If you are a student, you probably see so-called crisis pregnancy center
ads all the time on campus. They read something like, "SCARED?
PREGNANT? NEED HELP? Call 1-800-HELP NOW for a FREE pregnancy test. WE CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR OPTIONS."
But the problem is – these are false promises.
I am a member of Bruin Feminists for Equality at UCLA. We joined the
Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics this
Spring. Like the Campaign, we have two goals: to warn women, especially students, about fake clinics in our community and to let the government know deception on the public dime has got to go.
Young women and men discuss their findings about Crisis Pregnancy Centers which claim to be offering sound advice about abortion and reproductive health issues. Their findings are disturbing. Kathy Spillar and Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation call for these centers to be de-funded.
So-called crisis pregnancy centers lure women into
their facilities with promises of free pregnancy tests and options
counseling. But once inside, most provide women with false or misleading
information about abortion, birth control, and sexually transmitted
diseases. The real zinger is many of these CPCs receive our federal tax
dollars to carry out their deception.
So, with my boyfriend in tow, I went to find out for myself what kind of
information and options a local CPC really offered. By reading its
mission statement alone, a woman might mistake the center I visited as
being feminist: "empowerment" is the central theme. Their brochure
claims to offer "pregnancy options counseling" as well as tests for STDs
and other screenings. But as I learned firsthand, their talk about
options? Not so much.
The moment I walked in the door, I was hit with spa-like music and an
offer of hot tea, all designed to give me a false sense of comfort. The
receptionist asked me to fill out paperwork and two things stood out: a
question about my religious affiliation and about my partner’s name and
age. Another red flag was the very, very fine print about how most, if
not all, of their "staff" are volunteers and are not certified health
After I finished with the forms, the receptionist magically transformed
into my "counselor." She led me to a white, isolated room (without my
boyfriend) and asked if the Director of the clinic could sit in our
conversation. I agreed.
First, they asked me what I was going to do if I was pregnant. I
replied, "I don’t know." They said their facility does not recommend or
perform pregnancy terminations. Quite suddenly I became keenly aware of a distinct pressure being placed on me by both women. It felt like a
two-on-one tag team and I was their prey. The Director kept saying I
was at the right place because other clinics do not provide the same "facts" that they do about abortion. Calling me "sweetie," she told me
again and again how abortion just complicates matters for women.
Abortion causes women psychological harm, she said. Abortion, she
claimed vehemently, would not be the right choice for me.
So much for "options" counseling.
After the bombardment of questions, they asked for a sample of my urine
– in a Dixie cup (of all things!). Then, I was led to another room with
what looked like an examination table. There a woman dressed in a white
coat introduced herself. She did not identify herself as a doctor, nurse
practitioner or nurse, but she certainly had the white coat. She asked
me questions about my late period and if I was on birth control, but she
never gave me any kind of a physical exam. Then, finally, after what
seemed like days, she told me I was not pregnant.
My response was, "Well, if I’m not pregnant, can I get birth control to
avoid situations like this?" She said, "We don’t get funding for that."
I then asked her for condoms, and she replied again, "We don’t get
funding for that." There was only one prevention method she mentioned:
avoid having sex altogether.
After this consultation, I was led back into the white, isolated room
where I began. My initial ‘counselor’ greeted me with handfuls of
abstinence-only education pamphlets. She then asked me if I felt
"empowered" after this whole experience.
I replied, "No," and left.
But I AM empowered by being a part of great group of active feminist
students at UCLA and by participating in this pivotal national campaign
to expose fake clinics.
Students need to know CPCs target campus health centers to get
referrals. Thankfully our UCLA health center DOES NOT refer students to
CPCs. But a nearby campus, Santa Monica College, does refer students to
a local CPC. In fact, according to our sister feminist student club at
SMC, their student health center even invited a local CPC to table at
their campus health fair this Spring.
No woman should be deceived into visiting one of these places
unintentionally. So I am working on my campus to make sure women know
where they can go to get comprehensive and un-biased reproductive health care and to warn them about fake clinics in our community.
Policy makers need to understand how CPCs intimidate and misinform
women. Over the past eight years, the federal government pumped
millions of dollars into CPCs as part of various
abstinence-only-until-marriage initiatives. But funding for family
planning has remained static or been decreased. President Obama seems
interested in returning to evidence-based sexual health and pregnancy
prevention programs. His 2010 budget proposes to eliminate most of the
giant pots of federal money set aside for CPCs and failed abstinence
only education programs.
We must speak out now to end federal funding for these fake clinics.
It is time to end the dark ages of the Bush era. We can no longer
afford to believe the sun revolves around the earth, the threat of
global warming is a fiction, and that abstinence-only education and CPCs
merit hard-earned tax dollars.
So get involved and help expose fake clinics on your campus or in your
community. Empowerment through action is a beautiful thing.
For more information on the FMF’s Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics, visit www.feministcampus.org.