This is a war. It’s a war on our bodies and our lives, and on this sidewalk, is where you’ll see that ugliness first hand.” This is what I tell my trainee clinic escorts at Hartford GYN Center, Connecticut’s last independent abortion clinic. Our reality is that reproductive health care access is under attack nationally and right here in Hartford. An anti-choice group, St. Gerard’s Center for Life, has bought the building 30 feet away from Hartford GYN Center and begun doing business as “Hartford Women’s Center” with the intent to confuse and intercept patients as they walk to appointments. Last week, a patient was offered $50 and a free ultrasound by an anti-choice volunteer. The week before that, another patient was told she might not make it out alive if she chose an abortion. These manipulative tactics are at the heart of the mission of anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.
Hartford Women’s Center” is one of close to 30 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in Connecticut, outnumbering real licensed family planning clinics. The intent of crisis pregnancy centers is to convince people facing unplanned pregnancies to carry to term, no matter what. These anti-choice often groups use deceptive advertising and signage (i.e. “Pregnant? Scared? Need help?), delay tactics, shame, and medically inaccurate information about abortion and contraception to accomplish their mission. Crisis pregnancy centers, in tandem with large numbers of sidewalk protesters, are the ground-level presence of the anti-choice movement.
On the national level, the anti-choice movement shows up by attempting to pass policies that limit reproductive health care access. This week we have seen yet another attempt by Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation affecting reproductive health care. The ACA allowed millions of people to access maternity care, newborn care, and preventative services such as annual well-woman exams, contraceptive coverage, cervical cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, intimate partner violence screenings, and more. This was a huge advancement— we know that people who have access to comprehensive reproductive health care have better economic outcomes, and the movements for reproductive rights, gender justice, and racial justice are inseparable.
When harsh restrictions on reproductive health care, especially abortion, are compounded with the absence of sex education, attacks on access to contraceptives, financial penalties for motherhood, and ground level crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk protesters, what we see in summary is the anti-choice movement seeking full control of women, their families, and entire communities. In the words of Loretta Ross, “The control of women is the pathway to control communities. We can never decouple the woman from her community.”
Being pro-choice means truly trusting and freeing women to make decisions about our own lives. It means understanding that our families and communities are impacted by choice issues and doing the work to ensure that it is everyone’s personal decision to decide if, how, and when to have a family. It means protecting access to safe and legal abortion, as well as working to reduce the need for abortion through birth control access and sex education. It also means supporting people in their communities and in their workplaces when they choose to carry their pregnancies to term and/or choose to become parents.After all, if we do not have control over our own bodies, what do we have?
After all, if we do not have control over our own bodies, what do we have?
Erica Crowley is an organizer with NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, the state’s leading reproductive rights political advocacy organization, and Hartford GYN Center, Connecticut’s last independent abortion clinic. To learn more and to get involved, please visit prochoicect.org and contact firstname.lastname@example.org