Beware of “Crisis Pregnancy Centres”

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1602-1602

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1602-1602

Yesterday I received an e-mail from some antiabortion guy, asking me to have an expose of so-called “crisis pregnancy centres” removed from the internet. How flattering that he identified me as an all-powerful pro-choice goddess. He also flattered himself, however, by imagining that I would a) recognize either him or his organization; b) give a flying fuck about his views on women’s bodies; c) take the time to read his 65-page-long attachment. Sorry misogynist dude, but I have better things to do than listen to right wing religious men who are hell bent on controlling women. Don’t worry though, Mr.-God-Likes-Me-Better-Than-You, for you would approve of at least some of my daily tasks as “properly feminine”: laundry, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, breastfeeding. Yet you would be pissed as hell by the other things I have been up to: writing books, voicing my opinion, having sex, squatting with barbells on my shoulders, sharing lady secrets with my lady friends, drinking wine while breastfeeding etc.. So what are you going to do about it? Ha. There is nothing you can do. I have just located your greatest fear and weakness and then poked it, like a Doubting Thomas.

Women will do evil, unspeakable, and foolish things unless they are properly counseled and guided by those with the proper moral fibre.

Women will do evil, unspeakable, and foolish things unless they are properly counseled and guided by those with the proper moral fibre.

And now I am going to repost the excellent report by an even bigger pro-choice goddess, Joyce Arthur, of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (www.arcc-cdac.ca). It is about so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centres,” which are also sometimes called Pregnancy Care Centres, or even names that include words that sound feminist, like choice, rights,  health, women, or options. BEWARE! These are religiously-run organizations that exist in order to prevent women from accessing abortion. They politically lobby for illegal abortion, which is always unsafe and dangerous for women, especially young and underprivileged women. As a longtime pro-choice clinic escort (from 1992-1994 in Rochester New York, and then from 2000-2007 in Fredericton, New Brunswick), I have had my fill of old and/or bigoted people who want women who seek abortions branded as criminals and thrown in jail. I have seen firsthand how so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centres try to deceive women into making appointments for counseling, promising that they will deliver neutral information, and then bombarding the women with antiabortion pictures, videos, and literature. But don’t listen to me rant about this repeatedly fraudulent and unethical behaviour, read Joyce’s report in either the short form below, or the full version in pdf.Exposing-CPCs-in-BC

 

Executive Summary – Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in BC

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By Joyce Arthur

Executive Summary: “Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in BC”Link to full report (65 pages, PDF file)

Most agencies that counsel pregnant women are actually anti-abortion Christian ministries. Their main goal is to stop women from having abortions. These centres are generally not medical facilities, and most of their “counsellors” are volunteers who are not medical professionals and have no recognized training in counselling. Some of these centres are called Crisis Pregnancy Centres or “CPCs”, although many of them have different names. (Our research report uses the term CPCs to refer to all such centres.)

CPCs far outnumber abortion clinics. There are 4,000 CPCs in the United States, compared to about 800 abortion clinics. In Canada, there are about 200 CPCs and roughly 25 abortion clinics. In BC, there are about 30 CPCs and 6 abortion clinics.

Previous studies have shown that most CPCs misinform and try to intimidate women out of having abortions. Women describe being harassed, bullied, and given blatantly false information. Counseling techniques used by CPCs frequently induce anxiety and emotional trauma in women considering abortion. Many women say their confidentiality has been violated, and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health.

We wanted to find out what these centres were doing and saying to women in BC, and whether they were engaging in the same type of deceptive or harmful practices. Indeed, we found that they tend to hide their true agenda from women, and dispense inaccurate information about abortion, some of it dangerous. They usually don’t say upfront they are religious, and may disrespect women’s spiritual values by trying to impose fundamentalist Christianity. Their counseling techniques may create confusion and stress for women considering abortion. If she’s coming to the CPC for post-abortion counseling, the counseling is designed to make a woman feel guilty for killing her baby, requiring her to personify and mourn her fetus before she can obtain forgiveness from God.

We hired a doctor, medical researcher, and counselor to go through a Training Manual used by many CPCs in Canada to train their “counsellors.” There were serious inaccuracies and distortions found in many areas. For example, abortion methods are described incompletely and inaccurately, and usually in inflammatory ways. Several methods are described that are not even used in Canada. There is an over-emphasis on later abortion methods, which are always rare. Some other false claims in the manual include:

  • Abortion results in many serious physical complications, including perforation of the uterus, laceration of the cervix, infection, and hemorrhage. It’s strongly implied that these complications are routine and frequent, with no mention that the probability of a serious complication is very low.
  • Abortion leads to a higher risk of breast cancer and infertility.
  • In future pregnancies, abortion leads to higher rates of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and placenta previa.
  • In most women, abortion causes “post-abortion syndrome”, a form of post-traumatic stress that leads to such things as depression, nightmares, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Contraception has a high failure rate, and condoms do not protect adequately against sexually transmitted diseases.

We conducted various other activities to find out more about CPCs and their influence in communities across BC.

  • We called and visited CPCs posing as pregnant women or mothers of pregnant women. They provided us with the same types of misinformation on abortion as in the Volunteer Training Manual.
  • We sent a survey to women’s centres and other community groups to find out how much staff knew about their local CPCs, and what impact they had on women and communities. Many centres were unaware of the CPCs and their agenda. Those that knew about them often reported that their clients had had negative experiences there.
  • We phoned almost 300 walk-in medical clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals throughout BC, posing as a pregnant woman who wants an abortion, to test if they referred appropriately to an abortion clinic or a pro-choice family planning service. The majority of healthcare agencies did not refer appropriately for abortion, and a few even referred our caller to a CPC.
  • We visited many Women’s Centres, family planning clinics, and public health nurses across BC. We talked to them about the local availability of abortion and family planning services, and if women encountered problems finding services. We also provided information to them so they could refer women appropriately for abortions.

 

As a result of the findings, suggested recommendations and future goals include:

  • Stop deceptive advertising and false representations of CPCs in the media.
  • Remove CPCs from referral lists used by the medical profession or social services.
  • Ensure that the medical profession and social services have accurate information so they can refer women for abortion appropriately.
  • Create more pro-choice counselling in communities, both options and post-abortion.
  • Lobby governments and public foundations to stop funding CPCs.
  • Ask Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charity status of CPCs that have it.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 50-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

3 thoughts on “Beware of “Crisis Pregnancy Centres”

  1. There’s one of these places near my house called the “Women’s Care Center.” Please! They’ll give you ultrasounds, convince you not to consider abortion, and take care of you until you have the baby… but then you’re on your own, regardless if you have the resources to take care of a child.

    • Yes that is one of the bad ones. These centres typically offer very little concrete help to pregnant women. They usually make women take abstinence/religious classes in order to gain points to “earn” some baby clothes or a crib.

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