‘When I Needed Help, I Got Propaganda’
DEFENDERS of “crisis pregnancy centers” are converging on Capitol Hill this week to lobby for increased support from the government, brandishing not picket signs, but babies.
The centers portray themselves as nonpartisan health and counseling clinics, but in fact they oppose abortion, and sometimes even family planning, and push a political agenda on vulnerable women. A Congressional investigation in 2006 found that 87 percent of the centers surveyed provided false or misleading medical information. Nonetheless, the government has given over $9.3 million in grants to these centers since 2007 — mostly under the Bush administration. Cities like San Francisco and New York have recently sought to crack down on their deceptive marketing and others have called for an increase in regulations.
Still, supporters of the centers and the “Babies Go to Congress” campaign claim they are promoting a pro-woman agenda.
I am intimately aware of how false that is. Like many young women, I found myself facing an unintended pregnancy. Two years ago, as a junior in college with ambitious career goals, I knew that continuing the pregnancy wasn’t an option for me. I called the local Planned Parenthood and made an appointment for an abortion for a week and a half later. The operator I spoke to encouraged me to spend time thinking over my decision and considering all my options.
I tried to do that. Because my communication with Planned Parenthood had been over the phone and the nearest office was in Iowa City, about an hour away from where I lived, I searched online for somewhere nearby where I could ask questions in person. I found Aid to Women, a center in Cedar Rapids that claimed to provide confidential counseling and abortion information. I knew it didn’t perform abortions, but I still went expecting to get unbiased medical advice.
When I walked in, I knew almost immediately that I’d been wrong. Though the volunteers wore scrubs, none of them were medical professionals. They insisted on calling my pregnancy my “baby” and my “child.” The intake questions included, “What is your relationship to Jesus Christ?”
The “counseling” that I received included the following: I was cautioned that abortions caused breast cancer, even though the National Cancer Institute has found serious flaws in all research that suggests so. I was warned that I would inevitably suffer from post-abortion stress syndrome, even though the American Psychological Association says there is no evidence of increased mental health problems among women who have an abortion in the first trimester. I was told that I would not hear this information from doctors, because doctors make money performing abortions and would lie about the procedure’s risks.
Even as a college student familiar with the abortion debate from studying political science, I left the center with a lot of confusion. I researched what I’d been told, found out that much of it was inaccurate, and got the help I needed at Planned Parenthood. But I can see how easy it would be for more vulnerable women to be manipulated into feeling dependent on these centers.