Last week, John Oliver on the Late Show did a segment on Crisis Pregnancy Centers. You know what those are, right? They are the alternative to abortion clinics. Christian organizations set them up to provide women with the information and alternatives to abortions. And they can be great!! My husband used to be on the board of a CPC and they did a lot of good work.
But, the pro-life movement and CPCs can have problems, particularly with honesty. We get so caught up with trying to get women to continue their pregnancies that truth gets left by the side of the road.
It can start with the name. Many centers try to avoid sounding like a Crisis Pregnancy Center and many actually want to sound like an abortion clinic, using names with “Choice” in them. And the websites can make it very unclear about whether or not they actually provide abortions.
The goal is to get women into the clinic. So, when someone calls to ask about abortion, they get stone-walled. The clinic personnel want the caller to come in to the clinic. Once the client is in the clinic, it is easier for the counselors to try to convince them not to have the abortion. Unfortunately, it’s rather disingenuous to refuse to give office hours or answer basic questions over the phone.
Abortion counseling can also be deceptive. This is what is most problematic to me as a physician. Women have been told that it is more dangerous to have an abortion than it is to carry a baby to term. False. For the mother, there are more risks to full-term pregnancy than to an early abortion. Other counseling myths include that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer and that having an abortion decreases fertility.
Other ways that people (particularly evangelical Christians) have tried to make abortion more difficult for women is through TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). These are laws that apply to abortion clinics and providers but not other medical providers. For example, in Texas, there was a law proposed to make abortion clinics meet the same standards as same-day surgery clinics despite the fact that they were performing procedures that are similar to those outpatient clinics perform (that is, no anesthesia, no operating room, etc.), not same-day surgery clinics. Arizona is trying to pass a law that would require a woman to state why she is having an abortion, as if that is the state's business. Doctors in many states are also required to read women a script about the risks of abortion, often including the risk of breast cancer, which has been shown to be false.
Another way that CPCs can be deceptive (and that angers me as a physician) is that they often give incorrect or misleading information about contraception. There is good information that contraception can lower the abortion rate, but many CPC counselors are philosophically opposed to it. This can result in them giving clients incorrect information about contraception use.
So, are CPCs bad things? Absolutely not! When I was working, I referred a number of women to our local CPC for support when they were questioning their choices in early pregnancy. But, I also knew that our local CPC was honest about abortion facts.
I know that we as evangelicals want women to carry their babies to term, but we need to be honest with women. Women aren’t stupid. If abortion is wrong, let’s say that. Abortion is wrong because it takes away an independent life. We need to make our case right there. Let’s quit telling women lies about the procedure. Let’s quit making special laws for abortion clinics “for women’s health”. Let’s quit all this nonsense. Life is worth protecting but protecting honestly.