When I spotted the purple-and-white signboard for ArborWoman resting on the sidewalk, its graceful script advertising free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, I turned to my mother. “I will bet you money that’s a CPC,” I said, committing the center’s website to memory so I could look up its website when we got home. And sure enough, once I clicked onto the clinic’s web page about “post-abortion syndrome,” my suspicions were confirmed.
CPC supporters defend their clinics by claiming that they are just providing assistance and options for pregnant women. Yet it is undeniable that crisis pregnancy clinics spread misinformation to people that, quite reasonably, come in expecting help. There is no scientific evidence that abortion causes mental health problems, for instance, yet ArborWoman lists “suicidal thoughts” and “suicide attempts,” along with a host of other mental health issues, as symptoms that women may experience after an abortion. Legislators are starting to pay attention to CPCs’ deceptive practices: Austin and Baltimore have passed laws requiring the CPCs disclose what services they actually provide; New York and San Francisco are considering similar regulations.
When I worked in direct service, I heard plenty of stories about CPCs from women who were drawn in by the promise of free ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, by the words “choice” and “options.” They thought that they were going somewhere that would help them, but instead experienced harassment, lies, and judgment. It wasn’t unheard of for women to be forced to watch graphic films, be asked about their religious beliefs, and even have their confidentiality violated.
And that’s what really bothers me about CPCs – well, along with the fact that they often receive state funding. And that a fair number are staffed by people who lack medical training yet are doling out medical advice and reading ultrasounds. But it’s the fact that they apparently have such little faith in the strength of their own message that they resort to such devious and manipulative tactics. I know that if a woman really wants to have an abortion, visiting a CPC won’t change her mind. But it’s disgusting that these clinics even exist, much less that they masquerade as unbiased and respectful sources of information.
I don’t know how long ArborWoman will stick around. After all, even this liberal bubble has protestors outside the Planned Parenthood on Saturday mornings. But winter comes early to the Midwest, so at least that sign will be obscured by snow before too much longer.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.