Prop 26 and Cristen Hemmins

Proposition 26 is being voted on today in Mississippi.  The initiative Mississippians are voting on would add this amendment to the state constitution:

As of now, the vote is a toss up.  The implications of prop 26 passing are beyond the pale.  The amendment effectively outlaws birth control, in vitro fertilization and could cast miscarriage as cause for criminal investigation.

Cristen Hemmins is an outspoken opponent to prop 26.  A survivor of a brutal rape, Hemmins puts a face on what prop 26 could do.  In addition to abolishing a woman’s right to choose prop 26 removes a woman’s right to her own family planning and makes no exception for abortion in the case of rape or incest.

Hemmins appeared on The Rachel Maddow show a couple of weeks ago and spoke earnestly and openly about her rape, saying this:

Well, I just felt like I had a really, a strong platform to talk about it. I mean, obviously, when I was abducted and raped and shot twice, I didn`t get pregnant. But if I had gotten pregnant — I mean, I would have had no options. And if I had gotten pregnant, if I had been forced by the state government to bear that child, it could have killed me  — physically, if not emotionally.

And, you know, when I tell people about what happened to me, I feel  like it`s, you know, it`s pretty hard for people to look me in the eye and say, you know, you shouldn`t have a choice, you shouldn`t be able to make  your own decisions about your own health care, you should make — you know, the state government should really make that decision for you.

Later in the interview, Maddow brought up the potential ban on birth control that would come from the passage of  prop 26:

MADDOW: The issue of the potential ban on birth control, and I know this is something that`s been discussed a lot and that is being contested by people who are advocates of this initiative and to a certain degree — is birth control becoming a central part of the debate in Mississippi?

Hemmins response was an eye opener and took the conversation about prop 26 to a completely different place:

HEMMINS: It is. You know, the problem is most people don`t understand how birth control works. You know, in Mississippi, we have a lot of abstinence only education. So, we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and, you know, a lot of Mississippians just don`t understand the biology of how babies happen.

Hemmins statement is easy for those in the abstinence industry to brush off – claiming they delay sexual debut despite all the studies to the contrary.  The fact that Hemmins is aware enough of the problem with ideologically driven, ineffective and deceptive abstinence only programming in the state speaks volumes of the prevalence of the problem.

When we continue to allow medically inaccurate, shaming and religious based sexual “education” into our schools, we are continuing to allow our teens to stay ignorant of sexual health and the realities of their own bodies.  Abstinence-only until marriage programs message of simply staying abstinent until (heterosexual) marriage has got to stop.

Here is one example of an abstinence program that has operated in Mississippi:

One CBAE (Community Based Abstinence Education) grantee, Community Matters, Inc., describes itself as “a faith-inspired, community non-profit organization.”Community Matters, Inc. runs the Rural Abstinence Partnership and is an affiliate partner of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. (See the Title V section of the South Dakota SIECUS State Profile for more information on the Abstinence Clearinghouse.) The Rural Abstinence Partnership conducts abstinence-only-until-marriage programming for young people ages twelve to eighteen in four rural counties in central Mississippi.

The Partnership also hosted the “Teen Rite of Passage Cultural Celebration and Parent Conference” in June 2007 in Jackson, Mississippi.Local high school principal Robert Mack spoke at the event and told the youth that “the bible says to abstain from fornication; and that’s just a big word for don’t do that.” He went on to say that the young people were “in the perfect will of God and obedient to a divine mandate.”

The new war on Sex Ed

Beware medically accurate comprehensive sex-ed!

Wisconsin will be spending some precious time today – during what is supposed to be a special session focused on jobs – arguing on the floor of their congress to  defund end comprehensive, evidence based sex-education with SB 237:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and bill author Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) said they expected the measure to pass the Senate. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said Republicans in his house have not yet discussed it.

Lazich said she wrote the bill so local officials could decide many aspects of their curricula.  She said her bill would free districts from having to “teach the big-government state mandates” under current law, though her bill does require certain topics be covered.

But Democrats said they feared changing the law could lead to higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.


The courses would also have to discuss parental responsibility and “the socioeconomic benefits of marriage” and explain pregnancy, prenatal development and childbirth.

Beyond that, Lazich’s bill would recommend other topics to be covered, rather than requiring them. Current law requires a range of subjects be covered in sex education courses, such as anatomy, puberty, parenting, body image, the benefits of abstinence, marriage and family responsibility, the use of contraceptives and how drugs and alcohol affect decision making.  The topics Lazich’s bills recommends would not include birth control, though schools could choose to teach about that on their own.

Please, save that “small government” bullshit for someone else.  This is an effort to bring ineffective and heteronormative (read:  anti-gay) abstinence only until marriage programming back – and the millions of dollars that would come with it through a provision the Republicans snuck into Obama’s health care reform act.

And, according to the lively twitter feed today about SB237 local Family Research Council affiliate Wisconsin Family Council/Action was there commenting on the floor during debate.  Also, a big shout out was given to Wisconsin Right to Life – of course – for all their help bringing this ridiculous bill to the floor.

In another avenue toward the New War on Sex Ed, yesterday anti-choice American Life League posted this:

And the day before that I posted this on Alternet:

It is being reported that Live Action’s Lila Rose is planning the next step in her ongoing effort to defund Planned Parenthood:  take away their sex-ed money.  Rose is lamenting the fact that Planned Parenthood got federal money to implement evidenced based comprehensive sex education via PREP  – Personal Responsibility Education Program – funding.

In preparation for what may eventually be another Lila Rose grainy expose trumpeted by the Right, it’s helpful to brush up on where millions and millions of tax-dollars are going to pay for sex “education”: ineffective and stigmatizing abstinence-only-until marriage programs.

Study after study has revealed the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only programs in reducing the number of teen pregnancies and reducing the spread of disease. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, virginity pledges, a staple of abstinence-only programming, not only did not decrease occurrences of teen STDs, but actually resulted in pledge-takers not seeking medical attention once infected, leading to an increased possibility of transmission.

Abstinence-only programs come under fire for questionable instructional methods and curricula as well. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) periodically releases in-depth reviews of abstinence-only programs and regularly finds that they often rely on messages of fear and shame to encourage abstinence and promote biased views of gender, marriage and pregnancy options.

Yet Americans have spent more than $1.5 billion on abstinence-only programs over the past fifteen years through Title V of the Social Security Act and other federal legislation. The programs really flourished under President George W. Bush, who created an injection of funding with his Community Based Abstinence Education grants. President Barack Obama did away with this funding stream, but during the fight in Congress over health-care reform, Republicans put $250 million for abstinence-only programs into the Affordable Healthcare Act.

I have covered two abstinence-only groups specifically in the past year, investigating their methods, connections and over $14 million combined in federal and state grants.  Project SOS in Florida and WAIT (Why Am I Tempted?) Training – now known as The Center for Relationship Education based in Denver.

Project SOS has received over $6.5 million in federal money since 2002, but the group decided not to apply for funding this year.  SOS had ties with the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda through the one of its most vocal advocates, Pastor Martin Ssempa.  The group’s founder, Pam Mullarkey, was an ardent supporter of Ssempa quoted on his website as saying, “Martin Ssempa is the man to watch. He’s the most powerful voice for abstinence in the world and his passion, charisma and character make his vital message irresistible.”  Mullarkey says Project SOS was laid out in its entirety to her over the course of five evenings by God.  And, like so many other ab-only programs, SOS was cited for peddling erroneous medical information in its curriculum and relying on shame and fear as means of instruction.

WAIT/CRE has gotten over $8 million in federal funds and just this year was part of an end run around former Colorado Governor Ritter – who rejected Title V in favor of PREP – to obtain an additional $233,000 a year for the next three years.

During an assembly in a Colorado high school Shelley Donahue, one of WAIT/CRE’s motivational speakers told her audience:  girls’ brains are like spaghetti, boys’ brains are like waffles…boys tuck schoolbooks under their arms at the waist, girls cradle theirs like a baby…boys were made to pursue girls and girls were made to wait to be pursued by boys…we have an entire generation of girls looking for daddy love…you just have to get that viable sperm close to her vagina and she turns on the little Hoover vacuum, because girls are very, very fertile.

At the same lecture, Donahue used a participatory activity outlined in the WAIT/CRE curriculum to show how sex prior to marriage negatively impacts a person’s ability to bond to a mate in the future. Donahue had a boy join her at the front of the auditorium. She instructed him to bare his arm, then ripped a long piece of clear packing tape off a roll and held it up to the audience; the boy’s girlfriend.

Donahue applied the tape to the boy’s arm and rubbed it briskly to ensure that it bonded, talking about how the tape would probably not become the boy’s wife.  She then ripped tape from his arm – he broke up with her – and held it up for the students to see.  The tape was covered with bits of the boy’s dried skin and hair. Donahue commented on how gross the tape was and repeated the operation over and over again. Each time the tape pulled up more debris and lost more of its ability to make a tight bond.

The implication is the girl is now dirty, soiled for her future husband.  She will go on to have problems in her future “bonding” with another man.  This too is common in abstinence-only curricula.  The girl burdened with the actions of the boy, responsible for guarding her purity from him.  There is lip service paid to the boy’s responsibility but mostly in the form of excuses:  raging hormones, constantly producing sperm, the girl’s shirts are too low-cut.

According to one Colorado blogger, an attendee of another Donahue WAIT/CRE lecture reported Donahue told the group that the HPV vaccine “will leave them sterile.”  A familiar lie used by the right wing based on their belief that for young women, a potentially life saving vaccine’s most dangerous side effect is immorality and promiscuity.

You can watch the hour long video for yourself.  Not only does the gender stereotyping and nonsensical explanations about how one becomes pregnant continue, but also reinforcing heterosexual marriage as the only way to live a happy productive life is the order of the day.  And all of this is pulled directly from WAIT/CRE’s curriculum. Donahue says something akin to getting right with God in reference to pre-marital sex and mentions the deity several more times throughout the presentation.

According to a GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network) study “a significantly greater portion of students in schools that used an abstinence-only curriculum reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and gender expression—64.8% of these students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation compared to 57.3% of all other students.”

A new circular issued by the Administration for Children Families, the government agency that distributes abstinence money, recommends Title V grantees,  “[Title V recipients] consider the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth and how their programs will be inclusive of and non- stigmatizing toward such participants.”

WAIT/CRE’s founder Joneen Mackenzie reported on her state application for Title V funding that, “The American Psychological Association Gay and Lesbian Issues Team have vetted the WAIT Training Curriculum for inclusive language and appropriate activities that include all students…only data driven curricula that is inclusive and not stigmatizing to this population will be utilized in this effort.”

The APA’s Clinton Anderson, associate executive director and director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office says otherwise, “we never conveyed any sort of approval to WAIT Training as being adequately inclusive or appropriate for lesbian, gay and bisexual students.” In fact, the APA supports comprehensive sex education and has maderecommendations for inclusive messaging.

As a result of Mackenzie misrepresenting WAIT/CRE as LTBTQ friendly, along with ethical questions about the way the Title V funding was obtained, Colorado Ethics Watch has called for an investigation.

Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch said, “It looks like WAIT violated that ethical standard here by claiming that the APA ‘vetted’ WAIT’s LGBT inclusiveness criteria when the APA says that did not happen. Obtaining government dollars by falsely claiming to be inclusive and tolerant of gay and lesbian youth actually hurts those young people.”

Project SOS and WAIT/CRE are but two examples.  They don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to outing the legion of discriminatory, shaming and worst of all medically erroneous abstinence-only programs – but they are unfortunately representative. Fraudulent crisis pregnancy centers and state affiliates of Focus on the Family have received millions of your tax dollars to talk to your kids about heterosexual marriage in the guise of sexual education – probably in a school near you.

There are two bills concerning abstinence funding sitting in the House of Representatives.   One introduced by Representative Barbara Lee pushing to end abstinence funding and the other is an appropriations bill to re-up the funding introduced by the Republicans.  Due to the state of the economy, rampant unemployment and a burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement one of these bills – the Lee bill – is likely to go nowhere.

The Republicans, champions of job creation, will probably find time to debate their bill, lobbying for abstinence-only programs because the real problem with the economy is the downfall of the family and traditional marriage – just ask any of the GOP hopefuls.  Perhaps the bill’s debate will coincide with the release of Live Action’s expose on Planned Parenthood teaching your teenager how to have dirty out-out-of wedlock sex by showing them how to roll a condom over a banana.  This is a possibility we who value comprehensive sex education and loathe the funding of hokum should be prepared for.

And, what would sex talk be without soon to be even more irrelevant Rick Santorum?  Today fellow blogger and Iowan Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts posted his interview with the GOP hopeful in which Santorum pledges to defund contraception.

Google It

What you can do:

There are two bills floating around the House: one introduced by Barbara Lee (California) to defund abstinence only programs reallocating that money to comprehensive sex ed.  And House appropriations bill (introduced by the Republican majority) to dismantle comprehensive sex ed and dump tax dollars into ineffective, discriminatory and religious based abstinence-only until marriage programming.  (If you would like to read why I and many others believe this is a bad idea – you can click on this link or scroll down.)

After my writeup posted on Alternet, there was a comment asking about who they could call in DC about this and the bill number. Here is a copy of Lee’s press release.  The bill number is HB 1085 and in the Senate S 578 (introduced by Senator Lautenburg of New Jersey)

Cosponsors in the House and Senate:  The co-sponsors of the House bill are: Diana DeGette (CO-01), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Sam Farr (CA-17), Bob Filner (CA-51), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Luis Gutierrez (IL-04), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-02), Nita Lowey (NY-18), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), James McGovern (MA-03), Gwen Moore (WI-04), James Moran (VA-08), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John Olver (MA-01), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Janice Schakowsky (IL-09), Pete Stark (CA-13), Lynn Woolsey (CA-06). 

The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

To contact Representative Lee to encourage movement on this bill:

Washington, D.C. Office
2267 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2661 Fax: (202) 225-9817
Hours of Operation: 9am – 5pm EST

To contact Senator Lautenburg:

Lautenberg, Frank R. – (D – NJ) Class II
(202) 224-3224
Web Form:

To contact individual Reps and Senators visit their websites or visit

Kansas ethics panel calls for Phill Kline’s law license to be suspended

To clarify:  Former AG Kline’s license may be suspended after this stunning recommendation for it’s removal by an ethics panel in Kansas.  I wrote this post earlier today.

The recommended sanction from a three-member panel of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys reflects the board’s belief that Kline repeatedly violated the state’s rules for attorneys. It stopped just short of recommending that he lose his law license, something state Disciplinary Administrator Stanton Hazlett had proposed in pursuing the case.

Hazlett didn’t comment on the panel’s decision, only summarizing its contents and noting that the Kansas Supreme Court will have the final say on whether Kline will face sanctions. It will be at least six months before the court hears Kline’s case.

Read more: sentiment remains the same.


When I saw this tweet from RHRealityCheck this morning I frankly couldn’t believe it:

During the trial of Dr. Tiller’s murderer Scott Roeder, I became familiar with Phill Kline.  This is from a post I wrote back in early 2010. The judge in the Tiller murder trial had ordered the jury to steer clear of a 2005 GQ article about the budding Kansas AG:

Former Kansas Attorney General, Kline relentlessly and erroneously filed 30 claims against Dr. Tiller in 2006.  Sends a message doesn’t it?  Kline had political aspirations, seemingly on the fast track to the Kansas Governor’s mansion.  GQ even stood up and took note. This from the 2005 article:

“[Kline is] the most aggressive abortion litigator in the land.”  The nine-page article carries the headline, “This man will do anything to stop abortion.”  The author of the article isGQ correspondent Andrew Corsello, who focused much of his attention on a lengthy dinner conversation he had with Kline and Kline’s wife about abortion.  The second page of the piece bears an image of a fetus with a subhead that says, “Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline says he wants to get people talking honestly about abortion, to make people think about abortion. So why has he become the most aggressive abortion litigator in the land, subpoenaing the medical records of abortion clinics and prying into our private sexual histories? Meet the future of the pro-life movement.”  (from

If you have the stomach for it here is more of my writing about Kline/Roeder from that time

This is from an AP story this morning reporting on Kline’s suspension:

“The Respondent’s (Kline’s) dishonest and selfish motives aggravate the misconduct in this case,” the panel wrote in its 184-page report. “The Respondent failed to take any responsibility for his misconduct.”

The recommended sanction from a three-member panel of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys reflects the board’s belief that Kline repeatedly violated the state’s rules for attorneys. It stopped just short of recommending that he lose his law license, something state Disciplinary Administrator Stanton Hazlett had proposed in pursuing the case. Read more:

The words dishonest and selfish in the panel report are representative of the movement Phill Kline represents. It’s noting that Kline failed to take responsibility for his misconduct is standard operating procedure for the radically anti-choice.  The “pro-life” movement is balanced on the scales of those two powerful words and buoyed by its refusal to accept the negative outcomes they produce.  The lies that flow from the anti-choice movement smash repeatedly down on women and  capture our country in its wake; the fight to push back and repudiate their claims is non-stop and exhausting.

The lies run the gamut:  fake science, fetal pain, when “life” begins, abortions cause breast cancer, there is such a thing as post-abortion syndrome that we will treat you for at our fake clinics.  Their tactics are reprehensible:  photos of mutilated fetuses splashed on the sides of panel trucks, shaming and terrorizing women as they enter clinics, bombs, murder.  Their motives completely selfish:  I don’t want you to have an abortion because I believe God put a baby in your tummy when sperm met egg.  I have tried to have reasonable conversations with anti-choicers.  But I can’t have a reasonable conversation with unreasonable people who are ruled by their religion with a moral certitude that can be deadly.

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue recently said this (via the intrepid Robin Marty at RHRealityCheck):

“Abortionists don’t deserve anonymity,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “It keeps them from being held accountable for their actions. In some states, patients aren’t even told the full names of their abortionists and when things go wrong, women don’t even know who to file a complaint against.”

Identifying abortionists has helped Operation Rescue and other pro-life groups to warn women of abortionists with histories of abortion abuses.

“People who are proud of their work are willing to put their names on it. People who are ashamed or are trying to get away with something, like bank robbers and abortionists, wear masks,” said Newman. “It’s time to unmask Nicola Moore and allow Christians to pray for her — as a post-abortive woman and as an abortionist — to seek repentance, salvation, and healing through the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.”

Troy Newman must not have been proud of the work his organization’s tactics played in cultivating Scott Roeder:

Scott Roeder has never been a member, contributor, or volunteer with Operation Rescue. Mr. Roeder may have posted to our open blog web site, as have thousands of members of the public, including those with pro-abortion views, but he is not affiliated with this organization.

We deplore the criminal actions with which Mr. Roeder is accused.

The pro-life ethic is to value all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Operation Rescue has diligently and successfully worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see to it that abortionists around the nation are brought to justice. Without due process, there can be no justice.

In spite of these horrific events, we remain dedicated to working through all peaceful and legal means available to bring an end to the killing of innocent children through abortion.

The fact that Newman moved Operation Rescue’s HQ purposefully into Dr. Tillers back yard probably had nothing to do with any of it.

When it comes to abortion rights, Kansas is a train-wreck.  I thought for sure once again, a woman’s right to an abortion, to the privacy of her medical records and womb, and the shrugging off of a man’s death because he was an abortion provider would rule the day and Phill Kline would go on to whatever fame is reserved for such right-wing zealots.  The panel’s recommendation is nothing short of a coup.

The voracity with which House Democrats railed against HR 358 (the bill’s name itself a lie: The Protect Life Act) was amazing and a sign that we are fed up with the Republican’s legislative misogyny.  Not only is the bill redundant and a waste of time/fundraising for the right ploy it is also particularly repugnant.

The bill allows for a healthcare provider to refuse medical treatment of a woman who shows up on their doorstep bleeding from her vagina in some stage of miscarriage or aborting a pregnancy.  And this is to protect the conscience of the healthcare worker who’s first duty is to do no harm. Representatives Alcee Hastings, Jan Schakowsky, Jackie Spear, Gwen Moore, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Steve Isreal, Ted Deutch and Rush Holt starred in a feature reel on The Rachel Maddow Show last night in which they let the Republicans have it.  I didn’t hear one of these legislators use the ridiculous “our friends on the other side of the aisle” instead referring to the Republicans that brought this bill as colleagues.  And that is because they are not our friends.

It is difficult to tell if we are witnessing the death throes or re-upping of the radical right-wing.  The frenetic pace with which the states are instituting draconian abortion laws, defunding Planned Parenthood and bringing ultrasounds to Capitol Hill could be either – or just 2012 showmanship. It is going to be up to the us in the pro-choice movement to decide.

How we capitalize successes, like the Kline ruling, how we can more aggressively respond to the lies and tactics of the anti-choice movement and how we push the media to talk about the war on women will continue to make all the difference.  It might just be me, high on the Kline ruling, or inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement but it feels a bit like a tipping point if we can grab the moment and take our long fought fight to the next level, whatever form it takes.  Sleeping bags on the Capitol steps anyone?

Anti-Choice billboard comes down in NYC

When Tim and I arrived at Watts and 6th Avenue it was us and a NY1 news truck.  Then, others started filtering in, FOX 5, Chanel 2, a photographer and a nice young lady from the Daily News.  But it wasn’t the news people who interested me, propping up cameras, filming b-roll of walking New Yorkers.  It was the people who stopped to see what all the fuss was about and then, offered their opinion out loud to the gathering crowd every single one – for their own reasons – in disgust.

The placement of the billboard at that location on 6th Ave is significant as it is where the Holland Tunnel dumps out sending people uptown.  6th is a giant artery packing 5 (or was it 6?) north bound lanes. The billboard – that beautiful child standing below those manipulative, awful words – is angled so when a motorist hits a red light at 6th and Watts they have the perfect view.  The placement isn’t an accident – companies hire companies to access hits, numbers of eyes, on out of home advertising, to get the most bang for its advertising buck.

I propped myself up against two blue US mail boxes wedged between a lamppost and a gaggle of cameramen.  I asked them if they heard when the Lamar Outdoor – the owners of the billboard space – crew was supposed to arrive.  One guy said his producer said they were on their way. Great! Then he said – from the Bronx.  Oy.  It was 4:00 and rush hour was ramping up. A trip from the Bronx could shave days off your life.  Tim went to fetch coffee.

That’s when people started talking – after craning their necks to see what the cameras were pointing at – to we the assembled.

This woman walked straight up to the corner with her own video camera – one of several who did the same.  She showed up on the 11:00 NY 1 News broadcast:

pissed of SOHO resident

This is what made the edit for NY1’s broadcast:

“How dare you. ‘The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.’ Who are these people?” said one SoHo resident.

Here is what didn’t make the cut:

So what are they trying to say – who are they speaking to?  Why did you put this in SOHO – who’s your demographic?  You care about black babies?

Who are they speaking to?  And – who are they?  Heroic Media and Life Always based out of Austin Texas.  Yesterday, the Texas Independent had a good connecting the dots for you article about the group behind this:

An Austin-based anti-abortion group’s foray into the Northeast media market is causing quite the controversy. According to Texas Secretary of State records, Heroic Media founder Brian Follett is the registered agent for Life Always, the group that paid for a three-story high billboard that’s part of Follett’s campaign targeting African-Americans in urban areas.  Records show that Life Always was registered with the state on Jan. 14, at the same northwest Austin address as Follett’s other nonprofits, including Heroic and The Life Foundation.  (Read the Texas Independent for previous reporting on Heroic in Texas. Read the Florida Independent for previous reporting on Heroic’s efforts in Florida.)

NOTE: Brian Follett is neither a woman nor African-American

Two men – African-American – stopped to check out the scene.  Here is what I find interesting about my interaction with them: neither of them supported the billboard – they thought the wording was offensive but the underlying issue wasn’t – the high rate of abortion in New York’s African-American community.  They both quoted “the statistics” about African-American abortions.  The first gentleman said that it was “messed up” that 58%  get abortions – I asked where he got the statistic and he said he had seen it on the news.  Then, as he was walking off, he re-iterated his disgust over the high numbers, then he said “sixty-eight percent.”  Facts change quickly.

The second man told me the billboard was covering up the larger issue about African-American women getting more abortions than white women – the root behind it though he didn’t explain what the root was – and again he leveraged the statistics.  I asked him what statistics had he heard – could he give me a number?  He couldn’t, laughed and said his friend told him it was high.

Two white ladies – I am going to assume mother and adult daughter – stopped to gawk at the billboard:

Mom: Wow (looking at the news crews, looking at the board) I’d say that’s pretty newsworthy

Daughter: Oh my God.

Me: Yeah, it’s coming down

Mom: They are taking it down?

Daughter: Good.

It was getting colder, the sun setting.  People continued to stop and look up, stopping their cars in the intersection clicking pics with their cell phones.  Tim and I started to walk around the block – no Lamar Outdoor truck in sight.  We were happy to stay though we had to find some place warm to sit and grab a bite.  Lupe’s at Watts and 6th – delicious Colorado style chili.  We talked as we sat there – I kept looking out the window to see if a cherry picker had shown up.  Who was it Life Always was talking to?

I don’t know the who but I am pretty sure I know they why.

What Brian Follett, Heroic and Life Always are trying to do is end abortions for all women – not to preserve a community – because of their religion.  These are Christian organizations – white and African American – finding solidarity in their belief.  Using a divisive tactic like singling out the African American community of women serves to divide us – give white women and African-American women a reason to not stand united for our right to an abortion.  Cultures will always have differences, but our right to choice can serve to unite us.

They are using a beautiful little girl’s African-American face to avoid providing preventative services to her underserved demographic.  They are saying let’s stop abortion and that will stop the problem.  I say the problem is unplanned, unwanted pregnancy.  What would really help stop that problem is proper sex education – comprehensive, honest and ongoing, contraception and programs to help elevate people out of poverty.  Advocate not cutting off Title X funding to Planned Parenthood – vilifying the organization that provides untold women reproductive health services – would be a truly care-ful thing for the people behind this billboard to do.

Back at Lupe’s we decided it was time to head home.  We had been waiting for three hours – Tim and I verging on becoming human popsicles – for that thing to come down.  At some point during the evening it finally did.

NYC Council Bill 371: Crisis Pregnancy Centers Must Post Truth About Services (email your councilmember)

In case you haven’t heard – the NYC Council will likely vote soon on a bill (Int. 371) that would require often misleading and always anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers to post actual services provided.

From NYC Council website regarding Int. 371:

In October 2010, Councilmember Jessica Lappin introduced  Int. 371 , a City Council bill that will require non-medical pregnancy care centers (including places known as crisis pregnancy centers) to clearly post what services they offer.  Women often receive deceptive and confusing information at these facilities.  This deception can lead to dangerous delays in women obtaining appropriate medical care.  It will also protect women’s privacy by requiring that they keep all personal information private they aren’t currently required to do because they aren’t medical offices!

New Yorkers – go to the City Council’s website and email that you support passage of this bill.

There is plenty of opposition out there claiming:

“The New York City Council is trying to force harsh regulations and free speech restrictions on pro-life pregnancy centers in NYC in Bill 371. This could come to a vote in late February 2011” (from a quick Google search will yield similar postings).

However, there is nothing harsh about requiring these facilities to tell the truth about their mission – to convince women to not get an abortion.

A couple NYTimes articles about Int. 371:

True Mission of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

A Hidden Minefield at Pregnancy Centers

South Dakota Bill Will Funnel Women Into Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Add this bill to the ones piling up around the country that continue to chip away at a woman’s right to an abortion.

This South Dakota bill – HR1217 – manages to decide that women aren’t capable of making decisions for themselves while  requiring women – to visit expressly Christian, anti-choice and sometimes federally funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC) before they can schedule an abortion.

If you are unclear on what a CPC is here’s a quickie review:

Going by the names, Crisis Pregnancy Center, Pregnancy Aid, Birth Right, Open Door, CareNet, Life Choices, or Pregnancy Counseling Center, these groups want to be the first contact a woman makes when she thinks she might be pregnant, so they can talk her out of considering abortion.  Anti-abortion pregnancy centers are listed in the yellow pages under “abortion alternatives.” They do NOT provide abortion. Many offer free pregnancy tests or pregnancy counseling as a means to lure you in. On the Internet they also use deceptive names like, and They do NOT provide referrals for abortion. Nearly all of these centers are operated by churches or religious organizations. They refer to themselves as a “ministry” to save women’s souls.

And, from my friend Kathryn’s excellent article last fall in Ms.

The deceptive tactics of many of the country’s CPCs—which are estimated to total between 2,300 and 4,000 centers nationwide—have been well-documented: They often mislead women about whether they perform abortions, mimicking the style or names of abortion clinics and operating in close proximity to them. Some provide misinformation about women’s pregnancy status or due date, or suggest unproven links between abortion and cancer, infertility or suicide. Yet despite these fraudulent practices, CPCs have received millions in funding from both federal and state coffers.

(and a link to my quickie post with links to the TAGGS government grant site on CPC funding here.)

And, if you didn’t catch this article Seattle’s The Stranger about CPCs you really have to give it a read:

Click for The Stranger article

A snippet:

According to the allegations, women were subjected to inappropriately long wait periods for pregnancy test results and were provided false or misleading information about abortion, birth control, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections. The report concludes that the centers “provide inaccurate information designed to delay women from making decisions about how to handle unintended pregnancy.” The centers often won’t give women their results in writing, which they need to qualify for medical coupons or Women, Infants, and Children programs in Washington. They refuse to issue referrals for services they can’t provide and morally object to. And when women visit these centers, they have no guarantee that their medical information will be kept private—again, the centers aren’t obliged to follow standard HIPAA privacy regulations because they’re not medically licensed businesses.

Excellent article from RHReality Check on this bill:

…You read that correctly, women wanting an abortion will be FORCED to visit pregnancy help center, otherwise known as a crisis pregnancy center. Many of these centers are not regulated by a government agency and are routinely staffed by volunteers who lack any type of training.

(RhReality Check posted an article about this a couple of weeks ago – but for some reason the article has only been “shared” or “tweeted”  9 times – really?)

And CPCs are exactly the place South Dakota would push women to visit. From the bill:

From H.R. 1217:

The Department shall publish a list of all pregnancy help centers which submit a written request or application to be listed on the state registry of pregnancy help centers. All pregnancy help centers seeking to be listed on the registry shall be so listed without charge, if they submit an affidavit that certifies that:
(1)    The pregnancy help center has a facility or office in the state of South Dakota in which it routinely consults with women for the purpose of helping them keep their relationship with their unborn children;
(2)    That one of its principal missions is to educate, counsel, and otherwise assist women to help them maintain their relationship with their unborn children;
(3)    That they do not perform abortions at their facility, and have no affiliation with any organization or physician which performs abortions;
(4)    That they do not now refer pregnant women for abortions, and have not referred any pregnant women for an abortion at any time in the three years immediately preceding July 1, 2011;
(5)    That they have a medical director licensed by South Dakota to practice medicine or that they have a collaborative agreement with a physician licensed in South Dakota to practice medicine to whom women can be referred;
(6)    That they shall provide the counseling and interviews described in this Act upon request by pregnant mothers; and
(7)    That they shall comply with the provisions of section 11 of this Act as it relates to discussion of religious beliefs.

I am not sure how to calculate the number of ways this bill is offensive.  I will give it a stab:

1.  The language “unborn child” “relationship” “educate”  these alone sound like wonderful things – there is nothing like being educated about your relationship with your unborn child.  As a mother, learning about my pregnancy and following my now 21 year-old baby’s progress was thrilling.  However, in the context of this bill it is manipulative right-wing Christian speak.  Just because you believe it’s an “unborn child” doesn’t mean its not a zygote.  A woman’s “relationship” with her pregnancy is none of the state’s business, and these places do not “educate” as much as intimidate.

2.  Establishment clause.

3.  The idea that a woman’s body is up for public debate – still confounds me.  That this kind of legislation being continually introduced is not surprising, it is disgusting.

4.  The government can’t force you to buy health insurance – that would be unconstitutional – but they can force women into CPCs



Feminist Women’s Health Center

Want to find out if the CPC down the street got federal funding?  Here is a link to the Tracking Accountability in Government Grants website (TAGGS)

Check the status of this bill in SD:  here

Planned Parenthood