Tag Archives: planned parenthood

Reclaiming a Crisis: Backline is Working to Open the First All Options Pregnancy Center

20 Jun

By: Catrina Otonoga

If you dare utter the initials CPC in a room full of pro-choicers in a positive light, you better be prepared for some backlash. Talking about crisis pregnancy centers as a positive institution among reproductive justice, reproductive rights, and reproductive health advocates elicits a room full of negative reactions.

CPCs manipulate women at a vulnerable time in their lives.

CPCs don’t educate people about all their options.

CPCs hurt women.

So imagine my surprise when I was talking to Parker Dockray, Executive Director of Backline, about how she wants to emulate the crisis pregnancy center model.

“The model that CPCs have developed is valuable,” said Dockray, “but pregnancy  centers should not be deceptive.”

Dockray and the board and staff at Backline have decided to embark on an unparalleled mission, to create the first all options crisis pregnancy center. Crisis pregnancy centers are some of the most available institutions out there for women who are unsure about their pregnancy. Indiana has over 80, and they are one of 34 states that funnel money directly to crisis pregnancy centers. But they are full of misinformation and missing information.

However, as Dockray told me, CPCs often appear to meet the needs of women, even when they clearly don’t. Backline wants to reclaim the CPC model and create a brick and mortar place for the people of Indiana to turn to for support and community.

For the last 10 years, Backline has been answering the phone and offering support to people looking for options and judgment free counseling surrounding pregnancy. The Backline Talkline answers hundreds of questions each month about pregnancy options, parenting, abortion, adoption, pregnancy loss, miscarriage and other reproductive health topics. While the phone offers confidentiality, a new model could provide women with tangible support.

“The prochoice movement is not always great about visibly supporting parents,” said Dockray. Dockray hopes Backline’s new initiative will become a tangible place to demonstrate support for women across all options. Backline wants to create a place for women and their partners to receive counseling on abortion, adoption, and carrying their pregnancy to term as well as carrying diapers and other items for people to support their partners.

Opening the center in Indiana strikes a cord in a new way. The center will find its home in the middle of a red state, in a college town, surrounded by fields and conservative ideals. Reproductive rights, health and justice organizations are too siloed from each other, with each sticking to their own areas without much overlap or conversation. Backline’s All Options Pregnancy Center would bring these together under one roof, without agenda or pretense. Instead of being siloed, they are setting up shop amidst the silos in America’s Midwest heartland.

Bloomington is a town divided, one side of town is home to Hannah House Crisis Pregnancy Center, and the other is home to Planned Parenthood of Bloomington. Backline would create a middle ground, a place for women and their partners to go for real information. At a time when the middle ground seems like an impossibility in American politics, the Backline All Options Pregnancy Center will be an oasis. An oasis of information, moderatism, and choice, at a time and in a place where that hasn’t existed in a long time.

Welcome to the Midwest, Backline. If you want to help Backline build some walls, knock down some silos, and give people a place do go; click here if you’d like to donate, and click here if you live in Indiana and would like to join in.


Enough Infighting: Planned Parenthood Saves Lives and Must Be Supported

20 Sep

In 2010, the midterm elections sent a deluge of freshman politicians deemed part of the “tea party,” who immediately targeted Planned Parenthood funding under the pretense that somehow the health care organization was the main contributing factor to the United States debt. Yes, the tax debate happened and more pretend-issues were hotly debated on cable news shows. But really, nothing has dominated the headlines more than those  that would restrict women’s right to have an abortion.  The main target of course the most visible health organization: Planned Parenthood.

To those that do not want women to have access to reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood is the easiest group to attack and (in their wildest dreams) totally destroy. The sad part about all of this is many pro-choice activists and Planned Parenthood itself are helping the anti-choicers do just that.

I know many activists are frustrated with Planned Parenthood’s sometimes tone-deaf approach to reproductive concerns today. Some argue the organization has trouble adapting to contemporary activism. That Planned Parenthood has been slow to accept the new wave of young pro-choice activists that are likely to use contemporary avenues (like social media)  to stand firm against the anti-choice bills, laws and rhetoric sweeping the nation.  Others argue that  Planned Parenthood has too many awful bureaucratic problems making the organization  less able to quickly  refute false attacks and launch necessary counter-protests and truth-telling campaigns. Some activists feel Planned Parenthood has capitulated one too many times to the increasingly right wing Federal government’s demands.

With that in mind, consider this story in which Gloria Steinem’s recent speech in support of Planned Parenthood garnered a fiery response from anti-choice protestors and even some pro-choice supporters as well. With women in the audience over 80 years old stating they are counting on the new generation of women to keep the fight for women’s rights just as they did 50 years ago, is it conducive to the pro-choice cause as a whole to criticize Gloria Steinem for supporting Planned Parenthood? I think you know the answer.

And on the other hand, Seattle Weekly reports that Planned Parenthood Seattle spokeswoman, Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, wants a group of clinic defense protestors (that picket and protest in front of anti-choice protestors at clinics) to stop, because she says, it’s “confusing.” While Planned Parenthood certainly has a point in wanting the distraction of protestors to simmer down so patients feel safe entering and exiting the clinics, is asking pro-choice activists to stop protesting doing the overall cause any good? Again, I think you know the answer.

While I was in  high school, Planned Parenthood provided me with birth control, condoms, and sex information I would not have had  access to otherwise. I received services for free  and took just a short bus ride to the nearest clinic. That was almost 8 years ago, for many women today, the nearest reproductive health clinic and/or Planned Parenthood is hours away, the fees no longer affordable for people that earn little to no income.  When I suspected I was pregnant, Planned Parenthood administered my pregnancy test, confirmed my pregnancy, and offered me counseling  and brochures on every option (parenting, adoption, or abortion) available to me. The nurse gave me her card and said, “call me any time you need me.”  Afterward, she gave me a big hug.   In many places in this country,  in this political and social climate, how many women can tell that same story? Not as many as 8 years ago, that’s for certain.

I accept readily that Planned Parenthood is not perfect, but still, the health organization offers services to so many people that desperately need them. Without Planned Parenthood, I know this country would be much worse off, and not just for women. Because when women suffer, we all suffer. When one person’s rights are stripped away, we all lose something. And if we all sit around and become angry at organizations that we should be working in solidarity with, the in-fighting just makes the anti-choice groups and politicians feel that what they are doing is working.

Of clinics and coffee shops

28 Jul

Steph’s post here at Abortion Gang back in November, prompted by the closing of the 30-year-old Cedar River Clinic in Yakima, asserted that “we need to value independent clinics.” That got me thinking – how exactly and actually do we as repro justice activists go about “valuing” independent women’s clinics? And is valuing indie women’s clinics in some tangible way enough to keep the rest of our indie women’s clinics from going the way of the dodo?

Let me start with some analogizing. It’s a terrible analogy for a dozen reasons, but I think it’s a good analogy for a few particular reasons, so bear with me: Planned Parenthood is to Starbucks as any given independent women’s clinic is to your independent corner coffee joint.

Now it’s not inherently bad for there to be a Starbucks of reproductive healthcare providers. The fact that nearly everyone short of my mom (and maybe even she does) thinks of Planned Parenthood as the go-to for reproductive services means that at least there IS an obvious choice – which seems good for choice and thus inherently good for women. As the 800-pound gorilla in the room of reproductive healthcare, Planned Parenthood is positioned organizationally, resource-wise, and politically as a force with which to be reckoned, rather than a single ignorable voice in the wilderness.

Indie women’s clinics, on the other hand, get to be the mavericks (can we please have that word back now?) of reproductive healthcare. Because they operate independently rather than under the auspices and directives of a larger parent entity, indie clinics can highlight, focus on, or be particularly stellar on individual facets of patient care and operations in ways that Planned Parenthood often can’t or won’t.

Where the women’s clinic to coffee shop analogy falls off of course is that all repro healthcare clinics, unlike their coffee-shop counterparts, have to grapple with factors borne out of an atmosphere of increasing hostility towards reproductive healthcare issues and politics. This drastically impacts their ability to establish and increase their respective visibility within the community, and to cross-promote their particular character and range of products and services.

For example – any coffee shop is pretty obviously a coffee shop; they tend to be in visible, highly trafficked areas, often capitalizing on the presence of adjacent shops and businesses, and wouldn’t likely set up shop in a completely deserted, hard-to-access or other area that left them functionally invisible. However many women’s clinics either by dictum of building owners and/or trying to keep a low profile to avoid unwanted attention end up understating their presence such that even folks who set out to get there have trouble finding it.

Also contrasting with coffee shops, women’s clinics often have a hell of a time leasing space. It’s probably not surprising to learn that building and business owners frequently just flat out refuse to lease to an organization that provides abortions services. So rather than being able to cherry pick an ideally visible and accessible location, women’s clinics are often relegated to whatever non-ideal location they’re able to procure – including locations that are some combination of unsecured, not accessible via public transit, or difficult to find, drive to, or park near.

Other factors to consider include the ability to court customers for an entire range of offered products, and to bring back repeat customers. A coffee shop would never survive if their clientele were only comprised of folks who dropped in once or a few times then never again, nor would they thrive if most customers only ever bought a cup of black coffee. Women’s clinics face the challenge of promoting themselves to the masses as not only a place for quality abortion care, but the range of other repro health services they offer as well. Couple that with the tendency for most possessed-of-healthcare adult women to seek out their primary health care providers for run-of-the-mill birth control, STI testing, gynecological exams, or other repro/sexual health needs, and women’s clinics have a sizeable hole where there should be a lucrative demographic.

Then there’s the factor of word-of mouth. If there’s a great coffee shop you happen to find – what’s the first thing you do? You mention it to your friends. So what about word of mouth for abortion services, STI testing, birth-control and gynecological exams? Probably not something most women will tweet about or check into on Foursquare, or likely to mention in casual conversation even to good friends.

Which brings us back to indie women’s clinics versus Planned Parenthood. An indie coffee shop survives not only because they have a product that’s competitive with (and likely exceeds) that of the Starbucks, but because they’re effectively able to capitalize on factors like location, visibility and word of mouth in conjunction with their charm and quality products to generate loyalty and repeat business. Where independent women’s clinics should be able to continue to survive, if not thrive, capitalizing on those same elements of the indie business model, they instead continue to experience more and more barriers to their existence and operations that indie businesses simply don’t have to struggle against.

It’s those factors which I assert are inching independent women’s clinics closer to extinction in a way that Planned Parenthood will likely be able to largely withstand. Individual Planned Parenthood clinics may likewise suffer from some of the above factors – but Planned Parenthood as an entity, like Starbucks, will survive if for no other reason than merit of its brand recognition, reach and strength-in-numbers. As one who feels that choice within the realm of reproductive healthcare is nearly as important as the right to reproductive choice itself, I worry that we may already be past the point where no amount of “valuing” done by us well-meaning repro justice activists will matter to the survival of indie women’s clinics.

What Health Care Reform?

22 Mar

Inevitably, as pro-choice activists we face people who simply do not understand the need for a reproductive health movement.  Roe is the law of the land, what’s the big deal?  Nine times out of 10 my infuriated response dives straight into an explanation of Hyde, the erosion of protections in the states, and what it means now that we have legally lost the right to have an abortion for health reasons alone.  But now I have an addendum,  health care reform and the inevitable loss of private health insurance coverage of abortion.

Though I am ecstatic we are on our way to passing historic legislation that will help millions of Americans, I have never been more dedicated to promoting reproductive justice.  The mainstream pro-choice movement has officially lost its way and we, as reproductive justice activists, need to fill their gap.  I woke up this morning to an email from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, four paragraphs in she merely notes that the Nelson amendment stands.  If Planned Parenthood is going to settle, who is going to fight?

I understand we all want to improve health care for as many Americans as possible, and that unfortunately we do not have the political climate to get truly comprehensive health care to everyone, but we already compromised on abortion with the status quo.  Why do we have to set ourselves back farther?  Who does that help?  Why are we again leaving behind poor women?