I live in a small town in the Adirondack region of New York State, across the street from a branch of a local convenience store chain. The shop maintains a community bulletin board and I noticed a large black and white poster:
Unplanned Pregnancy? We’re here to help…to offer hope…because we care
Then with heart-shaped bullet points:
Pregnancy Testing & Counseling
Abortion Information & Aftercare Support
Referrals for Community Resources
TLC Baby Aid Assistance
I took down the contact info and did some investigating. Life Saver Ministries has an office in Gloversville, NY and maintains a website: helpimpregnant.com
On the website, they are upfront about being religious and anti-abortion, however, the website contains false information. Under the heading, Side Effects of Abortion Procedures, we find this outright lie:
All abortions increase the risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown that having an abortion increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Regardless of the procedure used, a woman’s [sic] of developing breast cancer increases by at least 50%. http://www.helpimpregnant.com/abortionsideeffects.asp
So the claim that they offer "Abortion Information & Aftercare Support" is deceptive. The only information about abortion that they will provide is, "don’t have one." Furthermore, they are promulgating demonstrably false information in order to further their anti-abortion religious belief.
At first, I packed a sharpie marker on my trips to the store, ripped off the contact information and scrawled the telephone number to the local Planned Parenthood on the poster. I made a point of noticing if the poster was at other branches of this convenience store chain. It was; it seemed like there was a concerted effort to place these posters on all of the bulletin boards at branches in town. New copies of the poster were replaced quickly. I printed out several copies of the "Caution: Crisis Pregnancy Centers May Be Putting Your Health At Risk" fliers produced by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics and pinned them up on the bulletin boards.
Although I enjoyed the subversive quality of buying my milk with a sharpie in hand, it seemed not enough.
I decided to call the convenience store chain’s corporate headquarters and I asked for the community relations representative. I left a message on her voicemail that was vague; "My name is ………….. There’s a matter I’d like to bring to your attention. My number is………….."
She called back promptly. I had rehearsed to myself what I was going to say because I wanted to make it as clear and concise as possible. I explained that certain posters had appeared on the bulletin boards in all of the branches I’ve visited lately, read her the poster, read her an excerpt from the website and explained that the posters were deceptive and the website contained false information and for those two reasons, they should not be on the bulletin boards. I emphasized that the posters were deceptive and the religious organization hanging them put out lies on their website. Just the facts, ma’am.
To my delight, she did not lapse into a corporatist drone about looking into it. She said that she would see to it that the posters were removed. I said I would follow up in a few days. She told me I did not have to; the posters would be gone.
Still worried that this matter would be put on a back burner, I called her again and left a message saying that if she could give me an email address, I’d be happy to send her a copy of the poster and a link to the website. She again returned my call at once and told me that she had sent the word out to all of their branches to remove the poster. And she thanked me for alerting her to situation. I told her that if I heard anybody saying anything bad about their company, I’d say that they are okay.
That was easy. Of course, I’ll have to continue my monitoring of the chain’s bulletin boards, but this was a small success that came very easily. But that is not the end of this story. I googled the number for the ‘helpline" and discovered that the number appears in an online official county referral list. That has to go. The state assembly-woman’s office was interested. Perhaps a government body concerned with false advertising might want to know about these posters? And there is a community college nearby; I wonder if there are any posters there? And the young woman with an 8 month old baby who I buy my milk and newspapers from at the convenience store across the street? She’s going to see just what is in the Life Savers Ministries Baby Aid TLC box and have all of her friends who have young children request one too.
To schedule an interview with Whitey Ford please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at firstname.lastname@example.org.