Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Students at the Saint Louis University School of Law conducted a sexual violence awareness event in response to the law school's Federalist Society chapter’s “The 41%-ers: Our False Rape Society.” Distributed flyers and information were incredibly well received by the students and faculty, and about half of the students and faculty wore teal ribbons in support of sexual violence awareness.
On its Facebook page for this event, the Federalist Society wrote that hosted controversial conservative journalist Cathy Young at the university’s campus to discuss false rape accusations and the “irreparable damage they do to individuals and our society.” The Federalist Society, a libertarian student organization, also plans to “balance” the discussion with a happy hour tomorrow with the Mark Twain Law Society, an all-male club within SLU Law. Law Students for Reproductive Justice were not invited to participate in the discussion and were only invited to the happy hour after the media was alerted and attended the event.
Many students on campus have other thoughts about Ms. Young’s event.
“I find it absolutely disturbing,” said Emily Rosenfeld, president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ). “There are some things in the world worth fighting for, and in my opinion the rights of sexual assault survivors rank high on that list. I am ashamed that anyone on this campus thinks it is okay to trivialize the pain and injustice that so many survivors go through. Furthermore, she singled out a few high profile cases that attracted heavy media frenzy but this only seeks to further trivialize the vast amount of sexual assaults that go unreported.”
Another LSRJ member Erin Lenahan further remarked that, “we shouldn’t have to keep fighting this battle. We all know that rape is terrible and we all know that lying about being raped is bad. So how do we protect actual victims while upholding our legal notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’? There is no easy answer, but choosing to address claims of false rape only serve as another way to point a finger rather than finding a solution.”
LSRJ member Chelsea Merta (and Faith Aloud policy analyst) agreed, stating that “it’s a shame that we live in a world where, instead of women supporting other women who have fallen victim to sexual violence, some choose to use those moments of pain as a platform against the victims. Instead, efforts need to focus on changing how society and the media view and report rape, not attack the legal system that’s already severely underutilized.”
Merta continued, saying that “When twenty percent of all American women will be sexually assaulted, and more the half of those incidents will even be reported, that means that 10% of the entire American female population sits in a world where they are shamed into silence because of women like Ms. Young and organizations like the Federalist Society.”
In order to truly open the dialogue, LSRJ will host a film screening, to be held at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Room 04 in the basement of Morrissey Hall (SLU Law’s building). During the event, the critically-acclaimed documentary film “The Invisible War” will be screened, with a discussion to follow.
The event is free and open to the public, and members of the press are invited.
Sexual Violence Awareness Month starts in April.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
I’ve been watching the news, much like we all have, with great intrigue of late. The Republican candidate for the office of President is being asked to provide copies of his tax refunds for a large number of fiscal years, and he has declined to offer any more than two years worth. He has stated staunchly that he will not release any more information on the topic, that the American people have all the information they need with regards to his financials, and that this is a matter of private information that need not be discussed further. I can’t help but laugh at this, especially when I consider that this candidate’s party has worked very hard to turn the personal matters of women across the country into a very public debate and yet, very few people are putting their foot down to say “Enough already – you don’t get to make decisions about our bodies any more – end of discussion!” This begs the question: why do Americans tolerate privacy when it comes to money but not to medicine? Why do Americans respect women so little that the privacy of a woman to make reproductive health choices with her doctor must also involve her senator and her senator’s priest? Why do Americans continue to allow the systematic shaming of 51% of the U.S. population?
I was once traveling on a plane from Orlando, Florida after a family vacation, where I found myself sitting next to a woman in her mid 40’s, who was just as chatty as I am. We found that we had plenty in common: she happened to be from Upstate New York, just like me, and she happened to be returning from the Virgin Islands because the beach is her favorite respite, just like me. I felt an instant connection to this woman. I felt she was a kind, compassionate, funny lady and I enjoyed her sense of humor, her stories, and indeed, her attitude in general. I felt safe talking with her about all sorts of things: my recent & tumultuous break up with a man I had felt I’d marry and start a family with, the miscarriage that occurred in the aftermath of that relationship’s demise, the challenges of being away from my family and closest friends during such a traumatic time. I shared intimate stories with this woman, whom I will call Annie, and I did so because my gut instinct told me that she was a safe person to talk with, to share with.
And yet, despite discussing the loss of a pregnancy, the ugliest of break ups, the intimate details of internet dating, and a plethora of other personal experiences, I had to think twice before I answered her seemingly harmless question: “So, what do you do for a living?”
At the time, I was a nurse in the recovery room of an abortion care facility. In addition to my duties as a nurse doing patient intake for procedures, medicating patients, caring for women during their procedures, and preparing women to go home after their procedure with the appropriate aftercare information, I had also begun training as a counselor at this facility. This role saw me talking with women about their choices and how they had come to the decision to terminate their pregnancy, being mindful to ensure that this was the woman’s choice, and not one as a result of coercion from her partner, her family, or any other force in her life. Every day that I came to work, I was forced to walk from my car to the front door of my job through a crowd of protesters, some of whom merely prayed quietly and offered me prayer cards, while others attempted to block my entrance into work while screaming and calling me hate filled names like “Baby Killer”. I knew firsthand how difficult it was to BE a nurse at an abortion care facility and so as a result, I also knew how difficult it was to TELL someone that I was a nurse at an abortion care facility. And so when Annie innocuously asked me what I did for a living, I hesitated with good reason. Here I was on a plane 30,000 feet in the air, and unsure of whether my seatmate would accept my answer with support or opposition. It was a familiar problem for me, because the fact is, it’s not easy to say you work in an abortion care facility and it’s even harder to say you’ve had an abortion in a culture that has turned a women’s intimate choices about her own personal healthcare into a national debate fit for all ears. But why is that?
1.37 million abortions happen in the United States every year, which is roughly 3, 700 abortions a day. 52% of those are performed for women under the age of 25. It is estimated that 43% of all women will have at least one abortion by the age of 45 and that 7 in 10 women of reproductive age are sexually active. 98% of women who have ever had sex report having used at least one form of birth control. 62% of women of reproductive age currently use contraception, which is double that of the 31% of women who don’t use contraception because of issues such as infertility; current pregnancy; post partum; sexually inactive; and those who are actively trying to become pregnant. This leaves 7% - that’s seven percent – of women of reproductive age at risk of unwanted pregnancies.** The numbers don’t lie, really – Women are having abortions. Women are using contraception. Women are having sex. And yet, I still worry about telling a relative stranger that for my job, I help women choose the appropriate birth control for their lifestyle, that I assist women in discussing the realities of their pregnancy & how they will move forward in managing either its continuance or termination, and that I hold women’s hands as they leave the recovery room of a facility safe in the knowledge that they have received quality, legal healthcare with dignity & respect. My voice is stifled because of fear, and its representative of what women who choose abortion must live with every day. And simply put, this is not fair and it must change.
As it turns out, my gut told me that it would be safe to share with Annie what my real job was. So instead of saying to Annie, “Oh, I’m a nurse in women’s health care”, I told her, “I am a nurse in the recovery room of an abortion care facility. I help women before and after their procedures, and I also do some counseling for the facility, which is the first step in obtaining an abortion where I live.” Annie’s face was frozen in a half smile, and for a brief moment I feared that I’d made the wrong choice. And then, a tear rolled down Annie’s cheek. And she shared a story with me that I will never forget and one that I will share with you now:
Annie had a 17 year old daughter who was graduating high school that year. She was excited to be attending a respected state university and looking forward to a career in teaching. Her daughter had a long term boyfriend and it was just after Christmas at the end of the past year that Annie’s daughter & boyfriend came to her to tell her that she was pregnant. Annie shared with me the very raw emotions of learning of her daughter’s unplanned pregnancy: the anger, the sadness, the fear. She asked her daughter what she wanted to do and her daughter stated tearfully & with eyes full of fear and angst that she had talked to a few facilities on the phone about her options and that she believed an abortion was the best decision to secure the best life & future for all concerned parties. Annie did not agree with abortion, but she wanted to support her daughter the best she could and despite the conflict it presented to Annie spiritually, she admitted that it was a relief of sorts that this choice was available to her daughter, whose life seemed ready to crumble into pieces in front of her. Annie prayed for several days about this personal dilemma, and ultimately felt that God would always respect her and her daughter and that through these conversation s of prayer she was able to quiet the fear that society would judge her daughter & family without knowing the monstrous impact a pregnancy would have on her daughter’s young life. So Annie took her daughter to the clinic where she spoke with counselors and had ultrasounds and ultimately solidified her decision to terminate her pregnancy. Annie was, in her words, overwhelmed with a “guilty sense of relief”. And then, like 3,699 other women ever day, Annie’s daughter had an abortion. And Annie told no one. Not her daughter’s father, not her best friend whom she’d known for 20+ years, not the coworker whose sister had also had an abortion and spoke openly about amongst their colleagues. Annie kept her daughter’s abortion deep inside her and uttered nothing about it to anyone. She felt shame building within her spirit and she longed to discuss the situation with someone – anyone, in fact. And then she met me. Annie told me that the minute I told her that I was a nurse in an abortion care facility she knew that God was sending her the affirmation she needed to move forward knowing she had done the right thing for her daughter. She knew in her heart that God was saying to her that she could share this story, how it affected her & her family, and not feel ashamed. She told me, through tears, that when I proudly shared the work I do as a nurse in helping women, she felt a strong connection to not just me and my professional experience, but to her daughter as well. That there were people unafraid to lift their voices and share their stories, gave Annie hope and affirmation that she had nothing to be ashamed of and furthermore that she hoped her daughter was as proud of herself as Annie was for making the choice that was best for *her* and no one else. Annie eventually wiped her tears and thanked me, and we parted ways at the end of our flight with a hug. I will never forget Annie and I know she will never forget me.
But why is this story so unique? Why does it take an isolated place miles upon miles in the air with a stranger to talk about abortion and who or how it has affected your life and the life of those you love, positively? Why do we continue to perpetuate this climate of silence, of shame against those who exercise their freedom of choice? 43% of women will have had an abortion by the time they turn 45 years old. And that’s 43% of women who are being bullied into speechlessness. How will YOU help to remind those 43% that their voices matter? How can we all remind woman that they should not be ashamed for taking spiritual & physical control of their bodies? How will we change the negative culture of shaming women for not only answering God’s call to pray but for listening to his answers and applying that personal interaction as they see fit in their lives? It has been said that oppression can only survive through silence. So if you ask me, it’s time to make some noise.
~ Joey Bellerdine
**Statistics courtesy of The Guttmacher Institute. (http://www.guttmacher.org/sections/abortion.php)
Friday, June 22, 2012
If that isn’t a title to catch your attention, I don’t know
what is! This past week the word “vagina” certainly caught the
headlines of major newspapers across the United States. Michigan House
Representative Lisa Brown was silenced for saying the word “vagina” in
the House. She was attempting to speak against a host of restrictive
pieces of legislation that will make abortion in Michigan almost
completely inaccessible. Since then, a lot of progressive women and men
have been speaking in support of Rep. Brown and the many others who are
challenging the legislation and the supposed moral values that have led
to its creation.
Thousands of us have been signing petitions to pressure the governor to veto this horrible bill, that allows an employer to decide whether the insurance provided to his/her employees will cover birth control. This legislation will take what should be a private decision and makes it an employer’s prerogative.
I think it’s absolutely shameful that in the 21st century we still need to fight this battle. Honestly, any church can proclaim whatever values they want. I don’t care if a church says that birth control is a sin. It’s their right. That’s what freedom of conscience is about. That’s what being in a democracy is about. But no person should be able to force their religious values on another person. That’s also what democracy is about.
Nothing has supported women’s equality more than access to birth control. It has been one of the most important steps our society has taken to give women control over their lives. It allows women to pursue higher education, career development, and to plan the spacing of children. And, studies show that affordable access to birth control is the most effective way of decreasing the number of unplanned pregnancies and the number of abortions. It seems pretty logical, doesn’t it? But somehow, I don’t believe logic has anything to do with what the Republicans are doing now.
If this was about logic, this legislation would not exist. The term “war on women” has become very prevalent in the news. There have been many attempts to discredit this term from the Republican side. But, given that the pursuit of their “moral values” is clearly irrational, then I think this is absolutely a war on women. I think that what is being uncovered is the strong underbelly of sexism that never disappeared with the advent of the women’s movement. It went underground, and is now reappearing, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are still strong pockets, mostly men and some women, who are deeply uncomfortable with women who are not under the control of men. That’s it, pure and simple. Somehow our equality, our ability to make decisions about our lives, our bodies, outside of the influence of men, is still deeply disturbing and it’s becoming more acceptable to express this discomfort in American culture and have it taken seriously.
One of the ways we take this culture back is by telling our stories. How has birth control changed our lives? How has it allowed us to make the decisions we needed to make? It is time for millions of women to tell their stories. And I’m gonna start by telling mine. I know I’m a minister and that some of my parishioners are going to read this. I also know that some of my family may read this. This may be a TMI (too much information) for some of you. But really, all of us, every woman who wants for her daughters and grand daughters a world that will honor and respect them, needs to tell her story. The culture that would say this is a TMI is the culture that silences us, that keeps our daughters and granddaughters from getting the information they deserve, it keeps the secrecy and the shame alive and leaves women vulnerable. This is the same culture that is shaming Rep. Brown for saying “vagina” in the Michigan House of Representatives and that denied Rep. Stacey the right to speak on this legislation in the House.
So, I’m telling a bit of my story. This is how we reclaim our place, a place that is being threatened by legislation like SB749.
I became sexually active at 16. I was, admittedly, too young. I should have waited, but hindsight is 20/20. Fortunately, I had some sex education in the public school system between the ages of 10 and 16. It wasn’t the best education. It was age appropriate and very technical. In high school, mostly it consisted of slide presentations of what happens to a body ravaged by different sexually transmitted diseases. Our teachers emphasized the importance of using a condom to protect against these STDs. I didn’t get any education about self-respect, how to say yes, how to say no, and how to know when it’s the right time. But I did know that I sure didn’t want any of those diseases! And I knew I did not want to become pregnant. I wanted to go to university and be a career woman. My plan was to finish my education and have my career going by the age of 28-30. I wanted two children in my 30s, while building my career. I never planned to stop working.
When I made the decision to become sexually active, I may not have been emotionally mature enough, but I was intellectually smart enough to do my homework and make sure I had the form of birth control that I thought would work best for me. The sex education I received may have been technical, but it gave me the information I needed.
At first I used condoms because I was afraid to go to our family doctor and get birth control pills. I think that part of my reasoning included that I could tell myself that I wasn’t really fully sexually active. I had condoms in case it happened. Using the birth control pills meant that I expected it to happen and that I was a fully sexually active person. I wasn’t ready to see myself that way. I think deep down I was ashamed of being sexually active, and using condoms allowed me to see myself as only partly sexually active, and thus, more moral.
I am amazed now when I look back at myself in that time. Self-perception is so important and we make all kinds of decisions not even aware of how our unconscious feelings and beliefs shape our lives
That lasted about two years, and I became more comfortable seeing myself as a sexually active person. I wanted to be even more safe. I decided I wanted to go on the birth control pill. I made a visit to see my family doctor, the same doctor that cared for our whole family – my mother, father, three brothers and myself. I was scared to see him. I’d never had an internal exam and I didn’t know if he would feel obliged to tell my family. I had the courage to ask the secretary when I called about confidentiality and she assured me that my doctor would not tell my parents unless I wanted him to.
I really did not want my parents to know, so I asked to borrow the car to go to school that day, saying I had some kind of meeting after school. I really hoped that would work. Unfortunately, my mother said she needed the car, and she would be happy to pick me up from school. So now I was in a dilemma. Was I going to lie to my mother or tell her the truth? I decided to tell her. I think she went as white as a sheet. I was so very afraid of her judgment. She was quiet for a while, and then she swallowed hard, and said to me, “Well, I raised you to be responsible and to be independent. And you’re obviously being independent in a responsible way, so I will take you to the doctor.”
Bless my mother. Honestly, I was relieved she knew. I felt like I was carrying a big bad secret, and deep down, truth be told, there was in me the deep conditioning that “good girls” didn’t do this. ”Good girls” didn’t have sex before marriage. Having her know, and tell me I was responsible, was a big deal. I don’t think she knew what a big deal it was, but I have never forgotten it.
There is one thing I do regret, however, and that is that I did not tell my father. I wish I had but I was too scared to. I wish I had trusted him enough to share with him. Not telling him was more about me than about him. But, it was also my right to make that decision. Luckily there was no law that would force me, a minor, to get my father’s consent to get the birth control pill.
So I went on the pill. I was on the pill from 17 to 21, four years. In high school, I paid for my birth control out of pocket from money I earned during the summer. I think it was about $20 a month. (Prescription meds are much cheaper in Canada than the U.S.) Then I went to university. Both universities I attended offered birth control free to all their female students. This was great because of course, as a student, I was on a limited income, and even the $20 a month would have been hard. My parents were not in a position to help us pay for university so I was on my own. I always worked full time in the summer, often had a part time job during the school year, got a whole series of paid internships, and took out student loans. Getting my birth control for free was a god send. It meant I had more money for groceries.
And I never got pregnant. Not even one scare. I could focus on my education, and I could have relatively stress free intimacy.
I think it’s also important to say that I had a lot of trouble with the birth control pill. Some women have absolutely no problem with it. I was not one of those women. My hormones were all over the place. I gained a lot of weight. I got sick with a lot of feminine issues. I finally spoke to my doctor about using a different form of birth control. The doctor was resistant, with good reason. Young women who are not on birth control have a much higher rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. She did not want me to face that possibility. But in the end, we explored other ways for me to have safer sex. I went off the birth control pill and decided to use condoms and a diaphragm with spermicide jelly.
Now I debated whether to include this because I am afraid that anti-choice forces will use this to bolster their case that birth control pills are dangerous for women. But I’m not going to sugar coat the truth. Birth control works for a lot of women with relatively few side effects. It didn’t work so well in my body. I also believe that it was my choice and my call to make decisions about my health. My decision was between me and my doctor and no politician had any place in that process. I had the right to try birth control pills and the right to make the decision to use another form of birth control. There is nothing that needs to be legislated in that process.
I used the diaphragm and spermicide jelly for the next several years. I had some scares, when I’d had none with the pill. The diaphragm is a much more risky form of birth control. But luckily I never got pregnant. Then it became apparent that I was allergic to the jelly. I went back to only condoms. Then I decided to come out and by the age of 31 I was no longer engaged in intimate relationships with men. At this time birth control was no longer necessary for me. However, safer sex was necessary because you still have to protect yourself from STDs, and that became my priority. Luckily I was in Toronto, a very cosmopolitan liberal city, and the women’s community had many resources to help me understand and practice safer sex, which I did until I entered into a monogamous relationship with my partner of 10 years, who I am now married to.
From the age of 16, I had doctors who listened to me, advised and counseled me, who treated me with respect and worked with me to ensure that I was fully informed and able to make decisions about my own reproductive health. I had a university system that ensured I had access to birth control so that I could fully devote myself to my education. I learned to trust myself and my ability to make those decisions. I had a larger community and family that also supported me. All of this became an interdependent web that helped me to make wise decisions about my reproductive health.
And in the meantime, I was able to explore, with relative safety, who I was as a sexual being. This journey is already so scary and such a vulnerable thing. Birth control gave me some safety so I could explore who I was, who I wanted to love and who I wanted to have love me back. It allowed me the safety to learn boundaries, how to say yes and how to say no, all without the threat of having to put everything I wanted on the back burner because I got pregnant. It saved me from the possibility of having to make the difficult decision of whether to carry a pregnancy to term or to end it. I never had to make that heart wrenching decision, thank God.
I was valued as a woman and as a human being. This is the most spiritual thing of all. In my opinion, God appears in those places of respect and worth, whether in our own hearts or between people. This is where God happens, and God happened in the whole series of institutional and personal support that I received as a young woman making decisions about my reproductive health.
This is what women are still asking for today. This is what so many conservatives are trying to take away from us, the worth and dignity that is inherently ours, that is a god given beautiful thing.
Governor Nixon, veto the damn bill. Every woman in Missouri needs you to do that. I’m really sorry you’ve been put in this place because this issue should never be thrown in a politician’s lap. It doesn’t belong there. But, this is where we are, and where you are, so you’ve got a job to do. I suggest you do it. We are counting on you.
-Rev. Krista Taves
Monday, April 30, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
“Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they know they have choices.”
“Today we pray for the men in our lives, that they may offer their loving kindness and support for women’s difficult decisions.”
“Today we pray for Christians everywhere to embrace the loving model of Jesus in the way he refused to shame women.”
Above are some of the individual components of the “40 Days of Prayer,” a series composed by the Rev. Rebecca Turner, a United Church of Christ minister, and the head of Faith Aloud, a pro-choice religious organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. Turner originally wrote these prayers to counter religious-based protests against women's rights to choose abortion. For some years, the “40 Days of Prayer” were used in various ways by clinics but ignored by the anti-choice movement. However, recently when a clinic in northern California reprinted the prayers in a brochure, the movement took notice, and Turner’s prayers—and by extension, the concept of a religiously-based prochoice group—drew much attention from the religious right, including interviews by Fox News and Focus on the Family, and follow up stories in various anti-choice publications.
Below is an interview I conducted with Rev. Turner about her organization, the 40 Days of Prayer, and the reactions of opponents of abortion when news of her activities went viral.
What is Faith Aloud?
Faith Aloud is an interfaith nonprofit organization with a history of 30 years of pro-choice activism. Our mission is to eliminate the religious stigma of abortion and sexuality. We train clergy to talk to women about their pregnancy choices and we receive calls from women all over the country as well as internationally. We also provide spiritual resources for abortion clinics to use to help their religious patients.
Most women in the US identify as religious, and those seeking abortion are no different. Our resources, created by clergy of several faith groups, offer support to women during times of distress.
Why did you write the 40 Days of Prayer?
I wrote some prayers and offered them to abortion providers to use whenever and however they wanted to. We've since made a full poster of the prayers that is on the walls in many clinics across the country. We were angered by the swarms of protesters that regularly took siege of abortion clinics and would hurl hateful remarks at the women arriving. As a Christian minister, I was especially angered that most of these protesters who were so hateful and judgmental actually call themselves Christian. I wanted women to know that many Christians are compassionate and supportive, and to help them find strength in their religious faith instead of condemnation.
I also wanted to give spiritual support to the other people [affected] by the daily barrage of hate -- the clinic staff and escorts. Few people know what they go through every day because of their dedication to women. And few people understand that many of them-doctors, counselors, administrators-are deeply religious people themselves who have often felt rejected by their faith communities. This is wrong. I feel that I am a pastor to many of the abortion providers who use our services. Religious faith should give us strength and confidence, not guilt and shame. I have never understood why anyone would support a religion that shames and judges and ridicules its own members. That is abusive behavior and should not be tolerated in any setting.
Tell more about your mindset as you wrote the prayers.
I wrote all of the prayers in one day. I thought about women's reproductive lives, the difficulties of being female, the choices we make, the relationships we have, the various people who work with pregnant women, and I prayed for them all. Many websites are claiming that we're praying for more abortions, which is silly. They can read the prayers and see that isn't the case. Most of the prayers are really all about women and their reproductive lives. We pray for gender discrimination to cease. We pray for women who are abused. We pray for women who are infertile. We pray for women to have confidence. How can they be upset by this? Really I think the only objection to these prayers comes from a deep misogyny that refuses to acknowledge women as autonomous beings with their own spiritual lives.
How would you characterize the main reactions you have received since this flurry of publicity?
The media to date has been from anti-choice groups, so most of the people calling and writing to us are their constituents. They are quite hostile, usually rambling, callers are often screaming. They accuse us of pretending to be ministers or Christians. They accuse us of baby-murdering. Emails quote a lot of scripture and tell us we're going to burn in hell. We have had some new supporters find us through this, though. And we've begun a campaign called "Hate-into-Love" which allows our supporters to pledge donations for each hostile contact we receive.
Why do you think the 40 Days of Prayer has hit such a nerve with the Right, once they became aware of it?
They claim they think it's a mockery of the 40 days for Life campaign, but I don't think there is any mockery in it. The prayers are quite sincere. Apparently the religious right does not believe that anyone is allowed to pray except those who believe as they do. This is not a biblical idea; it is pure arrogance. The Christian scriptures say "Judge not, lest you be judged" and yet these people want to judge us as "fake" or "delusional" or even "possessed." One person who called us after the news broke asked "Are you planning to get groups of people to rally at abortion clinics to pray your prayers?" My answer was "The people inside the clinics are praying every day." Prayer does not belong to one group of people. But this seems to be the source of the outrage, that we dare to pray. It is apparently a very scary proposition to them that women might hear a compassionate religious voice and feel strengthened instead of weakened.
What have reactions to this campaign been in the pro-choice community?
A few pro-choice [organizations] have helped to pass along the information about our "Hate-into-Love" campaign and have re-posted the stories. We're getting pledges from around the country. We've been gaining a lot of new Facebook friends [who] learned about us through the negative media.
Do you think this community is more open now than in the past to a religious presence, such as that offered by Faith Aloud?
The independent abortion provider community has always been very welcoming of spirituality, seeing it as an important part of a woman's life and her decisions. But there is an element of the pro-choice community that is less supportive, seeing religion as the problem rather than a part of the solution, and really I can't blame them for feeling that way. They've been threatened and attacked and shamed by religious zealots. But, as I mentioned, most of the women in the United States call themselves religious or spiritual, and so we need to help them use their faith for strength during difficulty. It shouldn't be about we need, but what women need making difficult decisions.
In the several days that news of the “40 Days of Prayer” has gone viral, you have received much hate mail. Have you received anything from any anti-choice individual or group that suggests some common ground?
No. The hate mail tends to fall into these camps "You have no right to call yourself a Christian or pray" or "I'm praying for God's vengeance on you." We're getting some love mail, too, with people finding us for the first time and saying thank you for being a religious voice of compassion and reason.