Monday, February 26, 2007

Lies, Manipulation and Common Ground

This is a story about one of the worst things and one of the best things that is happening in the battle over abortion. Asheville, NC is my old stomping ground-an hour from where I grew up and twenty minutes from where I went to college. Last year, I visited Asheville for the first time in many years and fell in love all over again. Now, Asheville finds itself in the spotlight. An abortion clinic that was once bombed, a 'crisis pregnancy center' that may sometimes slant the truth, and a church, all near Asheville, are focal points. So, here's the good...and the bad.
The Good
Despite bitter disagreements, representatives from the church, the clinic and the center in Asheville have begun to meet at the aptly named "Blue Moon Cafe." Somehow, as with many issues, when your enemy has a face, and you share a meal and conversation, the questions get harder and the answers more complex. That's what has happened in Asheville. Consider what Rev. Hutchinson, one of the participants in the discussion, had to say:
"Once you've come to know your adversaries personally, once the cartoon villains are brushed away, the conversation becomes more complicated--and more useful. "When we talk, we really have to examine our own beliefs and why we do what we do," Lorrie says. "Abortion is a reality. For me, I feel it can be a lifesaving choice for a woman. But decreasing abortion is a goal we all strive for." As for Hutchinson, "I still keep the 'choice' of abortion off the menu. But I hadn't thought through how difficult a choice it is. I'd been pretty simplistic. I just think a lot more about the pregnant woman herself now than I had before." On issues of such weight, making the questions harder for people is the first step toward finding some answers."
Amen. That formula works for a lot of tough issues.
The Bad
As you can see in the shocking photo on the cover, TIME is reporting on a new and growing front in the abortion war, a front that relies on lies, guilt and emotional manipulation to compel women seeking an abortion to instead continue their pregnancy. "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" have been around for a long time, but an infusion of federal funds through abstinence education grants and faith-based funding have turned the once typical counseling room into what looks a lot more like your ob's exam room, complete with ultrasound equipment courtesy of Focus on the Family Option Ultrasound Initiative. (Once again proving that Georgia Republicans rarely have an original idea.) The problem is that these are not really medical offices, and the information provided is often inaccurate, sometime intentionally. This is done with the goal of getting the women to change her mind about abortion and is a situation where an "ends justifies the means" mentality can be especially dangerous. I dare say that if a quasi-medical clinic were set up that offered similarly manipulative and inaccurate information about any other issue, federal money would not be invested and the doors would close, quickly.

Half of all women at some point face an unplanned pregnancy. Of course, for all their talk about abortion, these clinics do nothing to educate women about birth control. Married women who ask are referred to their doctors, and unmarried women are told not to have sex. That's effective. (Some people do not realize that only about 10% of women who contact Planned Parenthood seek information about abortion. The great majority seek information about birth control, and access to birth control is also under attack. A quick scan of some the legislation filed last session in Georgia shows that this is true.)
Surely we can all agree that when these women seek information, they deserve the truth. Surely we can agree that if tax dollars are involved, the least we should expect is accuracy. But that is often not the case. For example, according to TIME, one study found that 20 of 23 such centers tested provided inaccurate information. That's unacceptable. Public dollars should not be invested in dis-information campaigns. Inaccurate information is a threat to women's health.
The Common Ground
The "Blue Moon" group has found some common ground. It took more than a year of talking to agree on four basic principles. They agree to work to: decrease abortions, relieve the social and economic conditions that lead women to consider abortion, make adoption easier, condemn violence and keep talking. The last point, to keep talking, may be the most vital.


liberalandproud said...

I feel the same way about Asheville, and am not surprised to hear that it is the site of such important discussion. Unfortunately, I am equally unfazed by the "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" inaccuracies. My mother volunteered for both a "crisis pregnancy center" and Planned Parenthood in the 70s (obviously not at the same time). I have personally gone to Planned Parenthood for birth control. It should also be remembered that Planned Parenthood does a lot of terrific work to fight the spread of STDs. I certainly hope the Time story help open people's eyes to the damage that can be caused by these faux clinics.

Kathy said...

Asheville! New home of common sense! Would that we could congratulate Atlanta, or even Macon, on such an achievement.