Central Iowa DSA:
Expose CPC Campaign
In November 2018, Central Iowa DSA’s socialist feminist working group started laying the groundwork for our campaign to expose crisis pregnancy centers in the Des Moines metro area. The work of comrades in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles inspired us to take action. The increasingly successful efforts of the Iowa State Legislature to shame and control pregnant people motivated us to begin this work.
In the winter of 2018, the Iowa House and Senate passed a fetal heartbeat bill. Although the Iowa supreme court ruled the bill as unconstitutional in Jan 2019, further attacks are gaining support in the legislature, such as the personhood bill that the Iowa state senate introduced in March 2019. As frightening and often demoralizing as these laws are, we as socialist feminists know that the struggle for reproductive justice is not limited to lobbying and rallying annually at the capitol building. We must expose the oppressive, patriarchal institutions that exist within our community unchecked.
Crisis pregnancy centers have existed in the Des Moines metro for decades. They’re such an unassuming part of the city that most people don’t even know what they are when they drive past them. Branded as a safe, non-judgmental spaces for young people experiencing pregnancy fears or crisis, CPCs such as Birthright are regularly invited into local schools to share misinformation about pregnancy, reinforce gender roles, and foster sexual shame. We’ve heard from several members of the community that the local catholic high school invites Birthright to speak at assemblies every year about the dangers of abortion and the sin of premarital sex, handing out small plastic fetus figurines to students in their skin tone.
A newer addition to the list of CPCs in Des Moines is InnerVisions Healthcare, which runs a high-spirited ad on local hip hop radio stations that makes their fake clinic sound like a fun place to hang out and chill. While tabling at an event last month, one woman heard about our campaign to expose fake clinics and said that when she taught in high schools the kids loved the crisis pregnancy centers because they would give them free clothes, gift-giving being another way they entice young, vulnerable people to come in their doors. Because CPCs target teens, we’ve decided to focus a good part of our organizing energies on talking with and organizing high school students in the Des Moines area.
As a first step to spread the word about our campaign and CPCs in general, in January members of our socialist feminist working group developed an Expose Fake Clinics Zine. We included information about what CPCs are, why exposing them is a socialist feminist issue, a list of local CPCs and a list of places pregnant people can receive actual healthcare and support. We also developed posters modeled after Pittsburgh DSA’s soc fem campaign posters, and we plan on posting those in the next few weeks in highly trafficked areas around CPCs. Included on the posters is contact info for the campaign, for which we developed a new gmail and google voice account so that folks who see our signs can call and share their stories.
This method for hearing from the community has been somewhat successful for our chapter’s housing justice work, and we hope that it will help us connect with people who want to talk about their experience at CPCs. This groundwork organizing will lead to public canvass sessions outside a crisis pregnancy center on one of the city’s busiest streets. In April we’ll be tabling at a local high school’s annual Femi Fest, an event organized by the school’s feminist club, to share the Expose Fake Clinics Zine and to invite students to join us in organizing, postering, and canvassing about CPCs. We will unite the teens for reproductive justice!
Another angle to Central Iowa DSA’s campaign to expose fake clinics is to push the narrative that abortion is healthcare, and that all pregnant people regardless of gender identity have a right to healthcare. Although our chapter is not currently involved in Medicare for All work, we see an opportunity to use our fight to expose crisis pregnancy centers to advocate for M4A as the only way to preserve pregnant people’s right to prenatal care, abortion care, or postpartum care.
Until now, these fake clinics have met with virtually no push back from the community and operate freely, in some cases receiving funding from the Iowa GOP’s family planning bill. As Iowa Republicans are regrouping and planning their next legislative attack on pregnant people, we’re working to connect with people outside of explicitly political institutions right here in our community. We know that regardless of what laws are passed, the rights of pregnant people have always been and always will be under attack unless we organize.
The religious right has won the abortion narrative, claiming to be on the side of “life” and “love”, by being incredibly well organized. It’s time for those on the Left to face the enemies of pregnant people by publicly exposing them in ways they don’t anticipate and by organizing with those who are most vulnerable.