Amherst pro-choice rally protests local Birthright chapter
Saturday at noon, more than 20 men and women gathered in the snow near Birthright of Amherst chanting, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!” to speak out for the pro-choice cause.
The protest comes less than a month after the Stupak-Pitts amendment was approved. This amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act prohibits use of Federal funds to “pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion,” with the exceptions of danger to the life of the mother, rape or incest.
This amendment means that the Public Option, a government run insurance plan, cannot offer any plans which cover abortion, and that anyone who purchases insurance with a government subsidy cannot choose a plan that has abortion coverage. It does not matter how small the subsidy is.
The protest was partly in response to the Stupak amendment.
“This protest is a demonstration of our outrage at both the Democrats and the Republicans for throwing women under the bus,” said protest organizer Natalia Tylim, a 2008 Smith College graduate and member of the International Socialist Organization.
“[Stupak-Pitts] is the most far-reaching attack on women’s access to abortion in this country since the Hyde Amendment banned federal funding from assisting with the cost of abortion for poor women,” Tylim continued. “The right to an abortion is under attack, and we need to rebuild a fighting women’s movement to preserve our health, our safety and our dignity.”
The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, included a stipulation which prohibited abortion from being covered through Medicaid.
The protest specifically targeted Birthright of Amherst, a center for so-called abortion alternatives.
Tylim said the group gathered to denounce organizations which attempt to dissuade individuals from seeking abortions.
“We are protesting the Crisis Pregnancy Center [Birthright] because it is one of the most frequently used tools of the right in putting forward their anti-woman agenda,” she said. “I think that very few people know what these centers actually are,” she went on, “most people we inform about these centers are outraged and surprised that they didn’t know sooner.”
The protesters said that the center receives federal and state funding. This was one of their main arguments against the center.
Birthright’s website says that they are a non-profit charitable organization.
The protestors chanted, “Support women’s rights, shut down Birthright!” describing the center as a “fake abortion clinic.” They handed out articles to people passing by which described crisis pregnancy centers as preying on pregnant women by claiming objectivity while attempting to scare women out of pursuing an abortion.
Birthright’s website says that the group does not “show abortion slides or pictures, picket or harass abortion clinics, evangelize, lobby for legislative changes or engage in the public debate on abortion.”
Birthright is clear with their mission as a pro-life center and does not claim to be an abortion provider. Their services include: free pregnancy testing, medical referrals (but not abortion referrals), legal referrals, maternity and baby clothes, housing referrals, referrals to social agencies, and information on adoption. All their services are free of charge. Birthright is located at 233 North Pleasant St.
Tylim said of Birthright, “That center should be an abortion clinic, not a fake abortion clinic and it should receive federal funding to be so.”
Protester Wayne Standley, an electrical technician from Shelburne Falls, called the Stupak-Pitts amendment an “attack on poor women,” noting that “rich women can always obtain abortions.” He said that the amendment will deny health care, and that “it will lead to women dying.”
As of 2005 there were 1,787 abortion providers in the U.S., although 87 percent of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider. As of 2006 there were 2,200 crisis, or pro-life, pregnancy centers in the U.S. There have been legal issues in the past with deceitful advertising.
The closest abortion providers to Amherst are Planned Parenthood in Springfield, and Hartford GYN Center in Hartford, Conn.
Tapestry Health’s Amherst Branch, located at 27 Pray St., offers family planning, pregnancy testing, and medical referrals to pre-natal doctors and abortion providers.
The protesters showed that they believe the Stupak-Pitts amendment is a violation of civil rights, chanting, “Abortion is health care, health care is a right!”
Elizabeth Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.