Lilith Fair, the women-centric music concert from the nineties is back. The all-female music festival will be touring this summer and on Monday, via their Facebook page, Lilith Tour organizers announced “$1 from every Lilith ticket sold will be donated to a local charity in each of the 36 cities the festival visits.” The page urged fans to vote for the charity in their city they thought Lilith should support.
However among the charities listed are several so-called crisis pregnancy centers, an odd choice for a women-centric music festival. Crisis pregnancy centers have a noted history of giving out false information about birth control and abortion.
Becky Smith, 27, from Minneapolis, started a Facebook Fan page titled “Lilith Fair: No money for crisis pregnancy centers!” with her friend Katie Blair, 26, of Indianapolis. In less than 48 hour it garnered over 500 fans.
Smith, who was in high school when the last Lilith Fair concerts happened, said she was excited for months when she first heard about the concerts.
“They really put together a dream line-up, for a fierce, feminist rocking good time,” Smith said. “I was particularly excited by Mary J. Blidge, Erykah Badu, the Gossip, Loretta Lynn, Heart, the Go-Gos…the list goes on [and] I have been anticipating buying tickets and taking off work for months.”
Smith said after she heard on Monday about the $1 donation from ticket sales her first thought was that this was a great idea. “I live in Minneapolis, so naturally, I clicked on that city first and immediately red flags went up when I saw ‘Metro Women’s Center,’” Smith said.
The Metro Women’s Center, whose mission is described on Lilith’s own voting page, is a crisis pregnancy center.
The Metro Women’s Center is described as follows: “To actively promote and maintain the sanctity of human life through educating women and the community at large about pregnancy alternatives so that informed decisions concerning the outcome of pregnancy may be made. We desire to do this by respecting the lives of both the mother and the child equally. We believe that the answer to a problem or unplanned pregnancy is not to abort the child, but to seek alternatives which allow both parties to live.”
Smith said her friend Katie Blair in Indianapolis almost immediately contacted her and noticed Life Centers, another crisis pregnancy center, was listed on the voting page for her city. As the women note on their Facebook protest page:
The Indianapolis voting page describes Life Centers, an anti-choice CPC which seems to be even less interested in covering up the fact that they do not support choice – “We empower women in unplanned pregnancies to make informed decisions about themselves and their future by offering pregnancy testing, confidential counseling services, information about abortion alternatives, and referrals.”
The two women then looked over the list of charities and found others with notable anti-choice missions. On their Facebook page they write that one questionable choice in Atlanta:
… a Beacon of Hope Women’s Center, Inc., offers a key component to many CPCs: a free ultrasound accompanied by misleading information about safe and legal abortion procedures. A Beacon of Hope freely admits on their website that, “We do not offer or refer for abortion services.” The description on the Lilith Fair voting page reads (without any correction to spacing edits),”A Beacon of Hope is a counseling center for women who have unexpectedly become pregnant.”
And in Seattle:
…a decidedly anti-choice (though NOT a CPC), organization is also being considered for funding. The Seattle voting page reads as follows: “The New Beginnings Home AKA ADOPTION MINISTRY OF YOUTH WITH A MISSION. For twenty-five years, New Beginnings Home has been available to help young mothers who have chosen life for their babies. Do you know someone who is facing an unplanned pregnancy who perhaps is alone, rejected or just needs a place to live? New Beginnings is a safe haven where unconditional love and friendship are the norm and woman can plan what is best for themselves and their babies while having their physical and emotional needs cared for.”
Smith said there are also “group homes” for pregnant teens and adults on the list of charities including Mother’s Refuge in Kansas City and Our Lady’s Inn in St. Louis that offer “such things as bible studies, adoption counseling, etc.”
It’s not clear if any of the charities on Lilith voting page were even notified that they were nominated to possibly receive any funds from the Lilith Tour.
Reached by telephone Colleen Tronson, director of the Metro Women’s Center in Minneapolis, said she didn’t know anything about the Lilith Tour nor that her organization had been nominated for the contest of charities.
“I get a lot of spam email so it’s possible I might have missed something,” Tronson said.
Jessica Hopper, writing for the Chicago Reader, reached a director at Beacon of Hope in Atlanta who declined to comment but said they didn’t know what Lilith Tour was. A communications director for Life Centers in Indianapolis also declined to comment but mentioned she “saw an email” from Lilith Tour but didn’t know anything about the music festival or a contest. She referred us to the organization’s lawyer who did not return RH Reality Check’s call.
So how was the initial list of charities created? It’s possible that mere google searching might have been involved.
The Chicago Reader asked Nettwerk CEO and Lilith cofounder Terry McBride how the list of charities was drawn up.
“The seeding at the start was done with a basic digital search in each market of woman’s charities,” he said. “It’s not perfect. Nor could it be, as we simply don’t have the local expertise even within our own city of Vancouver.” McBride insists that the intent of the contest is to have each community help Lilith select a worthy recipient. The “seeding” he refers to, aka the initial vetting step, consisted of looking online for woman-focused organizations with federal tax ID numbers. He claims no other criteria were employed.
On Tuesday afternoon the organizers behind the Lilith Tour pulled the list of charities from their Facebook page but restored them by 7 p.m. EST with a statement.
The Lilith organizers opened the local charity selection process up to the public because we strongly value and respect your input, and feel you should have a voice in what your money will support. We understand that no one knows these communities better than those who reside in them. In the coming days, we’ll open up this selection process even further by allowing you to suggest charities you feel should be recognized and included in the Choose Your Charity campaign. Stay tuned for more information.
The Chicago Reader asked how the Lilith Tour organization, which had been historically viewed as pro-choice so much that in 1999 the anti-choice group Feminists For Life complained that they were barred from exhibiting materials during the concert, could include anti-choice organizations on their list of charities.
McBride insists that the Lilith organization hasn’t changed its principles and that it didn’t “purposefully” select the anti-choice groups featured on the Facebook voting site. He says the organizers haven’t even read the mission statements that appear there. “What is posted are the results of the most cursory search, and it’s really up to each community to help us decide,” he says. “We aren’t the experts, and so it needs to be up to people working in those communities.”
However the vote itself will not determine which charity is selected. The Lilith Tour webpage notes: “The Lilith founders—Sarah McLachlan, Terry McBride, Dan Fraser and Marty Diamond—will hand pick the local charity winners from the top three charities with the most votes in each city.”
Becky Smith and Katie Blair are hoping Lilith Tour organizers will change their mind about including any anti-choice charity in the round of voting.
“We want to see a complete break between Lilith Fair and the CPCs,” Smith said. “We are requesting that the CPCs be removed completely from the ballot and selection process. While we believe in democratic systems, we are concerned that, even through a democratic process such as voting, Lilith [Tour] is condoning such actions as misinforming, lying [to] and deceiving women, all of which stand in direct opposition to a ‘Celebration of Women.’”
“Further,” Smith added, “We believe that placing CPCs on the ballot legitimizes their negligent practices, and gives them parity with organizations that strive to provide essential services such as homeless and domestic violence shelters, youth organizations and family planning clinics.”
Smith said she has been trying to reach out, via Twitter and Facebook, to various musicians scheduled to play Lilith Tour cities about the inclusion of crisis pregnancy centers on the charity list. “I personally left a message on the Gossip’s Facebook wall as I know that the lead singer, Beth Ditto, is a strong pro-choice advocate,” Smith said.