By Miriam Cordova
In Charlotte, North Carolina, abortion clinics have become a site of struggle for working class and oppressed women. Cities4Life, an anti-abortion organization headed by brothers David and Jason Benham, strives to cut off women’s access to abortion in various reactionary campaigns.
In addition to being on their board, chairman David Benham has been accredited, along with his wife Lori, with establishing the Cities4Life movement, which exists in five cities (Charlotte NC, Nashville TN, Tampa Bay FL, Lexington KY, and “North Jersey”).
These campaigns include the daily harassment of women outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte, an abortion clinic on Latrobe Drive on the city’s east side. The protesters, who sources claim are paid to be there every day, surround the clinic with their aborted-fetus photograph signs and pamphlets to disgust and shame the women and heckle their every move.
Cities4Life’s anti-abortion women attempt to deceive the women heading into the clinic by claiming to be nurses and even coercing them into ultrasound buses parked in front of the clinic.
In 2018, Cities4Life mustered crowds of over 2000 anti-abortion activists on Latrobe at the height of their protesting season before outdoor temperatures dropped. During the winter, there is a lull in their numbers but a handful still remain camped out on the sidewalk of the clinic every day until the beginning of March when their crowds pick back up again.
There have been progressive organizations holding the post against Charlotte’s anti-abortion activists for years, showing women the way into the clinic to clear the confusion, but the Benham brothers and their supporters are not going to stop until an organized force makes them stop. The struggle against them can no longer be on their terms, which is right outside the clinic. The fight must be brought to their doorsteps.
The women’s struggle cannot be separate from the struggle against capitalism. The Benham Brothers are not only anti-woman zealots, they are capitalists. Both former professional baseball players, their real estate companies have been highly ranked among the top national lists. They have various subsidiaries for their real estate empire including Benham Real Estate Group, Benham Real Estate LLC, Benham Signature Properties, Redwood United, etc., some of which specialize in selling foreclosed properties.
Companies such as these are virtually no different from nonprofits to begin with in that companies support capitalism materially while nonprofits justify capitalism ideologically through charity work. In this case, the company and the nonprofit work together to directly result in a blatant form of women’s oppression. Not only do the cities of the Benham companies overlap with some of the cities they harass women seeking abortions in, but according to their anti-abortion website, “Their family company, the Benham Companies, currently provides significant funding to Cities4Life.”
In addition to devoting most of their time to anti-woman activities, the Benham Bros have dabbled in campaigning against LGBTQ rights such as gay marriage. They do all this using the money they earn from their real estate ventures and gentrification.
After having filmed some of their HGTV show “Flip it Forward” in 2014, airing of the series was cancelled after circulation of a right-wing watch article pointed to David Benham’s condemnation of “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation” during a prayer service on the eve of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
But David Benham’s vile hatred of women’s rights did not start after this notorious HGTV cancellation. In 2013 a video surfaced of him celebrating the closing of the same Latrobe abortion clinic, something his organization had pushed for. During this celebration he announced the purchase of their second ultrasound bus, which he said would be camped outside the clinic’s “gates of hell” daily.
It is not difficult to see why the Benham Brothers are attractive to the average conservative who is against political correctness. Their TV show was cancelled merely for words they had said rather than the material action they have historically taken to head an anti-woman movement. Their response to this cancellation was, “If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.”
Choice does not exist in a vacuum. Women who make the choice to keep their fetuses after entering one of the Benham’s buses are coerced into this choice. The Benham Bros’ relentless assault on abortion rights qualifies as more than just the actions of the average conservative. A short article quote was enough to cancel their TV show, and their income earning projects must be stained with the anti-woman crimes they commit on a national level daily which are headquartered in Charlotte.
The only way to put a dent in their anti-woman ventures is to attack their source of income for these projects. The name Benham should be synonymous with anti-abortion in professional circles and their services should be boycotted in solidarity with women.