Speaking Out: Manipulated By a CPC

When I called the National Abortion Federation Hotline in January 2005 looking for help finding an abortion clinic in my area, I had never even heard of a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I was 23 years old and in college completing my biology degree when I found out I was pregnant. Although I was in a committed relationship and deeply in love with my partner, I was not ready for a child at that time and chose to seek an abortion. The NAF Hotline operator gave me the location of a women's health clinic in my area, which I promptly called and made an appointment for an exam.

The day of my appointment, I pulled into the parking lot where the women's clinic was located and parked in front of the first building I saw. The sign in the window said "AAA Women for Choice" next to another smaller sign advertising "Free Pregnancy Testing." I was slightly confused by the bumper stickers on the SUV in front of the building with many anti-abortion, religious statements such as "It's a Child, Not a Choice," but didn't think much of it due to the prevalence of these anti-choice ideas in my area.

When I walked in the front door of the clinic, an older man sitting behind the counter welcomed me. I quickly gave my name and said that I had a two o'clock appointment. He acted like they were expecting me and asked me to have a seat in the empty waiting room while they prepared for my appointment. The waiting room looked like any family medical practice: there were magazines and children's books, and a basket filled with toys and stuffed animals for children to play with as they waited. Within minutes, a middle-aged woman, dressed professionally and appearing like a nurse, came out to escort me to my appointment.

She brought me into a different room and gave me a form to fill out. The form asked for basic contact information, but also asked for the personal information of my partner or spouse. The form asked about my medical history, including how many times I had been pregnant, obtained an abortion, and if I had children. As I was filling out the form, the woman began asking me questions, too. She asked why I was seeking an abortion, if I was sure that I was pregnant, and how many weeks I was into the pregnancy. She then began asking questions about my partner, such as did he know I was pregnant, did he want me to terminate the pregnancy, and why he wasn't there with me. I answered her questions, but began to feel guarded.

She then asked me about my religious beliefs. I was immediately defensive at this point. I asked her why this was a relevant question to ask in a medical facility. "Because I can't properly counsel you on the issue of abortion unless I know your moral standing," she said. I decided that this was not the kind of place I felt comfortable seeking medical care so I asked her to complete the free pregnancy test and then I would be on my way. I gave her a urine sample and she agreed to run the test, but only if I watched an educational video while the results were processing.

The video I was forced to watch made false claims including: doctors who provide abortions graduate at the bottom of their classes and can't get real jobs; abortion is dangerous and often results in serious injury, even death, to women, and abortion causes severe psychological and emotional damage to women. The woman on the video said many women who have abortions have nightmares of babies crying and have guilt about their decision so intense that it sends them into depression.

The second portion of the video showed an illustrated enactment of a surgical abortion procedure. A picture of a uterus with a fully formed fetus inside filled the TV screen as illustrated metal instruments appeared. The instruments were shown probing inside the uterus and dismembering the fetus. Then a suction device entered the screen, pulling the fetus out of the illustrated uterus for disposal.

I was appalled and insulted.

I stood up to walk out of the room just as the woman was re-entering. She must have seen the look on my face because she stopped and asked if everything was okay. The older man at the counter was just behind her in the waiting room. I told them that I wasn't sure what kind of an operation this was, but they should be ashamed of themselves. I said they were obviously using fear tactics to manipulate women who come to them looking for guidance in an emotionally unsteady state. I walked out the front door without ever getting the results of my pregnancy test.

After calling the NAF Hotline again, I found out this anti-choice organization was called a Crisis Pregnancy Center. They had strategically picked a name and displayed signs in their windows to fool women like me into coming there, thinking that they were visiting the women's reproductive health clinic just two doors down. The more I read about these places, I couldn't believe that what they were doing was legal: blatantly lying to women about medical procedures, using fear and guilt to force them into completing pregnancies. I have since been speaking out in support of stricter regulation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and I hope my story helps prevent women from being misled by these fake clinics.

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  • invalid-0

    I hope you complained to the National Abortion Federation about their bad referral?

  • http://everydaygoddess.typepad.com invalid-0

    The way I read it, there was a real clinic there, but this CPC was strategically located to lure her in on her way to the clinic. What would be helpful is if the National Abortion Federation knew when CPCs were located like that and could offer a warning with the referral to make sure you go to the right place.

    • invalid-0

      That’s a good idea – and giving that kind of warning would be an incredibly simple thing to do.

  • http://blog.protectedstatic.com/ invalid-0

    It was almost a decade ago, but I escorted at the clinic near the “AAA Women for Choice” CPC (only once or twice, by way of helping out – I normally escorted at a clinic in NW DC). CPCs are frequently located near real clinics.

  • invalid-0

    There was a legitimate medical clinic located in close enough proximity to the crisis pregnancy center so that Allyson was sufficiently confused (a well known tactic employed by CPCs).

    This, coupled with the fact that an equally common tactic used by CPCs is to “accept” patients who are clearly NOT there for a scheduled appointment, created a scenario whereby Allyson was duped into believing (at least for a little while) that she was at the clinic where she knowingly scheduled an appointment.

    It is bordering on unconscionable, in my opinion, for these centers to take advantage of young women in vulnerable situations by deceiving them into believing they are in the right place, deceiving them into believing that they are at a medical facility and then throwing propaganda and false information at them in order to get these women to make a choice that the centers want them to make.

    There is no legitimate health care facility that would engage in this kind of deceptive behavior. Crisis Pregnancy Centers should not be allowed to operate in this way – they must be regulated in some capacity.

  • amanda-marcotte

    They gave her the right shopping center, it sounds like, but she walked in the wrong door.  Why so eager to blame the good guys?  ;)

  • invalid-0

    I’m staunchly pro-life, and yet I’m disgusted by these tactics. What can they possibly think they’ll gain by pulling the wool over your eyes? They start out by losing your trust, and then think you’ll believe anything they have to say? Absolutely sickening. What’s frustrating is that it hurts the cause of pro-lifers by operation in deception.

    Not that I can say so, but if anything they said was based in fact, they gave you every reason to believe it was a lie.

  • marysia

    I am pro-every-life and thus disagree vigorously with the use of deceptive tactics such as you were subjected to, even as much as I oppose abortion.

     But I also am distressed by the tenor of this article & the others on RHRealityCheck now.  Not all organizations under the CPC rubric are unethical like this, many in fact are the opposite, and these important distinctions are not being acknowledged or explored much here.

    I cannot but help take it personally, this insinuation that one must necessarily by definition be a maniuplative, misogynist, religious-zealot liar if one works in a CPC.

     I worked for several pregnancy help services some years ago, and I can assure you that any deception like this was opposed as a matter of policy for what it was (and is): wrong.  Also I can assure you that many, many women found the services essential and many of the clients arrived through word of mouth from their friends.

    • invalid-0

      If you are staunchly pro life then why don’t you act up and protest the gross extermination of Iraqis by the U.S. government. A fetus is not a life….you complete nit wit, its a sack of cells.

      A basic human right is the right of women and men to regulate ones own reproductive capacity. People who have the nerve to deny women the right to abortion, or then to claim pschological damage of those who have an abortion are truly useless. I have a friend who recieved an abortion because she was not ready for a kid. Now has a beautiful child and has NO regrets. Most of the so called “pschological” stress women get is because of pschotic pro lifers or religious dogma that calls abortion murder.

      The Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union Legalized abortion and illegalized the dubious claim of “conscientious objection” amongst superstitious doctors. Actually abortion rates fell becuase women were recieving adequate sexual health care and information. If abortion rates fell because less women were having unwanted pregnancies due to modern women’s healthcare that would fine. But not on the basis that a fetus is a life.

      Also for the record their is nothing worse than a pious pro-lifer like some of the people commenting on this site. i.e “I’m pro life but I’m a good humble person etc etc”
      No! actually you are trifling busy bodies who need to stop nosing around in people’s PERSONAL BUSINESS. You should quit your jobs at these lying “crisis pregnancy centers” and take up a full time job adopting children. Seriously, adopt a child if you are so concerned. But I’m sure none of you are THAT concerned.

      As the great Bill Hicks once said on the issue “Its not a human being till its in my phone book”

  • invalid-0

    NAF has been very helpful to me post abortion. I am not at all the typical abortion patient…anyway..of course these centers are insulting to women, but the idea that “pro-life” and “a world where women are empowered enough to follow their own voices and instincts in the unique area of reproduction,” are on “opposite sides” is what needs to go…all women are pro-life, abortions happen because children have yet to be born, have already been born, the woman/girl knows that her nurturing is about something other than giving birth, or because she was forced by someone else to do so…all these things are women issues, I wish we could stand together

  • invalid-0

    Not to nitpick or anything, but what exactly is a “a typical abortion patient?” I find it a little troubling when people insinuate that there is a kind of person who has an abortion. I’m not trying to be a jerk but I’m just curious about it. I am staunchly pro-choice and had an abortion almost ten years ago. I just don’t think that there is a typical patient, all kinds of women from all backgrounds, ages, religions, etc. have abortions.

    • invalid-0

      Not the OP, but, I too think it is quite sanctimonious when people say “I’m not the typical abortion recipient.” Who is? Low-income women of color with insatiable sexual appetites, and a lack of knowledge of (or perverse aversion to) birth control?

      Black, White, Asian, Southeast Asian, Latina, and Arabic women have abortions. So do women from every creed and sect of religion. Even Anti-Choice women have abortions, often justifying it with “but you wouldn’t understand my reasons,” or “this is different.” [subtext :I’m in trouble but I’m not one of those sluts!]

      Interesting essay on “when the anti-choice choose.” (http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/anti-tales.html)

  • invalid-0

    There’s a reason why it began with “AAA”. They want it to be the first name women see when they look in a phone book or directory. Same reason that they place themselves right next to the real clinic.
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    It’s really disgusting that they try to lie to women like that.
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  • invalid-0

    What are the regulations for “fake” clinics and “real” clinics? How are these regulations monitored in each facility?

  • http://www.thefireofnewdesire.com invalid-0

    I am shocked to hear you say in this article this:

    I said they were obviously using fear tactics to manipulate women who come to them looking for guidance in an emotionally unsteady state.

    Right after saying this:

    to women, and abortion causes severe psychological and emotional damage to women. The woman on the video said many women who have abortions have nightmares of babies crying and have guilt about their decision so intense that it sends them into depression.

    How is it that you can put them down for giving you the obvious facts. You even said yourself, “women who come… in an emotionally unsteady state. So how is it so false that women will have depression or nightmares afterward?

    I have two sisters who have each had several abortions. They both struggle with it. One of them has finally gotten pregnant, and she was so devastated when her last pregnancy failed due to a miscarriage. The other one has one child now another on the way, but she too still struggles with the fact of what she had to go through.

    Can you really blame these organizations from educating? They believe things to be a little bit differently than you do, and since they do believe it they are doing all they can to prevent something of this nature from happening. I am very sorry for all you went through, but they were just trying to help you.

  • invalid-0

    How is it that you can put them down for giving you the obvious facts. You even said yourself, “women who come… in an emotionally unsteady state. So how is it so false that women will have depression or nightmares afterward?

    states that a woman who has mental issues BEFORE the abortion will still have those issues wether she aborts or goes to term. An abortion won’t make them worse. Yet having a baby won’t make them better.

    Can you really blame these organizations from educating?

    CPCs do not educate. They scare and guilt-trip women. Plus, if CPCs really wanted to prevent abortions,they would distribute birth control and counsel women on family planning. But CPCs neither distribute nor make referrals.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t see how this comment furthers the discussion. Anon at 7:19 and Marysia at 3:48 come out and admit they are anti-choice, make no bones about it, and do not attack the author of this article or our common cause of reproductive freedom in their comments. While I share your passion and think you’re pretty much right-on in your characterization, if someone is here and is not a troll, why go off at them? One hopes that maybe after some thoughtful reading and really considering “our side,” some anti-choicers may conclude that restricting access to abortion and contraception is indeed antithetical to “life,” at least tepidly. Your comment lessens that possiblity, IMO.

  • invalid-0

    so sick of the sanctimony,they just blow their tops. While you are correct in urging restraint, a “safety valve” is necessary to blow off boiling anger at times.

    Marysia is a very pragmatic person who is more interested in rational discussions of the problems than shouting matches. She knows draconian restrictions, and/or total bans will not work and are actually counterproductive.