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Minneapolis and Indianapolis fans are given the option of supporting Metro Women's Center and Indianapolis Life Center, respectively—institutions whose approach to women's reproductive health services (especially birth control and abortion) is guided by an explicitly anti-choice agenda. Several other cities, including Atlanta and Seattle, have potential beneficiaries that offer so-called abortion alternatives and faith-driven pregnancy counseling.
When asked to comment about this apparent change in tack for the historically pro-choice Lilith Fair, the festival organizers had this to say via their publicist at Nettwerk, Danielle Romeo: "The primary focus of the selection process will be on those organizations that provide shelter to women in need. We want the fans to have a voice in the selection, and we will strongly consider all feedback on these selected charities when making the final decisions."
I pressed Nettwerk CEO and Lilith cofounder Terry McBride about the selection process for Lilith Fair's charities. "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.
When I contacted the heads and marketing directors of several Lilith-selected organizations in Portland and Austin, they said they hadn't even been told they were candidates. The director of A Beacon of Hope, a "pregnancy and relationship resources" center near Atlanta that counsels pregnant women on the "spiritual consequences" of abortion, among other things, didn't know what Lilith Fair was and declined to comment.
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."
Ultimately, though, the Lilith organization will choose each city's beneficiary, not Facebook voters. According to the festival's Web site, "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." Within the next week, an additional feature will be added to the Facebook voting page so that organizations not currently featured can self-submit for consideration.