Donate to PP in Pastor’s Honor

March officially marks a full year since…ugh…the protesters showed up at my women’s clinic.

The zealots are still as stubborn as ever, showing up with their signs for the short amount of time the Essential Health clinic is open every other Wednesday to harass any female patients about abortion…

…despite the clinic not performing abortion services and wanting to help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies that could end with abortion by offering birth control to women, mind you.

Leading this pack of wolves in sheep’s clothing is the Pastor, a man who is very active in the prolife movement. His prolife accomplishments includes leading the yearly Life Chain at the local bridge, funding two anti-abortion billboards for a year with church funds, being the chairman for the Jackson county Chapter for the Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL), leaving cards at the library for a lying crisis pregnancy center, and writing absurd opinion letters for the newspaper. None of these efforts have shown to be of any actual help to the women he bothers the crap out of on a bi-weekly basis.

Back in November, women were encouraged to make donations in Vice President Mike Pence’s name to Planned Parenthood. 82,000 donations were made in Pence’s name. Reportedly, for each donation made in Pence’s honor he received a thank you note from Planned Parenthood (which cannot be used for the purposes of a tax deduction either).  The act of donating in Pence’s name was a big “fuck you” to the new presidential administration that seeks to chip away at reproductive rights and women’s health, which Pence did when he was governor.

In honor of the anniversary when protesters started harassing female patients, I will essentially “Mike Pence” the Pastor by making small donations to Planned Parenthood for every week the protesters are at the clinic. I could have PP send the thank you letters to his house as his phone numbers are listed with the WRTL and the Life Chain and it would be easy to find the numbers in the white pages to get an address. Instead, I’ll use the address for his church, which is listed along with the other area churches every week in the paper. He wants to bother women at their trusted healthcare provider so I’ll be a bother at his trusted place of worship.

I only wish my own clinic had something similar in terms of honor donations, but I also support Planned Parenthood and feel that if we don’t stop the crusade against them then places like my clinic will be next for “de-funding”.

Billboards or Help? Pt. 2

In my post Billboards or Help?, I wondered if the Pastor had something to do with the newly erected Wisconsin Life to Right anti-abortion billboard. I’m even more convinced he did have involvement with it as I recently found he’s the chairperson for the Wisconsin Right to Life’s Jackson County chapter.

This speculation came from the fact his church had sponsored TWO anti-abortion billboards in 2013. I incorrectly stated these billboards were from the Wisconsin Right to Life when in fact they’re from Pro-Life Across America. I apologize for the error and made a correction note in the post.

church-billboard

In my original post, I wondered how much one of these billboards would cost. While researching a little about this Prolife Across America, a pro-life Christian group that just deals with anti-abortion advertising, I actually did find some average costs for these billboards. According to their FAQS,  “The average cost of a billboard is $500 to $3000 per month – depending upon the size of the billboard and the number of people who will see the ad on a frequent basis (artwork and production costs not included).”

Assuming these numbers could apply to billboard erected in a small town area, the Pastor’s church could have paid $12,000-$72,000 for both billboards. I’m assuming the costs were on the lower end of the price range. Still, even the cheapest amount is a LOT of money.

For arguments sake, let’s assume the two billboards cost the lowest amount of $12,000. What could have $12,000 paid for besides an expensive billboard?

I suggested money that goes to one of these billboards could have been better invested in women’s health clinics that help to reduce unintended pregnancies. With $12,000, Essential Health could have provided one of the following:

*A year’s worth of oral contraceptives to 240 women.

*160,000 condoms. Every individual who came to Essential Health for medical care in 2015 could have received 32 condoms.

*An IUD, which offers up to ten years of pregnancy prevention, to 24 women.

*48 comprehensive sexual education presentations

These pro-life groups are so concerned about saving babies yet hardly (if any) of their efforts go into things that would help women take care of their babies if they decide not to have an abortion. Baby Center’s “First Year Baby Costs Calculator” roughly estimates that to raise a baby through the first year costs $10,398. This is including “moderately priced” regular daycare for six months. If regular childcare isn’t needed, this cost goes down to $5,790. Instead of paying for an expensive anti-abortion billboard, the money could have paid for ALL the costs of one baby for the first year (two babies if daycare is not needed) and still have money leftover. 

$12,000 could have provided one of the following (based off Walmart.com prices and no taxes included):

*480 cans of 1.4lb Similac formula ($24.98 a can). Assuming a baby goes through about a can a week, this would provide 20 babies with six months worth of formula.

*20,512 4oz tubs of Gerber baby food (2pk for $1.17). Assuming a baby on solid food eats 3 times a day, this would provide 37 babies with six months worth of baby food.

*254 boxes of Pampers 252pk diapers ($47.19 a box). I’ve read a baby goes through 3,000 diapers in a year (give or take) so this would provide a year’s worth of diapers to 21 babies.

What would have been the best way to use that sort of money in order to help or save lives?

Two anti-abortion billboards that may have zero effect on some people or guaranteeing that at least 20 babies get enough formula and solid food to be fed for an entire year?

Two anti-abortion billboards that may have zero effect on some people or covering the costs of contraceptives for 24-240 women so that they are much less likely to be in the situation of having an unintended pregnancy that may end in abortion?

The answer should be obvious especially to those who claim they are there to help those in need. But, as I stated in the original post, that would require pro-lifers to get their heads out of their Bibles so they can use their brain and think of ways to reduce abortion rates that doesn’t involve guilt, deception, religion, or laws that stomp all over women’s reproductive rights. It also would require a sense of actually giving a damn about the babies they “save from the abortion mills” once they are out of the womb.

Should pro-life groups been allowed to sponsor the Women’s March?

This past Saturday, tens of thousands of women took part in the Women’s March on Washington as well as sister marches across the entire nation. Women took a stand to show the new government on their first day in office that “our presence in numbers too great to ignore” and that “women’s rights are human rights.”

The Women’s March on Washington created a bit of a stir when it decided to include the pro-life group New Wave Feminists among the list of official sponsors for the event. Many feel that a major part of the women’s rights movement is women having safe access to abortion and control over her fertility, which pro-life groups oppose. More controversy was created when the march dropped New Wave Feminists as a sponsor. Many pointed out women’s rights are more than just reproductive rights and believe that pro-life advocates can still call themselves feminists for supporting other areas of women’s rights. Thus, some criticized the event for ultimately excluding pro-life groups from sponsoring the event.

While the march didn’t bar pro-life groups and individuals from participating in the march, many pro-life advocates felt the backlash of including pro-life groups in the event and their eventual rejection from the list of sponsors made them feel unwelcome.

Should have pro-life groups been included in the Women’s March? My personal answer is a huge “OH HELL NO!”

No, seriously, what a terrible idea!

The most obvious and simplest reasoning for this answer would be completely conflicting opinions on abortion. That might not be a good enough reason for some so consider what the pro-life movement has actually done and the individuals involved.

Anti-abortion protesters target abortion providers and harass the women seeking abortions. They also target family planning centers that don’t offer abortion, but have information on abortion as an option. So women who are seeking birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing, treatments, pregnancy counseling, adoption and parental assistance referrals, and other care that may or may not be related to abortion services are also berated daily by pro-life protesters simply for receiving health care at places that are demonized by pro-life groups. Protesters “warn” women about abortion by screaming in their faces and reciting God-fearing gospel regardless of whether these women are seeking abortion services or reproductive health care or even when they’re only pedestrians on the sidewalk. The women that exit abortion providers are told they are awful human beings and child murderers for making what should be a personal decision of not continuing their pregnancy. The women that go to family planning clinics that offer abortion information are told that their trusted healthcare provider is horrible for having such information to give. Pro-choice activists like me get called pro-death, anti-life, godless, and immoral. They call it “sidewalk counseling”. I call it “sidewalk bullying”.

Pro-life ministries have set up crisis pregnancy centers in an effort to counsel women against abortion. CPC’s have been known to use deceptive methods to get women through the doors such as wiping their websites clean of religious references, manipulating Google’s search engine so that their CPC pops up in the search when women type “pregnancy symptoms”, falsely advertising abortion services, and use of similar advertising and language of nearby abortion providers and family planning centers. More often than not they set up shop next to or nearby abortion clinics and family planning centers with the idea that women will go into the wrong place by accident. Inside these places, they give women false information about abortion and birth control. The worst places have lied to women about how far along they were or their pregnancy results so they don’t seek abortion. This is not an accident or a few isolated incidents, but deliberate tactics that’s taught in seminars on how to run a crisis pregnancy center.

More extreme members of the movement, specifically those belonging to domestic Christian terrorist groups, have resorted to fear and violence against abortion providers and pro-choice people. Threats, assault, vandalism, arson, bombs, acid attacks, shootings, attempted murder, and murder have all been committed by pro-life people in the name of the pro-life movement. Yes, pro-life advocates committing murder in the name of “saving lives” and some pro-life advocates celebrating such heinous acts.

Does a movement whose tactics involve stalking, harassing, bullying, threatening, deceiving, and even harming women on a daily basis to help meet their goals sound “pro-woman” to you? It shouldn’t. That’s because it isn’t.

Does it make sense to welcome groups that are part of such a movement as major sponsors for a march and have those sponsors marching alongside the women they belittle and abuse every day? It shouldn’t. That’s because it doesn’t.

Would including groups that team up with law makers to continually whittle away at one aspect of women’s rights have gone against the march’s stance on standing up for and protecting women’s rights? It should. That’s because it would have.

So did the Women’s March on Washington make the right choice in not including pro-life groups as sponsors for the event? Absolutely. As activist Jessica Valenti put it, “Inclusivity is not about bolstering those who harm us.”

In Mourning

Today I am in mourning. Our president elect, Donald Trump, has been sworn into office.

I mourn as a woman. Our country now has a president who bragged about being able to get away with sexually assaulting women because he’s a celebrity and judges women based on how good her body looks, but doesn’t believe she should have rights over that body. What it means for my fight for reproductive rights, I’m not certain at the moment.

I mourn as a bisexual woman with friends who are also part of the LGBT community. No, Trump holding an upside-down rainbow flag after the election isn’t enough convince me he’s for LGBT as he’s put staunch conservatives who aggressively opposed LGBT rights in his cabinet and made Mike Pence, a man who once removed funds for HIV treatment and put it into conversion therapy , as his vice president.

I mourn as a person who was once ashamed to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome because a few of my peers called my younger brother “stupid” and “retarded” for having a more severe form of autism. I mourn as a God mother whose God son came physically disabled for a time when one of his seizure episodes paralyzed one side of his body and had to go through physical therapy to learn how to fully walk again. It greatly disgusts me that some are so lacking in decency that they could see a candidate openly mock a person with a disability and still vote for him.

I mourn because my cousin is half-Hispanic and his father (along with some of his family) came to the US from Mexico. How many Trump supporters would care that my uncle is one of the kindest and sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing when their candidate painted Mexicans in a negative light throughout his entire campaign?

But mostly I mourn because I feel having Trump for a president will bring out the hate in the people who put their faith in him. After the election concluded, there was a surge of Trump supporters harassing and attacking minorities, LGBT, and women and felt justified in doing so because that’s what Trump did during his campaign.

I’ve tried to make sense of why people voted for him. Maybe they voted along party lines and this just happened to be the asshole the Republicans put up. Maybe they hated Hillary so much that a racist, homophobic, sexist, draft-dodging, self-absorbed billionaire somehow seemed like the better option to then. Maybe they really did believe he’s going to “Make America Great Again” despite the fact he can’t even keep his own businesses from going bankrupt. Whatever the reasons for putting this orange asshole into office, it’s a slap in the face to me, my friends, and my family.

But this doesn’t mean I accept defeat. I’ll do my best to defy this potential tyrant, even if it only means being outspoken at every injustice this man commits from now on.

Today, I mourn. Tomorrow, I fight.

Should pro-life crusaders have to adopt?

On the pro-choice side of the abortion argument, I have often heard comments about how pro-life protesters should have to adopt all the unwanted babies they convinced women not to abort. I initially thought the same when I first became a reproductive rights activist and saw one of the protesters with a sign that said “Adoption is the Loving Option”. I mean, how can you claim to be an advocate for life and tell women to put their unwanted babies up for adoption when you won’t adopt any babies yourself?

To be fair, plenty of pro-life advocates have adopted or fostered children. But that’s beside the point I’ll be making.

Being pro-choice, in my opinion, means believing that women should be able to decide for themselves what they feel is right for them in regards to pregnancy, parenting, and birth control. That also means acknowledging that what feels right for me is not the answer for all women.

The pro-life view is the polar opposite with advocates telling women what they believe is best for all women regardless of each woman’s situation or what she wants. They tell pregnant women that their only option should be to give birth and some even go as far as to tell non-pregnant women to keep their legs closed unless they are willing to carry a child to term.

In this regard, I realized thinking that people that push a pro-life view onto women should have to adopt or foster children would diminish my pro-choice view. It seems hypocritical to believe that a woman shouldn’t be forced to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want while also believing that people who are crusading against abortion should be forced to take in children. How can you be about having choices and then believe your opponents should be forced into a choice? If being pro-choice means acknowledging that one choice isn’t right for everyone then we should acknowledge that adoption or foster parenting isn’t right for everyone, including those who protest outside abortion providers claiming to stand for life.

Of course, they could be adopting and fostering children. Just as they could stop badgering women outside of clinics and focus their efforts into things that would help provide for the children resulting from unintended pregnancies. I would encourage these pro-life advocates to do those things if they truly care about the well-being of children they’re trying to save. I don’t, however, think it should be a requirement of them to take in children in order to push their pro-life view onto others, even if I don’t agree with what they do.

To the Pro-Life Crusaders: Think before you de-fund

One of my supporters recently commented on a post that ended up popping up on my Facebook feed. Unfortunately, I cannot find the original post, but it was from an anti-abortion group posting a petition against the regulation the Obama administration issued that would prevent state law makers from cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood or other clinics. The rule hasn’t gone into effect (yet), but it has already received outrage from pro-life advocates demanding that Trump reverse it once he’s sworn into office. The petition claims Planned Parenthood performs 323,000 abortions per year and half a billion of our tax dollars goes into funding abortions while the group posting the petition called Obama’s regulation protecting Planned Parenthood funds a “pro-abortion move”. Comments from pro-life Facebook users wished to defund Planned Parenthood and stop our tax dollars from being used to fund “the murder of children”.

But fear not, oh, Mighty Crusaders for the Unborn! Your tax dollars aren’t funding the slaughter of the precious little gifts from your God thanks to a piece of legislature known as the Hyde Amendment.

The original Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976, three years after Roe v. Wade. Its purpose is to bar federal funds from being used to pay for elective abortions. Current versions of the law were written to include two exceptions: when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and when a pregnancy risks death of the mother.

Technically your tax dollars could be paying for the small percentage of abortions for women who are likely to die from their pregnancy and women who were raped. Yet these are exceptions pro-life advocates have made in regards to abortion. While the pro-life group is divided on rape and incest, most pro-lifers seem to agree that terminating a pregnancy is perfectly acceptable if medically necessary to save the mother’s life.

Unless a woman falls under these specific circumstances, a woman wishing to get an abortion has to pay out of her own pocket. So relax, Mighty Crusaders! Your tax dollars aren’t funding abortions for the women you view as irresponsible whores who don’t want to be inconvenienced with God’s gift of child birth.

However, your tax dollars are being put into family planning funding programs like Title X, which is the federal funding Obama’s regulation is protecting from being cut from places like Planned Parenthood.

Enacted by Richard Nixon in 1970, Title X helps provide low income and the uninsured with access to family planning and preventive health services. Title X’s own rules on how it can be used strictly forbid Title X funding from being used to pay for abortions. What it does help pay for are services like contraceptives, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings.

Title X and other federal funds designed for family planning pays for these services; not abortions.

What Obama’s regulation would do is require state and local governments to distribute funds for family planning and reproductive health services to qualified health providers regardless of whether they also provide abortions. It doesn’t apply to just Planned Parenthood, though it has been the main focus of the news surrounding this ruling because of it being a major abortion provider in addition to its family planning services. States wouldn’t be able to discriminate against ANY health care provider that receives funds to provide such services to low income or uninsured people.

So, Mighty Crusaders, when you cry out “DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD”, you’re not taking a stand for life by trying to eliminate funds that go towards abortion. The reality is you’re actually suggesting eliminating funds that allow under privileged individuals to obtain reproductive health services and contraceptives they may not be able to afford on their own.

th
Cancer screenings, contraceptives, treatments and testing…

Plus, the move may cause more damage to your anti-abortion goals than you realize.

Let’s use my reproductive health clinic as an example. In 2014, it’s estimated that between all its locations, Essential Health Clinic prevented 1,200 unintended pregnancies. Statically, about 400 of those unintended pregnancies would have been terminated had they not been prevented.

Let that sink in for a moment: 400 abortions were potentially avoided because seven women’s clinic locations in rural mid-western Wisconsin offered contraceptives to thanks to federal funding like Title X.

Now put that on a national scale. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that in that same year (2014) publicly funded family planning services from all sources (including safety-net centers and private doctors who accept Medicaid) helped women to avoid 678,000 abortions that year. Services provided at Title X supported centers alone like Essential Health helped prevent an estimated 326,000 of those abortions.

In addition, family planning funding like Title X is helping to save tax dollars. In 2010, every dollar invested in publicly funded family planning services saved $7 in Medicaid expenditures that would otherwise have been needed to pay the medical costs of the unintended pregnancies, delivery, and early childhood care.

Furthermore, for 40% of the women who obtained care at a family planning center specializing in the provision of contraceptive care, that center was their only source of healthcare.

Maybe some of you Crusaders are thinking, “We only want to stop funding to just Planned Parenthood because they do abortions.” But would it really end with Planned Parenthood?

Not all Planned Parenthood locations even offer abortion, but pro-lifers want to defund the whole organization. We have anti-abortion protesters outside my clinic because the clinic has abortion information for clients and the protesters have a deep seeded belief that the hospital Essential Health is affiliated with performs elective abortions in secret. Some pro-lifers think certain birth control like the pill and Plan B are abortifacients. Some believe women should wait to have sex until she finds a good man to marry and reproduce with (or being abstinent forever if she doesn’t desire children). Some believe family planning services promote sexual promiscuity that can lead to pregnancies that end in abortion.

So would the Protectors of the Unborn only target places like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions in addition to its family planning and reproductive health services or would they go further? How far would they go with “defunding” campaigns? Would they march beyond the places that double as abortion providers and target the places that don’t perform abortions, but offer information on it as part of its pregnancy counseling? Would they attack places that are affiliated with health care networks they suspected of secretly providing abortions under the radar? Would they continue onward to places that offer birth control they believe—not facts or medical studies—cause abortions? Would they go further than that and focus on clinics that they think for one reason or another are promoting a sexual lifestyle that defies a traditional, Christian marriage?

It seems extreme, but conservative pro-life law makers have been continually chipping away at reproductive rights for years with laws that restrict access to abortion for women or force providers to shut down, gutting state family planning funding for reproductive health clinics, allowing religious employers to deny birth control coverage in its insurance, attempting to dismantle Title X funding, and funneling millions of tax dollars into the deceptive faith-based crisis pregnancy centers that give misinformation and scare tactics to women seeking help with their pregnancies. It doesn’t seem like that much of a long shot that pro-life advocates would continue fighting until women don’t have much of a choice in their reproductive health and family planning clinics are nothing more than glorified crisis pregnancy centers telling women their only options are giving birth and keeping her legs closed until she finds a husband to procreate with because that what God wants.

Obama’s regulation may help to prevent pro-life groups from rallying behind pro-life conservative law makers and cutting funding to women’s health clinics that didn’t meet their demands.

It makes sense that one of the final regulations put forth by Obama administration would prevent family planning clinics from getting their funding cut. The Republicans, a party not seen as being for women’s rights, will officially have control of both sides of Congress and the White House come January 20th when Trump is sworn into office. The new Congress is already sworn in and immediately Republicans stated plans to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal Obamacare. Trump’s administration has already made promises to continue the Republican tradition of trampling all over women’s reproductive rights. Future VP Mike Pence, who signed every anti-abortion law to come across his desk while governor and poured money into an anti-abortion group, stated that the Trump presidency would work to reverse the birth control mandate requiring insurance companies to provide birth control in their coverage. Trump himself has expressed plans to defund Planned Parenthood and electing Supreme Court Justices that would turn over Roe v. Wade.

Obama seems to be doing what he can while he’s still president before the Republicans stage their full frontal attack on reproductive rights on behalf of pro-life groups. Because pro-life advocates refuse to see how cutting funding to family planning centers like Planned Parenthood could have serious ramifications. They don’t think that abortions and unintended pregnancies would likely increase without access to birth control or that tax dollar spending would increase if there were more babies being born to low income families who need financial assistance in caring for them. They act like they’re for women, but don’t seem to care that lot of women would suddenly be without healthcare when clinics shut down due to funding cuts. To be honest, they’re probably too busy cheering whenever a Planned Parenthood closes or praising God when a low income clinic drastically cuts its hours to notice the women who depend on these places for their contraceptives, exams, and treatments.

When it comes down to it, the campaign to “Defund Planned Parenthood” doesn’t seem very “pro-life” at all since pro-lifers don’t think of the impact it would have on lives.

If the Mighty Crusaders for the Unborn were truly pro-life, they would think before they defund.

Billboards or Help?

15909475_10154246888580840_910851475_n

Next to the new Arby’s building that sits on the other side of the Walmart parking lot is this newly erected eyesore of a billboard. As if we didn’t have enough of these damned anti-abortion propaganda billboards from Wisconsin Right to Life around the outskirts of town. I must admit my automatic response upon seeing it was letting out a disgruntled shriek with some obscenities and a middle finger before I could form any legible words that expressed how I felt about it.

There’s a part of me that wonders if the Pastor’s church helped to fund this anti-abortion billboard like they did in 2013 when they paid for TWO of the Wisconsin Right to Life billboards. But mostly, I wonder about the money.

I’m not an expert in the cost of billboard advertisements and I know we’re a smaller resort-type town, but this couldn’t have been cheap. It seems like it would be a prime location with it being a short distance from the downtown area, right next to a Walmart, near the gas stations and fast food restaurants, and on the way to the interstate exit, casino, and the hotels. Better location = more expensive.

Where does the money to put up these damned billboards come from?

How much was paid to put this up?

Did it cost hundreds or thousands of dollars?

Could that money been put to better use?

Maybe instead of plastering abortion statistics or their twisted versions of fetal development facts on giant advertising displays in attempt to shame people about abortion, they could be putting that money towards things that would actually be beneficial to their cause and the women they claim they want to help.

Their advertising might guilt some pregnant women into not getting an abortion, but it doesn’t make the problems women—particularly low income or single women—face during pregnancy or once the baby is born disappear. Perhaps the money could be put into programs that provide assistance to low income and single mothers. It would likely help reduce abortion rates as there are women who would carry their pregnancies to term if they felt they were financially stable enough to take care of a child. At the very least, it would help to ensure that the babies this group wants to save are provided for. Or is making sure babies have clothes, food, and shelter such a trivial thing to these pro-life advocates? Or do they expect all the underprivileged mothers to give up their babies to middle class couples?

An even better idea would be supporting a women’s clinic so low income women can get contraceptives she wouldn’t be able to afford herself so she can avoid an unintended pregnancy that may end in abortion in the first place. According to Essential Health (the women’s clinic in our town), $50 will provide one woman with a year of oral contraceptives, $75 will provide 1000 condoms, and $500 will give one woman up to 10 years of pregnancy prevention with an IUD. $250 will pay the clinic to give a presentation so that our youth can be educated on sex so they’re less likely to be in the position of an unintended pregnancy.

Oh wait. I forgot. That would require pro-lifers to get their heads out of their Bibles so they can use their brain and think of ways to reduce abortion rates that doesn’t involve guilt, deception, religion, or laws that stomp all over women’s reproductive rights. Or actually giving a shit about the babies they save once they’re out of the womb.

 

CORRECTION: I stated that the billboards around the outskirts of town, including the two the Pastor’s church sponsored in 2013, are from the Wisconsin Right to Life. They’re actually from Pro-Life Across America. I apologize for the error.

Additionally, I recently found the Pastor is the chairperson of the Wisconsin Right to Life chapter for Jackson County. Therefore, I think he had more involvement in getting this eyesore erected than I initially speculated.