Unmasking Crisis Pregnancy/Pregnancy Resource Centers

Part 2:

Many advocates who are in support of the operation and tactics used by crisis pregnancy centers claim that abortions are a severe threat to a person’s health, so therefore the existence of these centers can only be for the greater good. However, after reading this piece, it is evident that many of the claims these centers make about the negative effects of abortions on cis women’s (though it affects those of other genders too) health are in fact, false. After a nationwide study, there were three large pieces of misinformation that crisis pregnancy centers were giving to their clients consistently. The first of these false claims is that having an abortion will boost their likelihood of developing breast cancer, but this has been disproven by the National Cancer Institute. Secondly, they claim that those who have abortions are likely to experience many different problems with their fertility in the future as a direct result of the abortion. On the contrary, abortions that are performed within a woman’s first trimester of pregnancy do not put her at an increased risk to develop any significant problems with her fertility in the future. Lastly, this organization frequently proclaims that those who have abortions are likely to experience continuous detrimental mental illness that could last throughout their entire lives. Yet no scientific studies have been able to prove that people who have abortions are likely to experience lifelong mental affliction of any sort (Rosen 201-202). All of these false scare tactics make it difficult for people to know which information presented to them is accurate, and can lead to uninformed decisions that they may regret if they ever receive fully comprehensive services. But in a patriarchal and heterosexist culture, it makes sense that these organizations spread such blatant misinformation because the main goal is to control women’s sexuality and bodies, instead of acknowledging the idea that everyone should be given full moral agency over decisions that concern their own psychological and physical health.

One other argument that individuals in favor of crisis pregnancy centers usually use is that they promote good health through abstinence, which they believe is the most effective approach to educate people about sex. In Rosen’s piece, she points out that most centers give out inaccurate information about contraceptives, including condoms and birth control, and urge people not to have sex in order to avoid the necessity of using either. But since young adults are likely to engage in sexual acts anyways, this lack of education and resources puts people at a higher risk of becoming pregnant in the near future, and also increases their likelihood in developing a sexually transmitted disease (202-203). Using a large scope, this lack of access to adequate contraceptives and health information can be frightening, seeing as how it is only increasing the chance of young people contracting diseases and becoming unintentionally pregnant. It’s truly a disservice to young people everywhere, because a person’s innate human worth is substantial enough to warrant that all organizations geared toward reproductive health should have to provide basic resources that allow people to protect themselves from a very real potential harm. If more people were better educated about choices and risks in relation to contraceptives and safe sex through actual credible organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, then it is only logical that issues such as the transmission of diseases and unintended pregnancies would likely occur less and less as time goes on.

The continuous operation of crisis pregnancy centers in the United States, which often use deceit, manipulation, intimidation, and downright misinformation to control folks’ decisions over their own reproductive health, is one of the biggest obstacles in the way to achieving a much better public health initiative which aims to put the reproductive health of all people at the forefront of the cause. The tradition of treating women’s welfare and happiness with no respect or dignity needs to be eradicated in favor of a more feminist mindset that cares about a woman in and of herself, without attributing her value as a person to her decision to bear children or not. Such a progressive idea could have the power to shift a culture to allow everyone the liberty to make their own informed and consensual choices concerning their own bodies and health, giving way to a much more understanding world for all.

 

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil Virginia May is a junior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a genderqueer trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

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Unmasking Crisis Pregnancy/Pregnancy Resource Centers

Part 1:

Through my experience as an employee at SCSU’s Women’s Center, I have become much more aware of issues that meddle with women’s (and folks of other genders’) rights all over the nation. An issue at the forefront of my mind is the operation of crisis pregnancy centers (aka pregnancy resource centers) in the United States, which often use deceit, manipulation, intimidation, and downright misinformation to control people’s decisions over their own reproductive health. Therefore, in order to protect reproductive freedom and well-being, it is essential that crisis pregnancy centers be seen for how they really are and not be allowed to continue to operate in this manner in the U.S., and instead allocate more attention to encouraging people to visit comprehensive women’s health centers throughout the country.

One of the primary reasons that crisis pregnancy centers should not be allowed to continue operating in the United States is that they blatantly abuse their right to freedom of speech in order to deceive and manipulate those in crisis situations to not receive any sort of abortions, even if it goes against what the woman wants. According to a piece by researcher Kathryn E. Gilbert, a crisis pregnancy center located in Manhattan in New York City used extremely deceptive tactics to prevent one woman from having an abortion by telling her that she needed to keep coming in for additional ultrasounds, and by the time the woman was able to see an actual physician, she was too far along in her pregnancy to terminate. This is clearly a threat to reproductive rights all across the country because even though this woman was looking to have a safe and legal abortion, she was sneakily persuaded against doing so without her informed consent. However, these anti-choice organizations have been able to legally use these strategies based on their claim that being forced to use only factual and straightforward methods would inhibit their right to freedom of speech. And, as a noncommercial entity, the courts have omitted the questionable behavior of this organization as acceptable. But this omission of injustice to healthcare only perpetuates the severity of the situation, seeing as how the organization’s keen awareness of this loophole only strengthens their cause to restrict people’s control over their own bodies (Gilbert 3-4).

Another reason in affirmation of the assertion that crisis pregnancy centers are a threat to reproductive health and freedom is the fact that they use disingenuous advertising and phone calls to lure folks into their locations. As cited by NARAL Pro-Choice America in their document titled, “The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” one of the main ways that these centers falsely advertise is by seeking reproductive health services and listing themselves in phone books and online databases under “abortion” and “abortion services,” even though the organization does not offer any form of abortion procedures at their locations (2). Consequently, many folks seeking full abortion services find the crisis pregnancy center when they believe they are at a reputable service. This is in direct violation of their assertion that they are a proper organization, seeing as how they don’t actually care about the pregnant person’s well-being, otherwise they would offer fully comprehensive reproductive services, instead of secretly advocating their anti-choice agenda which only aims to protect the fetus, not the one carrying the fetus. The volunteers and employees at these centers are no better at handling phone calls, because when someone calls they are advised to do whatever it takes to convince that person to make an appointment so that they can continue to feed them empty answers and false information in person (3). Clearly, this is not a sound method because it attempts to act as a moral agent, restricting people’s decisions over their own pregnancies. If our judicial system were to properly recognize these unprofessional occurrences and reprimand offenders, the likelihood that these situations would continue happening would decrease.

An additional reason as to how the crisis pregnancy centers located throughout the U.S. infringe upon reproductive freedoms and should therefore be put under close surveillance and potentially closed down is that they use intimidation tactics to take advantage of people during some of the most difficult times of their lives. In one situation, as noted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, a father took his teenage daughter to a crisis pregnancy center to help her with her crisis pregnancy, but instead his daughter was only inflicted with psychological harm. After being shown “brutal footage” including pictures of dismembered fetuses, the man claimed that, “they just emotionally raped her. . . . They are advocates for the unborn, and to hell with the troubled person. They had an ax to grind, and just terrorized her”’ (6). With that instance in mind, it is clear that these centers prey on people in extremely vulnerable predicaments and exploit them for their own interest, namely the religiously backed anti-choice movement.

 

…………..Tune in on Thursday for Part 2…………

 

 

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil Virginia May is a junior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a genderqueer trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

 

#UniteCloud in the Wake of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Part 2:

Non-Latinx people, especially white folks, even if they’re queer and/or trans, need to know that we are not all Orlando because we all do not share these same experiences with violence that members of this particular community do, and that’s really important to understand. As Tatum says in “The Complexity of Identity,” “The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others.” That is why non-Latinx, but especially white queers and trans folks cannot go around acting like “This could have just as easily been me!” We definitely experience violence, but not nearly at the same rates or in the same form that queer and trans people of color do. White queer and trans people still have white privilege and are totally capable of perpetuating racism and white supremacy. We are not somehow not white privileged anymore because of our queerness or transness. We are simultaneously privileged and oppressed (at least in these specific ways), so we cannot carry on pretending that this could have just likely been a massacre of white people or completely erase the racial/ethnic aspects of this hate crime altogether in the name of utterly useless and actively harmful “color blindness,” which I’m sorry to say to all of the so-called whites for equality out there, isn’t fucking real. It’s just irresponsible.

Speaking more about social responsibility and acknowledging our oppression of others, we must not allow the violent actions of this one Muslim man speak for an entire worldwide community of Muslims. Islamophobia was already horrendous in the United States following the terrorist attack on the twin towers back on September 11, 2001, but now in this post 9/11 world with our worsening political climate before and after this most recent election, Islamophobia and hate crimes against perceived Muslims has been on the rise and putting Muslims in serious danger. Even if Omar Mateen identified as an Islamic extremist, we must recognize that Islamic extremists only account for a very small fraction of a percentage of the worldwide population and are not any more violent as people from other religious groups, like Christians, but violence perpetuated by white Christians are never labeled as terrorism or attributed to the zealous religious affiliations of the attacker. We as queer and trans people especially have, and must continue to be outspoken against Islamophobia, and make it abundantly clear that we refuse hateful violence against us to be used as justification for more bigoted, hateful violence against other groups (though there are plenty of people who are Muslim and queer and/or trans). We must fervently denounce these divisionary and Islamophobic tactics and instead be grateful for all of our queer and trans Muslims as well as Muslim allies to the LGBTQ+ community.

Now after analyzing the violence and aftermath of implications, I shall return to the post from #UniteCloud. It’s short and sweet, and I think they did a nice job of highlighting people’s feelings after such a tragedy took place and also does a great job of combating Islamophobia with a nice little quote from Haji Yusuf calling for solidarity between Muslims and LGBTQ+ folks (though like I said before, you can definitely be both). And then Natalie offers a message that LGBTQ+ folks matter every day, not just when such a tragedy takes place, and that we must listen and take care of each other.

In summation I think the brief blog post provides a pretty good synthesis of the event, I only wish there was more analysis like the one I have provided here. They didn’t use the problematic #WeAreAllOrlando either, so that’s a definite plus! I appreciate some of the community recognizing that what #UniteCloud has done and will continue to do as grassroots activism is the best, though our politics definitely differ (they supporting neoliberalism, whilst I am more radical). Community activism for the win!

 

Image: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/06/12/three-horrific-hours-orlando-nightclub-massacre/85788574/

 

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil Virginia May is a junior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a genderqueer trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

#UniteCloud in the Wake of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting 

Part 1:

Last semester, Natalie Ringsmuth, Executive Director of the local grassroots activist group, #UniteCloud, joined my class to talk about some of the work of #UniteCloud within their overarching goal of actively participating in the end of marginalization of all of our community members. After such meeting, I read a blog from their website and incorporated what we’ve learned through class discussions to analyze said post to better understand systems of oppression.

I read a post from #UniteCloud’s website titled “Orlando, You are Not Alone” about a community gathering that occurred following the massacre that took place at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida this past June. The purpose of the gathering was to honor the lives lost as a result of this hate crime that motivated mass murder, and to come together as a St. Cloud community to show that they care about our LGBTQ+ community members. In order to understand this community gathering, we must understand the murders themselves.

According to an article from NPR titled “3 Hours in Orlando: Piecing Together an Attack and its Aftermath,” on June 12, 2016, an armed gunman named Omar Mateen entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and slaughtered 49 innocent people. But these people were not coincidental targets. Mateen planned to massacre the people at the Pulse Orlando Nightclub because it was a known queer bar, and the night Mateen planned his attack coincided with a Latin themed night, where the majority of the attendees and grand majority of the victims of this heinous hate crime were queer Latinx people. This type of mortal, violent outburst on Mateen’s behalf was a textbook definition of mass systematic violence. The victims and those traumatized by the attack were specifically targeted as queer and trans Latinxs and for no other reason other than their belonging to these marginalized groups.

However, I find it important to contextualize that although this hyper form of mass violence is not common on a daily basis, violence against queer and trans Latinxs individually and in smaller groups is an extremely common occurrence, most especially felt by Latinx trans women and trans feminine people. Violence against queer and trans Latinxs is nothing new, and is in fact extremely prevalent when you listen to the voices and stories of these people and their everyday experiences at the intersections of racism, heterosexism, and cissexism. Even if certain members of this community are not experiencing direct physical assault, just the looming vulnerability is enough to be demoralizing and induce suffering and unhappiness. Young says that, “The oppression of violence consists not only in direct victimization, but in the daily knowledge shared by all members of oppressed groups that they are liable to violation, solely on account of their group identity.” Queer and trans Latinxs are certainly hyperaware of their marginalization and vulnerability to violence. It is our social responsibility, especially as white folks, to not talk about this tragedy as if it were an isolated and erratic occurrence, but an act of systematic racist, heterosexist, and cissexist violence that has been occurring for hundreds of years, thanks to colonization.

Shortly following the aftermath of this tragedy, people from around the globe, but especially Americans, started using the hashtag, #WeAreAllOrlando as a way to show support and solidarity with those most impacted by the attack. While very well intentioned and seemingly harmless to some, after listening to queer and trans Latinx activists, it became quite clear that, in fact, we are not all Orlando. Community leaders like the wonderful Jennicet Gutierrez were outspoken about this and refused to let this massive hate crime be whitewashed.

Whitewashing happens when other factors, like race and ethnicity, are not taken into account, unreported, or completely omitted from conversations and public discourse surrounding the massacre. Everyone, but especially white queer and trans folks have the responsibility to not erase the fact that the people targeted in this attack were almost exclusively (if not exclusively) people of color, namely Latinx people. It is a dishonor to these people who survived and didn’t survive the attack to gloss over this crucial bit of intersectionality; if we really want to understand what provoked this violence and listen to queer and trans Latinxs to find ways to best prevent more violence from continuously occurring.

Image: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/06/12/three-horrific-hours-orlando-nightclub-massacre/85788574/

 

…Stay tuned for Part 2, coming on Thursday…

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil Virginia May is a junior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a genderqueer trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

The Filling, the Overflowing, and the Emptiness

On November 23rd of this year, I had the honor of being appointed to the Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet of Minnesota.

The Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet brings together nonprofits, businesses, and government to improve equity in outcomes for young women in Minnesota who experience the greatest disparities.

This cabinet has been a work in progress for years, but nowhere would approve it until Minnesota. It wasn’t approved until Minnesota because no government officials were on board until Governor Dayton. As soon as the idea was pitched to him, he was on board!

If our action plan works, this cabinet will be starting in many other states as well and for those of us in the cabinet, we will be a part of history.

There are about twenty five women on this cabinet, ranging from ages of 16 to 24 who are working with me to create an action plan to strengthen services and areas that are already working for women in Minnesota.

It is seldom I feel proud of myself but being appointed to this cabinet is one of those moments. My voice didn’t seem important until now.

But getting appointed to this cabinet a few short weeks after the election was conflicting for me in many ways.

Being a part of this cabinet was the hope that I needed in humanity and in the world I live in.

There’s a phrase that says ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ and the election had me feeling as if my cup had run permanently dry.

After a few weeks of feeling absolutely empty post-election and then getting to be a part of this cabinet, it felt like the cup I pour from was overflowing.

But how does one keep faith in the work they’re doing when the world at large is actively working against them?

I have always believed in people and that they hold the power.

To maintain my full cup, I needed to be a part of this cabinet working to create change in a world that so desperately needs it.

At the first cabinet meeting, we each spoke about what made us decide to apply for a position on the cabinet. As each woman went around the room sharing what brought them to this cabinet, I had hope in the people around me and faith in the fact that people still care.

Each woman that spoke has known various forms of struggles and disparities. Each of the women has the desire to create a better world for all the people in it. Their passions ranged from healthcare disparities to racial profiling and beyond. Even though we all had different issues that brought us to this cabinet, we were a room full of people who cared. The amount of empathy and passion in that room was enough to empower anyone.

It was everything I needed to hear. Being in a room so filled with passion, I felt my cup overflow.

And I recommend becoming a part of something to everyone who is feeling their cup has run dry.

Be engaged.

Surround yourself with people who care and have passion to create change like you do because you are not alone. You are not the only one who feels empathy for others or has a desire to change the way that our world is going. And there is nothing more than to fill your cup up with hope.

Hope in the people around you.

There are more of us out here fighting for good than you think.

So my advice is to do whatever you can to find people like this because they do exist.

And people have the power.

We just forget that.

 

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism. 

 

The Invisible Queer

Someone I know recently looked at me in surprise when I mentioned that I have decided to start using the word queer to describe my identity.  “But you aren’t a lesbian,” she said, “why would you want to identify as one?”  I can certainly understand her confusion.  After all, my partner is a man, and my pronouns are she/her; to the world I look like a cis-gender, straight, white, 42-year-old.  I am an invisible queer person.

I was 20 years old when I acknowledged that I was attracted to women, and I came out as bisexual.  Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a person who isn’t afraid to share her beliefs in loud and boisterous ways; some people even call me (gasp) confrontational.  I immediately came out to my friends and family, without really thinking about any of the consequences that could come with this revelation.  Surprisingly, (at the time) most people ignored it.  I thought I was being accepted for my bisexuality.  It took me a long time to realize that it was something completely different.

Bi-erasure has been a part of my life for the last twenty-two years.  And it isn’t just from straight people, even those in the LGBT community have looked at me and told me that I can’t be bisexual.  This is super confusing to me, since the B stands for BI-SEXUAL!  For some reason, the idea that I am attracted to people on any part of the spectrum seems to be scary to just about everyone.

In twenty-two years, I have heard every stereotypical response to bisexuality, and they always make me feel angry and hurt.  When I discovered the LGBT community in Minneapolis, I thought that I was finding the community that I belonged to, and instead there were many times when I didn’t feel as though I belonged in any community.  I’m in no way saying that every experience I’ve had with LGBT folks has yielded this pain, but there have been enough of them that it’s made an impression on me.

In 2014, even the LGBT Task Force made a mistake when the leadership program director wrote about saying “bye-bye to the word bisexuality.”   And, she made the statement on Bisexual Awareness Day.  The organization later apologized, but that statement shows that there is a real problem when it comes to the idea of bisexuality within the context of the LGBT community.

what-contributes-to-bi-erasure-bham

It’s as though, because I can “appear” to be straight I really don’t exist as a queer person.  But my queerness shouldn’t be tied to outward appearance.  I read a great blog once that talked about Queer Theory which said queerness is freedom from norms.  It used to be that “normal” was described as heterosexual.  Through the years homonormativity has become a way for the LGBT community to move into some of the laws that have given rights to an entire community, and I am definitely thankful for that.  But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t problematic and we shouldn’t look at it.

I definitely have some privilege that I have to take a hard look at because of this invisibility.  I don’t have to currently worry that someone is going to be negative towards me if I hold hands with, or kiss, my partner in public.  I don’t try to be, but I can be someone who can walk around with all of the privilege of heterosexual people.  But on the other hand, I have experienced all of the negative effects of heterosexism in my life.  That is the reason that I chose to identify as queer; I felt the need to step away from both heterosexuality and even homosexuality. After all, I am neither of those things, and I’m both of them.

 

Photos:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/bi-erasure-hurts/   

http://www.glaad.org/blog/dear-prudence-telling-bi-people-stay-closet-bad-advice 

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy! 

Continuing Conversations About Islamophobia

In St. Cloud, Islamophobia and xenophobia run rampant. We have discussed Islamophobia and xenophobia on this blog before, and it is important to keep these conversations going. When I read that “St. Cloud is the worst place in Minnesota to be Somali” my first reaction, as a white woman who not only attends school at the University but also lives and works in St. Cloud, was shame.

Islamophobia and xenophobia extend beyond the University and into the city itself, from systematic spaces like school systems to everyday spaces like grocery stores and in cars stopped at traffic lights. It happens, abruptly, in the flow of everyday life, and so, as a community, it is in everyday life that we must choose to stand against it.

Here is another link to this important article.

Also, on Tuesday, February 2nd at 5:00 pm, St. Cloud State will be hosting a discussion on “Islamophobia in Minnesota” featuring Jaylani Hussein.  Here is a link.  Be a part of this important, ongoing conversation!

 

Without Kids

By Andrea Broekemeier

I am a woman who doesn’t want kids. For as long as I can remember I haven’t wanted them. To be honest, babies kind of gross me out. Pregnancy bellies even more so. Something about the thought of a tiny living thing being inside someone else that’s on the verge of exploding from that someone’s fun parts just rubs me the wrong way. Yes, it’s a beautiful thing and the miracle of birth and all that cute stuff, but I can’t stop thinking about the reality of it. Blood. Pain. Poop for god’s sake. I’ll pass.

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Do (not) (re)act with (out)rage

A Poem by Bianca Williams

N what time did it become “okay for you and

I to speak the same racial slurs… racial slurs that the racially oppressed have transformed

into a sense of comfortability. A

G– gift to each other. A feeling of

G– greatness for our people. A word so sensitive to the

E– ears of those who have not endured the quiet tears, silent cries, or countless years, or

the amount of times it takes to even be heard in this society. So again I ask when the hell did it become “okay” for you to

R– replicate, recreate, and imitate my culture.

N-I-G-G-E-R U serious?

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Perspectives from SCSU4MIZZOU

By Sharai Sims

The first snow fall of this season happened on the same night St. Cloud State students rallied for solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri

Over the last several weeks we have seen college students around the nation stand together in solidarity with Mizzou against racial injustice that occurs for all students of color on a systematic level. On November 19, St. Cloud State students of all ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations banded together to show their solidarity as a diverse community against injustice. The rally was a response to everyday experiences of racism and the denial of a call by student organizers for St. Cloud State University to make a public statement in alliance with Mizzou students. Students decided the best way to see change was to take action. With signs held high, voices screamed chants like, “My Gay Black Life Matters.”

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