We’ve covered Crisis Pregnancy Centers quite a bit here on Feministe, and regular readers are probably aware of their deceptive, manipulative and sometimes dangerous practices. Tina Dupuy’s investigation into Los Angeles County CPCs reveals that these centers haven’t changed their ways, despite increasing exposure.
Avenues is a California primary clinic, fully licensed and accredited by the state. So exactly what kind of medical facility lures women with the promise of free pregnancy tests and leaves them fearing eternal damnation?
A 2006 article in The New York Times says there are anywhere from 2,300 to 3,500 of these religious-themed clinics, often referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers,” nationwide, compared with around 1,800 abortion providers. Planned Parenthood has 15 clinics in the LA area. LifeCall.org, a pro-life resource Web site, mentions 25 or more centers in the same area.
Typically, as is the case with Avenues, the religious intentions of these clinics-in-name-only aren’t publicly displayed on their sign or even on their disclosure forms. They intentionally camouflage themselves to look like medical facilities, following the advice of Robert Pearson, who — after Hawaii decriminalized abortion in 1967 — started the first crisis pregnancy center in Honolulu to combat it. The Pearson Foundation Manual, “How to Start and Operate Your Own Pro-Life Outreach Crisis Pregnancy Center,” published in 1984, is still used today as a blueprint. Pearson writes, “Obviously, we’re fighting Satan. A killer, who in this case is the girl who wants to kill her baby, has no right to information that will help her kill her baby.”
In other words, it’s a-ok to lie and mislead women — and even compromise their physical health — if it’ll prevent them from terminating their pregnancies.
And lie they do. At the one CPC that Dupuy visited, she was told that (1) you can only take RU-486 (mifepristone, the “abortion pill”) if you’re less than 3 weeks pregnant; (2) viruses can seep through latex; (3) the FDA is under investigation for approving RU-486; (4) 30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage; (5) because 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, she needs to get an ultrasound to see if the fetus is viable — she was then handed forms saying that no information she receives from the CPC should be considered a “clinical diagnosis.”
“Marketing should be 100 percent truthful,” says Dan Steiner, president of Avenues, when reached by phone.
Is Avenues 100 percent truthful? Says Steiner, “Absolutely.”
Mission Pre-Born (MP), is Steiner’s broad nonprofit. Its stewardship guidelines read, “Full disclosure [walking in the light] is our practice.” His “vision” is to bring more “fully disclosed” crisis pregnancy centers to LA County in what he likes to call the “Miracle Campaign.”
However, when asked about the cryptic forms that state that none of the tests should be considered a clinical diagnosis, Steiner responds, “I’m not aware of the form.”
Steiner, who could be entered in a Ross Perot look-alike contest, explains Avenues tactics and hopes for a new clinic in Hollywood on a fundraising video on the MP Web site: “This is the front door of Los Angeles City College. All the students come out here and if they have a suspicion that they have an unplanned pregnancy, day after day they will see our sign, ‘Free Pregnancy Test,’ right across the street. They’ll see it before they see Planned Parenthood; they’ll see it before they see the abortion clinic. Then they walk out and there it will be and BANG!” He slaps his hands together. “We’ve captured that woman before the abortionist does!”
Bang? We’ve captured that woman?
“Capture their attention,” Steiner attempts to clarify. Minutes later the video is taken down from the Web.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers are licensed medical clinics. They receive state and federal funding, and yet they provide absolutely no actual health services. Even more disturbing is the fact that they go through the motions of performing pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, which can lead women to believe that they’re actually receiving competent medical care. In fact, most of the people who perform ultrasounds at CPCs don’t actually know how to read them — so women believe that they’ve had a proper ultrasound done, when in fact the CPC employees can’t really tell them anything beyond, “There’s your baby!”. For uninsured and under-insured women it’s particularly problematic, as they’re going to be a heck of a lot less likely to voluntarily repeat a medical procedure as costly as an ultrasound if they think they’ve already had one.
Dupuy’s conclusion says it all:
It’s usually safe to assume that medical clinics provide medical care. But if you have the capacity to bear children, those rules apparently don’t apply. If a cancer clinic were run as a Christian Scientist front there would be anger.
There would be disgust. It would be shut down. But the distraught woman in dire circumstances — “a killer who in this case is the girl” — being routinely defrauded because she “has no right to information” has gone unnoticed by the general public.
As I walk down the street back to my car, I glance at one of the abstinence flyers Melissa gave me during her oversharing session.
“True love,” it says, “protects 100 percent of the time.”
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