Kim Rice and Kate Ruin are professional sex educators. E-mail them at email@example.com.
The advertising stated they exist to empower women to make informed choices. When Kate called saying she needed to find out if she was pregnant, the center staff said they could arrange a free pregnancy test and would help her to consider all of her options. If she didn’t know better, Kate would have thought she was walking into a legitimate women’s health center.
But in reality she was walking into a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), one of more than 4,000 centers nationally operated by religious anti-choice organizations with the sole purpose of using misleading information (and governmental funding) to talk women out of getting abortions.
Once a woman is lured inside, the staff use lies, intimidation and harassment to scare women into either carrying their pregnancy to term and raising the child or giving it up for adoption.
In one case in Texas, CPC staff gave a pregnant 14-year-old rape victim a baby doll and a pair of scissors and told her to cut up the doll because that is what she would be doing to the baby inside her if she got an abortion. Luckily, this young woman was accompanied by her dad who helped her escape the situation.
Here at Doin’ It Well we decided to see for ourselves what CPCs are like, so we sent Kate Ruin on an undercover mission to a CPC in the Chicago area.
When I called for an appointment they were very reluctant to give me any information until I came in person. The staff, whom I later found out were volunteers with no medical training, wore white lab coats and carried clipboards. The center had a waiting room and an intake desk. It appeared very “professional.”
FACT: CPCs try to present themselves as legitimate medical facilities, but most do not have doctors or medical personnel on staff. They offer free pregnancy tests, but only a medical doctor can confirm a pregnancy.
The woman in the lab coat asked me to follow her into a small room with a table, TV and chairs and asked me why I was there. I told her that I thought I was pregnant and wanted information on birth control as well as how to end the pregnancy.
“First things first,” said my “counselor.” She gave me a cup to collect a urine sample and told me to watch a movie for 20 minutes while she waited for the test results.
FACT: Most pregnancy tests only take a few minutes to produce results. CPCs often refuse to give women their pregnancy test results until they have watched a misleading movie about abortion.
The “educational” movie claimed that women who get abortions frequently suffer from serious side effects including hemorrhage and death.
FACT: Abortions are considered one of the safest surgeries available. A woman’s risk of dying from an abortion is much lower than the risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth.
After the movie my “counselor” launched into a diatribe about the bad things that would happen to me if I got an abortion. She told me that my boyfriend and I would break up, that I would become infertile and would never be attractive to another man. She told me if I had an abortion I would get breast cancer, that I would go to hell, and that I was being selfish for wanting to focus on my education instead of becoming a mom. She questioned what kind of person I was for having had sex in the first place.
FACT: While some of the things this woman said may happen in a person’s life, they are not going to be the result of abortion. CPC staff follow the hidden agenda of stopping women from getting an abortion in any way they can. This frequently includes shaming young women and lying to them about the social, emotional, economic and physical risks of abortion.
If you are faced with an unplanned pregnancy and want unbiased medical information before making a decision, make sure you go to a real clinic.
- Nationally, crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics 2 to 1. There are roughly 140 crisis pregnancy centers in Illinois.
- Avoid places listed under “Abortion Alternatives” in the yellow pages.
Seek out clinics that offer a full range of birth control options. If they don’t answer this clearly and unequivocally over the phone, you may want to choose a different place.
- Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Illinois go by names like Pregnancy Information Center, Birthright and Aid for Women.
- – To find a clinic close to you, check out www.ppfa.org.
- For UIUC students, McKinley offers free pregnancy tests and unbiased options counseling.