noble and righteous front like a mask and put on a show to try and convince me that they’re not the deceptive villains I’ve found they are. I found better plans for that night. While pro-life supporters pretended they were brave crusaders standing up for human lives by attending a meeting and eating pizza while planning on doing nothing else, I went to a meeting about domestic violence (which was unfortunately canceled) and a fundraiser for a local organization that seeks to help teenagers aging out of the foster care system.

My absence at the meeting was brought up a couple weeks after the meeting was held when I went to get a refill on my birth control. Faust was outside with his damned sign and was insistent on striking a conversation with me.

“Hey! We missed you at the meeting! But the director of Apple would still like to meet you and said you’re welcome to come and tour the place anytime you’d like.”

I’m certainly not going to take up that offer. A personal tour would probably be as dishonest and misleading as their official website. Plus I’ve already been through the place because I posed as a client experiencing a pregnancy scare (actually, I was experiencing a scare at the time as I hadn’t had a period for about seven weeks).

Maybe I was powerless to say anything at work, but I wasn’t in front of the clinic. I quickly and curtly told him, “Sorry, but I had a fundraiser to go to” and walked inside the clinic while he disappointingly said, “Oh.” Thus, ends this frustrating and weird chapter of my activism story.

Crude Photographs and Thin Skinned Fanatics

“Your ridicule is just typical antics. Spineless, mindless, tragic, fanatics.”—Otep

Wednesday turned out to be quite interesting when it came to the local newspaper.

To the surprise of no one, there was a scathing pro-life letter in regards to our presence at the Life Chain this past Sunday. Although, I did find it shocking that it wasn’t written by local pro-life leader, Pastor Samuel Faust. What was surprising was that the letter was accompanied by a photo of me and two of my pro-choice comrades holding the sign we dubbed the “Picket Rick”. I already knew public photography laws and how a newspaper can use photos, but I had never seen one in the opinion section of the paper so it caught me off guard.

The writer included all the English signs EXCEPT for “Abortion Kills Children”. Guess he didn’t want the readers to think the “protectors of life” had a sign that might be considered as “crude and offensive”. 

At first, it bothered me. I thought of how more extreme pro-lifers have put up pictures of pro-choice advocates or clinic workers with a frame to make it look like a WANTED poster. I used to think the only kind of pro-life activist that resorted to such tactics were the extreme ones that shout through mega speakers and write down license plates of patients. Those lines have been blurred and even silent sign holders are resorting to more of the despicable kinds of tactics.

Now I kind of find the whole letter and our picture being plastered in the paper to be hilarious. There were fifty-three individuals on their side. We had five on ours. They had almost 11 times as many people as we did. We were clearly outnumbered. With only a handful of us, we logically shouldn’t have had any effect  on them. Oh, but we did have an effect on them despite our small numbers judging by this letter.  I mean…why write such a letter about our horrible picket sign language against those who pretend that they care about life and include a picture of the offenders? I’d wager that it was meant to somehow shame those that stood up in the hopes that they’ll back down and give up. Are these pro-lifers so weak and thin skinned that a small gathering of fed-up people collected on a whim is enough to make them feel like they’re the ones that have been victimized? To quote an Otep song (“Feeding Frenzy”): “If there’s strength in numbers, why are you so weak?”

The Life Chain was nothing more than a larger version of the demonstration held outside the local women’s healthcare clinic every other week. Being that this special demonstration was on the bridge in order to obtain more visibility, the public didn’t witness what such a demonstration is like when it’s paraded a few feet away from the door of the clinic. There weren’t any female patients to intimidate or harass. There weren’t any women “of a sexually active age” they felt needed to hear the gospel and anti-abortion misinformation so badly that they’ll chase those women down the block, including a young woman on crutches who yelled back she was only received birth control from the clinic to regulate her menstrual cycle. They didn’t have anybody to ask “Are you Christian?” and then belittle and pick apart that person’s personal beliefs if they were even the slightest out of line with their own. They weren’t able to distribute a wealth of misinformation and lies to those that aren’t informed. That’s being a bully. Our sign was indeed crude, but what these pro-life protesters do is downright cruel.

Our crude Picket Rick had the precise effect on the protesters we were hoping for. I hope they felt intimidated and made uncomfortable by our presence. I hope they felt disgusted by our words. I hope they felt we were being invasive and intrusive despite that we were just standing there not personally bothering anyone. Because when the demonstration moves from the bridge and back to the front of the clinic, that’s how they’ll make women feel. The letter indicates they got a good dose of their own medicine, even if they’re so caught up in the belief that what they’re doing is righteous and pure that they don’t realize this is the effect they have.

Just as women that utilize Planned Parenthood or similar women’s clinics have had to accept that there will always be pro-life protesters flaunting their anti-abortion signs outside their healthcare provider, the local Life Chain participants will have to deal with people that are fed up with their bullying agenda showing up at their vigil.

I realize I could have used more “appropriate” language to demonstrate the frustration I feel towards this “pro-life” agenda. Except…I already did through my opinion letters.

In my first letter I wrote:

“Women shouldn’t have to call the clinic feeling uneasy about going to her appointment because of the protesters outside. Women shouldn’t have to feel that there are judgmental eyes on her when she walks in and out of the clinic. Women shouldn’t have to be anxious that she will be approached and be made to feel awful about themselves, guilty, or embarrassed. It may not be the intent, but that’s the effect they’re having.”

A 12-year old pro-life protester had written to the paper and I wrote that although I found her desire to help people to be genuine, I thought that she should make better use of her efforts and reach out to organizations that directly help those in need to volunteer instead of unhelpful sidewalk crusading. In response to a letter reprimanding me for essentially daring to make such a suggestion, I wrote the following:

“A recent discussion with clinic staff revealed there are women who explain that the presence of the protester 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 health.”

Frankly, after several opinion editorials and discussion with pro-lifers that continue to harass and intimidate women while fawning over themselves through rose-colored glasses, I’m exhausted of more appropriate language. I’m exhausted attempting to argue with those that talk around in circles and throw stones. Therefore, I don’t intend on writing any more opinion editorials for the paper on this subject. I’m not even going to write a letter defending my actions or Picket Rick as we’re well past the point of polite diplomacy.  I don’t mean I have given up on standing up to this deceptive nuisance movement that calls itself “pro-life”. I’ll most certainly be counter protesting the Life Chain every year from now on (unless they give up on harassing women) and I’ll learn to fight through my anxiety in order to stand up to them when they chase women down the sidewalk. What it will mean is that I’ll be more focused on helping people in need and working with those that want all women to have access to healthcare without being harassed by these fanatical false-Christian bullies.

The Irritating Sand at the Life Chain

These last few months have been a bit rough, resulting in my depression and anxiety hitting me with maximum force. Thus, I haven’t been doing much of anything—let alone amateur activism work. The Wednesdays I had spent observing protesters from across and researching for blog posts I never ended up writing are now spent shopping, eating, and playing Pokemon Go with a good friend before slipping back into a depressive funk that leaves me wanting to take a four hour nap. Until recently, I hadn’t written any opinion editorials for the paper in months (which I may touch base on in a later post), but that was mostly due to not having anything new to add to the abortion/women’s rights debate. The most I’ve really done in terms of activism lately is the occasional post on local organizations and things they are in need of (money, items, volunteers) as I believe practical assistance is more helpful than signs and preaching beliefs ever could. Mental illness is a strange thing saps any energy or motivation for the things you care about and forces you to struggle to accomplish even the basic of personal needs.

Regardless of the state of my mental well-being, there was one thing I wasn’t going to miss out on: counter protesting the Life Chain. Held on the first Sunday in October, the Life Chain is an annual nationwide pro-life demonstration where anti-abortion protesters stand in a line—a “chain”—for an hour or so along the roadside with signs like “Abortion Kills Children”, “Pray to End Abortion”, and “Abortion Hurts Women”. This is just one special pro-life event on top of the normal daily pro-life harassment committed outside abortion providers and women’s healthcare clinics. Other special events include the 40 Days for Life, March for Life, and the various Walk for Life events typically held by crisis pregnancy centers.

A while ago, I chose to not counter protest the pro-life crusaders outside my women’s clinic thinking that it would only further intimidate patients seeking reproductive health care services and deciding that abortion and healthcare providers shouldn’t be the battlegrounds for the reproductive rights debate. However, the local Life Chain is always held on the bridge, far away from the clinic that wouldn’t be open on the weekend anyways. If you ask me, it’s fair game for opposition.

My mental health and natural ability to procrastinate caused me to put off making signs for a counter protest. But through the suggestion and motivation of a new found friend, who decided to join me, I made what we believed was the most epic sign: Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty next to the words “S.T.F.U. ABOUT YOUR ANTI-ABORTION AGENDA!” (A variation of the quote “Shut the fuck up about moon men!”) A bit blunt, I must admit. But what else can you say? I’ve tried open discussion. I’ve debated. Fact checked. Suggested better ways to help. And at least tried to be somewhat appropriate for all of it. But they don’t listen to reason. They don’t care about facts. They don’t want to put the effort into things that would actually benefit the women they claim they want to protect from the “horrors of the abortion industry”. They just want to crusade against abortion even if the tactics and end result hurts women while trying to shut down anyone that disagrees. When you’ve watched these people continually stand outside a reproductive health clinic and try to shame, intimidate, and deceive women for a year and a half….it’s frustrating and infuriating. It has whittled me down to “Oh, just shut up already! Enough!”

“I turned myself into a counter-protest, Morty. I’m PICKET RICK!” 

Last year, I had stood alone with my sign with the George Carlin quote calling pro-life supporters “anti-woman”. It irked Faust enough that he let down his overly fake polite persona and snapped at me, asking if George Carlin would think the women that were there were anti-woman. This year, I managed to gather a handful of people to join me this year. We were certainly outnumbered. It was five of us up against forty or fifty. Four of us stood together while another was brave enough to march up and down the bridge with the other sign I made. We watched Faust pacing up and down the sidewalk, occasionally stopping to chat, while the rest stood stiffly and silently. If looks could kill, we would have been dead on the spot as we garnered some dirty glares from the pro-life protesters. They seemed bothered by our presence. I hope they were as women all over the country are regularly bothered by the presence of pro-life protesters outside of their healthcare providers. I told my friend, “Our numbers may be few, but judging by the looks we are like sand in a vagina.”

As I predicted, Faust came over to us. I had tried to describe he acted with a sort of politeness that wasn’t genuine before we set out and the girls finally understood what I meant when I called him a Stepford Wife. He introduced himself to the others with a programmed kindness. Even thanked us for being there despite the fact we were on the opposing team. Mentioned it might be confusing to tell which cars were honking for whom, but that we’d “sort it out later”. When we left an hour later, he greeted us and thanked us again for coming. “Oh, you girls should submit letters to the editor! Sam can even tell you what to write!” We laughed at the absurdness of it. I always felt that some of the pro-life letters written by other authors were very similar to what Faust wrote and pondered if he had some sort of hand in them. His words to us makes me wonder if he somehow hinted that he tells people on his side what to write. In any case, I feel that the women that joined me can formulate an opinion to write a letter on without my involvement. I’m predicted he’d be quick to submit a letter of his own, perhaps referring to us as “pro-abortion” as he did when he wrote a letter immediately following last year’s Life Chain.

Earlier I mentioned that I joked that we were like sand in a vagina: small, but irritating as Hell. I hope that we’re more like sand in an oyster. The oyster is irritated by the grain of sand and does it best to get rid of it by covering it up. But eventually the grain of and will grow into a beautiful pearl that will be worth far more than the oyster. My friend and I are already discussing plans for next year’s Life Chain and hopefully more women will join us.

Wooden crosses and abortion statistics

Fall is officially here. The leaves are changing color, the weather is cooling down, football season started, there’s pumpkin spice flavored everything, and…..pro-life activists are gearing up for anti-abortion events???

Our county’s chapter for the Wisconsin Right to Life kicked off the season by erecting a couple thousand wooden crosses to signify the average number of abortions performed daily.  Normally the yearly display is on the Catholic Church lawn, but this year they’ve chosen the empty lot next to my work place. So five days a week I’ll, unfortunately, have to see it and be reminded that soon pro-life groups will soon be holding the 40 Days for Life and the Life Chain. …As if the life crusaders across the country didn’t already have a platform to harass people and subject them to their anti-abortion agenda through protesting and sidewalk counseling outside of abortion providers and women’s healthcare centers…

Jackson County Right to Life volunteers setting up their yearly display of a couple thousand white crosses to represent the number of abortions performed every day in the United States.

There is one thing I did notice about the display: the number of crosses.

The Jackson County Right to Life, which regular clinic protester Sam Faust is the chairman for, posted that they needed help setting up 3,000 crosses to “represent the 3,000 little ones that lose their lives to abortion each day in our country”. The main group, Wisconsin Right to Life, states on its “Fast Facts” that 3,300 abortions are performed every day while it’s “Abortion Statistics” section states 2,900 abortions are performed every day. One of the clinic protesters, who also participated in setting up these crosses, consistently berates on Facebook that “OVER 3,500 of God’s precious children are being SLAUGHTERED each day!”

However, the sign next to this pro-life display states that there are 2,500 crosses while another sign explains “This many babies are killed by abortion every day in the USA.”

Wow, I thought the pro-life movement gave a lot of conflicting information, but this is ridiculous! It’s fairly common for advocates to give out anti-abortion information that has been discredited or debated, but apparently they can’t even agree on what numbers to use and just give all of them!

What gives? Each number is an average based on a different source.

The vocal protester gets his number of “over 3,500” by taking the 58,000,000+ abortions many pro-life groups claim have been performed since Roe V Wade.

Wisconsin Right to Life likely bases their number of 3,300 daily abortions from 1,200,000, the number many pro-life groups and advocates commonly state as being the number of abortions performed yearly. The other number of 2,900 daily abortions matches the Guttmacher Institute reporting that 1,060,000 abortions were performed in 2011.

The Jackson County Right to Life possibly bases its original number of 3,000 abortions per day on WRTL claiming on its Abortion Statistics page that 1,100,000 abortions are performed every year.

What’s interesting is that this year’s display of 2,500 crosses shows is correct according to the latest facts. (Points for a pro-life group actually being accurate on something for once!) Guttmacher reported that in 2014, the most recent year it has a report, that 926,200 abortions were performed, which would make the daily average 2,537.

But with all the different numbers being thrown around, it took some research to determine what was actually right and where they possibly got their sources from. It goes to show that the pro-life movement isn’t all that accurate when it comes to facts.


Bible Donations

Lately, I haven’t been standing up to the tyrants outside my women’s clinic. Not directly, anyways.

Debating with protesters did distract them from doing their missionary work of harassing women, but it was exhausting debating with self-righteous, arrogant fools that act superior because of some belief that they are right with God. At one point, pro-life letters were pouring into the opinion section of the paper following my response to the “Beyonce letter”. While I felt the urge to write again, I stopped myself. I don’t have to fight every battle.

To quote Hatsumomo from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, “Sometimes the smartest remark is silence.”

Thus, for the moment, I quietly observe the protest on a bi-weekly basis and quietly enter my credit card information onto the Planned Parenthood website to make a one-time donation in honor of Pastor Faust so that a thank you card will be sent to his church. After what happened yesterday, I’m almost convinced my Planned Parenthood donations are getting on his nerves.

My husband called me to let me know a piece of mail from Gideons International came in. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but that’s the organization responsible for putting Bibles in hotel rooms. It turned out to be a thank you card saying someone had donated four Bibles in my honor.

There was only one person that would donate Bibles in my honor: Faust.

I can only assume he donated about $20 worth of Bibles thinking it would upset me because I’m an atheist and he probably assumes I have a problem with Christianity. Frankly, I’m amused, if anything. Why would I be upset about religious literature that teaches to serve the poor and needy and to love others? It’s not so much the teachings I have a problem with, but rather the way people have warped and ignored them to justify hate and discrimination. If Faust truly donated Bibles just to get back at me for the Planned Parenthood donations, then he wasted his money.

Girl Scouts Targeted by the Pro-Life Movement

As stated in a previous blog post or two, one of our local pro-life protesters (dubbed the “Dicktator”) has a Facebook page that he uses to spout aggressive gospel and pro-life messages. His posts about protesting at my clinic intrigue me, but so do his other posts. It’s especially entertaining when someone has the balls to question his posts and if he’s truly in the faith instead of blindly agreeing with him and automatically typing in an “Amen!” in the comment section.

I probably shouldn’t look, but can’t help myself much like a moth to a flame or Otep Shamaya to the YouTube comment section of her music video for “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts”.

Most of his posts are repeating the same nonsense about inaccurate abortion statistics and criticisms about “lukewarm Christians” (despite probably being one himself). But every once in a while he’ll post something so off the wall that I have to wonder if he’s smoking meth.

The latest bat shit crazy post: Girl Scouts have ties to Planned Parenthood.

It reads:

The Girl Scouts have declined a whopping 30% since 2003 because of their ties to Planned Parenthood. This is because many Christian families are removing their children from the Girls Scouts because of the conflict in interest in being children of God and associated with the biggest mass executioner of innocent children (http://www.conservativenews.com/…/christians-ditch-girl-sco…).

Not only has the Girl Scouts allowed Planned Parenthood to have an influence on our young daughters and grand-daughters, they also have included programs to teach them sexually (https://concernedwomen.org/girls-scouts-under-fire-for-pla…/).

Thankfully, there is a Christian alternative for parents who are GENUINELY Christian and would like to protect their children from these predators- the American Heritage Girls! Please let me know if you would like a local contact information or look up the American Heritage Girls (https://www.americanheritagegirls.org/) for more information.

Please remember that our most important job as parents is to protect our children. With 70% of children being born into the Christian faith falling completely away from it by the time they graduate from high school (90% by the time they graduate from college!), it is a travesty. Don’t think that YOUR FAMILY is the exception!

We have a VERY SHORT period of influence to teach our children and we will be accountable to it to God. Please do not waste the time you have serving yourself.

Screenshot of Facebook post for reference. 

My immediate thought was, “What in the actual fuck? They’re targeting Girl Scouts now?!” because Girl Scouts being somehow tied Planned Parenthood seemed ridiculous. Though, to be honest, I personally  wouldn’t mind if I found out the insane amount of money I spend on Caramel DeLites every spring did go towards women healthcare. If I learned anything over the past year, its not to trust information that pro-life activists like the Dicktator presents. Usually their information is inaccurate or there’s more to the story that they’re not telling. A connection between Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood is no exception.

The first article he posted, “Christians Ditch Girl Scout’s Over Planned Parenthood Ties”, is where he got the numbers about the 30% drop in Girl Scout membership, which was based on a report done by The Associated Press. The article does acknowledge that the report doesn’t state how much of this decline is due to the perceived tie to Planned Parenthood, but makes every effort to try and convince such a tie is the sole reason for the decline in membership. The vast majority of the embedded links are from LifeNews, a pro-life news website. I don’t generally trust pro-life news websites because of the deceptive nature of the pro-life movement. My high school English classes have taught me its not wise to have all your references from one source. As an example for this case, it would be like writing an article on Japan and using “Memoirs of a Geisha” as reference.

How did Girl Scouts become associated with Planned Parenthood in the first place?

In 2004, a pro-life group in Texas launched a boycott against Girl Scout cookies when it was discovered that Waco Blue Bonnet Council of Girl Scouts had sponsored Nobody’s Fool for years. Hosted by Planned Parenthood, Nobody’s Fool was an annual one-day workshop aimed at teaching preteens and teenagers in grades 5 through 9 about sex education. More fuel was added to the fire in 2010 after the Girl Scouts attended the 54th Commission on the Status of Women and held a Girl Scout Only workshop about the global issues affecting girls. As the Dicktator’s second article link details, Sharon Slater of Family Watch International claims that the Girl Scouts distributed a International Planned Parenthood Federation brochure on HIV sex, health, and reproductive rights at their panel, which she was not present for. The Girl Scouts have denied they distributed such a pamphlet and there been no evidence that they actually did.

The Girl Scouts stance on sexuality, birth control, and abortion is “Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) does not take a position or develop materials on these issues. We feel our role is to help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives.” They also state they have no partnership or relationship with Planned Parenthood while Planned Parenthood has stated they don’t have any official relationship with the Girl Scouts.

Local chapters are allowed to partner with local organizations of their choice as was the case with the Waco Blue Bonnet Council of Girl Scouts. Still, even if an individual troop was indeed able to send cookie profits to a local Planned Parenthood, such a donation wouldn’t be used to fund abortions. Women have to pay out of their own pocket in order to receive abortion services. Instead, the money would go towards expenses and services in order to continue providing reproductive healthcare services—birth control, screenings, treatments, etc.—to low income women for free or cheaply. Then again, it wouldn’t be surprising if pro-life groups found fault with providing funds for birth control and reproductive healthcare due to some bullshit belief that such things promote promiscuity.

Despite the inflammatory and inaccurate statements pro-life advocates make about Girl Scouts being associated with Planned Parenthood, it’s unlikely it’s one of the main reasons for the decline in membership. Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts, believed that the decline was attributed to more parents and families—including single parents—being financially unstable and having little time to be able to be involved with extracurricular activities. Another problem the organization faces is a lack of volunteers. In some regions, interested girls who wanted to join have been turned away or put on waiting lists due to a lack of volunteers. The organization faced difficulties in 2013 that included a deficit-strapped pension plan, rifts over the direction of Girl Scouts programming, and revenue shortfalls that lead to about a quarter of the staff being trimmed.

The only real truth in all of this is that pro-life groups lost their collective shit over a single Girl Scout troop sponsoring a sex education workshop hosted by Planned Parenthood. Its not surprising as these groups try to demonize anything associated with Planned Parenthood or similar clinics. The Girl Scouts being tied to Planned Parenthood is nothing more than pro-life propaganda spread by those that are so ignorant and gullible they’ll believe anything the pro-life movement puts out.