The Fake Abortion Clinics of America
September 22, 2014 8:12 AM   Subscribe

[Vice News Video] Women across America who are seeking abortions are accidentally booking appointments at crisis pregnancy centers—pro-life, government-funded religious centers that don't provide abortions, but instead try to talk women out of terminating their pregnancies.

These crisis centers deliberately deceive women in times of vulnerability, pretending to offer abortions and often situating themselves right next door to legitimate services. Once inside, women are fed lies and misinformation about health risks, and undergo emotional manipulation and religious verbiage to coerce them out of considering all of their reproductive health options.

This led Katie Stack to create The Crisis Project, a nationwide investigation that demonstrates crisis pregnancy center’s reliance on emotional manipulation, religious evangelism and medical misinformation to coerce their clients out of ending unintended pregnancies and using birth control. Additionally, they provide evidence of the archaic, regressive and sexist ideologies that are behind the anti-family planning movement.
posted by St. Peepsburg (42 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
12th and Delaware is a wonderful documentary on the subject. Admittedly it's definitely pro-choice but it basically centers around two clinics across the street from each other: a crisis pregnancy center and a real abortion clinic. It does interview and for a short time follow around the workers of the crisis pregnancy center (as well as anti-abortion protesters that show up at the real abortion clinic,) and gives an interesting look into their work.
posted by lauratheexplorer at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I saw this a few days ago and most of it was pretty much what I expected. What did surprise me was they had a baby-stuff (clothes and supplies, it looked like), presumably for women who continued the pregnancy and parented. I was wondering what the rules are for access to that bank. Like how long after they prevent a woman from having an abortion can she use the bank? And what about women who never wanted an abortion in the first place, but can't afford onesies. Can they use the bank or do they have to pretend they want an abortion first?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think we're seeing reform in these types of clinics, no doubt hastened by this kind of scrutiny. Leadership is passing to younger women (typically) who focus more on improving their reputation for providing help so they can attract mothers. Pull vs. push marketing, if you will.

Can they use the bank or do they have to pretend they want an abortion first?

Anyone can get assistance if they need help, unless they were in short supply and had to prioritize. Usually there is perpetual fundraising and donating to help the mothers, though.
posted by michaelh at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


A pregnancy is typically only a crisis if a woman isn't allowed timely access to professional medical care, or doesn't have the support net needed to raise a child.

I don't see the people who run these centers advocating for either. They singlehandedly created the crisis that they are purporting to solve.
posted by schmod at 8:30 AM on September 22, 2014 [72 favorites]


it basically centers around two clinics across the street from each other

Just watched the Vice video and it explores the same situation, where a clinic in Dallas (one of the last, it says) has one of these places next door, which succeeds in misleading patients who meant to go to the real one, and at best wasting their time and making them miss their appointment.

I'd be interested to know if any pro-choice activists have turned the tables on them and stood out in front of these "crisis centers" and gently pointed out to women going in that they're not what they pretend to be. It'd be sad to replicate their tactics and heap yet more confusion on women in this situation, but what other options are there?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:31 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


A pregnancy is typically only a crisis if a woman isn't allowed timely access to professional medical care, or doesn't have the support net needed to raise a child.

This is an important insight.
posted by clockzero at 8:33 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


Special place in hell for these chickenhawks.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:34 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


who focus more on improving their reputation for providing help so they can attract mothers. Pull vs. push marketing, if you will.

I could see something like that as something anyone/everyone could get behind. Like if instead of posing as abortion clinics, their marketing were essentially "If you're pregnant but don't think you're in a position to have a child but wish you were in a position to have the child, then come to us and we'll help you get in that position." They would offer help finding jobs, maybe education, health insurance if in the US, money for kid things, childcare, etc.

The big problem I could see there would be in requiring people to be pregnant first, instead of first getting them in that position and then letting them be free to get pregnant if they choose and have the child.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:36 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


It wouldn't be heaping confusion. One person with a sign reading "this place does not perform abortions" would suffice. No lies, no manipulation, therefore quite unlike the tactics of the enemy.

" The truth will set you free."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:36 AM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Those "crisis" pregnancy centers make me SO ANGRY. We have one in town and the way it just preys on unsuspecting young women. And one guy is currently running for local office, proudly stating he was a board member of one and a volunteer at the other. I HATE that shit. They just spread lies and give out lie-filled pamphlets.

ANGER.
posted by jillithd at 8:54 AM on September 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


"government-funded religious centers" yecch.

real abortion clinics attract violent anti-abortion christian radicals. it's only a matter of time before they mistakenly attack a fake clinic. epic lulz.
posted by bruce at 8:55 AM on September 22, 2014


real abortion clinics attract violent anti-abortion christian radicals. it's only a matter of time before they mistakenly attack a fake clinic. epic lulz.

That assumes that fake clinics aren't backed by the same organizations as anti-abortion Christian radicals.

For example, an abortion clinic in Montana was broken in to and severely vandalized earlier this year. The perpetrator just happened to be part of an anti-choice family with close ties to the local crisis pregnancy center.
posted by muddgirl at 9:01 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


The big problem I could see there would be in requiring people to be pregnant first, instead of first getting them in that position and then letting them be free to get pregnant if they choose and have the child.

True, but they are small organizations so they have to focus an area on which to work. Plus, it's not always easy to predict. For example, mothers get into trouble because the fathers abandon them, which is something they wouldn't have predicted so wouldn't have reached out for help before getting pregnant.
posted by michaelh at 9:05 AM on September 22, 2014


just a few days ago i was worried that i was pregnant (i'm not, thank the stars) and i was researching abortion in my new state. as i'm south of the sweet tea line, it's obviously a clusterfuck if i wanted to stay in state, it would be a 4ish hour drive and there's a required 24 hour waiting period where i have to listen to anti-choice counseling and then come back the next day for the procedure. on the other hand, in my searching, i learned that there are 4 pregnancy resource centers (one who straight up calls themselves an abortion clinic on google and then when you click through it's all "DON'T KILL YOUR BABY!").

the whole thing makes me sick.
posted by nadawi at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


"Government-funded religious centers" - separation of who and what now?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


I felt angry & shocked watching the video. I just can't imagine the kinds of people that would knowingly and deliberately mislead women, especially in times of desperation.

But the part that sent me over the top was when they showed a clip of anti-choice protesters at a rally; the camera panned across a group of about 6-8 guys, the last of whom started to do a crotch thrusting move at the camera. I wanted to punch him in the face.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


George_Spiggott: I'd be interested to know if any pro-choice activists have turned the tables on them and stood out in front of these "crisis centers" and gently pointed out to women going in that they're not what they pretend to be. It'd be sad to replicate their tactics and heap yet more confusion on women in this situation, but what other options are there?

I've had the same question before, but you've already answered yours: It'd be sad to replicate their tactics and heap yet more confusion on women in this situation.
posted by cobra libre at 9:22 AM on September 22, 2014


I keep wanting to go into one of these places with a concealed camera and ask them if they can give me a pap smear.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:23 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's an interesting (although obviously pro-choice-biased) article about the link between crisis pregnancy centers and abortion clinic violence. Most people who attack clinics or clinic workers are not "lone wolves" - like other terrorists they are acting within a culture that radicalizes them.
posted by muddgirl at 9:24 AM on September 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


If they want to help babies there are millions of poor babies and children all over the US. You don't even have to leave the country, or even your own city! YOU CAN SAVE THE BABIES! Collect resources and offer resources to actual babies and their parents. Go for it! Create housing programs, enrichment and health programs free to low income families. Ensure new moms have resources to stay home with their babies for months rather than weeks, have access to household help services such as cleaning, childcare help and mentorship and birth and post partum doula services. Ensure that parents have part time options that allow them to spend time with their children by increasing wages and other financial supports for single parent homes. Be sure that extensive and quality therapeutic and learning resources for differently functioning people are accessible to everyone.

You want o be PRO-LIFE- let's start with the families and people already falling through the cracks and enduring horrific experiences. Oh and by the way, for the huge portion of pro-lifers for whom their religion AND politics are anti- housing the homeless, anti-food access and health care etc.... seriously, go fuck yourselves. There are worth fates than death or not being born to begin with. But apparently you don't care about any of that.

I find it HILARIOUS (and by hilarious I mean my brain explodes) that people who oppose creating a human society that provides for it's people in need with claims of just world fallacies or punitive judgement and blame for anyone needing help along with extra helping of shaming and boot-strap lecturing-- would resort to ATTACKING people who provide abortions. You couldn't bother to try making your society actually functional, with access to birth control, sane sex education which included enthusiastic consent models and education about abusive behaviors in relationships along with safety nets and financial and social supportive resources for those in need-- so you want to go and attack people who are worried about bringing new people into this shitscape YOU ASSHOLES ARE THE ONES CREATING? I think when people abort because they don't have the resources to continue a wanted pregnancy it is SAD and we as communities have failed when that happens. It's a major issue for women's empowerment that we ensure women have the resources they need to care for their children so that they decide on a pregnancy in terms of their actual emotional commitment or desire to have a child rather than based on the force or dire circumstances.

But the level of resources needed extends so far beyond some baby clothes and wet wipes as to make this effort ridiculous. People are coping with rape trauma, child abuse histories, disability, cognitive impairments, surviving low wage labor, domestic abuse, horrible diets that are breaking down their bodies, excessive labor that is also breaking down their health and well being, shitty marriages, isolation... it goes on and on. You think a few baby clothes will make it possible for many of the people who KNOW they are far beyond capable of creating a healthy home for a child? And you know what else, a lot of the people who run this places somehow think THEIR children deserve a stay at home parent and two parent house and great schools etc etc but somehow all that doesn't matter when some other woman is considering whether she can parent a child, suddenly some bottles and a parenting book will magically be all they need!

Getting resources to women who would rather carry a pregnancy and birth and parent their children even in dire circumstances is something people on both sides should celebrate. But THIS IS NOT THAT. This is a laughable effort, and it has nothing to do with caring about babies or they would be fighting to overhaul this entire system that forces or leaves some people in poverty. They would find poverty unacceptable and the would be fighting with all the zeal they have to undo the way we look at and create poverty in our communities. And none of that even addresses that regardless of the resources (Which we should be fighting to make exist) many people do not have any qualms with abortion because they do not believe a 2 inch long blob without a nervous system merits any ethical concern. For people with that position (OR ANY POSITION of wanting an abortion), bring forced to endure religious ranting while stuck under a medical device is utterly ridiculous and heinous. Essentially, no, never, go save living babies and if you make this society flourishing and healing where parents can actually take time off work and spend it parenting their kids, with financial supports to do so and have food and housing and enriching resources and access to full participation in society. But that means challenging your shitty and anti-evidence based reasoning and that's hard. What's funny is that they also tend to want these women to give their children up for adoption to a good christian home (you know that's not all vile and dirty for getting pregnant out of a middle class christian marriage) and then suddenly after pressuring the women to "do what's right" they toss her and her used baby making womb space in the garbage and rant on and on about how REAL mothers do the REAL work! What kind of person leaves their child behind? When they are often THE SAME people who say that REAL mothers put their children first and endure any sacrifice including giving their children up if other people have more resources and stability! What horse shit!

It is a vent. I know it may do little but it made me feel better. Now I want eggroles.
posted by xarnop at 9:58 AM on September 22, 2014 [55 favorites]


Really need to stand in front of one of these places holding signs that reference verses of the Bible that specifically call for the killing of children. But do it to the employees as they're coming to work in the morning and leaving in the evening, the rest of the time face the door and windows of the facility and don't hassle any clients going in or out except perhaps to gently warn them off.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I did a paper in college (late 90s) on Birthright, which was a less-shifty "pregnancy resource center" chain at the time. IDK if it still exists. I went in and spoke with a social worker there about their services and philosophy. They were very serious about providing pregnant women in crisis with resources for low-cost or free health-care, food, clothing, safety net, etc. They certainly did pregnancy testing. They absolutely, no way, no how, provided birth control or resources on how to get contraception -- the worker I spoke to seemed clear that that was absolutely outside the scope of their services. I saw very little rhetoric, but it was also very weirdly limited in scope, since it certainly provided little to nothing for mothers of children who had been born, and the services were all related to pregnancy. They clearly saw their role as VERY NARROWLY DEFINED -- not preventing pregnancy, not supporting mothers in an ongoing way, but supporting pregnant girls/women who might otherwise terminate their pregnancies.

It was an odd experience. I expected to leave angry, and instead I just left sort of like, "well, that's nice, but..."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


The correct term is not "pro life": everyone is pro life.

The correct term is not "anti abortion": everyone prefers a reduction in abortion rates.

The correct term is Forced Birth.

This is the accurate, fair, and effective term for the creeps and shits that wish to deny women control of their bodies and pregnancies.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 AM on September 22, 2014 [38 favorites]


I worked for a Catholic Charities program, and Birthright was just upstairs. Birthright and some other programs do offer additional services, and many anti-choice people I've met adopt children, including children with disabilities. But Birthright advertizes as a crisis pregnancy program, and they will use any trick they can think of to stop a pregnant woman from having an abortion. It's fraud.

I've long thought that women of child-bearing age, regardless of any status, could go to such 'clinics' seeking pregnancy testing and counseling, to assess the honesty and use their resources.
posted by theora55 at 11:39 AM on September 22, 2014


I've known a wonderful pregnancy and parenting support clinic that provided donated clothing, food, and baby supplies; ran support groups for pregnant women, women with PPD, and new mothers; help (I believe) with adoption information; and generally did its best to make sure that women who were pregnant or had young children got as much support as they could. I suspect that the founders were anti-choice, but the agency's website and literature all said that they specifically chose to stay out of the debate -- they'd help women talk through their choices, but since they were a pregnancy-support clinic, they'd refer anyone wanting an abortion to a different appropriate agency. (And the employees and volunteers I met actually did act with integrity and lack-of-judgmentalism with that. They'd make real referrals and not pressure women into finishing pregnancies they didn't want.)

It really should be that simple if you want to support mothers and children. No tricking women out of abortions, no judgment about what they choose to do, just practical and emotional support for women who need it.
posted by jaguar at 11:56 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


I will forever remain confused by the motivations of those who fund these things, and anti-choice things in general. I mean, I can see being guilt-tripped by your pastor or priest to throw in a few bucks because maybe you don't approve of abortion or birth control, but to open all these clinics and keep them open, that is a serious amount of cash being invested at a high level, simply to coerce women into having babies they don't want to have or can't support. Simply to make it impossible for them to say "no."

In the US we say "follow the money" and it's a good rule of thumb, but harder for me to see here. What profit is there in taking away women's reproductive freedom? I can't think of an easy one, offhand; kids make women spend, but they also put them on welfare, so a woman with fewer kids is theoretically a better customer, and will spend more on them individually.

There doesn't seem to be anything driving it but full-on desire for control of women's bodies. I have never felt a similar desire to control men's bodies, so to me, that remains a completely opaque motivation.
posted by emjaybee at 12:11 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, could we map these places, adding them to something like OpenStreetMap where it's easy to track changes and see who's changing what? OSM doesn't allow anonymous edits, so people can't hide false edits.
posted by scruss at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2014


What profit is there in taking away women's reproductive freedom?

I think their thought process is pretty simple:

- Take away her freedom
- Now she (a lot of the time) is going to need help, but
- You've effectively dismantled what help the state will give, so
- The church steps in to help
- Grateful mother becomes a member of the church, return to step 1

Well, that and punishing sluts, because that's really what all this is about.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:00 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wonder what they'd say if a woman came in and asked to be given the ordeal of the bitter water?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:02 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: Well, that and punishing sluts, because that's really what all this is about.
The rest of your explanation is unnecessary. Occam's Razor.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:03 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I used to identify as a mid - to liberal Christian (Lutheran), but as I get older, I'm becoming more conservative (still Lutheran)

This is NOT cool.
posted by harrietthespy at 1:53 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I would support perpetually defacing and putting signs up on these places to the effect of "this is not a real clinic".

Seems like it's direct action time to me.
posted by emptythought at 1:55 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Imagine if McDonalds opened up "Crisis Obesity Centers" that encouraged people to eat less salad, and gave all of its clients the exact same advice: Eat more hamburgers.
posted by schmod at 1:55 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, that and punishing sluts, because that's really what all this is about.
The rest of your explanation is unnecessary. Occam's Razor.

It's a horrible thought, but there's not really any other logical explanation, unless the same people are out there haranguing the other responsible party in a pregnancy for their loose morals as well, instead of slapping them on the back for being such a stud.

I'm a bit lost for words over this whole thing - I find it hard to imagine the sort of fucked-up mind that says it's OK to start with someone likely out of their mind with stress and worry then deceive them into attending a completely different type of service. These are church-based organisations? What happened to 'thou shalt not lie'?
posted by dg at 2:41 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


- Take away her freedom
- Now she (a lot of the time) is going to need help, but
- You've effectively dismantled what help the state will give, so
- The church steps in to help
- Grateful mother becomes a member of the church, return to step 1


- Social control

Lots of money and power in social control.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:54 PM on September 22, 2014


Birthright was one of two of those centers that advertised in my high school paper.
posted by NoraReed at 5:15 PM on September 22, 2014


I work at a college and the "crisis pregnancy centre" in town has been putting up posters on our bulletin boards for years. I found one in my classroom a month ago. I have taken down and recycled every one I've seen. Oh, except for the one where I wrote "WARNING: THIS PLACE IS *NOT* AN ABORTION PROVIDER--THIS PLACE IS ANTI-CHOICE" in big black letters across it. Someone else took that one down shortly afterward.

Our students are vulnerable enough; they don't need these vultures preying on them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:28 PM on September 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


That's as equally twisted as setting up a Midwives practice which is pro-abortion.
posted by Merlin The Happy Pig at 8:32 PM on September 22, 2014


nadawi: "just a few days ago i was worried that i was pregnant (i'm not, thank the stars) and i was researching abortion in my new state. as i'm south of the sweet tea line, it's obviously a clusterfuck if i wanted to stay in state, it would be a 4ish hour drive and there's a required 24 hour waiting period where i have to listen to anti-choice counseling and then come back the next day for the procedure."

I'm broke with an ancient car, but I would still drive across the country and pay for your own hotel room to get you the services you needed. I only wish I could do that for every woman who needed that help. Sadly, I cannot.

This shit pisses me off.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:04 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


five fresh fish: "everyone is pro life."

Exactly! No one but a psychopath or a Libertarian (and many Republicans, it seems) is "pro death." It's a ludicrous and misleading term.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:10 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


everyone is pro life

It is the core of the disconnect in the abortion and birth control discussion in America. The two sides aren't having the same argument.
posted by maryr at 8:32 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]




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