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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Sunday, 25 September 2011

Does the Pro-life Movement Help Women? ... and other myths

Staying up-to-date on abortion news and reading through philosophical and medical arguments in favour or against abortion can be a really depressing task. You encounter so much rationalization and anger, that it can be difficult to know how to respond without bursting into tears. But one argument that I've come up against a lot lately is the fact that pro-lifers only care about the women and the fetus before birth - after birth we leave them hanging out to dry and God help them if they're poor or in abusive homes. I kind of like reading about this side of the argument because it is so obviously untrue, and finding information that proves it wrong is such a life-afirming and hopeful activity. So today I thought I'd write about the ways in which the pro-life movement is providing help to women and babies everywhere. First off, this is something every casual pro-lifer should know, that way if they get hit with this argument they know how to educate their opponent. But more importantly, if anyone out there is pregnant with a surprise baby, there are REALLY good resources and information out there for you, and hopefully this entry will help you find some of them. :)

Pro-choice Myth #1:
Pro-lifers are only interested in forcing women into giving birth through exploitation and guilt.

We're interested in making it possible for women to choose life. Too often women in crisis pregnancy situations believe that they only have one choice - abortion. We're here to show them that they don't have to choose abortion, and that there are other options out there. For instance, take a look at the Feminists for Life website. They have great resources for pregnant women. An excerpt from their Mission page reads: "If you believe that no women should be forced to choose between sacrificing her education and career plans and sacrificing her child [...] join us in challenging the status quo." This definitely does not sound like a group interested in forcing women into giving birth. If you look on their Pregnancy Resources page, they have some great projects, including the "New National Directory of Campus Resources", an AMAZING resource for US students who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy.

Pro-choice Myth #2:
Crisis Pregnancy Centres coerce and mislead women into giving birth, and then abandon the mother and child to a life of poverty and abuse.

Fact: Pregnancy Care Centres are there to provide help and options to pregnant women. If you go to the Campaign for Life Coalition website, click on "Abortion", where you will find a tonne of information, including facts on abortion in Canada, abortion videos, pro-life talking points, and women speaking out on abortion - sure sounds like an organization trying to coerce and mislead people. Anyways, they have a page called "Pregnancy Help", where you can find a pretty comprehensive list of pregnancy centres throughout Canada. I clicked on all the websites available under "Ontario", and this is what I found (if you don't want to read through all of my summaries of CPC's in Ontario, you can skip down to myth #3):

Brant Pregnancy & Resource Centre:  The homepage already belies the myth that we abandon women once they've given birth. Under pregnancy they list pregnancy options, pre-natal education, post partum support, post adoption support, post abortion support, miscarriage/infant loss, one-on-one peer support, and self-administered pregnancy test. Note all of the post-[insert word here] supports they offer, and notice how all of the things they list don't just apply to women who are in crisis pregnancy situations. Clearly they are interested in helping all women, not just women who might abort their child. Also, under their list of programs, they have a program called "Growing Hearts" which is a parenting support program designed for moms who have children in grade school (notice - this is AFTER birth!). They also have a program called M.O.P.S. for soon-to-be mothers, all the way to mothers of pre-school aged children. In addition, they provide help for absent or disengaged fathers, as well as a "Manhood" program (evidently for Christians) that help men deal with identity issues (oh look at that - they aren't just interested in dealing with abortion-minded women, but are interested in helping families!). They also have a "Lets Get Real" section, with abortion facts, information on open adoptions, help for post-abortion grief, and many other resources. They also offer confidential, judgement-free help. Really sounds like a coercive environment to me *sarcasm*.

The Pregnancy Care Centre (Toronto): They provide free services in several languages. Their services include free pregnancy tests and information, abortion information (procedures and risks), support for post-abortive women, and pregnancy options and referrals to support agencies. They also offer something called the Life Boat Program, which helps create a plan for the future of both mother and child, they provide mentor support for moms (note: NOT just pregnant women!), and their resource referrals include housing, adoption, medical, legal, educational, health, and financial help. They are also asking for donations of diapers, baby wipes, and bottles, so they obviously help out on the practical side as well. Their support workers are trained to help expectant mothers explore their options, including parenting, adoption and abortion. They stress taking the time to learn about options in order to make an informed decision. They also state that they are not a medical facility, and do not refer for or preform abortions. They do, however, give you information on abortion procedures and risks in a confidential, private appointment. Yet another CPC that isn't coercive, provides comprehensive help, and doesn't abandon mothers once they give birth. Awesome.

Birthright International (they are located in many cities): The philosophy of this CPC is one I think everyone can get behind. Their only priority is helping the mom and baby. They do not show abortion slides or pictures, picket clinics, and are not involved in the public abortion debate at all. Its services are free of charge, and it does not have any religious, public or political affiliation. They offer non-judgmental, confidential support for women in crisis pregnancies, free pregnancy tests, medical referrals, legal referrals, educational assistance and referrals, maternity and baby clothes, housing referrals, referrals for professional counselling and to social agencies. They offer information on prenatal development, job search/career development, adoption, pregnancy and childbirth, child care options, and child safety issues. This is another CPC that is not interested in forcing a women into giving birth, but provides comprehensive help to allow women to keep their children and give their children a good life. They also state in their philosophy that they do not use any scare tactics to coerce women into choosing life. So much for this pro-choice myth.

Niagara Life Centre: This is another CPC that is not misleading. They state on their homepage that they are Christian-based and provide counselling services. They do not just focus on pregnancy, but also provide aid and counselling for marriage and family breakdowns, depression, grief, anger, co-dependency, parenting and post-abortion trauma. Notice that this CPC is also interested in helping families as well as individual women. The goal of this agency is to inspire life change. Go to their FAQ's to see all the issues their counselling is prepared to address. Yet another pro-life organization that is not obsessed with giving birth, but is instead interested in providing real help for people no matter their life issues.

Stratford House of Blessing: This Christian organization provides a wide range of services. Their resources include: a food bank which provides an emergency hamper once a month to those under the poverty line, a clothing cupboard which provides clients with clothing at no cost, and a furniture bank which provides furniture and attempts to supply appliances as well. Their programs include Home With a Heart (helping families with homemaking), Cooking on a Budget, thINK Food (trading in donated, used ink cartridges for money to buy food for their food bank), Phones for Food (same idea except with cell phones), Off to School smiling (providing school supplies and a new outfit for the first day of school), and Christmas Hampers. Like all the other organizations discussed, they also provide support and referrals for a wide range of issues. In addition to ALL of these services, the Stratford House of Blessing also runs a Pregnancy Care Centre. They provide one-on-one support, counselling, and free education and services. Their free services include pregnancy tests (identical to those used in hospitals), education on pregnancy, prenatal development and care, child birth and child care, adoption, and many other issues. They also provide help for post-abortion and post-miscarriage grief. They provide referrals. They also provide maternity clothes, baby clothes, furnishings, diapers, and formula. All for free. Considering the wide range of services offered here, its quite obvious this organization is not just interested in coercing women into giving birth, but provides real help and education, as well as help for anyone living under the poverty line in the community. They also have a disclaimer: that their information is not meant as a substitute for professional or medical advice. So, no purposeful misleading happening hear either.

The Saint Monica House: They provide support to pregnant and parenting young women through residential supported housing and community programs. So right off the bat, we know that this organization also does not abandon women once they have given birth. In fact, they specifically offer help to parents! They also state that they provide a non-judgemental atmosphere for pregnant youth to choose between adoption or parenting. So they tell their clients the choices they promote - hard to make a case for coercion here as well. They also offer subsidized housing for single mothers and their children. They also offer support services including parenting classes, pre and post-adoption support, health care and prenatal classes, career counselling, toy-lending library, referrals, child development assessments, and workshops, to name a few. Their support is 24-hour. They also have a nursery for babies up to 11 months on site. Sounds like they offer comprehensive and meaningful help to me!

Other CPC's for you to research:
Elisha House, a pregnancy and family support centre
Haldimand Pregnancy Care Centre

So, I think that provides overwhelming evidence that pro-lifers actually are interested in helping women, children, and families in a supportive and non-manipulative environment.

Pro-choice Myth #4:
Pro-lifers harm women by providing them with false information.

Fact: Its true that some pro-lifers don't check their facts, but many major pro-life sites are factual, honest, and well-sourced.

Some examples:
Abort73: This website has a huge database of information on abortion facts and pro-life philosophies.
Canadian Physicians for Life: A website maintained by Canadian doctors.  They provide statistics, health information, legislation information, and polls and public opinion information on life and bioethics issues in Canada.
Abortion In Canada: A website on abortion issues in Canada, with facts, stats, history, health effects, abortion methods, and funding information.
Campaign for Life Coalition: A political initiative website with a wealth of information on life issues, from pro-life activities to election information and politician voting records to factual information on prenatal development, abortion, cloning, etc.

In addition to great resources online, pro-lifers are very active in making sure women who are considering abortion are able to make informed decisions. Abortion is an irreversible, elective surgery, and we want to make sure women know the truth beforehand. We campaign for mandatory waiting periods, ultrasound laws, and full disclosure on health risks, abortion methods, and fetal development. These are NOT the actions of an organization interested in misleading women and providing false information.

Pro-choice Myth #5:
Pro-lifers are all conservative religious nuts interested in legislating morality and forcing everyone to become Christian.

Fact: This could not be farther from the truth. We are a diverse group of people of all ages and stripes - look at organizations such as Feminists for Life, Secular Pro-life, Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, Democrats for Life of America, National Campus Life Network, and many more!

So, next time a pro-choicer hits you with one of these myths, remember all the information here and be prepared to correct their assumptions and stereotypes. Also, remember if you ever get pregnant, or if you know someone who's in a crisis pregnancy situation - there are resources out there and there are many, many people willing to help you and support you throughout your pregnancy and on into your life as a parent.

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