Crisis Pregnancy Centers v. Abortion Clinics
Victoria Garaitonandia Gisondi
Megan Burbank, who describes herself as a “repro health” reporter, recently wrote an edgy little piece in the Portland Mercury in which she calls an unborn child “a clump of pulsing organic matter” and pro-lifers “squishy fetus doll propagandists.” No, it’s not satire. Some people believe when prolifers accuse pro-choicers of referring to the preborn as “clumps,” they are exaggerating in order to vilify the other side. Nobody could really be that misinformed, they think. Well, think again. To her credit, “pulsing organic matter” is a step up from the more familiar “clump of tissue.” At least one can infer from “pulsing” that the “matter” is alive.
Burbank’s piece mostly concerns the alleged incompetence of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)—or pregnancy resource centers as they are now often called—which, she writes, “lure women in with the promise of free pregnancy testing then try to coerce them into staying pregnant with misinformation about abortion.” It seems that employees at two pregnancy centers, Burbank goes on, mistakenly identified IUDs as babies in their ultrasound readings. Let’s be clear, misidentifying an IUD as a child is a pretty big error. Though Burbank didn’t link to any stories about these alleged occurrences, there is a 2015 Ebony story online citing one incidence at a California clinic. With thousands of pregnancy centers operating in the US today, that is hardly an alarming statistic.
Crisis pregnancy centers are nonprofits that provide help to women with unplanned pregnancies. Help can take the form of free pregnancy testing, counseling, diapers, formula, clothing, job placement, housing, etc. An increasing number of these centers are medical clinics offering services like STI testing and treatment, as well as ultrasounds. More recently, fully licensed medical establishments like Guiding Star, which provides prenatal, gynecological, and obstetrical care, are popping up. While the level of services at centers vary, the one thing no CPC will do is direct women towards abortion, a procedure they believe is both wrong and harmful.
Burbank and other pro-choice advocates take the ludicrous position that pro-life pregnancy centers have no right to advertise or even to exist unless they mirror abortion clinics’ activities. The country’s leading pro-abortion group, NARAL ProChoice America, claims a woman who sees an advertisement like “Pregnant & Alone? Know Your Options,” may not know that she is calling a Christian-based resource center instead of an abortion clinic. Not fair, says NARAL, because the woman has been misled. But a woman seeking an abortion who discovers there are none to be had at a pro-life pregnancy center can simply walk out the door! What is unfair about that? Women can’t be coerced to stay pregnant by visiting a crisis pregnancy center. Are counselors forbidding them to leave, or chaining women in dungeons for nine months?
What NARAL and others who feel threatened by CPCs are really displaying is a condescending attitude towards women, apparently believing that women who encounter persuasive “pro-birthers” are too weak to seek out pro-choice venues. NARAL accuses pro-life pregnancy centers of getting women in the door under false pretenses, of fudging gestational age on ultrasounds, of fear mongering, of putting healthy pregnancies at risk (um, how?). Oh, yes, and of being federally funded. Actually, what their complaint amounts to is that pro-life centers have taken a page out of their own playbook. No other federally funded organization has been blamed for lies, fear-mongering, fudging numbers, and putting healthy pregnancies at risk quite like the abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
It is possible abortion proponents’ real beef is that pro-life pregnancy centers are taking precious business away from abortion clinics. These places work. Some women, when shown alternatives to abortion, when made aware of all their choices, change their minds. Many of them do so after seeing ultrasound images of their baby.
Let women decide whether they want to stay pregnant with their clumps of pulsing organic matter or not. Those who profess to believe in “choice” should welcome competition and recognize the invaluable service pregnancy centers offer. Their mission is to make women feel welcomed, unafraid, supported, and empowered rather than single-mindedly ushering them into abortion factories on a conveyor belt.
When it comes to reporting on issues that affect women’s health, Burbank and other “repro” health reporters who share her views would be wise to recognize that vilifying CPCs only serves to limit women’s options.