Fighting Evil, One Eve at a Time
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Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 12:12:03 AM EST
Writer Heather Wokusch begins War on Terror, War on Women with a quote from the Commander-in-Chief.

"On September 11, we saw clearly that evil exists in this world, and that it does not value life... Now we are engaged in a fight against evil and tyranny to preserve and protect life."  
-- Bush in 2002, linking abortion rights with terrorism, as he declared the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to be "National Sanctity of Human Life Day."

Wokusch notes, "Sabotaging programs for women has become something of a sport for this administration," and Bush acolytes in Texas government play hardball. To advance the state's goal of "promoting childbirth," our legislature diverted $5 million from historically successful family planning programs in order to fund a scheme funneling public support to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).  

Their battle plan includes "educational materials" from Heritage House '76, a CPC supply house whose inflammatory publications have been used and promoted by the American Life League, the Quran-burning Operation Save America and the late Paul deParrie, a Hero of the Faith in the domestic terror organization known as the Army of God.

With testimonials such as those, is it any wonder that godly lawmakers see a crying need to inflict Heritage House materials upon unsuspecting pregnant women and teenaged girls, instead of frittering away our tax money on health care?

Public funding of CPCs is a major tactic in the religious right's anti-woman crusade. In Florida, CareNet's Option Line has become the de facto executive of the state's effort to direct traffic into CPCs via the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN).  

The FPCN will launch an advertising campaign modeled after Option Line marketing efforts. English and Spanish commercials as well as Internet ads will promote a newly-created Florida 1-800 number that will ring directly into the Option Line call center in Columbus, Ohio. All Florida pregnancy centers currently receiving phone calls through the Option Line will be immediately eligible to receive phone calls made to the new 1-800 number.
The Florida program will also involve the reimbursement of qualified pregnancy centers for counseling services that abide by Florida's faith-based initiative guidelines. The FPCN will allocate the state funds to those pregnancy centers that wish to participate and have been trained and approved by the FPCN.

That's right: Pregnant? Need Help? Call 1-800-PROPAGANDA.  In Florida, as in Texas, the CPC business is booming.  

In Florida, the crisis pregnancy centers are supported by millions of dollars in taxpayer money. ... Some crisis centers get state money for every hour a counselor spends face to face with a client -- $50 an hour, up to $1,300 a month.

Anti-abortion hot lines -- those numbers often called surreptitiously in the wee hours by women who think they're pregnant -- get $4 per telephone contact, e-mail or instant-message stream.

And the public money does not stop at the state line.

"There's been an increase in the money and an increase in the focus because I think there is a perception that these clinics play an important role in preventing unwanted pregnancies," U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, said recently. "I don't think that's true.

''There's nothing wrong with having a religious mission," Wexler said. "A religious mission is wonderful. It just needs to be straightforward."

If the Christian right's mission to siphon public money into CPCs was straightforward, there wouldn't be any such mission in the first place.

The Austin Chronicle has mounted an intensive effort to pry a few straight answers from the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, the lucky winner of our state's multimillion-dollar Alternatives to Abortion contract.

[Sen. Tommy] Williams' rider set aside $5 million ... to administer a program explicitly intended to "promote childbirth" over abortion, primarily through a network of nonprofits, mostly "crisis pregnancy centers" - most run by vociferously anti-abortion groups that offer no medical services whatsoever. Lawmakers later told us they felt misled by Williams' assertion that the rider would not impact funding for traditional providers of preventative medical services for poor women - as in fact it has done.
Texas ... awarded the $2.5-million-per-year contract to the TPCN, a brand-new nonprofit whose directors, according to their résumés, have no experience in nonprofit administration nor in women's health care. ... In January, we reported that under this system, during FY 06, TPCN had invoiced the state for more than $600,000. Although well more than $100,000 supposedly went to pay for "client services," it wasn't until August that the group reported spending any money on services; in that invoice, TPCN reported spending $50.98 on client services. In all, according to TPCN's numbers, in FY 06 the group served just 11 clients statewide - in essence, at that time, the program had cost $58,086 per client.

A memorandum on TPCN's letterhead responded [pdf link] at length, if not in depth, to Smith's detailed report on the program's lack of efficiency and effectiveness at anything except cashing the state's checks.

The memorandum is unsigned, but we've been told that it originated with the office of Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who authored and carried the budget rider that created the Alternatives to Abortion program back in 2005. More precisely, the document appears to have been produced by the high-powered political consulting firm the Eppstein Group, led by Bryan Eppstein, which has done campaign work for many GOP lawmakers, including Williams. We tried to confirm this provenance from the horses' mouths, but at press time, neither Eppstein nor Williams' aide had returned numerous calls requesting comment.

TPCN Executive Director Vincent Friedewald was much less forthcoming when reporters asked to see the "educational materials" for the program -- but maybe that was only because he didn't have an Eppstein Group lobbyist in the office when the press knocked on TPCN's door.

Shortly after our article was published, we were contacted by [the Health and Human Services Commission] and told that the agency had acquired the materials and would be able to make them available for inspection. We reviewed them earlier this month - under the watchful eye of an HHSC representative, who told us she was directed to sit with us during the entire visit.

The TPCN memorandum asserts that the group only buys educational materials that "meet high quality standards"; that cite "legitimate authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or ... articles published in peer-reviewed medical literature"; and that it buys no "materials that are political, judgmental, reflect activist sentiments or that contain spiritual or religious content." Our review of the TPCN materials contradicts those assertions. We found biased materials - many that appear to spin medical information toward a particular political point of view, such as that found in abstinence-only sex education - and materials that cite dubious sources other than medical and/or health authorities

Some materials shown to the Austin Chronicle were published by Heritage House '76. "Biased" is a mild word for either its catalogue of abortion-as-holocaust propaganda or for its owners, Mike and Dinah Monahan. Dinah Monahan is a veteran anti-choice activist who networks extensively with Focus on the Family, National Right to Life, Heartbeat International, CareNet and Lutherans for Life. She is also a principal participant at workshops and conferences with such major figures of the Christian right as Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and the Diocese of Amarillo (pictured below with Monahan).      

Photo: Priests for Life

The press wasn't allowed to see Heritage House pamphlets without official supervision, but CPCs in Texas and across the country pass them out by the handful to any pregnant woman or teenager who might be "abortion minded" -- along with plenty of loving Christian advice, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

In October, a woman said that she'd been to the Care Net Pregnancy Services in Port St. Lucie -- part of a national chain of 1,000 crisis pregnancy centers.

"(They) told me I could die from an abortion, that I would never have kids, preached religion, told me I should have the baby and put it up for adoption, told me I had a formed baby and how it was a sin."
In November, one pregnant woman wrote that she'd found the Boca {CPC] in the Yellow Pages and had gone there for a pregnancy test.

"They told me to keep it, not have an abortion," the woman wrote.

Eventually, the woman came to Presidential [Women's Center in West Palm Beach] and was assigned a counselor named Brooke, who said recently she remembers the woman because of her unsettling worries.

"She said, 'I need to know. Does this doctor, does he hate women?' At first, I was kind of stunned," Brooke said. "And I said, 'Not at all. Our doctors are very committed to women.' "

The woman wrote that a [CPC] counselor told her: "abortion centers use drills knife. cut u open. doctor hate women."

CPC representatives disparage reports like these as attacks on their Christian mission, but their denials don't even jibe with what they say to each other.

As a representative sampling of "educational materials" from the Heritage House catalogue, I present a small assortment from my own collection. Like the staff of Presidential Women's Center in West Palm Beach, our clinic here in Texas sees many patients who find their way to us only after running the CPC gauntlet, some of whom are still clutching Heritage House pamphlets in their hands when they come through the door.

Along with the fetal models sold by HH "in white, brown and black ... mixed and matched for quantity pricing," a perennial CPC favorite is "You Have a Right to Know," a title mimicking that of the "Woman's Right to Know" statutes mandating anti-abortion counseling and waiting periods in Texas and many other states.

Aspiration D&C is performed with the same kind of round-ended plastic tube that your dentist uses to extract saliva while you're having your teeth cleaned. That isn't likely to scare anyone, but this is.

And if that isn't enough, there's always the discredited specter of breast cancer.

That brochure's counterpart is "For Men Only," which urges a woman's male partner to take charge of his woman.

"The Black Woman's Voice" paints abortion as a genocidal plot by "upper middle class white" people who are "pruning the minority population."  

And as is the case with these and so many other "educational materials," it's only available from Heritage House.

In Post-Abortion Syndrome: Are You at Risk?, Dr. David Reardon details the psyche-shattering consequences of Post-Abortion Syndrome, a malady as mythical as Reardon's nonexistent doctorate in bioethics. At least it's true that he's the "national expert" on PAS -- because he invented it.

Perhaps the most blatant example of the Christian right's skewed version of the "pro-life gospel" is "What Can Happen to You" [pdf] -- a glossy production packed with more twisted scare-tactic propaganda than one compact brochure should be able to hold. In addition to the usual dire alarms about the dangers of breast cancer, suicidal depression and immediate life-threatening complications, it echoes biblical warnings of punishment visited upon successive generations.

If you have an abortion:

(1) You will be more likely to bleed in the first three months of future pregnancies.

(2) You will be less likely to have a normal delivery in future pregnancies.

(3) You will need more manual removal of placenta more often and there will be more complications with expelling the baby and its placenta.

(4) Your next baby will be twice as likely to die in the first few months of life.

(5) Your next baby will be three to four times as likely to die in the last months of his first year of life.

How very un-Christian of them to evoke the Angel of Death.

The well-oiled campaign to fund CPCs is not about helping women, but about controlling women through fear and guilt, with the crudest and ugliest of tactics -- and, of course, about empowering the Christian right's war on women with your money.

Just one more faith-based initiative headed to a statehouse near you.

Title Image: Domenichino, The Rebuke of Adam and Eve

Final Image: Evelyn De' Morgan, House of Azrael

might be OK with inflicting images of death upon the women they target, but they don't want people seeing what happens when they win.

OKLAHOMA CITY Literature which criticizes anti-abortion bills pending in the state House of Representatives was barred from the chamber today.

House officials are also trying to stop the literature from being distributed to state lawmakers' offices.
The leaflets include the statement "Abortion Should Be Prevented, Not Punished" and includes a photo of the body of a woman who died during an abortion before it was legalized by the Supreme Court in 1973.

House spokesman Damon Gardenire says the chamber requires that literature distributed to lawmakers first be filed with the chamber's post office to verify it is not obscene, pornographic or a solicitation.

The head of an anti-abortion group says he didn't know about the post office rule even though his group regularly distributes material at the Capitol.

by moiv on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 12:20:13 AM EST

Thanks for teaching here, moiv.

For me, this helps put flesh and blood on the usual "wisdom" about the vulnerability of democracy to a concerted takeover by extremist factions "from within," i.e., via the grass-roots and precinct level machinery.

It certainly appears that a group of Bible-inspired social planners has become disproportionately dominant in Texas state government.  And they have done it via an overtly sectarian political machine which is sucking its political life from the old State Republican party precincts.  With Democratic precincts to follow (if not already coming on line), I'm sure.

Who can get a picture of this gang of crypto-mullahs into the hands of the American people?  We need the modern equivalent of Thomas Nast's great campaign against old Tammany Hall in the days before TV and radio (and this means far more than mere newspaper cartoons in our day).

I think this is a barometer of our true national sovereignty - we as a nation are being bamboozled with a common ruse about "state's rights" in the abortion arena.  Which only forces us to stand by while large numbers of pregnant Texans (for example) are being denied the health care and pre-natal guidance enjoyed by the bulk of US citizens in other states who still enjoy untrammeled protection from public establishments of religion and from undue government molestation of their private lives and decisions.

According to your reporting, the Texas state cabal is draining off millions of public tax dollars from certified providers of women's health care - and diverting the money into quasi-affiliated religious initiatives bearing only half-assed qualifications for the job - a situation which boils down to a strict government promotion and regulation of limited traditional child-producing roles for the bulk of the state's female citizens.

Just curious - if this group of rogues were sincere there would be state legislation supporting and subsidizing a policy of generous maternity leave for its working women.  If they are hypocrites, they have barely talked about such a policy, and are simply expecting that a woman will abort her career when a man gets her pregnant.

Even that "nice-sounding" anti-choice policy of urging pregnant women to carry their unwanted embryos to full term - with the intention of giving up the baby to an authorized agency of the Texas "state religion" - has a ring of profound immorality.  Kind of like The Handmaid's Tale.

God bless the whole world - - No Exceptions
by John Anngeister on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 06:20:18 PM EST

and I think you probably can guess the answer to your question. Texas ranks #50 -- dead last -- among the states when it comes to the percentage of women of childbeariing years who have health insurance of any kind.

And as you surmised, our state's cabal of social planners (great description) also are heavily promoting adoption over assistance to women who wish to parent their own children.

Two current bills are in play to push this program. One, by Rep. Ken "Rumpelstiltskin" Paxton, would establish "Choose Life" license plates to fund medical and other material assistance to pregnant women, but only if they are amenable to releasing their infants for adoption.

A second bill, SB 1567, was introduced by Sen. Dan Patrick, who also has introduced a trigger bill to ban abortion in Texas altogether. SB 1567 would establish a $500 cash payment from the state to any woman within 60 days after she relinquished her parental rights to her newborn infant, and would require doctors who provide abortion care to furnish her beforehand with the official application for that payment.

What happens to women just isn't a consideration for them at all.

by moiv on Tue Mar 13, 2007 at 07:55:43 PM EST

- How goes Texas - do they yet stand?  A question every friend of liberty might soon ask in earnest, as a smarmy coven of "Bad-Shepherd" bills pecks its way through the halls of that state's theologically compromised Legislature.

I gained invaluable knowledge and perspective (and even inspiration for this latest rant) by reading your January story linked in your previous comment.

I am floored by the cold-blooded self-righteousness of a state assistance program (SB 1567) which essentially aims to rent human wombs (at $500 - roughly $12.50 per week) as pre-natal state incubators for babies "contracted out" for adoption by families sharing the legislator's religious beliefs.  The evil flip-side to the Paxton bill - which provides a convenient legal avenue by which the same program agencies may literally cut off a woman who needs medical help going to term with a baby she actually wants or decides to keep.

Wherever private convictions regarding the aims of perfect will are vested with the imperfect and potentially crushing material sovereignty of the general will, the common good is sure to be eclipsed in the purest poison - deadly not only to the most basic secular freedoms but also to living faith and to authentic religion.

I wish someone famous had said that.

In my opinion, recognition of the evil nature of "faith-based" lawmaking does not constitute a "no-brainer."  To the contrary, the faithful are often too busy "acting out" their naive holiness to gain the untrammeled use of their god-given brains, and are  even prone to take faith as a kind of transcendent "dare" - that they do well to distrust their personal morality and sympathies whenever these are opposed to the static interpretations and creeds of the sponsor of their pastor's theological education.

So one error leads to another, until they are uncritically trusting that God wants only one more chance to vindicate some perfectly Biblical kingdom of sand.

In the case of present-day Texas "lawmaking," I would say a religious minority has succeeded in throwing the valid channels of government into the sink of its own narrowly-viewed path, and are accomplishing nothing so much as to foot a prime venue for the coming of their much-vaunted Anti-Christ (if indeed that oddly Zoroastrian notion has any validity at all).

And I think the Texas plan to run state-sponsored "pipelines" of intentionally orphaned newborns into all those smug Zoroastrian homes ought to be a matter of concern for the fate of most other half-way decent religions in the next Century.  : )

God bless the whole world - - No Exceptions
by John Anngeister on Wed Mar 14, 2007 at 03:27:45 PM EST

I am sure that the TX legislators would be happy to pay for white healthy babies to be sold into the adoption market - but will the legislators pay for black and Hispanic babies? Sick babies? Severely retarded or severely palsied babies? They already have an overload of hard-to-adopt kids (like all states). Would they loosen restrictions on gay adoption? It would be instructive to observe the intra-republican discussions on these points.

by NancyP on Wed Mar 14, 2007 at 09:14:28 PM EST

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