Minneapolis protesters rally against the crisis of anti-abortion centers
Minneapolis, MN – Over 30 protesters rallied in front of the newly opened First Care Pregnancy Center in the Phillips neighborhood on March 4 to demand an end to state funding for anti-abortion centers.
Often referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers”, or CPCs, anti-abortion centers offer faith-based and ideologically motivated coercion to prevent pregnant people from accessing abortion services, all under the guise of offering medical services for pregnant individuals.
The website for New Life Family Services, the parent company of First Care, states, “Through practical and spiritual counsel, we provide education and support with the hope each client will make a life-affirming decision for their unborn child.” Over one third of anti-abortion centers in Minnesota receive part of a $3.4 million grant via the Positive Alternatives Grant program.
“While First Care Pregnancy Center isn’t state-funded, that doesn’t mean it’s any less harmful. Anti-abortion centers like this one specialize in guilt-mongering,” remarked Maggie Moynihan, a member of the Minnesota Abortion Action Committee (MNAAC). Moynihan continued to draw attention to the deceptive tactics of anti-abortion centers, stating “It's easy to be fooled by the professional exterior of anti-abortion centers but they are not here to help you. They promise financial help and medical care while providing no actual assistance.”
First Care had apparently been vandalized the night before, leaving the building with several broken windows and graffiti. One of First Care's staff boarded up the facility's broken windows while ensuring that his firearm was visibly displayed in his waistband. Another postured in a threatening manner whenever protesters stood on the grass near the facility. One counter-protester continuously walked through the protest and in front of speakers while holding a rosary and reciting the Lord's Prayer. Other people in opposition to the protest held plastic toys resembling small infants and exclaiming, “These babies are people.”
Despite the small opposition, many drivers and pedestrians passing by expressed their support for the protest.
Jay Belsito, a member of UnRestrict MN, recalled her experience with an anti-abortion center in Saint Paul, Minnesota during her own crisis of being pregnant as a teenager with little to no resources. Belisto recounted the anti-abortion center staff’s misinformation and manipulation tactics, creating a climate of fear and guilt and not one of compassion and care.
Currently these centers outnumber abortion providers in the state of Minnesota 11 to 1, despite Minnesota’s status as an abortion “sanctuary state” in the aftermath of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
Meredith Aby-Keirstead, a member of the MN Anti-War Committee, drew a link between the anti-abortion advocates’ denial of people’s bodily autonomy and freedom of movement to the repression being enacted against Palestinians by the U.S.-backed apartheid state of Israel. Due to Israeli occupation, Palestinians are systemically denied freedom of movement and access to healthcare by means of state violence.
MNACC member Nathaniel Snedeker recalled his experiences in an evangelical community, providing a first-hand account of the coercive tactics that religious extremists use to lure vulnerable populations into these centers and manipulate them with misleading or false information.
Over 63% of the anti-abortion centers in Minnesota offer false or misleading information regarding birth control, sexual health, and abortion, according to a report published by Minnesota-based Gender Justice and its affiliates. 29% promote the so-called “abortion reversal pill,” a treatment that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls APR “unethical” and “not based on science.”
Anti-abortion centers are typically set up in low-income communities, preying on people who already lack access to comprehensive, evidence-based healthcare. In Minneapolis’s Phillips neighborhood, where the newest First Care Pregnancy Center has opened, 40% of the population lives at or below the poverty line.
“Fake healthcare facilities also take advantage of immigrants’ language barriers and, therefore, information access barriers. They are not required to provide translation services like real medical facilities are,” stated Kay Lerohl of the Climate Justice Committee (CJC). The CJC has been heavily involved in the struggle against environmental racism targeting the East Phillips neighborhood, most notably the city of Minneapolis’ decision to destroy the old Roof Depot building that currently sits on arsenic-rich soil in the most diverse – and heavily polluted – community in the state. “Fake clinics fully fund themselves through their religious and government donors to bait and switch these low-income and otherwise vulnerable populations.”
“That’s why these places exist. Not to provide resources, not in a way that’s meaningful, not beyond a few diapers and baby toys – which is a far cry from the material support necessary to raise a child. These places exist to prevent abortion, it’s really that simple,” explained Olivia Crull, a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).
Crull emphasized the need for a united struggle, explaining the link between the reproductive rights movement and the other people’s movements, stating, “The same people who are instituting abortion bans are also passing laws that marginalize trans people and strip away gender-affirming healthcare. It’s the same people who want to get rid of any teaching about racist inequality in our schools, and who want to funnel more and more money into police to surveil and terrorize Black and brown communities. These are the same people that suppress our unions by passing ‘right to work’ legislation.”
The Say No to Anti-Abortion Centers Protest was organized by the Minnesota Abortion Action Committee (MNAAC) and endorsed by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Climate Justice Committee, MN Anti-War Committee, UnRestrict MN, Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization.