Day of Resistance at the Capitol

…One of many to come.

We’ve been fighting what often feels like an uphill, impossible battle with conservative legislators in Texas, who have been pandering to extremist right-wing groups like the Tea Party for years now. But Texas progressives have had enough, and we are fighting harder than ever–even in the wake of a special session called by Governor Abbott, who has listed increased restrictions on abortion, the “bathroom bill,” and the persecution of trees among the top priorities of his administration during the session.

A huge coalition of organizations descended upon the Texas Capitol and legislators’ offices on the first day of the special session, July 18, 2017 to show the state what we’re made of, and that we’re not going away.

NOW members and supporters showed up with the rest of ’em, including many of us in the Handmaids, and we repped hard.

  

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We are hosting our first fundraiser!

 

Join the National Organization for Women at our first annual yard sale fundraiser event! All money raised on sale items will go directly to Texas NOW supplies for protests, rallies, and benefit events, so that our organization can continue to be the super cool grassroots feminist group that we are!

In exchange for donations, we will be providing clothes, craft items, swag, NOW t-shirts, food, drinks kindly donated from Oskar Blues Brewery, and more!

*Cash is preferable, but we will have the ability to take credit cards if needed.

CALL FOR DONATIONS: If you would like to donate items for sale, food, drinks, or another service, please contact austinareanow@gmail.com

Facebook event link

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Happy 4th of July!

Stand tall, keep fighting. #Resist

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Member Post: Why Wilco NOW Won’t Back Down at Agape PRC Protests!

I have been protesting Agape Pregnancy Resource Center in Round Rock since last March, and it has been staggering to learn not only all the ugly things they do, but how enmeshed they are into the community. They have been at their location for 14 years and are regarded as a legitimate charity by community leaders. They have cultivated an image as “do-gooder church ladies” who just want to help impoverished women through unplanned pregnancies with Christian counseling and gifts of baby items.

But you don’t have to look too close to learn what it is they’re really up to.

Of course, I already knew about “fake clinics” (crisis pregnancy centers, as they call themselves) and wasn’t surprised to learn they presented themselves as a “medical facility” or that they pressure women into keeping their pregnancy by lying about the risks of abortion (Cancer!  Infertility!  Drug addiction!  Suicide!  Eternal damnation!).  I was surprised that they don’t just give away baby items; women have to “pay” for them by attending their classes.  

At a CPC, you’re never just a ‘mother’ or a ‘father.’ You’re a ‘mommy’ or a ‘daddy.’ Because infantilizing literally everything about your situation, right down to the fake money the CPC forces you to ‘earn’ just to get some basic help, makes Jesus happy.

Want a can of formula that will feed your baby for 5 days?  Awesome, just take this Bible class first.  They even print “Mommy Money” and “Daddy Dollars” the women have to give back when they “buy” these donated items!  Even more galling is that legitimate charities like the Austin Diaper Bank donate items to them as though they are just a distribution center.  They don’t help women struggling through poverty in the way that the Capitol Food Bank does, they degrade and infantilize them first.

The most shocking thing to me is how they get away with luring in unaccompanied minors without parents’ permission.  How is that okay?  Agape is just a few blocks from CD Fulkes Middle School, and I often encounter students walking around downtown during my regular 4:30 protest time.  This is not a coincidence.

A beautiful manipulation story about a vulnerable 17-year-old girl and the CPC workers who took advantage of her! Now she’s a single mom and 20 times more likely to live in poverty! Thanks, Agape!!!

The majority of students at CD are black and Hispanic and it is a Title I school, meaning most students qualify for free or reduced cost meals at school.  These students are vulnerable to CPCs’ lies, already primed with reproductive health misinformation by Round Rock ISD’s  adoption of the abstinence-only sex ed curriculum entitled “Worth the Wait,” which was developed by (hello, Baptists!) Baylor, Scott & White.  The majority of the curriculum is “gross-out stuff” and plain old fear tactics.  They even have to take a test on all the different symptoms of each kind of STD.

One student walking by our protest asked me about my sign that says: “Greg Abbott is not my Ob/Gyn!”  I told him, “it’s short for Obstetrician and Gynecologist.”  He replied, “I still don’t know what that means.” …Wow.  (I explained it to him in detail since apparently no adult had yet, even though this kid already had hair on his lip.)

 

A fake health clinic that lies about birth control and reproductive health at a teen-parent expo? Hmmm…

Agape is also one of the organizations invited to the Round Rock ISD Teen-Parent Expo each year!  They table at an event inside Success High School handing out candy and lies about reproductive healthcare to our most vulnerable, at-risk students.  Success High School is a wonderful program that works with students who need a nontraditional high school credit program in order to graduate due to the need to work, care for family members or their own children.  They have social workers on staff at the school to support these kids.  But unfortunately, they don’t protect them from Agape’s lies.

 

I welcome anyone to join this protest site with me every Thursday 4:30-5:30 pm! 

– Stephanie, WilCo NOW member & site lead for Agape CPC protests

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Despite Aggressive Anti-Choice Harassment, Protesters Prevail at Agape CPC

The increasingly caring and progressive community of Round Rock, Texas was pleasantly surprised to find a group of peaceful pro-choice protesters outside of Agape Pregnancy Resource Center on a Saturday morning in February. The protesters were members of the National Organization for Women Austin and Williamson County chapters, as well as the Democratic Socialists of America Austin chapter. The diverse group of feminists held signs declaring “Greg Abbot is not my OBGYN,” “Fake Clinics Receive $1.6M of your tax dollars,” and “Honk if you love Texas women,” among others. In the short hour-long protest, a hundred or so cars honked in support, people stopped by to learn about CPCs and the dangers they pose to pregnant people, and a new grassroots anti-CPC movement was born.

While most people in Round Rock were pleased to see the protesters, the paid employees and volunteers at Agape were definitely not. A confused and indignant Jo Markham, executive director of the so-called pregnancy resource center, told the right-wing anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life that in the 13 years the pregnancy resource center has been on Main Street in Old Round Rock, they “have never had protests of any kind.” Suddenly faced with a small taste of the kind of opposition with which anti-choice protesters regularly bombard women’s health clinics, Agape staff and volunteers did what any extremist religious group would do: they heckled, harassed, and yelled at the peaceful protesters.

Texas Right to Life is known for terrible writing, stealing other people’s photos, bribing politicians, and whining like little babies.

Desperate for a war to fight, Texas Right to Life jumped at the chance to cast the pro-choice protesters in a negative light. “There would seem to be nothing for anyone to protest,” Texas Right to Life wrote in a very badly-edited article on their website. “Agape provides pregnant mothers with services, classes, and resources free of charge.”

However, a simple glance at Agape’s website proves this claim to be false; it is painfully obvious that the main reason that Agape and all other CPCs exist is to keep pregnant people from getting abortions, and provide a dose of religious guilt to anyone who even considers going through with the legal, safe medical procedure. The vaguely-named and so-called free classes and services that Agape claims to provide are incredibly limited in scope: they include giving out free diapers, formula, and clothes to people who may be pregnant, but Agape will only allow people to receive free items if they have first attended a Bible study or similar religious class and earned the appropriate amount of “points” to “purchase” those items. Members of Austin NOW and Williamson County NOW Task Force have tried to obtain information on the “services” Agape claims to provide, but have not found anything substantial. The fact is that Agape, like so many other “fake clinics,” as NOW calls them, claims to help women only to distract the public from their larger, more sinister objective: to lie and guilt pregnant people out of an abortion procedure.

Agape staff has stated time and time again that the organization does not receive any federal or state tax dollars. However, a quick look at the website for The Heidi Group, a state-funded group of CPCs and “health centers” that do not provide anywhere near the full range of necessary reproductive health services, lists Agape as one of many of these supposed women’s clinics. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this means, at the very least, that a state-funded website and organization is giving free advertisement and referrals to Agape, which, in turn, provides them with clients to preach to and to claim they have “saved.”

When protesters were first approached by Markham, she was relentless in her effort to find out which organization they were with, why they were protesting Agape, and what their names were. While NOW’s rules of conduct at protests are clear on general non-engagement with anti-choice groups, a NOW officer did eventually respond in an attempt to defuse the situation with Agape’s irate executive director.

“At first, I told her very politely, ‘We are not here to talk to you or to engage in any kind of debate. We are here to exercise our First Amendment Right to protest peacefully on public property,'” says Lexie, president of Austin NOW. “But she wouldn’t stop. She couldn’t handle it. She kept asking us who we were with, what our names are, and why we were protesting.”

Lexie says that, finally, she was forced to interact with Markham in order to distract her from the other protesters and move Markham and other aggressive anti-choice advocates away from the main group, to ensure everyone’s safety. “I told her we were there to protest CPCs receiving our tax dollars to lie to women and pregnant people. But that didn’t calm her down. It made her go nuts.”

In a fit of anger, Markham grabbed the anti-choice state-sponsored booklet, ironically entitled Woman’s Right to Know, which gruesomely outlines potential complications of available abortion procedures (complications that are incredibly rare, with childbirth being 14 times more likely to involve complications) as well as the potential negative feelings that can occur after an abortion. There is no mention in the booklet of how safe and common abortion procedures are, that the risk of complication is very low, nor that many women feel relief and even happiness after their abortion.

“We don’t receive any state tax dollars. We don’t lie to anyone. We just give them this booklet!” Markham cried, shoving Woman’s Right to Know at Lexie. When the Austin NOW president pointed out the manipulative language and photos on the two-page spread on abortion procedures, Markham laughed wildly and shrugged, unable to refute her point.

Your friendly neighborhood feminists!

Texas Right to Life, still determined to squeeze a story out of the incident, continued on with their poorly-written report. “We’ve prayed about the situation,” Markham apparently told the group, just after passively watching one of Agape’s male volunteers physically assault a protester on the street corner by shoving her off of a curb, and then proceeding to take photos of her car and license plate in a clear attempt at further intimidation. “We’ve decided to respond in love.”

When asked about Texas Right to Life and Agape’s claim that NOW protesters are “confused,” a group of several Austin and WilCo NOW members chuckled. “We’re not confused,” a member said, rolling her eyes. “Of course an anti-choice group would say that–they’re always calling us ‘hysterical women’ or something equally degrading. But we know exactly what we’re doing. We’re protesting Agape, and other CPCs, for a reason.

Unshaken by the hateful anti-choice gang that now waves menacingly at them (while, strangely, offering packets of small cookies) every Thursday from their expensive storefront in downtown Round Rock, the Williamson County NOW Task Force (NOW WilCo) protesters who have elected to regularly protest Agape are now even more determined than ever. “We’re watching you, Carol Everett,” says Sharol Lovett, President of NOW WilCo, speaking to the ringleader of the state-sponsored anti-woman CPC giant The Heidi Group. “We know what you’re doing to women in our state, and we’re coming for you.”

Austin NOW and NOW WilCo’s rapidly-growing Adopt-a-CPC program is gaining traction, with 6 CPCs now on the roster. You can join NOW WilCo at Agape every Thursday from 4:30-5:30pm, or you can visit the Austin NOW website to view all upcoming protests and events.

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Austin NOW Events Calendar is Officially LIVE!

Want to get more involved in CPC protests & other NOW events, but don’t know where to start? Our events calendar is OFFICIALLY LIVE!

You can easily view our local NOW chapters’ calendar for the coming months at a glance, and click on any event you’re interested in attending to see a full description of the details. Check it out here!

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Join Us June 24 For CPC Protest Training!

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Protest Rules – The Basics

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New Braunfels Protest CANCELED

Dear members & supporters,

First of all, we want to thank you so much for all of your support of the Adopt-a-CPC Initiative we launched a few months ago. Overall, we have been incredibly successful in spreading awareness of Fake Clinics and the harm that they do to reproductive justice & access in our communities. We are very close to finishing a completed list of current CPCs being regularly protested and their schedules/contact information, which we will share with you when it is ready.

We have decided to cancel our CPC protest scheduled for tomorrow morning (May 27) at Options For Life in New Braunfels. We apologize for the inconvenience we know this has caused some of you–we were really excited about it too, and we hope you will still decide to participate with us in future actions against CPCs. We need your support now more than ever!

Questions or concerns about this or any other NOW events, including future CPC protests, should be directed to AustinAreaNOW@gmail.com or NOWWilCo@gmail.com.

Can’t join CPC protests but still want to support us? Click here to give a gift to support NOW’s grassroots activism in Texas!

NEXT CPC PROTEST TRAINING: Saturday, June 24 @ 10:00am, Radio Coffee & Beer
Facebook event link

NEXT AUSTIN NOW / WILCO NOW MEETING: Sunday, June 4 @ 6:00pm, Spider House Cafe
Facebook event link

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This Is What The Resistance Looks Like…

SB 8, the bill that mandates cremation or burial of the remains of any pregnancy, has passed in the Texas House and Senate–despite protests, medical professionals’ opinions that it would hurt women’s health, and a million more reasons–and will become (unconstitutional) law. We look forward to the day that it is struck down in the Supreme Court (something that has already happened to a previous version of the bill), but until that day, this bill–now a law–will harm the well-being of our communities, and we will continue to fight back.

Stay strong, Texas. We will keep fighting.

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