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For the last two weeks I've written Feminisms diaries about the dangers of Crisis Pregnancy Centers. You can read the first post here and last week's post here. The point of these posts was to inform people that Crisis Pregnancy Centers are a threat to women and to ask everyone to do something to prevent these Centers from harming women.

A recent article in Ms. Magazine has exposed a frightening statistic - 48 percent of surveyed campus health centers refer women to Crisis Pregnancy Centers - facilities that have a specific agenda that is anti-choice and anti-woman, and that are known to deliberately misinform and misdirect women. Last week I asked everyone reading to write their own college or university and ask about their referral policies. I got a response from my letter that I thought I'd share below, but first, let me give you some facts about Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

From the National Abortion Federation:

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) exist to keep women from having abortions. In many instances, they misinform and intimidate women to achieve their goal. Women describe being harassed, bullied, and given blatantly false information. Many assert that their confidentiality has been violated, and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health.

Today there are as many as 4,000 CPCs in the United States,1 compared to the 2,000 clinics that provide abortion care for women.2 CPCs also are prevalent throughout Canada, with more than 150 centers in the country.3

By and large, CPCs are not medical facilities, and most CPC volunteers who work directly with women are not medical professionals.4 Their main qualifications are a commitment to Christianity and anti-choice beliefs. Although CPCs historically have not employed medical staff, there is an emerging trend on the part of CPCs to gain validity by hiring part-time anti-choice medical professionals and purchasing ultrasound equipment.5

Full clinics are outnumbered 2 to 1. These facilities are advertised in the phonebook and they often use deceptive techniques to confuse patients - like getting a location next to or very near a full service clinic and using a name that is very similar. Women end up going to the wrong facility where they are accosted with lies and non-scientific information.

Last week I used the online form for my former University's health center to ask about the current University policy with regard to referrals to CPCs. I got a response two days later. I'm hoping everyone here writes their own university health center and gets a similarly good response, but I'm guessing some of them will be disappointing. The most important thing is to inquire and inform. Perhaps if these health centers knew what CPCs were up to they would not allow or encourage referrals.

Anyway, here's the letter I got back:

Hello Elise -

Thank you for your question to our website. I am very familiar
with the literature and research regarding crisis pregnancy
centers and their often misleading advertising. We do have such
a center here in Carbondale. I do know they do advertise in the
local telephone book and affix flyers in prominent campus
locations, but our health center does not refer students to the
center for pregnancy options counseling or pregnancy
confirmation. Confirmatory testing is done at our medical
clinic and if positive an offer of a referral is made to me and
my department as a unit within Student Health Center. In case a
student is looking for assistance on their own, on our website
I have links explaining options if a woman is pregnant and
although they do not have to see me, if they do, they receive
pregnancy options support, no coercion to any of the pregnancy
options.

Here(pdf) is the link to the brochure (please note it is 2 pages).

Also note I have links for pregnancy options.

The only exception to my making a referral to the Shawnee
Crisis Pregnancy Center (the only center I am aware of) is when
I have a client who is freely choosing to continue a pregnancy.
If this choice is made, I actually will refer to the local
pregnancy crisis center, as they are indeed a useful resource
if a woman had made her pregnancy option choice because they
offer free prenatal vitamins, baby clothes, maternity clothes,
baby supplies, diapers, etc.

We do not have POLICY per se on this issue, just protocol to
refer to me or my graduate assistant for resource
acquisition/counseling/or support. I am a certified counselor
and it would be unethical for me to push any particular agenda
or option on a client. Professionally and personally, I will
support our students and provide factual information for
whatever they need.

If you have additional questions, I am happy to correspond
further. I appreciate your advocacy on behalf of women and as a
distinguished alumni!

Name & contact info redacted
Coordinator of Sexual Health,
Relationship Violence & Sexual Assault Programs
Student Health Center ~ Wellness

I do wish this was a more firm policy. I responded to let her know that and I located contact information for the Health Center Committee  to request that they consider making it a policy. I don't have a problem with them referring women to a CPC when she has indicated that she intends to carry the pregnancy to term, and I'm glad to see that there is plenty of accurate information for women to access fairly easily.

I'm writing about this (again) because it's important. The deception at these CPCs can permanently change lives. I'm asking you to join me - write your http://www.dailykos.com/... university or college health center and ask them their policies on this. Inform them about the deception. Join the effort to expose fake clinics.

Feminist Campus (pdf) provides us with a step-by-step guide:

1 - KNOW THE FACTS!
Research the "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" (CPCs) in your Campus Community.
Go to www.optionline.org to locate the CPCs in your area. (Note: This is an anti-choice website with locations of CPCs.)
Call or visit your local CPC to find out what they say.

  • Ask what services they offer? Ask about abortion, birth control, emergency contraception and adoption.
  • What do they say about abortion? Do they make the false claim that abortion causes Breast Cancer? Infertility? Suicide? Post-abortion Syndrome?
  • What do they say about birth control? Emergency contraception?
  • Do they have medical staff on site?
  • Do they offer other services, e.g. adoption placement, prenatal care, financial assistance for single mothers?
  • Pickup any brochures or materials that are placed in the waiting room.

2 -KNOW YOUR CAMPUS!
Does your Campus Health Center refer students to a local CPC?
Is there advertising for CPCs on your campus?

  • Where does your Campus Health Center refer a student if she might be pregnant and wants information on her options? Where do they refer students for birth control? Emergency Contraception?
  • Do CPCs advertise on your campus? Look around campus to see if there are any "Worried? Pregnant? Call XXX" ads in your campus newspaper, buses or shuttles, Student Union, cafeteria, informational kiosks and posted flyers.

3 -TAKE ACTION!
Mobilize to Stop Your Campus Health Center from referring women to fake clinics and kick CPC advertising off your campus.

  • If your Campus Health center is referring students to CPCs, ask staff if they know many of these so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ are giving out false and misleading information? Give them our fact sheets and tell them about what happened when you called or visited your local CPC. Schedule an official meeting with administrators to urge they stop referrals.
  • If there are CPC ads in the campus newspaper and on campus, meet with administrators and the newspaper editorial board about the misleading practices of CPCs (use our fact sheets).
  • Ask about campus advertising policies, i.e. campus policy typically prohibits advertising on campus for things that threaten the health and safety of students like tobacco, alcohol, etc. Demand they no longer accept ads from the CPCs.

The more women know about the deliberate deception, the more women will avoid these centers and recommend their friends to centers where they can get medically accurate information. And while you're at it, sign the petition to end federal funding of Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Our tax dollars are currently paying for these lies. I don't know about you, but I'm pissed about that.

Originally posted to Elise on Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 07:34 PM PST.

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