UNC Asheville Activism and Exposing Fake Clinics!

by Kelli Early, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at UNC Asheville

One phrase that I use to guide my activism is “The best revolutions aren’t based in the hate of the oppressors, but the love of the people.”  I kept that phrase in mind duringKelli October blog 1 October as a Campus Leader for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and while working with another student group, Planned Parenthood Next Generation, as we focused on identifying the actors working against full reproductive freedom in North Carolina.  This goal come to life through an avid petitioning campaign, canvassing, and direct action during the #ExposeFakeClinics week of action.  The month started with a campaign to educate and empower students to oppose the 20-week abortion ban.  While we gathered over 40 signatures and had multiple students join our student organization, there was push-back by conservative members of our community.  But the only thing these anti-abortion students and community members accomplished by yelling “murder” and other unoriginal slurs at my fellow organization members was we came together even more and gathered over 45 letters to Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis telling them not to co-sponsor the 20 week abortion ban because of its illogical, anti-choice ideological nature.

This negativity continued to fuel our passion for advocacy, and the following weekend multiple students from our group went canvassing with Planned Parenthood of Asheville.  The canvass took place in different public housing communities to engage residents about questions they have about Planned Parenthood, in the hopes of breaking stigma around abortion providers and raise awareness of all of the services Planned Parenthood offers (the majority of which are not abortion).  While I would have liked there to be more conversation around the power dynamics of mostly white college students canvassing a low-income neighborhood, I was excited to see conversations were stigma was broken around our local clinic.

Lastly, the #ExposeFakeClinics week consisted of a teach-in about fake Crisis Pregnancy Centers, where I invited my PP organization and leaders among other student organization to learn the basics about fake CPCs.  In the teach-in, the group discovered Bethany Christian Services, which utilizes classic fake clinic CPC tactics to deceive young, low-income people.  For example, one example of this is that they provide “abortion counseling” to “help individuals reconcile their choice of abortion.”  All that this fake Kelli October blog 2“counseling” does is further the idea that abortion is shameful and regrettable–instead of a private choice that should be made between the person who wants the abortion and their medical provider.  On top of this highly stigmatizing “service,” their website primarily uses pictures of Women of Color; but, when reading through Bethany Christian Center’s online reviews, it came to light that a Woman of Color received racist remarks about her pregnancy when she went to Bethany Christian Services.  Due to all of this, our group decided to hold a direct action outside their office to expose this location as a fake clinic.

Reproductive Justice 101 with SisterSong

by Marie-Antoinette Sintim, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at UNC Chapel Hill

I’ve been learning about Reproductive Justice for a while and I’ve learned a lot.  You know when you feel confident about something that you forget that there’re still a million things to know?  Well, November 12, 2017, was that day for me.  Kate, my badass feminist friend, had worked really hard for there to be a Reproductive Justice training on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, and as the Campus Leader at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, I worked with her to get SisterSong to come and conduct this training.  It had been advertised not just to the UNC community, but to nearby communities, as well.  We had pizza and cookies!  I was very excited (I believe in food always).

Would we have students?  Faculty?  Neighbors?  A random protestor?  Luckily for us, the people that showed up were students, friends, and neighbors who were eager to learn about reproductive Justice.

Apart from a great crowd, Ash of SisterSong expanded the narrative of Reproductive Justice, choosing not to focus on just cisgender white women, but on trans people, non- binary people, and People of Color.  Attendees shared stories about their reproductive lives, in all forms.  The more I do this work, the more I am reminded that for many people these are stories that are hard to tell no matter how many times they are shared.  And that to be trusted with such a story is a privilege and should be respected.  There are never enough spaces to tell those things that we are afraid to utter ,but we had that space during this training (and because of the sacredness I won’t share other people’s stories here, but I’m sure we all have our stories or know those of our loved ones).

Founders of RJ

While teaching us about the Reproductive Justice framework, Ash allowed for questions, no matter how uncomfortable.  I learned that I won’t always be prepared for uncomfortable questions!  In my discomfort, I decided not to lead with my exasperation and anger with attendees who didn’t understand the importance of Reproductive Justice…maybe today I would lead with some compassion instead.  I started talking to myself like you do before you’re about to say something you don’t quite know how to say and told myself: “There are things that these people don’t know about Reproductive Justice and I don’t know everything, either, and I’m not right always and don’t always use the right language or phrase everything correctly.  I’m still learning, too.”  The mere fact that these folks had come to a teach in about Reproductive Justice meant something!

So, today I learned something new and so did they!