So You Want An Abortion In Chapel Hill

The following guest post by Alice Wilder is cross-posted with permission from the author.  The original post appeared on

Crisis Pregnancy Centers — not known for their subtlety.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers — not known for their subtlety.

If you’re looking to access abortion care in North Carolina, there will be many people hoping to get in your way.

Yes, there are the folks in the North Carolina General Assembly, passing bills like SB 353. If the Department of Health and Human Services keeps all of the restrictions in SB 353, then there would be just one abortion clinic in the state.

But behind these highly publicized anti-abortion efforts is something a little more covert: Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). Crisis Pregnancy Centers are ideologically based clinics that are dishonest to patients. According to a 2011 study by NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Foundation (NPCNCF), 92 percent do not have medical professionals on staff.

There are reports from abortion rights organizations that condemn CPCs, and I wanted to test their data with a real call to a CPC’s crisis hotline.

I called telling the counselor that I had pregnancy symptoms but hadn’t taken a test. I said that I was leaning towards abortion because I wanted to stay in school. During our 20-minute phone call she took me in detail through parenting and “giving the child the gift of adoption.” She avoided the topic of abortion, and when I brought up she would only add that it wasn’t the only option. Her voice was gentle and calm as she pushed me away from abortion. At times it felt more like a debate than pregnancy counseling. Still, I couldn’t help but think that if I really was pregnant and panicking she’d seem trustworthy.

The bottom line is that there are groups of people coordinating to mislead Carolina students about their pregnancy options. In NARAL’s investigation of North Carolina CPCs investigators found that volunteers told patients that abortion leads to “post-abortion stress” and breast cancer — claims that have no basis in real science. They advertise in the materials that are given to all first-years. They’re targeting panicked college students who deserve nothing but complete honesty.

If you’re in Chapel Hill and thinking about abortion, call the Chapel Hill Health Center at 919.942.7762, or click here. The full NARAL Pro-Choice NC Foundation Investigation can be read online.

And just to make sure you don’t accidentally end up at a CPC, here’s a handy list of local CPC’s as listed by LifeCall, an anti-abortion website. Thanks, LifeCall!

Pregnancy Support Services
Chapel Hill, NC

Pregnancy Support Services
Durham, NC

Raleigh, NC

Catholic Social Ministries
Raleigh, NC

Bethany Christian Services
Raleigh, NC

LifeCare Pregnancy Center


Alice Wilder is a first-year at UNC-Chapel Hill from Charlotte, N.C. She has had her work published by the Spark blog and most recently wrote a thank-you note to Gov. Pat McCrory on Huffpost College. 

Politicization: A New Era for Women’s Bodies

Today marks the third official Women’s Health Wednesday of the House of Representatives. Created by Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chair Diana DeGette, a Democratic representative from Colorado, Women’s Health Wednesdays, which will last the rest of this year, provide a regular time slot for representatives to speak to the House in defense of women’s health issues. From information on mammograms and birth control, to personal anecdotes of cancer and abortions, all is fair game in what DeGette hopes will be “an opportunity for members of Congress to take a stand against the unceasing attacks on women’s health care.”[1]

While Women’s Health Wednesdays are unquestionably worthwhile in today’s political climate, it is critical to step back to reflect for a moment on the fact that we’ve reached a point in our history where we need this kind of institution. It’s easy to forget, through a present-day lens, that women’s bodies weren’t always subject to political scrutiny.

Women’s bodies, in the course of American history, have been subject to myriad forms of external control. The history of women’s health is replete with examples of medicalization, or attempts by doctors to govern women’s affairs based on the laws of science. At the turn of the 20th century, such “laws” dictated that a woman was incapable of attending school because the mental energy required for studying would decrease the physical energy available to her reproductive organs.[2] Such rules paved the way so that, by the 1950s, childbirth had shifted from a home-centered, female-controlled experience to a hospital-based, physician-attended, drug-dominated procedure.[3]

Our history has also subjugated women’s bodies through commercialization, as consumerist tactics capitalized on female biology to define the meaning of womanhood in America. Birth control manufacturers and advertisers in the 1930s “trumpeted” consumption as a “characteristically female freedom,” and instructed women to exercise that freedom through the purchase of new, commercially made contraceptive devices.[4] In the 1960s, feminine hygiene product brochures taught young girls that they needed to wear up-to-date, store-bought sanitary napkins in order to “look and feel confident.”[5]

Our bodies have been medicalized, they’ve been commercialized, and they’re now being increasingly politicized as well. It would be wrong to say this politicization is completely new; women’s bodies have been a topic of major Supreme Court cases as early as 1965. But never before has this politicization been so extensive as it is today; never before has the onslaught of attacks on women’s health been so extreme and so persistent in the halls of Congress.

We sincerely applaud the men and women who are speaking up during Women’s Health Wednesdays to counter the negative effects of this politicization, as they inject personal anecdotes and informative speeches back into the political battleground. In a time when women’s bodies (and lives) are being so drawn into the realms of politics, it is more critical than ever that support outspoken, pro-choice legislators who will stand in strong defense of women’s freedoms.

[2] George Wythe Cook, “Puberty in the Girl,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children 46 (1902): 805.

[4] Andrea Tone, “Contraceptive Consumers: Gender and the Political Economy of Birth Control in the 1930s,” in Women and Health in America, Ed. Judith Walzer Leavitt: 308.

[5] Very Personally Yours, Kimberly-Clark Corp (1961): 13.


Women’s Health: Not a Moral Issue

Tomorrow, the Senate is set to vote on the atrocious Blunt Amendment, proposed by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. If passed into law, this amendment will reverse President Obama’s positive steps toward providing near-universal birth control access, as it will allow any employer to deny birth control coverage based on his or her personal moral objections.[1] But further, and even more threatening, the Blunt Amendment will empower employers to deny their employees coverage for any medical procedure they choose: abortion, in vitro fertilization, and organ transplants, just to name a few. The degree to which this amendment would allow employers to hinder the healthcare rights of their employees is immeasurable and unquestionably horrifying.

We’ve become so accustomed to hearing buzzwords about “morality” in the context of women’s health discussions, but it’s critical that we step back and ask ourselves these questions: what moral is at stake here? What are we really even debating? As articulated by Martha Plimpton, an actress and guest blogger for Slate, “It’s long past time we started focusing on the solutions that actually keep women healthy, instead of using basic aspects of women’s health as a tool of cultural, moral, and political control.”[2]

Historically, the ideas that a man has a right to reign over his wife’s body, that birth control destroys women’s sexual propriety, and that females are intellectually inferior have drawn legitimacy from the antiquated social contexts in which they existed. But today, in the 21st century, implying that women are intellectually inferior by questioning their rights to make their own reproductive decisions is horrendously offensive. Claiming that a female, given birth control, is unable to restrain her sexual behavior is grossly outdated. The moral questions that used to give clout to the notion of women’s health as a “moral issue” no longer bear weight. The facts are that family planning saves lives and improves the quality of our societies and that the medical procedures women choose are scientifically sound and effective.

When we consider what “women’s health” should mean, it should encompass the pursuit of all possible ways to ensure that women can maximize their health status. It’s a question of safety, of security, and of livelihood—morality, and the judgments of what that means to one person versus another—should not be part of the picture.



Identifying “Male-a-garchy”

This Tuesday, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) argued, “the male-a-garchy has declared war on women’s health.” A male-a-garchy, as he defined it, is an institution “made up of men in Congress who always decide what they want to do for women, even taking away their rights.”[1] Sen. Lautenberg’s claims of a male-driven attack on female health came in response to the recent activities of various Republicans in Congress, who are looking to limit access to affordable birth control.  Sen. Lautenberg’s criticism of the American male-a-garchy is remarkable and significant because such an institution has waged America’s war on women’s health not only in our recent past—more broadly, male-a-garchy has waged this war throughout our nation’s history.

Congress itself began to exercise direct power over women’s health and women’s bodies as early as 1970, when the Senate Pill Hearings allowed the mostly male group to decide how much information women should know about the birth control pill’s potential side effects.[2] But deliberations, definitions, and depictions of the female body have resided in spheres of male power for centuries prior. Male doctors were the first to make abortion a doctor’s decision rather than a woman’s,[3] male psychologists were the first to categorize sexually interested women as mentally unstable,[4] and male professors were the first to claim that female biology made females unprepared for the same tasks as men.[5] The war on women’s health has been, and still continues to be, carried out in large part by establishments of male-a-garchy.

We truly applaud Senator Lautenberg for speaking up against traditional norms of male power, and we acknowledge and appreciate the many male voices in Congress that join his in supporting female autonomy. But we also hope that Sen. Lautenberg’s criticism of the male-a-garchy can serve to remind us of the importance of creating more gender-balanced legislatures on the national, state, and even local levels. In the fight for female choice, we need to elect strong, pro-choice female politicians to diffuse the archaic power of male-a-garchic establishments.


[3] James Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy

[4] Elizabeth Lunbeck, “A New Generation of Women: Progressive Psychiatrists and the Hypersexual Female.”

[5] Edward H. Clarke, Sex in Education, Or a Fair Chance for the Girls (1873).


A Pivotal Moment in Birth Control History

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has demonstrated an admirable commitment to protecting reproductive rights. Even in the face of intense pressure from anti-choice groups, our government followed through with its intention to move one step closer to universal birth control access. Federal law will now require all employers to provide full coverage for the birth control pill in their health insurance plans, with exemptions applying only to a narrow range of religious institutions.[1]

This legislative achievement is monumental for the pro-choice movement in the context of current debates. The issue of birth control coverage has stirred controversy on state and national levels since the beginning of President Obama’s healthcare reform. It is important, in addition, not to overlook just how monumental this decision is within the broader American historical context.

Multiple social historians have argued that the advent of the birth control pill was one of the most influential cultural developments in modern American history. The pill, invented in the 1950s and approved by the FDA in 1960,[2] acquired a complex social symbolism from its earliest market appearances. In a societal backdrop characterized by intense, explicit divisions along lines of race, class, and gender, the pill was viewed by certain Black groups as an instrument of “racial genocide,” perceived by numerous activists as poverty reduction method targeted toward poor women, and advertised by various parties as an option that was morally acceptable only for women who were married.[3] Furthermore, the pill became an overt symbol of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, in which women demanded a new kind of ownership of their bodies and their sexualities.

The pill, in its earliest history, was thus threatening on many levels; in a time of myriad social changes, it served to further shake the roots of long-standing cultural norms. In the time since then, movements toward a more egalitarian America have shed the pill of some of these broad associations, but the recent achievement of federally mandated coverage must be recognized as a pivotal moment in this ongoing history. In contrast to past perceptions of the pill as an instrument of social power, this decision places birth control within the realm of every woman’s equal right to choose. By this decision, our government—for the first time in our history— has legally defined birth control access as a universal and inalienable right.

At NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, we are celebrating this moment by encouraging our supporters to send emails to the White House. Please join us and the larger NARAL Pro-Choice America movement in thanking our government for taking this important step in securing the right to choose by visiting the following link: