It’s CPC Week of Action! We’re taking on CPCs and we’re gonna #CallOutCPCs all week. To get you fired up and ready to go, we’re gonna share stories and organizing advice all week on the Feminist Campus blog.
by Anne Keyworth and Sarah Cannady
A campaign to expose fake clinics is an amazing way to be an advocate for women’s healthcare on your campus. The effects are far-reaching, and it’s totally possible through strong activism to achieve real, tangible change for your community! CPCs infiltrate our dorms, student health centers, and campus resource lists with the message that they are there to help women who are or think they may be pregnant. In reality, most of these facilities are spreading medically inaccurate information and are promoting biased values and notions to our peers in a direct effort to prevent us from making fully informed medical decisions about our reproductive healthcare. The women and girls these places target are not far removed. They are our friends, sisters, and classmates. They are us and they deserve evidence based reproductive healthcare. Period!
Your group can organize a campaign around Exposing Fake Clinics with the help of Feminist Campus – and ours did. Here are some of our tips for starting your own campaign:
- Learn about the issue. Start to familiarize your group with the issues: what is a CPC? Who do CPCs target? What dangers do they pose? Why should college students care? You want to be well versed but be able to talk about it in a succinct manner to people who want to know what your campaign is about. And of course, check out the resources at Feminist Campus -they have an amazing toolkit to help you get your campaign off the ground!
- Do your research. It’s important to know what CPCs are in your area and what strategies they are using to promote themselves to women in your community. Chances are high that there is at least one near your university, and, if you are in a metropolitan area, there could be tons. Find out how they’re staffed, what services they offer, how they advertise, and what kind of information they are giving out. You should also know who on your campus has CPCs listed as healthcare resources and what types of messages people on campus are giving about reproductive healthcare; misinformation on campus can be far reaching and particularly in areas of study that deal directly with healthcare, we want to make sure that information that is being taught and promoted is accurate and unbiased.
- Find the alternatives. If you’re exposing fake clinics, you need to also know which local clinics and healthcare facilities to recommend when women ask you for their other options. You should be well-acquainted with the agencies in your community – and shouldn’t hesitate to call or visit local medical facilities to learn more about them. If there are a lot of comprehensive care facilities in your community, split them up among your group members and have each report back on their vital stats: whether they take student health insurance, what kind of services they offer, if they provide birth control, if they make referrals to abortion providers if necessary, etc. (Also, check out whether there is a local Planned Parenthood affiliate in your community. If there’s not, find the nearest one and connect with clinic staff there to find out clinical and community resources they recommend for women in your community.) Try getting the word out about comprehensive women’s healthcare facilities to counter CPCs by telling students on social media, in residence halls, and through posters, flyers, or handouts at events about where they are, what they offer, and how to get in touch. Residential Advisors (RAs) are important gatekeepers to a wealth of community resources and services, and they should absolutely be equipped to give appropriate referrals to their residents. If you find that they aren’t, ask your university’s housing association if you can do a talk with them briefly during their training.
- Identify your goals, what it takes to reach them, and what actions you want to take – and make a timeline. It’s helpful for your group to have a picture of what things you are hoping to get done and a general order of when you’re tackling them; this will help you structure your own group and connect with other groups throughout the year. Goals can vary: you may want to remove local CPCs from your university’s campus resource guides or you may be keen on creating a campus policy stating that no flyers can be posted promoting services which are inherently biased or religiously funded (as CPCs so often are). Whatever your goals, know what you want and be confident in asking for it. Remember: what you are asking for is totally reasonable and sensible!
- Talk to your peers and let them tell their stories. It’s likely that you are connected to someone on your campus who used a CPC through Six Degrees of Separation; they may not have known it at the time, but chances are if they left feeling judged, shamed, and forced to watch videos or encouraged to pray with staff, they were at a fake clinic! If they are open to it, talk to them about their experience – how did they find out about it, did they have to wait long to receive services, what kind of information were they given? Find out why people in your community rely on CPCs to better counter them and educate against them. At our group’s initial interest meeting on the campaign, we gathered testimonials of women who had been to CPCs and read aloud what they had written about their experiences. This was a really powerful way to make tangible connections for your peers because it’s likely that they or someone they know has had a similar experience and people are generally outraged when they are lied to.
- Build a coalition. This is an easy issue to work with a variety of other groups on – just go around asking ground leaders, “do you support providing women with medically accurate information about their reproductive healthcare?” and most people will see this as a no-brainer. Other women’s organizations, health related organizations, social justice organizations and campaigns, sororities, and a variety of other groups may be willing to work with you or at least may appreciate the connection this campaign has to people in their community and culture. Working with other groups and making sure that they understand the issue and are part of the solution is a critical way to infiltrate your campus with a strong, positive message of what kind of healthcare women deserve and where they can receive it. And don’t be afraid to venture off campus and see if there are other groups in the community that support your campaign! College students are only one of many popular targets of CPCs, and there are undoubtedly other groups in the area that care about the same thing you do. Partnering with community groups will only help you reach a broader audience and connect with more people, all of whom equally need the information.
- Use your leadership. Each member of your group adds something unique to the picture. While one person may be happy to be a media spokesperson or the publicity person on your campus, others may prefer a less visible role. There are so many pieces to this campaign that there are ways for everyone who wants to to contribute. It may be writing an article for your local or campus paper, making signs, doing research, coordinating inter- and intra-school efforts, or talking with other community leaders. Some of you may be involved in other campus capacities where you can bring this conversation to the table. Use your people! Harness their various talents and connections to make your campaign even more effective!
- Make your work sustainable. Your group is doing great work, trust me. And your hair looks great. But making sure that the work you do this year is sustainable to go on the following year, even if leadership changes, is extremely important. The work you are doing is far too critical to lose any steam from year to year; making sure to have a diverse membership base with students who are involved in other various capacities on campus is important, as is having students of all different ranges in seniority. Students who are new to the group may be leading it in the coming years, so invest in your members and empower them with the resources and capacity to effectively carry on the group’s work. Being connected with an academic advisor can also help maintain a degree of consistency and may be able to help you better navigate the university system. They will also have a unique perspective of watching the group grow and change over the years and can be a central person to hold on to files and records and keep in touch with older leaders should they be needed once they’ve moved on.
- Don’t worry about a thing. This is a campaign that has the potential to bring a lot of people together in a powerful and meaningful way. You can absolutely make a difference and showing your peers that people care about their access to comprehensive, medically accurate healthcare information helps everyone feel more empowered. It might not be easy every step of the way, but there are few things more important than protecting our access to safe, unbiased, medically accurate reproductive healthcare. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t feel bad if your efforts take longer than you expected to get off the ground. At the end of the day, you’re doing something amazing – and you deserve to feel good about it.