Women across America who are seeking abortions are accidentally booking appointments at crisis pregnancy centers—pro-life, government-funded religious centers that don’t provide abortions, but instead try to talk women out of terminating their pregnancies.
VICE News investigated the misleading practices used by crisis pregnancy centers to draw in women with unplanned pregnancies, and the misinformation that is spread to discourage them from pursuing abortions.
Thursday’s Supreme Court decision didn’t do much to alter access to clinics, but rather laid what we already know about the abortion debate in America: Being cornered by strangers who want to talk about your uterus and pray for your unborn child is obviously horrifying and invasive, but it’s not illegal. Because while you may have the right to get an abortion, someone else has the right to make you feel terrible about it.
Yakiri Rubio Killed Her Rapist in Self-Defense—Now She May Go to Prison
Imagine that you are a 20-year-old woman walking at night to meet your friend or lover. Two men approach you on a motorcycle and say, “Get on, girl; we’ll give you a ride.” You tell them to fuck off, but they force you to get on their bike. Moments later, you have arrived at a hotel. With knifes poking your back, they take you to their room. Once there, they hit you, cut you, and one of them rapes you. When he is about to cut you with his knife again, you take it away from him and slash his throat with it.
You kill him. But hours later, you are the one facing charges for capital murder.
This is what happened on December 9, 2013, to Yakiri Rubí Rubio Aupart, a girl from Mexico City, who was imprisoned until recently at the Tepepan Female Center for Social Readaptation, located south of the city. She spent two months there on charges of “qualified murder.”
This week, Yakiri Rubio will be freed. On Monday, at the Court of Supreme Justice in Mexico City, her charges were changed from qualified murder to excess of legitimate defense. She will be released on bail.
But Yakiri still faces legal trouble—she will now be tried for “excess of legitimate defense.” If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
Earlier this month I watched a doctor demonstrate how to perform an abortion on a papaya. Apparently papayas are perfect teaching tools for abortion techniques because their shape closely resembles the anatomy of a uterus. I was at National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all females, regardless of their socio-economic status, have access to a safe abortion through their family doctor. The practitioner wanted to show us how simple it is to conduct an abortion—it can be done right in a standard office and doesn’t require super fancy tools. She requested to remain anonymous because doctors who perform abortions can be targeted and physically harmed by anti-abortion groups, and she was essentially teaching us how to practice medicine without a license. As is probably evident, I’m not in medical school, nor am I trying to perform an at-home abortion (or any back-alley botch job). I am, however, a proud graduate of SoapBox Inc.’s Feminist Camp, Winter Section 2014.
If being this straightforward about the mechanisms of aborting a fetus makes you uncomfortable, that’s expected. But spend a week at feminist camp, learn about how women become second-class citizens the moment they become pregnant, and next thing you know, you’ll be wearing a T-shirt reminding people you’re not an incubator. Today it’s not only about maintaining reproductive rights for women, it’s about keeping personhood rights once they get knocked up as well. In October 2013,The New York Times highlighted the case of Alicia Beltran, a pregnant woman in Wisconsin who was ordered by a judge to spend 78 days in a treatment facility or go to prison because her doctor accused her of endangering her fetus through suspected drug use. Alicia, brought to the court in shackles, didn’t have a lawyer during the proceedings — but her fetus did.
There’s no disputing that here in the US there seems to be some kind of state-level legislative epidemic hellbent on condemning female reproductive rights for ever more. Never mind the explosive support of Texas Senator Wendy Davis during her abortion-bill filibuster earlier this summer—Governor Rick Perry saw that the bill passed in the bat of an eye in an instantaneously appointed special session. A couple states away, in North Dakota, recent legislation aimed to prohibit abortions after six weeks but was paused by a last-minute injunction granted on July 31, mere hours before the new laws were set to take effect. Not that it matters much anyway: There’s only one remaining abortion clinic in the entire state. Meanwhile, Arkansas has instituted its own ban on abortions after twelve-weeks.
So it sucks, but what are you doing about it? Probably nothing. Did you pile into a van and drive for a month straight through some of the most abortion-inhospitable states to protest in front of weird white men plaintively screaming at you to kill yourself? I doubt it.
But Sunsara Taylor gathered a crew of twenty-one fellow activists and embarked on a massive road trip—New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, by way of Fargo, Wichita, and Jackson, Mississippi. All for the purpose of demonstrating at last-remaining clinics, corrupt anti-abortion organizations, and state capitols. Their slogan: “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” Their name, a provocative homage to another tremendous civil rights protest that toured the Deep South: the “Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.”
I had a chance to speak with Sunsara as she and her crew wrapped up their tour in Charlotte, North Carolina.
VICE: How did it go in Charlotte? Sunsara: Well, we went to Charlotte yesterday to make it to Moral Monday, which was a pretty major protest. In North Carolina, there are new restrictions that have been passed on abortion which would close down clinics in that state, but this is just part of the whole tapestry, nationwide, of drastic restrictions to women’s right to abortion, and really, it’s a state of emergency facing women’s rights. So we went there with that message—we had an incredible reception. We have this big, beautiful banner we’ve traveled around the country with that says “Abortion Providers Are Heroes” and people have been signing it at every stop along the country. But there, we were just mobbed with people who wanted to write a message on it and put their name on it, get literature and get connected.
Can you explain how you chose some of the stops on the tour? [We chose] Wichita, because it’s the home of where Dr. George Tiller practiced for many years. He was stalked and hunted by Operation Rescue—Christian fascists, a very theocratic organization with ties into the power structure at the national level and who relocated their offices to Wichita to target Dr. Tiller for years, and he, as you know, was assassinated in his church, and we wanted to go there because there have been so many more restrictions passed in Kansas. Even though after four years, some people very heroically and courageously re-opened an abortion clinic, they can’t do abortions as late as Dr. Tiller had performed them. They have further restrictions there than were there four years ago. The new doctor who has been flying in there has now been outed by the anti-abortion protesters and she is being targeted and stalked in her home in Oak Park, Chicago. So we wanted to go there and rally support.
Irish Women Are Buying Abortion Pills Advertised on Street Lamps
Names and identities in this article have been changed.
"This is what it’s coming to," said Katie. "These stickers are popping up on lampposts all over town." The Dublin streetlamp she’s pointing at, along with many others around the city, has been branded with a large, pink dot beneath the words, "A SAFE ABORTION WITH PILLS." It’s part of an ad campaign for a website selling miscarriage-inducing drugs, a good deal of which are being snapped up by young Irish women for whom abortion remains a stigma that can’t be addressed openly.
"Vulnerable girls and women are ordering shite like this online and hiding away to ride it out and hope for the best. It’s hideous," Katie told me, repulsed. Ten years ago, she—like tens of thousands of Irish women have in the past decade—made a secret trip to the UK to terminate her pregnancy. But today, abortion in Ireland is still illegal and divisive. Politicians may have voted overwhelmingly to introduce limited abortion last week, pushing the bill onto the next stage, but even if it were passed, it would only allow women who were deemed to be sufficiently “suicidal” to stop unwanted pregnancies in their tracks.
Ireland’s quietest export—women who travel to the UK seeking an abortion—is often referred to in the country’s ferocious abortion debate. But the less publicized practice of self-administering—when Irish women order their own “abortion pills” online—is actually much more common.
“No one talks about women who self-administer,” says Amy. Four years ago, she carried out an abortion on herself using a pill bought from the internet. “We talk about our 5,000 women a year who travel, but no one talks about the really dark underbelly of self-administering, and there are far more of us. We’re swept under the carpet.”
“This kind of abortion is a lot more common than people think,” said Cathy Doherty from the Abortion Rights Campaign. “Before I’d heard of it, I never really thought you’d still have the ‘back-alley abortion’ in Ireland these days—women sitting alone in their houses, still desperate enough to try it.”
Phony Abortion Clinics Are Scaring Women with Lies
Warning: This article contains extreme imagery. All images are from the literature given out at the Aid to Women crisis center.
If you’re pregnant and panicking, there’s a good chance your research will lead you to the website of a crisis pregnancy center. There are about 200 of them across Canada and 4,000 in the United States, and if you believe their advertising, they offer no-judgment counselling services for women who want to know what their options are. Most of the time, they won’t tell you they’re religious organizations hell-bent on convincing you to avoid having an abortion. They’ll have innocuous-sounding names, like “Aid to Women” or “Pregnancy Care Center,” and to the untrained eye, they won’t look like they’re being run by nutjobs who have no problem lying to women.
When I call Aid to Women, a Toronto crisis pregnancy center, to schedule a pregnancy options consultation, I speak with Enza Rattenni, the executive director. She seems friendly enough at first, but it’s not long before what should be a pretty simple phone call starts feeling like an interrogation.
None of what I tell Enza on the phone is true. I’m not six weeks pregnant, I don’t have a boyfriend, and I don’t need options counselling. But I’ve heard a ton of horror stories about crisis pregnancy centers and wanted to find out for myself.
“Where did you get our number?” she asks. My boyfriend. “What’s your boyfriend’s name?” I blurt out the first name that comes to mind. “Oh, OK. Where did he get our number? Just curious because it’s always interesting to hear how people find out about us.” Shit. I’m a terrible liar and haven’t thought this through. I mumble something about finding the center online. Luckily, Enza seems satisfied that I’m not a reporter—just a vulnerable pregnant girl in need of some advice.
She tells me if I’m only able to come in after hours, it’s fine and that she knows how important it is to have these conversations. Sometimes, she tells me, girls walk out of abortion clinics and find out they’ve been LIED to, and she doesn’t want this to happen to me. It makes me wonder how the women who mistakenly stumble into the clinic must feel when they realize they’ve wandered into the hands of an anti-abortion organization.