Anti-Abortion Harassment, Extremism and Falsehoods ************************ 3 June 2016
Rewire video Use of smartphone GPS to track people in abortion clinics and send anti-abortion messages
Women who have visited almost any abortion clinic in the United States have seen anti-choice protesters outside, wielding placards and chanting abuse. A Boston advertiser's technology, when deployed by anti-choice groups, allows those groups to send propaganda directly to a woman’s phone while she is in a clinic waiting room and also has the capability to hand the names and addresses of those providing and seeking abortion care to anti-choice groups.
In 2015, an advertising executive in Boston developed the use of cellphone surveillance techniques to track women visiting an abortion clinic and send them advertisements, which he is carrying out on behalf of RealOptions, an anti-abortion network of crisis pregnancy centers in northern California, and also offered to an evangelical adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services.
Messaging based on a system of surveillance
These advertisements use a technology known as “mobile geo-fencing”. Although it is now ubiquitous, mobile digital advertising is a relatively new phenomenon, only as old as the sophisticated smartphones on which it relies. As a result, laws and the regulators who enforce them are lagging behind when it comes to the many possible ways that bad actors can abuse smartphone advertising.
One expert interviewed for this article said this was the inevitable application of a technology meant for mass advertising campaigns that, while considered by many people to be intrusive, do not generally amount to a threat as such. This intrusion by an anti-abortion advertiser does present a serious threat to the privacy and safety of women, as well as to abortion providers and their staff, but due to weak laws governing privacy and data collection in the USA, it appears to be legal.
By now, many people have experienced the phenomenon that if they look at something online, advertisements for that thing follow them around the internet for some time afterwards. While theoretically anonymous, if you have GPS enabled on your phone and are logged into apps, these marketing personas may be able to track where you live, work and travel.
This anti-abortion advertiser claimed in a PowerPoint display sent to potential clients in February 2016 that he could reach every Planned Parenthood clinic in the country, and also abortion clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, colleges, and high schools across North America. He claimed he had already attempted to ping cellphones for RealOptions and Bethany nearly three million times, and had been able to steer thousands of women to their websites. The price tag for one of these campaigns, he said, was US$ 8,000.
He initially agreed to speak with Rewire for this story, but did not respond to multiple follow-up emails or phone calls. Much of Rewire's report is based on materials that he sent to people he believed to be potential clients. Numerous messages seeking comment from RealOptions' management went unanswered; a spokesperson for Bethany Christian Services confirmed they have used these services and “appreciate their ideas” but declined to discuss specific campaigns.
Examples of ads that Flynn said he had sent to young women’s phones on RealOptions’ behalf ask: “Pregnant?” or “Abortion?” and then include statements like “It’s your choice. You have time… Be informed” and “Get the facts first". That language may lead women to believe they can obtain abortion care at RealOptions but in federal tax filings, the organization says its mission is: “empowering and equipping women and men to choose life for their unborn children through the love of Jesus Christ in accordance with his word regarding the sanctity of human life”.
Tags: USA, anti-abortion groups, cellphone tracking and messaging
Dr Sally Cockburn
Victorian Parliament votes down anti-abortion bill
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) Victoria and senior obstetricians urged Victorian politicians to vote down a new abortion bill that would jeopardise good medical practice. On 25 May, they did vote it down, by 27 to 11 votes.
The bill, called the Infant Viability Bill, proposed that women be banned from terminating a pregnancy after 24 weeks, that doctors be jailed for up to five years if they conduct those abortions, and that hospitals provide a range of services for women "in distress" to encourage more patients to continue with their pregnancy.
The AMA urged MPs to vote against the bill, as it jeopardised the independence of medicine. They found the bill's implication "insulting and wrong", that neonatal intensive care provided at three major hospitals was accused of being inappropriate. The Director of Obstetrics at Monash Health, Professor Euan Wallace, described it as a "regressive bill' and "meddlesome in the extreme".
The day before the vote, Catholic Bishop Peter Elliot released a statement claiming late abortions allowed doctors to carry out abortions in which "the viable fetus is extracted and dismembered" after it was killed by crushing the skull or some other "mortal wound".
Professor Wallace said this was totally incorrect and had never happened in his 20 years of experience, and that late terminations were only carried out for lethal congenital abnormality, using induced labour, in which the fetus is injected with lignocaine to stop its heart beating and delivered intact. Under the current law, two doctors need to approve abortions after 24 weeks.
GP, health advocate and award-winning radio journalist Sally Cockburn said: "While I respect people have a personal objection, I object to people with a moral bias against abortion using untrue information about the procedure to influence decision makers. I call upon them to produce whatever evidence they believe they have ... and if anyone repeats these claims in Parliament they should be challenged to produce the evidence and not hide behind parliamentary privilege."
"At the moment, there are 82 religious and convictional offices in Brussels and Strasbourg, two of the sites of the European Parliament. Yet only 37 organisations representing churches and religious communities are listed in the transparency register. And there are around 120 religious groups in dialogue with the European Commission. This means that not many faith and belief groups have a formal relationship with EU political entities, but their overall number is huge.
"In the corridors of the European Parliament, extremist religious groups are becoming more and more active, especially Christian organizations. They are trying to impose their philosophy, which is very undemocratic – a very ideologically driven agenda that is against all fundamental rights. I call them extremists because these groups go far beyond their religious convictions to oppose fundamental European principles. They claim that abortion is murder, homosexuality is paedophilia or sex education is collective masturbation at school. These groups are obsessed with abortion and homosexuality. Moreover they are making many attempts to influence European institutions to pass legislation setting back the clock on these issues, Our challenge is to counter these attacks on recognized human rights."
SOURCE: Tanja Fajon, Conscience No. 1, 2016
Tags: European Parliament, extremist anti-abortion religious groups
Feminist activists from across Croatia organize a protest against anti-abortion march
Faced with aggressive attacks on women's reproductive rights, various feminist activists, initiatives and organisations from cities across Croatia joined forces to organize a protest initiated by the Women’s Network of Croatia, "In defence of freedom of choice". The protest was held on 21 May in the centre of Zagreb, gathering around 500 protesters, in response to the so-called first national March for Life, with about 7,000 participants, whose main aim is the criminalisation of abortion and serious restrictions on fundamental women’s rights. The anti-abortion march is part of the global movement of radical Catholic conservatives and fundamentalists, which drew 80,000 participants in Slovakia and 30,000 participants in Italy last year. It was supported financially by the City of Zagreb and mobilised by the Catholic Church. The spouse of the new Croatian Prime Minister, Sanja Orešković, was near the front of the march.
The most dramatic event was a moment when the marchers were passing the counter-protest and two women's rights protesters stood in front of the march and were attacked physically by members of the march and arrested by the police. This led to 30 women's rights protesters going to stand in front of the police station for two hours, until artist Dunja Janković and musician Dunja Ercegović (Lovely Quinces) were released without charge. Dunja Ercegović stated that she had reacted instinctively because she couldn’t just stand there and whistle to protest against pro-fascist tendencies in the society. Dunja Ercegović said that she came to the counter-protest to defend her right to decide about her own body.
Neither the police nor the attackers from march were even asked for their names or questioned, illustrative of current anti-democratic tendencies in Croatia. Media reported the incident as being against a peaceful walk for life, and the march organizers put out a press release saying the two women were evidently distraught, and possible drunk, which was absolutely not the case.
Speakers at the counter-protest included Bojana Genov from the Women’s Network Croatia, Nataša Vajagić from the Centre for Citizen Initiatives, Sanja Juras from lesbian group Kontra, Sara Kekuš from the Initiative Refugees Welcome, Martina Horvat from Platform 112, Alan Sorić from the Centre for Civil Courage and Protagora, Mia Gonan from Zagreb Pride, trade union activist Jagoda Milidrag Šmid and actress-activist Urša Raukar. A letter of support from the initiative Doctors against Conscience Objection in Medicine was read out. Music was performed by Drum 'n' bijes, Zdenka Kovačiček, Denis Katanec, U pol' 9 kod Sabe and Lovely Quinces. The counter-protest was a continuation of many feminist actions against attempts to take away the right to abortion in Croatia since 1991. The most recent action of the Women’s Network of Croatia was entitled: "We do not want to go back to illegal abortion!", 29 December 2015, shortly after the new right-wing coalition government was formed.
Madrid makes access to abortion even more difficult for young people aged 16-17 years
The Madrid Health Administration is the only one in Spain that requires the written authorisation of both father and mother for a minor, aged 16-17, to be able to have an abortion. This requirement holds even in cases where this is impossible, such as for girls living in a single-parent family or who have a parent in prison or who has abandoned them or lives in another country. This regulation violates Article 156 of the Civil Code, which provides that by refusal or absence, incapacity or impossibility of signature from one of the parents, parental authority shall be exercised exclusively by the other.
The Associación de Clínicas Acreditadas para la Interrupción de Embarazo (Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics, ACAI) in Spain warns that a significant number of underage adolescent girls are in this situation, which makes it even more difficult for them to access abortion since access was restricted legally in 2015. They call on the Minister of Health of Madrid to reflect on and remove this regulation because it is not legally required and is not imposed anywhere else in Spain.
Anti-abortion group falsely accuses Spanish Federacion de Planificación Familiar Estatal (FPFE)
The Spanish Family Planning Federation, a member of IPPF, is a national NGO and has been registered with the Spanish Ministry of the Interior as an approved "public utility" since they applied for this status in February 2015. They showed then that their accounts were in order and had been audited as required. They also showed that they met a series of legal requirements, including promotion of the public interest, having been in operation at least two years and not remunerating the members of their representative bodies. As an approved public utility, NGOs can enjoy special tax exemptions and benefits, other economic benefits and legal aid.
Yet due to an appeal based on false accusations by the anti-abortion, anti-contraception Association of Christian Lawyers, the Ministry revoked FPFE's approval within a week of the appeal. This group has been attacking FPFE regularly in the media for months now. For example, they claim FPFE are "promoting abortions" and receive "illegal financing".
FPFE's director, Filomena Ruggiero, affirms that their finances are in order and they will continue to support the protection of health and sexual and reproductive rights and the right of women to decide, just as other family planning associations do in Europe, Latin America and the United States, in spite of such attacks. They do not manage any abortion clinics, but they will continue to defend safe and legal abortion, as provided by others within the legal framework in Spain. "These attacks are obviously harmful for our activities and chances of finding resources, and will especially have an impact on those we provide services for, who will be unable to find these services in other ways. However, FPFE will continue to carry out our activities despite the persecution that we may suffer for it." They are also considering legal action.
From an email communication, 31 May 2016
Tags: Spain, anti-abortion false claims, family planning association
Study finds misinformation and deception on websites of anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centres” in Canada
Anti-abortion counselling agencies in Canada often present misinformation on their websites or fail to disclose their anti-choice or religious agenda to prospective clients, according to a new study published by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. However, crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) are not medical facilities; most are Christian ministries, they generally will not refer clients for abortion or contraception, and many promote misinformation about abortion. In Canada, they are not subject to regulatory oversight and 68% of them are registered charities.
This study identified 180 such centres across Canada, of which 166 had websites. Some findings:
48% listed negative psychological consequences of abortion on their websites, primarily in the context of “post-abortion syndrome”, which is not medically recognised.
5% of websites claimed a link between abortion and breast cancer, which has been scientifically rejected.
9% of websites cited other medical risks of abortion that were exaggerated or not scientifically proven.
60% failed to disclose that they don’t refer for abortion or contraception.
96% revealed a religious affiliation or agenda on their websites, but only 24% were upfront about it. Often, religious references were sparse or hidden on Donation pages.
24% of websites promoted sexual abstinence as the ideal solution for unmarried women.
At least 35% offered a conservative sex education programme to youth or local schools and communities – including to public schools in many cases.
Over a quarter of the websites over-emphasised adoption at the expense of other options, but rarely mentioned any negative effects it may have.
The authors call for regulation of these anti-abortion centres to ensure that women are not misled or harmed, particularly women seeking abortion care; are required to inform clients about the services they do and do not offer; are denied public funding and have their charitable tax status revoked.
STUDY: Review of “Crisis Pregnancy Centre” Websites in Canada