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 ThrillCityNC.com.

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

Gateway
Raleigh, NC

Catholic Social Ministries
Raleigh, NC

Bethany Christian Services
Raleigh, NC

LifeCare Pregnancy Center
Raleigh

_____

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. 

SB 675 is just bad policy.

Some days, I wonder if the members of the General Assembly think it’s 1913 instead of 2013.

State representatives are now trying to pass a bill that would mandate parental involvement for young people under 18 seeking reproductive health care, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment. In light of other developments this week (a bill to mandate a 2 year waiting period for couples seeking divorce and a law to establish an official religion of our state) this one may have flown under your radar.

But don’t be mislead, this bill is much more likely to pass than the other legislation proposed this week.

Lots of parents out there are really great at talking to their teenagers about reproductive health care. But even in the best of all hypothetical situations, some teenage sons or daughters are not going to feel comfortable talking to their parents about these issues. This bill creates yet another hurdle for those teens to jump over in order to seek treatment from a medical professional. It constitutes yet another barrier placed in the way of young people who may wish to seek out the health care that is their constitutional right, and may delay or deter teens from seeking earlier and safer care. Ultimately, this bill puts teenager’s health at risk.

Guttmacher.org

Guttmacher.org

Here’s our official statement:

Extreme legislators file bill putting teen health at risk

Senator Daniel and his colleagues in the Senate just filed another bill aimed at restricting young people’s access to reproductive health care.

SB 675 would deny NC young people access to confidential, life-saving health care including treatment for STIs, counseling, pregnancy prevention, and substance abuse resources. “Placing restrictions on a young people’s access to health care can delay them from seeking earlier, safer care, thus putting their health at risk,” said Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina.

“Of course, most parents hope their teens will seek out their advice and support, but responsible parents want, above all, for them to be safe,” she added, “but these restrictions may delay or deter teens from seeking earlier and safer care—and ultimately put their health at risk.”

“We should be promoting policies that encourage teens to seek timely, professional health care—not ones that endanger their health,” Buckley said.  The American Public Health Association, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American Medical Women’s Association, theAmerican College of Physicians, and the American Psychological Association agree, which is why all five organizations oppose mandatory parental involvement laws.

“At the end of the day, this legislation is bad for teens, bad for parents and plain bad public policy.  We encourage legislators to stand up to this extreme and far-reaching agenda,” Buckley stated.

Victory in Chapel Hill Town Council Meeting!

 

 

towncouncil victory

By Honora Gandhi

Last night NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina presented a resolution to the Chapel Hill Town Council opposing the deceptive practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in North Carolina, and the Town Council voted unanimously to pass it. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are heavily advertised resources for women facing unintended pregnancies. What isn’t advertised is that the majority of CPCs are funded and staffed by medically-uncertified anti-choice activists who provide misleading and medically inaccurate information to clients, exaggerating (and more often inventing) abortion risks and side effects to intimidate women into ruling out abortion as an option.

As Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said at last night’s meeting, “This is not about abortion, pro-choice or pro-life, [. . .] I think everyone can agree that no one should be misled about their health care options.”

We heard three impassioned speeches from those in favor of the resolution. First from Suzanne Buckley, who brought a petition of 700 Chapel Hill residents’ signatures to stress the importance of providing women medically accurate information and ending the deceptive, misleading practices of CPCs.  She referenced NARAL’s 2011 report, The Truth Revealed: North Carolina’s Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which examined the services and practices of 66 of our state’s CPCs. 92% of these had no medical professionals on staff, while only 24% disclose that they are not medical facilities. 26% incorrectly stated as fact that abortion leads to breast cancer, and 48% advised women seeking family planning services that none of the common methods of birth control are effective at preventing pregnancy.

Katie Maness spoke next and just about brought us to tears stressing unity among young women. Because there is a crisis pregnancy center within 25 miles of every college campus in North Carolina, and many of their ads target young women, Maness asserted that it is especially unfair to target women in such a vulnerable position during an already tumultuous time in their lives. “Our sisters deserve better,” she said.

John Stanback, who has spent 25 years working as a public health professional in underserved areas abroad, said that when he promotes family planning and education overseas, US law requires him to report it if he sees the promotion of factually inaccurate medical advice. Stanback hopes that the same standards can be upheld here.

Mimi Every, Director of Pregnancy Support Services, was the only spokesperson on behalf of CPCs, and she delivered a weak defense insisting there is no coercion or misinformation at her particular center. As if it were a redeeming quality, she says her center has one part-time physician’s assistant on staff, as well as a medical director. If this is true, she should have no problem with a resolution requiring accuracy and transparency.

By passing the Accurate Health Information for a Stronger Community resolution, Chapel Hill became to first town in the Southeast to approve a resolution opposing deceptive practices in reproductive health care, to publicly recognize that women have a fundamental right to comprehensive and accurate medical information. If a woman seeks counsel at a CPC she should be fully aware of its limitations and bias.

The point we hoped everyone would take away was this: CPCs lie, with unmerited authority and their own agenda, to women in a vulnerable position. Women deserve the truth – they deserve counsel from unbiased medical professionals. NARAL isn’t in favor of abortion over keeping unintended pregnancies; we are in favor of women having the information necessary to make informed choices that are right for them. Every case is different; every woman and every life is different – no member of either side of the pro-choice/pro-life debate can pretend to know what an individual should do. What I hope is irrefutable is that no one should be intimidated into making a life-altering decision based on misinformation.

And that is exactly the purpose of the resolution we passed in Chapel Hill. It calls on the North Carolina General Assembly to pursue and uphold public policies that promote pregnancy-related counseling that is comprehensive, unbiased, and medically accurate.

After the Town Council meeting, our group of purple-shirted supporters was all smiles, breathing the sighs of relief that come with witnessing people in power doing the right thing.

 

Elections Matter: Vote.

Over the past two years we have witnessed more than 1,500 legislative attacks on women and health care, in all 50 states and at every level of government.

In North Carolina, we have seen attempts to deny women access to cervical cancer screening and birth control by voting to defund Planned Parenthood.  We have witnessed our elected officials imposing regulations on doctors and medical providers that have absolutely nothing to do with protecting women’s health and everything to do with shutting abortion providers down.  We have even seen the enactment of mandatory ultrasounds, which force a woman to succumb to a government-mandated procedure.  We have seen the enactment of laws that use the state to funnel money to “crisis pregnancy centers,” facilities that prioritize ideology above women’s well-being and post-pone their access to legitimate health-care providers with potentially harmful results. Laws like these threaten women’s health as well as their liberty.

But there is something you can do: Vote.

Without health centers like Planned Parenthood, thousands of women in North Carolina will lose access to the low-cost health services they rely on for a wide-range of services from cancer screenings to prenatal care. This will lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancies, increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and — without adequate preventive care — increased emergency room visits and higher health care premiums. Mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods not only undermine a woman’s individual liberty but they also have economic effects: A woman forced to drive two or three times longer to a health clinic will spend more money on gas (if she even has transportation), pay more in child care, take more time off from work, and have less to contribute to her local economy.

Elections matter. Those we elect on November 6 will have an unprecedented amount of control over women’s economic future, our access to health care and freedom to make personal, private decisions.  Make your voice heard.

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.