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Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Helpful or Hurtful?

By Danielle |

Photo Credit: Getty.com

A new debate is brewing in New York City that I personally have been watching closely. For years I have volunteered with local health clinics helping pregnant women and women who wish to prevent pregnancy. In my area we have Planned Parenthood. But I know other parts of the country do not have the same health clinics.

New laws in New York City would require Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which are often run by anti-abortion groups, to inform their patients of any bias the clinic may have against abortion, or what is being called deceptive practices.

In a New York Times article published this past weekend, one mother discussed her experience in one of these centers, which she had no idea held an agenda when she walked through the door.

I had barely finished signing in at the Expectant Mother Care counseling center in Downtown Brooklyn when a staff member ushered me into a darkened room for a sonogram. As we both watched the flickering image of what looked more or less like a tadpole, she called my attention to every anatomical detail, from eyes and nose to hands and toes. Staring at the little bugger wriggling around inside me, a tear slid out of my eye.

Did that tear trigger some alarm? Suddenly, two more people crowded into that tiny, darkened room. One asked if I was considering abortion. “The gift you’re carrying is perfection par excellence,” she told me. She commiserated about how scary pregnancy can be. She talked about the value of siblings, and the memory of her brother at their dying mother’s side. She told me that if I needed any kind of assistance — counseling, a job, a place to stay — she would work hard to get it for me. I believed her.

The story this mother told is one of the most mild and non-harassing I have heard in my time working as an advocate for pregnant women. I have heard everything from harassment and name calling, to women being tricked into their offices, which were set up across the hall from an abortion provider or a Planned Parenthood location. Unsuspecting or lost, women go to these centers not knowing and not being told they are in the wrong office until they get them back behind closed doors.

Certainly all of these centers don’t run like this, but the laws that New York City government is proposing should become national. Women in vulnerable states, with unplanned or even unwanted pregnancies, should be getting accurate information, not biased or untrue information like abortion causes breast cancer, which the above center handed out, despite The National Cancer Institute refuting this.

These same centers are not providing any information on post-birth issues mothers may have, from postpartum depression to the physical risks that can be associated with it. Seemingly one-sided for sure!

All women everywhere should be able to benefit from accurate information by law from providers when seeking information about any pregnancy-related procedure, even if the provider may not agree with them. Patient autonomy is most important, especially to our women.

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About Danielle

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Danielle

Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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19 thoughts on “Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Helpful or Hurtful?

  1. Sarah says:

    Women need support. It is so depressing that we feel we have to trick people to choose life. I have volunteered for Chicago areas Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the women who run it by me are so supportive of women. They are the sweetest girls ive ever met. Its horrible when others choose deception instead of love and support. I hope that this law gives women an opportunity for safe choices and informed decisions. Pregnancy and parenting is hard and those looking for help should definitely receive it. I do think that “planned parenting” should have another name. When i was looking for help to raise my son and then fight for a safe vaginal birth acter cesarean, these Planned Parenthood places and even county run “planned parenthood offices” places really only offered birth control or anti-family help. Where do you go when u want help for your family? That’s why I found ICAN & LaLeche LLC. I think anti-deception laws should be in OBGYN offices as well. I would like to know if my Dr prefers cesareans before it’s too late to switch.

  2. Danielle625 says:

    @Sarah, I am not sure about the Planned Parenthood locations in your area, but here, different centers have different services. The PPH location in our largest city, does not do anything but health care, birth control, and reproductive medical stuff. No abortion services, no prenatal care, etc. If you go 20 minutes up the road the have a center with full prenatal care, adoption counciling, etc.

    But when it comes to things like breastfeeding, VBAC support, etc. I think such specialized support are most effective, and helpful from groups like ICAN, and LLL because it is what they specialize in. To have volunteer organizations like PPH to provide so many different kinds of services would certainly spread the information, and help thin.

    As for providers, I think we need better transparency law in maternity care across the country. But that is a whole other issue.

  3. Katie says:

    When I was unexpectedly pregnant at age 18, I went to a “pregnancy decision” center, which I thought was something like Planned Parenthood – a place to discuss all options. I had no idea it was a pro-life organization. The counselor kept showing me photos of embryos/fetuses at various stages of development and indicated where mine was. I kept saying I thought I should have an abortion (because I thought I could arrange one through her), and she kept steering me back to fetal development and due dates and telling me to really take my time in making a decision. When I left, she handed me literature to think about before making my decision, and it was only when I got home that I looked through it and saw the photos of aborted fetuses. I was angry and felt duped, although I suppose it worked on me, because I couldn’t go through with the abortion. Still, I would have liked to know what I was dealing with.

  4. Diana says:

    I, too, went to one of these places when I was young. I was 17 and just a week away from going off to college. Thankfully, I wasn’t really pregnant but the literature and images were really freaky and manipulative.

    Here’s a great resource for more information about these places: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/what-is-choice/abortion/abortion-crisis-pregnancy-centers.html

  5. kat says:

    I agree that deception should not be used, but I think similar laws should be in place at places that offer abortions on the physical and emotional ramifications from stopping a natural physiological process. I have had friends that had deep emotional scars from having hasty abortions, and some were not able to have any more children later. Nobody at those places told them they may regret it later. You can walk away from a creepy anti-abortion office, you can’t take back an abortion. I think being up front is the best way to go in both cases.

  6. Danielle625 says:

    @Kat, I agree… but I also think these women should be aware of the same effects that pregnancy, and birth can have along similar lines.

  7. Elisa says:

    I’m all for laws that require full disclosure from medical professionals in all areas, including all services pertaining to pregnancy. It sounds like these laws need to be broader in scope, to include the other side of the bias as well, where women are not told of all the details concerning their surgery or the potential physical and emotional side-effects (such as infertility or post-abortive trauma). I think that any type of clinic that withholds information is hurtful to women.

  8. Danielle625 says:

    @Elisa, I agree, including post birth, and birth trauma, etc.

  9. hmbug75 says:

    Ultimately it is the women’s choice to keep the baby or abort. Whether she walks into a Planned Parenthood or a Pregnancy Counseling Center. I know plenty of women who have opted to abort and plenty who chose to have the baby. Friends who chose to abort felt that Planned Parenthood rushed them to a decision, highlighting only the difficulties of continuing the pregnancy. On the flip side friends have stated they heard only the horrors of abortion from Counseling Centers. Both parties need to be upfront and realistic with these women. Highlighting both positive and negative potential results of both choices. I’m all for a any law that requires that.

  10. Kate says:

    @Kat, you have multiple friends who were rendered infertile after having legal abortions? That’s fairly remarkable — in fact, I don’t really believe you. Yes, some women feel regret after having an abortion, and probably all women feel some degree of sadness. But the overwhelming majority feel relief, and are grateful for having a safe, legal option to control their own reproductive lives. Everyone I know who had an abortion went on to have children, and all of us were happy to be able to become mothers in our late 20s, not our teens. What made that possible was Planned Parenthood, not bogus “crisis pregnancy centers.” Did you ever think that women may feel even worse about their choice to have an abortion because they face such stigma and judgment?

  11. Siobhan says:

    @KATE, the “safe, legal option to control their own reproductive lives” is called birth control not abortion. Crisis Pregnancy Centers are not “bogus” just because they encourage women not to have abortion. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. I do think a woman should get all the facts before they decide to terminate their pregnancy, including the facts about the life developing inside them. Did you ever think that it might not be “stigma and judgment” making a woman feel worse about her choice but in fact having to face the reality of what an abortion actually is? It is not something that should be rushed into or taken lightly.

  12. Danielle625 says:

    @Siobhan, whether we like it or not, abortion is classified as a form of birth control, and until there is an option for women, and men that is 100% safe, and effective it is something we are going to need in our society as a medical choice for women.
    As for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, they should give valid and correct information to women, not try to talk them out of a choice that may be the right choice for them in their situation. Especially if their goal is to help women in “crisis” situations.
    As for abortion not being a choice that should be rushed into, or taken lightly, neither is parenthood. We have way too many people out there today that have no business being parents. Tons of children in foster care because their parents couldn’t handle them, abused them, or made the wrong choice.
    It certainly is a two way street all around, that is for sure.

  13. Kate says:

    Siobham, I don’t know anyone who takes abortion lightly. Abortion is one of the range of health services women need in order to control our own reproductive lives. It’s legal and I’m very happy it is. It’s fine with me if organizations work to help young women who are unexpectedly pregnant and want to give birth — they need and deserve help — but what I object to is organizations that resort to lying and deception in order to convert one woman’s tragedy into another woman’s opportunity to adopt a newborn.

  14. Siobhan says:

    “organizations that resort to lying and deception in order to convert one woman’s tragedy into another woman’s opportunity to adopt a newborn.”
    …This is so way off the mark. You are clearly as biased as the position you are opposing. For the record, I am not 100% on board with these centers as I am very pro birth control (and no matter what is classified as, abortion is not birth control… It is a category unto itself) but I am very supportive of the mission to reduce abortions. And yes, I have known people who do in fact take abortion lightly and I do feel that Planned Parenthood as an organization promotes that same mindset.

  15. Joy Szabo says:

    And Planned Parenthood needs to disclose its bias as a Pro Abortion organization, as well. I have experienced it myself and heard stories from others that are similar. When asked for info on pregnancy, adoption, or parenting, they refer to other organizations. When info is sought about abortion, a date is scheduled. Some women have been outright guilted into it.
    Girls and women need to know that Planned Parenthood is a place to seek an abortion, and not so useful for reproductive health information.

  16. Joy Szabo says:

    And Girls and women need to know that crisis pregnancy centers are for seeking other then abortion.

  17. denne says:

    It kills me that these crisis places exist and don’t have to disclose their bias. When evaluating medical information it’s of the utmost importance to know the source. Although I view Planned Parenthood as an unbiased institution, I think it would do them well to bolster the information and resources that they have available for women who elect to keep their babies, in order to set a better example.

  18. JessicaMarrs says:

    I went to Planned Parenthood for 12 years for my birth control and reproductive health needs. They were always professional, considerate, and very helpful. Once, I had a pregnancy scare when I was 19 and went to a local place called a “Crisis Pregnancy Clinic” that advertised “free pregnancy tests.”

    While I went back and peed on a grocery store issued test, my boyfriend was led to the waiting room that was covered with anti-abortion propaganda filled with ridiculous claims about how early it feels pain (despite no central nervous system), develops eye color, and other things meant to humanize a cluster of cells. Also photos of aborted babies in jars and horror stories about botched abortions and women with regrets. Of course, no info about child abuse, alcoholism, being a single Mom, dropping out of high school, being dependent on Welfare, or the other realities of parenthood at a young age was hinted at.

    When it turned out positive, I was taken to a room and shown all the great, free baby stuff I would be given if I kept it. Somehow their models of an 8 week old fetus looked just like a tiny baby… not the malformed gummy bear you see in real doctor’s offices. They wanted me to believe that people were just waiting to supply us with everything we would need… diapers, clothing, food, child care. I was feeling scared, overwhelmed, very nauseous, and vulnerable… but luckily not stupid. I walked out, made an appointment at the PP clinic, discussed my options, and was referred to a place that provided abortions when I made it clear that was what I wanted. They never pressured me into it, I received counseling before and after to make sure it was what I wanted and that I was coping with it OK.

    I am now 35 and 7 months pregnant with my first child. I am financially stable and independent, in a loving, committed relationship with my husband, have the support of two loving and fantastic families, and the emotional and intellectual maturity to deal with being a parent… all of which was missing the first time around.

    I regret having had to make the decision to get an abortion, but I never regretted actually making it. The tactics that the Crisis Pregnancy Center tried to employ to get me to continue my pregnancy would have likely resulted in me getting a shotgun marriage to an abusive, alcoholic guy who alienated me from my friends and family and whose mother hated me, caused me to quit work and not continue my education, and live on government support for god knows how long. None of that mattered to them as long as I kept it. I’m sure many other girls have been sucked in by their scare tactics and doomed themselves, their family and their partner to premature parenthood and a much tougher path. They should absolutely be regulated and forced to reveal their intentions before more vulnerable, frightened girls fall prey to their deceptions.

  19. Meghan says:

    When I got pregnant with my first at 20 I went to one accidentally too, and the woman there was nuts, it wasn’t too bad at first, then I went in a room to talk to the councilor, I told her I had not made up my mind what I Was doing yet.. just wanted to discuss my options.. I said that having an abortion did make the most sense.. she cuts me off and says “but do you know how they do an abortion?” I was like ummm not really” she proceeds to pull out a fake uterus with a plastic BABY, not embryo in it, and she tells me in graphic detail of how they take a knife and cut into your cervix, sometimes they do not even clean the knife after the last woman, sometimes rusty.. and they cut up your cervix and they go in and cut the baby into peices and put it out chunk by chunk.. while you are awake”
    I swear this woman told me this.. I looked at her and said “well I am pro choice and I know that is not true” and I left.
    I kept her because I wanted to, the cpc really had no sway but I later did have an abortion, and no one cut my cervix up, I was awake, I felt a pinch, and some cramping and in 3 minutes it was over. What a scam that cpc was!

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