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We feature commentary but most of all action alerts on the same positive, abortion-reducing measures we cover in the Directory.

These measures include post abortion healing; male responsibility; comprehensive sexual/reproductive health education; all voluntary pregnancy prevention methods, plus rape and incest prevention & treatment; and life-affirming ways to get through crisis pregnancy and beyond.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

A CPC Director In Her Own Words

Prolife CPCs (Crisis Pregnancy Centers) often face sharp, unmitigated criticism from prochoicers that they have no public chance to answer or explain who they are and what they do on their own terms.

Nonviolent Choice does not necessarily agree with every aspect of every CPC. Among other differences, we are a secular/nonsectarian/interfaith initiative, and many CPCs are run by Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant concerns. But we do recognize that many CPCs actually do make positive differences in the lives of women and children.

Nonviolent Choice talked with Angie Weszely, president of Chicago's Caris Pregnancy Clinics since May 2006. She joined Caris as development director in 2005. She has 11 years experience working with nonprofits, including a year outside the US, as well as a background in corporate training and sales.

As a mother in the paid workforce, Angie empathizes with women who struggle to both rear children and work their jobs, especially if they are single mothers. She brings this consciousnsess into her work with women facing difficult pregnancies.

MARYSIA: Please explain what Caris does.

ANGIE: Caris is a faith-based, nonprofit organization providing hope and support to womenf acing unplanned pregnancies. We have three program areas: Prevention, Intervention, and Connection.

Prevention involves reducing unplanned pregnancies through abstinence education and support groups. Intervention involves providing abortion alternatives to women through free services at our three clinics. Connection involves networking women to support and resources in the community – through social agencies, churches and individuals.

MARYSIA: Just to clarify, the particular faith basis of Caris is evangelical Christian. And today as well as historically, many evangelical Christians support women's rights. Although as with most groups of humans, there are others who still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, to say the least!

Now, CPC workers are widely stereotyped as hostile to the interests and wellbeing of women. Yet you not only object to that stereotype--you define yourself as a feminist. How did you arrive at your feminism?

ANGIE: Because “feminism” can be so controversial and is defined differently by many people, I define myself as a feminist only when I can clarify the definition.

I believe that women should be respected and accepted as women, and I believe in equality and nonviolence for all people. I don’t align with any strain of feminism that endorses the marginalization of any groups of people (unborn children, for example), legitimizes tasteless expression of sexuality, or would ask women to act like men.

For me, it was a gradual journey to feminism. I think it came from being shut out of opportunities because I was a woman, and realizing that all isn’t as equal as we would like to think it is.

I also became increasingly aware of and sensitive to the exploitation of women through pornography, sexual abuse, and abortion. Then when I had a daughter, I had an increasing desire to fight for a world where she would be protected, not asked to grow up too soon, and able to achieve her potential and dreams as a woman.

MARYSIA: How do your values and concerns as a feminist motivate and relate to your work as a CPC director?

ANGIE: At Caris, we hear women all the time say things like: “I don’t want to have an abortion, but I have to. I have no resources or support – I have no other choice.” How is that congruent with feminism?

If we aren’t offering women with unplanned pregnancies the emotional support and practical resources they need but instead offer them abortion as their only option, they really don’t have much of a choice. I believe that women don’t like abortion and don’t want to be in a place where they feel they have to make that choice.

So why settle for it? Why not work to build a society where women have access to everything they need to continue their pregnancy? To me, that is a feminist vision for the world.

MARYSIA: What do you feel feminism has to offer the CPC movement as a whole?

ANGIE: I think CPCs are doing a work that is very empowering to women, and that should continue to be our focus. I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be associated with other prolife efforts that can sometimes be insensitive to the pressures a pregnant woman can face.

At Caris, we advocate a “third voice” in the abortion debate – one that takes into account the best interest of the woman and the child.

MARYSIA: What stereotypes about CPCs concern you the most? If you had a chance to sit down and actually talk with prochoicers who level these criticisms, what would you say to them?

ANGIE: I’m concerned when I read articles describing CPCs as “fake clinics” out to deceive and manipulate women. It is my passion for women that drives me to provide them with real options other than abortion.

I would like the pro-choice community to acknowledge that not every choice for abortion is made from a place of also having access to other options. We exist for the women who don’t really want to have an abortion, but feel pressured to make that choice because of outside factors.

Many women tell us the father of the baby or their parents don’t support them continuing the pregnancy, or they don’t feel they have the practical resources for a child. Women in these situations aren’t really able to exercise a free choice without centers like Caris informing them and connecting them to all the support and resources that are available to them. What pro-choice advocate wouldn’t want women having real choices?

MARYSIA: Thank you, Angie.

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