Reproductive freedom fighters beware – there's a growing anti-choice tactic in town and it's wrapped in sweetness and light and everything nice. At least on the surface.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have been the nemesis of reproductive rights advocates for awhile now. We've known of them; we've analyzed them; there's even a report about them by Rep. Henry Waxman intent on uncovering the ways in which they manipulate and prey on young women.
And while reproductive justice supporters have been faced with CPCs as they attempt to challenge this particular arm of the anti-choice movement, they are generally not literally face-to-face with CPCs. But that's slowly changing and St. Paul, Minnesota is a target.
In St. Paul, Highland LifeCare Center – part of a conglomeration of "pregnancy resource centers" as their wont to be called – has just announced plans to purchase a building located two doors down from a Planned Parenthood clinic. Unsurprisingly, the Planned Parenthood center is the only Planned Parenthood in the state that performs abortions.
Innocently, Patrick Shrake, the president of the center's board of directors was quoted as saying, "We don't want to be antagonistic…We want to offer a different choice. I understand that some people might see that as antagonistic, but I can't do anything about that." I wonder why some might see an anti-choice center known for their extreme opposition to all forms of reproductive freedom moving in next door to a reproductive health center as "antagonistic"?
The Planned Parenthood in St. Paul has been the target of arson and a bomb in years past. But who will really suffer when this crisis pregnancy center moves in next to the Planned Parenthood? The women of course.
Women who come searching for a pregnancy test and the unbiased ear of a trained health care provider. Women who need medically accurate facts about pregnancy, their health, and a sincere discussion about their options for the future. Women who need medical care and resources. In other words, any woman who believes she is or knows she is pregnant and is looking for help. Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not offer no-strings-attached assistance. CPCs do not employ trained medical staff. And CPCs do not provide a sincere accounting of options if a woman is pregnant and confused.
The center will, however, have "a prayer room, and clients and workers will be able to partake of communion, a plan approved by Catholic Archbishop Harry Flynn." I guess the Jewish, Buddhist and Sikh women, among many others, who come to the center are encouraged to take their religious practice elsewhere.
Young women are being misled about what these centers do, what they provide and why they operate. If CPCs were straight-forward and upfront about their missions, it may not be a problem. But CPCs offer free ultrasounds and pregnancy testing for a reason – to lure women into their centers so that they can then mislead and manipulate them. And federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers is abhorrent not only because of the religious fundamentalist nature of most centers but because of the outright lying and deceit on which the centers base their dialogue with the women.
While the leaders of the St. Paul Planned Parenthood clinic are playing it cautious yet polite, their new neighbors may not be so demure. This has happened before in Minneapolis. An anti-abortion, Christian crisis pregnancy center opened their doors in 1992 in Robbinsdale, Minn. across the street from a women's reproductive health center that had been providing care for over forty years. And while this strategy shows no signs of slowing down, reproductive justice advocates have made good strides with legislative remedies. Those remedies, however, will be no match for an organized and cohesive CPC network that is well on its way to co-opting the pro-choice approach to outreach and using it to great advantage.