As a college student, there are certain reproductive justice issues that are particularly close to my heart. The rising cost of birth control on college campuses is one example — paying $50 a month for birth control has put serious financial strain on some of my closest friends. Crisis pregnancy centers are another such issue. I have attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and been involved with the campus chapter of Choice USA for the last four years and have seen firsthand why Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) pose a huge risk to college students.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers often target college women on my campus. In Chapel Hill, we have a CPC called Pregnancy Support Services located very close to campus. Women in college who may be away from home for the first time and are sometimes also sexually active for the first time are particularly vulnerable to the deception of CPCs.
My involvement with reproductive health issues has earned me a reputation among my friends as the resident expert on birth control and other sexual health issues. I am regularly surprised by the basic questions I'm asked, or how often I'll get e-mails from women who are barely acquaintances because there is something they need to know. These women need non-judgmental information. They're dealing with these sensitive issues for the first time, often far from home, and they need support. I do my best to help, but I am not a professional.
In North Carolina this is all exacerbated by the fact that the only sex "education" available in public schools statewide is abstinence-only. If I were to share all the horror stories and lies that my friends were told in their high school health classes I would far surpass my word limit. Suffice it to say that college students in states like North Carolina, where education about sex and pregnancy prevention is sorely lacking, are especially susceptible to the tactics of CPCs.
Consequently, vulnerable young women go to CPCs where they are given information about the ineffectiveness of condoms, the dangerous addictive nature of sex, or the emotional devastation they'll feel if they become sexually active (all of this is actually in brochures we collected from our local CPC!).
Because they can leverage women's lack of education about their sexual health, crisis pregnancy centers are often located near college campuses. And these are all reasons why, when our Choice USA chapter became aware that Pregnancy Support Services was advertising in our campus paper, The Daily Tar Heel, we wanted to speak out and prevent the women on our campus from being deceived.
Our campaign is just getting off the ground but we have felt a sense of urgency as more young women – hearing about our stance towards Pregnancy Support Services – have approached us to tell their stories.
They have told us that they felt more confused and scared after their visit than they did before and that they had no idea what they were getting into when they went inside. So we have written a letter to The Daily Tar Heel encouraging them to refuse to advertise for this organization, and telling them that by doing so they are complicit in this deception of students on our campus.
We have also begun to compile a comprehensive list of all the organizations in our area that provide reproductive care, including crisis pregnancy centers, with an honest, unbiased description of the services each of those organizations provide.
After a lot of discussion, our group decided that our goal was not to try to completely shut down the CPCs operation. Yes, doing so would prevent them from misinforming more women but, as they also offer free STD/STI testing and pregnancy tests, we did not want to deny women another place to access those services. Ultimately, we decided that our primary goal would be to educate our fellow students about the Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the services they will actually receive if they chose them. After that – just like with all reproductive health decisions – the choice is theirs to make.
Young women like myself and students in colleges all over the country are at risk of being misinformed by Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Young women should be alerted about the true nature of CPCs and have protection from their deception and dishonesty.