Protesting the right’s fake clinics

December 9, 2009

AMHERST, Mass.--Around 40 people gathered in the snow outside the Birthright Crisis Pregnancy Center December 4 to highlight what these so-called "pregnancy help centers" really are: anti-woman centers.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are located in cities across the county and prey on women considered "abortion vulnerable." These are fake clinics, where no medical staff is present, and anti-abortion volunteers use manipulation and deceit to convince women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

Hampshire County, where Amherst is located, is typical of many counties in the U.S. in that there are multiple CPCs, but not a single accessible abortion provider. Protesters at the Birthright Center aimed to raise awareness about the CPCs' deceptive practices, and demand that federal funding go to health care (and abortions), not these fake clinics.

The demonstration was called after students and community members learned that a CPC was located in the center of Amherst. Organizing had been in the works for over a month, but the passage of the Stupak Amendment during the House debate on health care legislation struck a nerve with many people. The amendment, if it is part of final legislation, would bar insurers who are part of the "exchange" through which the uninsured will have to purchase a policy from covering abortion services.

The Stupak Amendment has sparked anger at both Democrats and Republicans for throwing women under the bus. As one protester from Hampshire College remarked, "If you throw me under the bus, you might just get your tires slashed."

As soon as protesters arrived, they were told by the property manager that Birthright was on private property, and the cops had already been called and were ready to act if anyone ventured off the public sidewalk. Apparently private property has more rights than women in our society.

This didn't deter protesters, who continued a steady stream of chants outside the fake clinic like "Help women? That's a lie, you don't care how many die!" and "Support women's rights, shut down Birthright!"

PROTESTERS THEN rallied in the town common for a speakout, where people talked about how to rebuild a fighting women's movement.

Michelle, a UMass student, gave a vivid picture to the how CPCs can affect women's lives: "Recently," she said, "I was the victim of a sexual assault on campus, and if it were up to Birthright, I would have had to drop out of school and have an unwanted child. No one should have to go through that for lack of a simple health care procedure.

Other speakers made the connections between abortion rights and other struggles. Safia, also a UMass student, spoke about budget cuts at the university that led to hours at the UMass Health Services being cut--which means that if you are the victim of a rape after 7 p.m., you must wait until the next day to get a rape kit.

Gary, a health care worker and member of Equality Across America, drew the connections between women's rights and LGBT rights. "The same people leading the attack on women's rights are attacking the rights of LGBT people, from Uganda to the U.S.," Lapon said. "So we have the same right-wing bigots attacking a woman's right to chose an abortion involved in criminalizing homosexuality. The Family, a right-wing religious organization that claims Stupak and Pitts as members, supports politicians in Uganda who seek to criminalize homosexuality, with penalties including life imprisonment and the death penalty. We have to stand in solidarity with one another and fight back."

Everyone agreed that this protest was only the first step in a long struggle to win reproductive rights for all. Our side needs to start building the kind of movement that the right has--a movement where we can set up outside these anti-woman centers every day and make them feel ashamed of their bigotry.

Women are more than just child-bearers. We are students, sisters, friends, partners and co-workers, and until abortion is free and on demand, we will continue to be subjugated to second-class status because of our reproductive organs. Enough is enough! Abortion is health care, health care should be a human right!

Further Reading

From the archives