Nel's New Day

June 6, 2016

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to Keep Women Pregnant

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are faith-based organizations, often not medically licensed, that try to keep women from having abortions. Their deceptive practices lure women to seek help by falsely promising to offer a full range of reproductive services, including abortions. Women who go to CPCs face intimidation and misleading, medically-disproved, ideologically-motivated information about abortion by staff who frequently lack any medical licenses but pretend to have them. In many states these bogus clinics outnumber abortion clinics, and many state governments funnel taxpayer money from medical facilities to CPCs. The nation has approximately 4,000 CPCs, three times as many as abortion clinics.

Last month, satirist Samantha Bee presented a segment showing the lies of CPCs from a woman who went to one. Cherisse Scott said she chose the CPC because it had the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages. This is what she was told:

“The nurse told me that if I had an abortion, my uterus would be perforated and I would not be able to have children. I ultimately decided to go ahead and have the baby because I didn’t want to chance not ever being able to have a baby.”

President and CEO of the National Abortion Foundation Vicki Saporta talked about how many CPCs also tell women that their risk of breast cancer will increase after having abortions or will suffer from PTSD. Saporta added that women are forced wait for hours while they are subjected to religious sermons and other propaganda. Other CPCs will also tell women that they can’t get results of pregnancy tests for weeks—stalling them until it’s too late for the women to get abortions. Studies show that over 50 percent of 32 CPCs give false information about abortion. CPCs do not offer medical services such as cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control. Their sole purpose is a counseling service based on guilt.

Amanda Marcotte wrote that another purpose behind CPCs is “to shame women for having sex and to spread stigma over abortion, contraception, and any non-procreative sexual activity.” That’s the reason that these sham facilities also fail to provide any way to prevent abortion such as contraception.

David Grimes wrote that CPCs also misinform women about “contraception and its relationship to sexually transmitted infections.” Eighty percent of 254 CPC-sponsored websites gave one or more false or misleading medical claims about abortion. Most of the websites with information about condoms or STIs discourage the use of condoms because condoms, websites claim, are ineffective in preventing infection. Only two percent of the CPCs “correctly cited the contraceptive effectiveness of condoms,” and only 9 percent “advocated correct and consistent [condom] use.” Grimes noted three unethical practices taking place at CPCs:     “[w]ithholding critical information or providing false information”; providing “[d]isinformation about the safety and efficacy of abortion”; and “disproportionately prey[ing] on those with limited education and resources.”

At this time, Texas is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling about the state’s massive reduction of abortion clinics. Another Texas issue is their reduction of Planned Parenthood funding. They falsely claim that the number of patients who accessed family planning services in the state in 2014 is at the same level as it was prior to funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. In 2011, the state legislature cut the family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, closing 76 of the state’s family clinics or ceasing family planning services. One-third of Texas women lacked a regularly health care provider in 2012, up from one-fifth in 2010.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. Yet the number of CPCs in Texas is growing from the boost in state funding. The state increased the Alternative to Abortion Services Program from $2.5 million in 2008 to $9.15 million in 2015. Texas has about 230 CPC; if the state wins its Supreme Court case it will have nine abortion clinics, ten percent from of the total from six years ago. Texas has 5.4 million women of reproductive age, and up to 240,000 women tried to give themselves abortions since the state started to close more abortion clinics in 2013. As in all other states, abortion is legal in Texas but highly inaccessible.

California is one state that tries to prevent CPCs from disseminating misleading information. The law mandates that licensed facilities providing services related to pregnancy and family planning must give women information about how and where they can access affordable and timely abortion, contraception, and prenatal care services. Unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services must tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Any digital or print advertising for unlicensed facilities must state, “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” CPCs have lost four of five legal challenges against the state law that went into effect January 1, 2016.

New York City and several antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have reached a settlement in a lawsuit challenging a 2011 ordinance to curb CPCs’ misinformation. U.S. District Judge William Pauley had blocked an ordinance requiring CPCs to disclose whether they offer abortion services, emergency contraception and prenatal care or refer for such services through postings in both English and Spanish in the centers and in ads as well as disclosing whether a medical provider was on site. Pauley’s ruling that the ordinance is “offensive to free speech principles” was partly overturned by a three-judge panel from the 2nd Circuit Court in 2014 that mandated disclosure of a licensed medical provider. The Supreme Court refused an appeal. In the world of abortion, allowing or requiring false information to be provided to pregnant women is “free speech.”

In Virginia, a CPC will move next door to a recently closed abortion clinic in Manassas. Women trying to go to the closed clinic are diverted to the CPC, and the telephone number for the former abortion clinic is redirected to the CPC. Women calling the number are required to endure a lengthy process for an appointment, causing them to miss the timeline for an abortion. Callers are asked several personal medical questions, but the information is not confidential because the CPC is not a legitimate medical provider. This practice is not uncommon.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University, an Oklahoma Christian university, is now considering a degree program, “applied ethics” that would  prepare students for “vocational work in pro-life apologetics, political consulting, or for an executive role” in the crisis centers. Jobs would most likely be available because of the tens of millions of federal and state dollars poured into CPCs.  Eleven states directly fund CPCs, and few states have any regulations, not required to comply with professional standards or malpractice laws.

Earlier this spring, Georgia’s governor signed a bill to create a funding program for CPCs. His excuse came from the fact that 96 percent of Georgia counties with 60 percent of the state’s women of reproductive age have no abortion clinics. Of the 70 CPCs in Georgia, 40 have medical licenses. The measure prohibits referrals to abortion providers, something that CPCs don’t do anyway. Proposed expenditures for these bogus centers is $2 million.

Pennsylvania paid Real Alternative over $30 million to support 98 religious sites for adoption, maternity agencies, and CPCs. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.   More horror stories here. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.

Mississippi has one abortion clinic and 38 known CPCs. The poorest U.S. state, it has abstinence-based sex education in public schools and one of the country’s highest teen pregnancy.The worst state may be South Dakota where all women seeking an abortion must first go to one of these CPCs.

If you want to know what’s happening in your state, go to this map and click on your state.

February 23, 2013

No Compromise for VAWA

For 18 years the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was the law of the land, passing in the year that Newt Gingrich took over the House and renewed every six years even when the GOP had control of a Congressional chamber and the presidency. Then the Tea Party came to town, and everything changed.

VAWA provides vital protections against domestic violence and sexual assault, providing assistance to victims through funding clinics, shelters, hotlines, and services. Greatly improving the nation’s infrastructure of dealing with rape and abuse, VAWA has saved countless women’s lives and livelihoods. It established the National Domestic Violence Hotline; trained law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors to help victims; made stalking illegal; and updated laws throughout the United States to consider rape by a partner equal to rape by a stranger.

Since VAWA, partner violence and homicides fell: from 1993, the year before VAWA’s passage, until 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent. The number of women killed by partners dropped 43 percent.

vawa

Last April, the Senate passed another six–year extension to VAWA, but the House rejected it. This month the Senate passed VAWA, but the House opposes support for Native American, undocumented, and LGBT victims of DV and SA.

One sticking point with the GOP-controlled House, that has proposed a watered down version of VAWA, is the provision that would protect Native American women on tribal reservations. They ignore the statistics of sexual violence against Native American women. Three out of five are assaulted by their intimate partners, and 56 percent of these women have non-Indian husbands. Despite epidemic rates of domestic violence against Native women on reservations by non-Native men, local governments are not permitted to respond to crimes in their community if the perpetrator is not Native. Only federal prosecutors, often hundreds of miles away without local resources, are allowed to investigate and prosecute these crimes. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is ten times that of the national average.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is an example of the 22 senators–all men–who voted against VAWA, bigots who oppose protecting Indian women from non-Native men. He declared that VAWA was unconstitutional because white men would be deprived of their rights by facing a tribal court.  “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” he said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

“The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley wrongly claimed. According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are drawn from the “state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruled that criminal defendants have a right to a jury “drawn from a fair cross section of the community” where the case is heard. Over 95 percent of Vermont is white, so the jury might be all white. On the other hand, the population of local communities on the Navajo Nation are largely Native American. Grassley’s statement indicates he thinks that Navajo jurors are less like to be impartial than whites.

Of these 22 senators, five senators are so anti-women that they voted against an amendment to ban human trafficking.  

Grassley has company in his anti-VAWA stance. Heritage Action, from the group headed by ultra-conservative Jim DeMint, and Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups,  are fighting VAWA’s reauthorization because it is “unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.” Claiming that VAWA is “bad for men,” the groups stated, “Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights.” Because male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may also be covered, the only men who might suffer from VAWA are those who commit these violent crimes.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), one of 17 GOP women who constitute 8.5 percent of Republicans in the House, the House bill removes rights from three specific groups of people:

Native American Victims: Tribal court sentencing on non-Native defendants would be limited to one year in addition to other options allowing defendants to evade justice in tribal courts. Non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations could move their cases to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights are not being upheld. The bill also eliminates the 2000 VAWA allowing tribes to issue and enforce civil protection orders against all persons, the only protection a tribal government can provide to victims of domestic violence from DV, stalking, and harassment.

LGBT Victims: The bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program; eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be eligible for legal status only if federal or local officials certify that it would help investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Last year, Grassley vote against the rights of these groups, saying that it was just the Democrats’ “election year politics.” He indicated that these provisions were included to make Republicans look bad in an election year. Instead of accepting the motivation to make the United States a better place to live, he follows the paranoid complaint from the National Review :

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.”

Amanda Marcotte laid out the issue much better:

“There’s a long and ongoing history of rape and domestic violence being minimized and ignored by law enforcement and society at large. Domestic violence is frequently minimized as mere couple-squabbling. Rape is often written off as the victim’s hysterical reaction to bad sex or just desserts for a woman who broke one of the many unwritten sexist ‘rules’ about going out at night, being alone with a date, dressing a certain way, or drinking alcohol.

“VAWA addresses these realities, by strengthening law enforcement response and providing victim services that avoid victim-blaming or minimization, and is not, contrary to conservative hopes and dreams, an attempt to make up for women’s supposed physical or emotional inferiority.”

If the House version even gets out of committee, GOP members will whine about Democrats not compromising with them. Trying to find common ground by refusing rights to specific groups of people is like the agreement of 1787 that gave each slave in the South only three-fifths’ status of a white man in determining Congressional representation. Emory University President James Wagner declared this a good compromise. Denying people rights is never a good compromise.          

January 23, 2012

Women’s Contraception at Risk

Over half a century ago, people questioned voting for a Catholic president because he might impose his religious beliefs on the United States. Five decades later religious beliefs are the basis of right-wing policies. The Catholic Church vigorously fights not only abortion but also birth control. The Catholic bishops used “religious freedom” to refuse reproductive health care to women who are employed by religious institutions that provide their health care.

President Obama is to be commended for not caving into pressures from the bishop in finalizing a regulation under the health care reform law requiring that all employer-provided insurance plans cover birth control without co-pays. He did give religious nonprofits until August 2013 to comply with the law. Medical research proves that women are healthier if the pregnancy is planned; children born at least two years apart are healthier.

Amanda Marcotte’s arguments supporting Obama’s refusal to allow the Catholic bishops to control women’s reproductive rights are very eloquent. She says, “Having the same regulations for every employer requiring insurance to fully cover birth control is a matter of religious freedom at its most basic. When Catholic organizations use their employees’ economic dependence as leverage to force pregnancy on them, no matter how unwilling they are to be pregnant, they deprive those women of their basic right to believe what they wish on matters of faith. Religious freedom is primarily an individual right. When an organization’s beliefs come in conflict with individual beliefs, the individual right to freedom of religion must triumph over organizational claims. Doing otherwise is allowing organizations to create a government-supported authority to discriminate and control on the basis of religion, depriving individuals of basic religious rights.

“After all, I can’t open a business and refuse to serve people because they have differing religious beliefs than I do. This is recognized as a violation of their basic freedom of religion. And that’s just a matter of serving sandwiches and fixing tires for people. It’s much, much easier to go to a different sandwich shop or car mechanic than it is to get another job or go to another school. Formal religious discrimination against those who don’t believe contraception is a sin has serious ramifications for those who are discriminated against in such a way. Anyone who truly supports religious freedom should therefore understand that women’s reproductive rights and equal treatment by their employers is part and parcel of religious freedom.”

Marcotte continues by comparing negativity toward women’s rights to the civil rights battle. During the turbulent times of the 1960s, “those who wished to discriminate on the basis of race would often claim that their right to push black people out of their businesses and neighborhoods trumped black people’s right not be discriminated against.”

Having free birth control saves money; unplanned pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers more than $11 billion a year. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies. Without funding from Medicaid and Title X, “abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double.” More than 99 percent of women aged 15–44 have used at least one contraceptive method at some time to prevent unintended pregnancies and limit the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

All four of the current Republican presidential candidates have signed the “personhood” pledge, affirming that they would protect all “innocent human life.” This includes any fertilized egg that people think might be damaged by the most popular birth control methods.

As governor of Massachusettsin 2005, Mitt Romney vetoed a popular bill to make the “morning-after pill” available over the counter and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. The bill became law after the legislature overrode his veto. In a recent debate he said, “I don’t know if a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to!” He followed that statement with the position that he wouldn’t vote to ban contraception, but he seems to not know that Griswold v. Connecticut requires all states to allow birth control. He also signed the “personhood” pledge that would stop the most popular forms of birth control.

Rick Santorum has gone even farther than Romney in protesting contraception. He has suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court erred in its overturning Connecticut’s law banning contraception for unmarried women and pledged to defund federal funding for contraception. His reasoning is that states should have the right to “limit individuals’ wants and passions.” According to Santorum, contraception “is a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Recently he has tried to back away from these words, but they will follow him to the end of his campaign.

People who believe that unmarried women should have access to contraception might want to start celebrating June 6, the date that the U.S. Supreme Court gave this reproductive right to all women 46 years ago. If a Republican becomes president in the next election, that right may disappear.

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