The New York Times has an article today on the quieter side of the anti-choice movement — Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The article makes the centers sound a whole lot peachier than they actually are, but can’t avoid the fact that the very purpose of these centers is to lie, mislead, and coerce women. It starts out focusing on “post-abortion recovery” groups which, honestly, I don’t have quite as much a problem with. The fact is that some women do feel depressed after abortion, and we have to acknowledge that. If these women seek out religious healing, then that’s their business. More pro-choice groups are recognizing that some women who have abortions, just like some women who give birth, do experience depression or other psychological side effects. There’s at least one group in New York called Exhale which focuses on non-judgmental services for women and those close to them after abortion. It recognizes that some women may be struggling, and that while the majority of women report feeling relieved after abortion and experience no negative psychological consequences, we shouldn’t ignore those who may need to talk to someone but who don’t need to hear that they’re evil baby-killers or sinners who should repent, or at least feel very guilty.
We should also ask, why are some of these women feeling guilty? Perhaps because “pro-life” people have convinced them that abortion is an evil, shameful thing that they’re expected to forever repent for?
Of course, the crisis pregnancy center in the Times article doesn’t offer groups for women suffering from post-partum depression, because having a baby makes every woman happy.
There are between 2,300 and 3,500 crisis pregnancy centers nation-wide, compared to 1800 abortion clinics. They’re funded with millions of dollars. They don’t focus on things like contraception access, which would prevent future unintended pregnancies. Instead, they lay down black-and-white judgments, treat women like children who need coercive direction into “doing the right thing,” and mislead them about basic medical facts (not that we should be surprised, given the anti-choice penchant for lying to women).
Nicole Embry, 21, said her boyfriend wanted her to have an abortion, but she was already having nightmares about it. A counselor, Theresa Skeeters, recorded her information on a clipboard. “The decision you make is going to affect your entire life,” Mrs. Skeeters told Ms. Embry. “I know from experience from someone dear to my heart who made a choice for abortion, I know the pain she’s going through, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I can testify, it doesn’t go away.”
Danielle, 18, said her boyfriend and her mother wanted her to have an abortion, but she did not want to. She said that if her boyfriend insisted, she might give in, although abortion was against her values. Danielle and several other women interviewed did not want their last names to be used for privacy reasons.
“How would you feel toward him if you did abort?” asked Hollie Colwick, a registered diagnostic medical sonographer, showing Danielle an ultrasound image of her uterus on a television screen, and playing the fetal heartbeat on an audio speaker. “Would you feel you killed your baby because of him?”
Christ. Now, I deeply believe that if a woman wants to give birth and doesn’t want to have an abortion, it’s coercive and wrong for her family or boyfriend or whoever to pressure her. These two women seem fairly certain of what they want to do, and they should be supported in their choice. But telling them that abortion is universally painful and the psychological effects don’t ever go away, or that she’s contemplating killing her baby, is highly inappropriate. It would be equally inappropriate for a counselor to try and convince her to have an abortion when she clearly doesn’t want it, and I’m sure these “pro-lifers” would agree — yet they don’t see the hypocrisy in their own actions.
A Woman’s Choice links the church to a national network of crisis pregnancy centers and postabortion groups that share marketing strategies, legal advice and literature emphasizing what they say are the harmful effects of abortion – including increased risk of breast cancer and a psychological condition called postabortion syndrome, which are considered scientifically unsupported by the National Cancer Institute and the American Psychological Association.
In other words, they lie. There is no such thing as “post abortion syndrome” recognized by the American Psychological association. The abortion-breast cancer link has been thoroughly debunked.
Over a two-day period at the center, the message to women was consistent: abortion was psychologically and physically damaging, and God would help provide for their children, however difficult the women’s straits, and in the short term, the center would supply some necessities.
In other words, they really lie. And they conveniently omit the fact that pregnancy isn’t exactly a walk in the part (and is statistically much more dangerous than abortion, and for many women has significant psychological effects). “You might be depressed after giving birth” isn’t a great argument against childbirth as a practice — and it’s certainly not a very good one against abortion, either. It’s even worse when these groups argue that you will be depressed after abortion — can you imagine a post-partum depression awareness group telling pregnant women that, if they do go through with their pregnancy, they will absolutely be depressed to the point of suicide and will likely have severe physical complications that might kill them? There would be outrage, because it’s not acceptable to lie to people about the basic facts of certain medical procedures. And yet somehow, these folks justify it.
And telling women that “we’ll help you for a while and then God will provide” is ridiculous. Sorry, but God doesn’t always provide. Shit happens, and things fall apart. Giving pregnant women some maternity clothes and a pack of diapers doesn’t solve their problems. Of course, in most cases, neither does abortion — but pro-choice groups never claim that abortion is a cure-all the way that anti-choice groups push childbirth and parenting as if it was an easy and magical adventure for everyone who goes through it.
Like many crisis pregnancy centers, A Woman’s Choice is designed to look and feel like a medical center, not a religion-based organization with an agenda. Becky Edmondson, the executive director, said the center chose the look and name to reach women who were bombarded with pressures to abort and might think they had no other choice.
If callers ask how much the center charges to perform an abortion, Lisa Arnold, a counselor and leader of the postabortion group, said: “I say, ‘It changes, but why don’t you come in for an ultrasound and we’ll talk about it.’ You don’t want to deceive them, but you want a chance to talk to them.” Once women come to the center, staff members – who oppose abortion even in cases involving rape and incest – encourage them to make further appointments, and refer them to doctors who share the center’s views on abortion.
In other words, they really really lie. The price of an abortion at their clinic doesn’t change — they don’t offer abortions, and if they had an ethical bone in their bodies they would tell women that up front. And the line about not wanting to deceive them is crap — they purposely deceive women. The quote from her shows exactly how she deceives them. That’s their business practice.
I would give them a lot more credit if they actually respected women, were honest, and believed in the personal autonomy of others. I would love to see more centers providing services for low-income pregnant women, for single parents and low-income families, and for adoption and foster care. But tricking women into coming to the center by claiming to offer all options, purposely putting off their appointment so that their pregnancy progesses as far as possible, claiming that they will always have the necessary financial resources to survive with children, and telling them unequivocally that they will suffer extreme emotional and physical consequences if they have an abortion (and if they don’t, there’s something wrong with them) is simply inexcusable. It’s not any more “pro-woman” than the rest of the anti-choice movement. It sees women as vessels through which to create more babies, which the mainstream “pro-life” right-wing political movement has no interest in feeding, educating, housing, or otherwise taking care of. Because they’re so life-affirming.
While my ideal would involve an organization that catered to women who make all different choices, I can respect the anti-choice need to create centers like these. But the lies and the coercion are abhorent, and they should be ashamed.
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