Monday morning, first day back from the holidays and after some prayers, I’m sitting at my desk checking the voicemail. I had a message from a lovely lady who had organised a group of women to knit baby clothes for us. I returned to call to assure her that the box of baby gear had arrived and that we are very thankful for it. She let me know that since she left the voicemail, the ‘thank you’ card from us had arrived. I looked back at the clothes still in the box, and remembered a lead I needed to follow up for some shelving at a price a charity could afford. I knew the little shelf we had was only a stopgap measure, but I didn’t think it would be full to overflowing with clothes donations before I even started asking for them. Pro-life people are so generous.
And then the email arrives. Someone has spotted a blog entry about us. And we are in the pro-abortion gun sights again. Specifically the John Paul II centre for life in Dunedin.
This blog is alleging that we are using bullying, judgemental, scare and deception tactics against the pregnant women who choose to come to us. These charges are completely false. I can say that with authority, because I’m the coordinator of the centre, so I know what happens here. And what chance have we had to do that? We have only just opened!
So what’s all this about? Well, it started last November when a prominent pro-abortion activist and a couple of her supporters visited the centre. They wanted the literature that we give to pregnant women. As I was trying to explain that our 0800 number was still being answered by the centres further north, one of her supporters headed for a table of brochures in our large meeting room, and starts helping herself to them. Why would she do that?
As soon as you have climbed the stairs and come into the centre, you can clearly see our small meeting room. It’s small, comfortable and perfect for two people to have a chat and a cup of coffee. It even has a few brochures. There aren’t many there, the room is mostly for us to listen, and only then see if we can sort out some help. And most of the brochures there are probably available elsewhere in Dunedin. We really don’t use a lot of printed matter for pregnant women.
But this supporter ignored that room and headed straight for our meeting room. Did she really think that we are seeing 20 or 30 pregnant women at a time? We seated about 30 in there for the official opening, with the rest of the crowd standing, in the room, or out in the foyer.
Between that and me trying to telling them that the pregnancy centre side of the centre wasn’t yet fully running, you would think that she would figure out that the brochures she was taking weren’t for pregnant mums. They were for the pro-life people who had been at the official opening of the centre a week before.
The brochures that the support helped herself to must have been given to this blogger, as she spends a lot of time going through them and pointing out how bad they are for pregnant women. And I agree that they aren’t suitable for pregnant women. That’s why we don’t offer them to them. And that’s why we keep them away from rooms where we meet with pregnant women.
The first brochure that the blogger criticises was an old black and white (with a few red headings) one from the US. It was US in its context and very North American in its tone. Pro-lifers can usually figure these things out, and as for the tone of it, I can generally count on their tolerance. This is a brochure that I would never offer to a pregnant women. The details were probably all correct for the time and place of it’s publication. Since then, worse abuses have become public knowledge in the US. The brochure is old and American, it probably isn’t going to be in the centre much longer. If anyone wants a copy, I’m happy for them to come and take one to study. It’s relevant because US abortion providers are trying to bring their agenda to New Zealand. Some of the text (with modifications and omissions) is online here. The blogger cites accurately from it, which is much better that she does for the next brochure she attacks.
This was the “Teen abortion risks fact sheet”. Again, we don’t use it for pregnant women, only for general pro-life education. There is an online version which is an expanded and updated version of our print copies. The blogger starts off citing it accurately, reporting “6x more likely to attempt suicide”. Next she says, “She’ll develop psychological problems and likely end up in a mental hospital”. The brochure actually says “Teens who abort are more likely to develop psychological problems, and are nearly three times more likely to be admitted to mental health hospitals than teens in general”
This exaggerating and misrepresenting would be easier to accept if her link to the online version actually worked. Then the reader could actually see something similar to the brochure that she was satirising.
And the mental health issue has been investigated in New Zealand by a pro-abortion researcher, so I don’t think we are being dishonest about it. The bloggers treatment of the rest of the brochure follows the same tactics.
When she is finished with that she launches into an attack of the centre and our work with statements like, “They should not exist”.
The problem is she hasn’t actually attacked us at all. She has created a caricature of us, probably some pro-life version of Family Planning from a parallel universe. And that is the object of her attack. Her version doesn’t resemble us at all. We are not a professional counselling service, but if a pregnant women needs that, we do have access to professionally qualified counsellors. ‘Peer counselling’ is a better description of what we do, and that’s mostly listening. If we wanted to hide the fact that we are pro-life, why would we called ourselves the John Paul II centre for life? If our pregnant and worried website was about deception, why does it have our logo on it with a link to our main site?
She does admit that she would allow us to exist if we “just distribute factual information, plus provide practical assistance”.
I’ve spent more time on this than it deserves. Those baby clothes behind me still needs a shelf to live on, and I have an appointment to see someone about that. And then there are the prams and car seats that need some storage solutions too. And there is a social worker who runs a birth support group for families of limited means who wants to meet me so we can arrange referrals. If this blogger really does know all about supporting pregnant women, maybe she should contact me directly. I’m always happy to learn.
Dude, I was one of the people that visited – you directed us to that large meeting room, we ASKED if we could take pamphlets, you said for us to help ourselves. At no time did you say those were not for expectant mothers. You make it sound like we raided your offices, when in fact we informed you who we were when we arrived, and asked for your permission to enter and discuss – we fully expected you to say no and turn us away – you invited us in. We did nothing wrong.
Thanks for your comment Mike.
I wasn’t expecting any visitors as we had no signage of advertising at that time, so the three of you arriving put me a little on the back foot. To be fair, some of your party looked a bit stressed too. I did invite you in, but I don’t actually remember directing you anywhere. Our staff room would have been a better place for a group of four to meet. You did identify yourselves, and I’m grateful for that. You did ask for pamphlets but I don’t remember giving an answer as I was very busy with your leader and her pamphlets. I didn’t know what was taken, so I couldn’t have commented on how we use them. You did seem in a hurry to leave. I also willingly gave you my contact details and said if you had concerns you could contact me directly. If the brochures were such an issue, why didn’t you do that? You had my landline and cellphone numbers, as well as my email address. And you are right Mike, during the visit you did nothing wrong. You were polite and honourable in your actions, and I thank you for that. But I do have an issue with such an uncharitable and public misrepresentation of our work.