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November 15, 2017

Students and community members protest Birthright

Across the globe, women celebrated March 8 as International Women’s Day. In Amherst, a group of students and community members celebrated with a protest.

Michelle Williams/Collegian

Michelle Williams/Collegian

Approximately three dozen people gathered on the Amherst Commons to protest Birthright International, a crisis pregnancy center located on North Pleasant Street.

The protest was organized by six students and community members.

One organizer, Madeline Burrows, a second-year at Hampshire College, said the protest was about giving women the right to choose if they want to carry their pregnancy to full-term or not.

“I think this is about human rights, basic equality and a woman cannot have equality if she can’t control her body,” said Burrows.

She said the protest was also to seek more transparency about what a crisis pregnancy center is.

“Birthright does a very good job of being deceptive. On their website they say they don’t want to engage in the debate about abortion, but [they are] very clearly not in support of abortion,” said Burrows.

“They target women, just like all other crisis pregnancy centers do, who are in unwanted pregnancies, women who they refer to as ‘abortion-minded individuals,’ which is such a dehumanizing branding, and they lie to women,” said Burrow. “They claim to offer unbiased pregnancy services and counseling but what they really do is use scare tactics to guilt women into not having abortions, and to make them feel bad about their decisions, and there is no place for lies in reproductive health.”

Calls made to the Birthright International clinic in Amherst for a response were not returned.

Critics of crisis pregnancy centers often say the centers offer only pregnancy tests and counseling intended to persuade women to not have abortions.

There are more than 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States, according to the report, “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health” by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, compared to less than 750 abortion clinics across the country.

According to a 2006 Washington Post review of federal records, “anti-abortion and crisis pregnancy centers have received well over $60 million in grants for abstinence education and other programs” from the federal government.

The Birthright International clinic on N. Pleasant Street is the only crisis pregnancy center in Amherst.

On the homepage of Birthright’s website they ask, “Are you pregnant and in need of help?” Below the question the homepage reads, “we can offer you free pregnancy testing, completely confidential help, non-judgmental and caring advice, friendship and emotional support, legal, medical and educational referrals, prenatal information, maternity and baby clothes, housing referrals, social agency referrals, information on other community services, adoption information.”

Protesters marched from the Amherst Commons at 3 p.m. down N. Pleasant Street towards the clinic. As they began to march, organizers lead the protesters in the chant, “abortion is health care, health care is a right!”

While the protesters were marching and chanting, several drivers honked as they drove past.

Participants in the march chanted “pro-life men have got to go, when you get pregnant let us know!” as they arrived at the Birthright International clinic. The clinic, that has office hours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, was closed when protesters arrived.

While outside of the clinic, organizers offered the megaphone to participants who wished to speak.

One protester, Carolyn Gutierrez, spoke about her experience with abortion clinics, and expressed a need for federal funding.

“The reason why I’m here today is because five or six years ago, I was pregnant and needed an abortion. The guy that I was with and [I] were cashing our paychecks in order to be able to afford it,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez added that while she was happy with her decision to have an abortion, she wished more resources were available for women to explore their options in a safe environment.

Burrows agreed that there needs to be a safe environment for women to make their choice about an unplanned pregnancy.

“I’ve seen first-hand how inaccessible it is to get an abortion is post-Roe v. Wade America,” said Burrows.

She spoke of an experience in high school where a friend seeking an abortion asked her to come to the clinic for moral support, and they were heckled by male protesters.

“There were two male anti-choice protesters outside who were calling us out as we went in,” said Burrows. “Walking into the clinic we had to go through security and metal detectors. There was a security guard who searched our bags … It was so powerful to see that first hand what women experience everyday for electing to have a choice over their bodies.”

Near the end of Tuesday’s protest, Natalia Tylim, another protest organizer, presented a petition to the group and asked for everyone to sign.

The petition called for crisis pregnancy centers, such as Birthright International, to be more transparent about the services they offer and their agenda. The opening line read, “Crisis pregnancy centers often pass themselves off as comprehensive reproductive health clinics, when in reality they refuse to offer abortion, birth control services, information or referrals, tricking women into entering an agenda-driven, anti-choice center.”

The petition asks for Amherst town representatives to pass a bill that would require centers to disclose if they provide abortions or emergency contraception and if they have a licensed medical professional on site. A similar bill was recently passed in New York City by the city council.

Tylim said the petition will be given to town representatives soon.

Rally-goers ended the event by leaving signs and protest materials on Birthright International’s doorstep.

Michelle Williams can be reached at mnwillia@student.umass.edu.

Comments
13 Responses to “Students and community members protest Birthright”
  1. RCHat says:

    I didn’t receive the promised counseling from the abortion clinic and lived with regret for years. It was help from a crisis pregnancy center that helped me towards healing. This article fails to mention that. CPCs offer abortion healing. It is a shame that on International Women’s Day there was a protest at Birthright. So much for giving women more options. I don’t feel at all empowered having an abortion. I was pro-choice at the time of the abortion, but after having my feelings of regret dismissed during my “counseling” appointment in which my counselor did not show up, I realized that I was only important when I had the abortion. Abortion clinic staff said they would be there for me anytime after the abortion; however, they did not make it clear that they would NOT be there for me if I had regret. Maybe abortion clinics should be forced to post, “If you have regret after your abortion, seek services elsewhere.”

  2. Clarice says:

    These women are clearly misinformed. Women unable to get prenatal health care or provide for their babies are more likely to feel that abortion is their only choice. Having help available from Birthright makes sure they actually have a viable choice to keep or make an adoption plan for their babies, too. These women can continue to preach about “choice”, when abortion clinics start giving out free baby cribs and diapers to families in need.

    As for the supposed false advertising, who in their right mind would think an organization with the word “birth” in the name would do abortions?

    It’s sad to see women treating other women this way. Our fertility is not a disease! Places like Birthright refuse to treat it like one.

  3. Birthright,as the title indicates, exists to protect the right of every woman to give birth to her child. To give abortion referrals would contradict its reason for being. Birthright volunteers (apparently enough to operate 4000 centers) give generously of their lives to protect the lives of the most vulnerable of human beings, the child in the womb. And to protect the mother from living every day of her life with the knowledge that she has destroyed her own flesh and blood. Birthright members’only important question is “What can I do to help you and your baby?”It’s all about two precious lives.

  4. Laurel O'Brien says:

    You guys are missing the point entirely. The issue here is that Birthright advertises itself as a place where you can seek council and resolve for your (probably) unwanted pregnancy – that is the function of a Crisis Pregnancy Centre. However, instead of offering neutral council, birth control, and abortion information, they push an anti-choice agenda and try to scare women out of having abortions. This is not good medicine, and abhorrent behaviour especially when dealing with vulnerable and confused girls and women.

    There is nothing wrong with being ‘fertile’ as one poster put it, or wanting to keep your child and seeking information on having a healthy pregnancy. There is EVERYTHING wrong with luring women in with promises of council and advice on their pregnancy, then following up with nothing but why you should not abort it. Bias and opinion does not belong in a medical facility or a CPC.

  5. edemec says:

    Unless organizations like Birthright offer women the $100,000 needed to raise a child from birth to 18, they have no business suggesting or counseling that anyone keep their baby. Diapers and maternity clothes do not fix anything. All they do is coerce a woman to gestate a baby to full term that they can hopefully add to their crack pot Catholic roster.

  6. KatieP says:

    edemec,
    You’re forgetting about adoption.

  7. kgraham says:

    I am always so angered when women who are pro-choice insist that abortion is about the right to make choices about their body. Abortion is murdering a person, period. Easily avoided. If you plan (birth control or abstinence) then you are not faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Abortion is not health care for the woman. It is a way to maintain your current lifestyle.

  8. Chris says:

    I love how this turned into a male bashing article. How sexist is that? PP folks love to say men have no say perhaps forgetting it took sperm form a man to make that baby.

  9. Ben says:

    It’s so misleading when people refer to abortion, saying that it’s a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body, but a baby in the womb has her/his own DNA, he or she is a completely different person. If a woman wants to cut her arm off _that’s her right to do so, her arm contains her DNA, it’s her body, but a tiny baby in the womb is he/she’s own person, own body, with it’s own unique set of DNA.

    Also the term pro-choice is misleading, as what kind of choice are we talking about are we talking about the choice to vote or choose where you want to live or root for your favorite football team, ice cream flavor? No it the right to choose to murder an innocent defenseless child. Just as killing are elders should not be a choice because we may deem them inconvenient so should killing an innocent child not be called a choice. There is no justification for destroying an innocent life especially whose only begun to live.

  10. Jen says:

    Ben, according to your logic, a person will not have the right to remove an organ such as a kidney after a transplant because transplanted organs still carry the dna of their original donor. Also that means that I have the right to donate an organ to someone else, then ask for it back and force them to undergo surgery, because who cares about body boundaries. It is MY dna, right? Laughable.

    Don’t try to use pseudoscience to back up your misogyny. You have to respect body boundaries. As long as an embryo remains inside a woman’s body, it is hers. She has the right to abort it or carry it to term at her discretion.

    Rchat, abortion clinics do not coerce women into making one choice over another. An abortion clinic, as its name suggests, is simply a place for a woman to get an abortion if that is what she thinks is best for her. It is a doctor’s office not a counselling centre. A crisis pregnancy centre, however, is a place that lies to vulnerable women who are contemplating abortion. They shame women and make them feel guilty about even considering an abortion. I don’t regret my abortion. I’m really tired of the likes of you who silence women. There are millions of women who have got abortions and don’t regret their choice. Women are human beings with minds of their own, not incubators to gestate babies. Pregnancy should remain a choice not an obligation. Not all women share your mentality and your lifestyle. Please have some respect for women.

  11. Christina says:

    Overall at the end of the day It’s no one else’s decision to give birth or abort or go to an adoption agency its the womans choice and no one can do anything about it. it’s whatever. People need to stop fighting and move on. She made a choice to have protected or unprotected sex knowing the consequences and whatever she decides to do after is hers to make. No one forces anyone to walk into any building to seek help to get resources for there wanted or unwanted child they make the choice so whatever they agree to or disagree to is on them and whatever they decide to do is on them so enough already. Yes abortion is bad in some instances but it’s not up to anyone else now is it. I’m neither here nor there, I myself wouldn’t have an abortion but it’s my choice not anyone elses.

  12. Jennie says:

    Thank you so much for making it clear for everyone about abortion . Yes I am 100% that abortion is a women choice and no one else . We made decision maturely and responsible to have sex and whatever, consequences happened after that its still our responsibility to make our own decision and no one else can do or force you to abort or not.

  13. rrbb333 says:

    So, if an organization that helps women and does not agree with abortion philosophy , it has no right to exist. That is facisim.

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