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.”

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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.

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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?

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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.

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.”

Meet the “Protesters”: The Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—“A”, 12 years old.

 

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

So I wrote a letter of my own in response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because sidewalk counseling isn’t helping anybody.