Face the music: Lilith Fair's abortion debacle

April 9, 2010 09:00 AM

Guest commentary by Erik Whittington

Lilith Fair is a traveling music festival of female solo artists and female-led bands cofounded by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan. During the summers of 1997 through 1999, Lilith Fair was considered one of the top-grossing tours in the world, entertaining more than 1.5 million fans. It also raised $10 million for women’s charities in North America during this time. 
McLachlan is a famous Canadian folk rock artist who is known as much for her causes as her mesmerizing ballads. One such cause she supports is Rock for Choice, an organization that spreads its anti-life message through music and raises funds for pro-abortion groups.

Rock for Life developed fliers that groups across the country downloaded, printed, copied and distributed in massive numbers at Lilith Fairs to inform attendees of the pro-abortion bias. This was an excellent opportunity to bring the pro-life message to an audience that desperately needed to hear it. During these efforts, individuals reported to us what they witnessed inside a Lilith Fair. Abortion advocates had plenty of informational booths while pro-life groups and pregnancy help centers, especially, were denied space. So-called sex education booths were rampant, spreading their sexually immoral messages to the young audiences. Some even reported women parading around topless as a sign of their feminism. 

Many high profile and pro-abortion artists headlined Lilith Fair in the past, including but not limited to Bonnie Raitt, Joan Osbourne, Sheryl Crow, Indigo Girls, Dixie Chicks, Christina Aguilera, Aimee Mann and many others.  Some pro-life artists (Kendall Payne, Sixpence None The Richer) and Christian artists (Jennifer Knapp, Ginny Owens) were granted side stages. At least there is a small silver lining to the story so far, huh?

This summer, Lilith is coming back with another big lineup of musical talent, but not without controversy. On March 30, Lilith announced a “Choose Your Charity” contest. Since Lilith organizers want to support local, regional and national women’s advocacy groups at each show, they performed a database search, came up with a number of groups and posted them online for the public to choose which one they should support. Lilith executives will then take the top three vote getters from each city and decide which advocacy group would receive one dollar from each ticket sold on that event date.

This is where the controversy begins. To the pro-life movement’s surprise, listed among the group of charities were eight organizations that were either pregnancy help centers or maternity homes. Did Sarah McLachlan or one of the other organizers have a conversion?

Although a conversion would obviously have been fantastic, it seemed unlikely. Was this some kind of oversight then? Immediately, the pro-abortion groups and their followers went on a campaign to remove the pregnancy care centers from the list. You know, these are the very people who like to call themselves “pro-choice.” But I guess when it comes to offering something other than abortion, such as a free ultrasound, diapers, cribs, maternity clothes and other items for young mothers in need, the choice doesn’t really exist. As the Chicago Reader’s Melissa Hopper reported:

Minneapolis and Indianapolis fans are given the option of supporting Metro Women’s Center and Life Centers 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.

... [Nettwork CEO and Lilith cofounder Terry] 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."

Three days later, Lilith officials removed the pregnancy care centers from the list. We don’t know for sure if they buckled under the pressure, but the timing does speak volumes. And according to Rachel Larris, a blogger for RH Reality Check, NARAL Pro Choice North Carolina was also dropped from the list. Lilith also left four maternity homes on the list. So there is another small silver lining. I don’t think any pro-lifers really believed that the pregnancy help centers would make the final cut. It definitely would have been interesting to see how many votes they would have received. Now, with the pro-abortion crowd already riled up, will these maternity homes make the final cut?

So who or what is Lilith? According to Jewish folklore, Lilith is a night demon. The Kabbalah describes Lilith as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Some other accounts place her as Adam’s first wife—somewhat of a hero to feminists because she left him. Lilith is called a disruptor of marital relations, someone who harms pregnant mothers (abortion?) and women in general, and one who harms newborns, especially male children. She also appears as a screech owl in Isaiah 34:14 in the King James translation of the Holy Bible.

So why name your musical adventure after such a creature? Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but could it be a subliminal nod to the abortion advocates?

As a parent whose children are slowly creeping up on the “tween” years, I am becoming more and more sensitive to things like this. I am protective and I should be. And so should you! Arm yourself with knowledge. One day, my unknowing children may wish to attend Lilith Fair. I will have to tell them no.

Erik Whittington is the director of Rock for Life.

Back to news