There's a lot not to like about crisis pregnancy centers. They exist solely to dissuade women from having an abortion--even in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's health. Most of them are unlicensed and unregulated, and a whopping 87 percent of them give inaccurate information. But a pro-choice activist in Minnesota who tried to turn the hot lights on these outfits discovered that any claim these outfits have to helping women is transparently bogus.
Back in November, Payne McMillan, a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield and the co-coordinator of Students for Reproductive Health, recently wrote a letter to the student newspaper saying that one of these centers in downtown Northfield (45 minutes south of the Twin Cities) is an elaborate sham.
The January 2012 report by the NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation revealed some interesting information about CPCs in general. The CPC of Northfield’s slogan claims that it aims “to encourage, inform, and support.” Although this sounds like a valuable community resource, it is not. While the report does not refer specifically to the CPC of Northfield, it does say that some CPCs only encourage women to carry a pregnancy to term. They do not make abortion referrals, and they offer misleading information about the danger of abortion procedures.McMillan went on to write that these centers blatantly lie to women in order to get them to keep their pregnancies going--even going as far as to lie about how far along they are and showing ultrasounds of another woman's womb.
The report states that tactics some CPCs use to discourage women from seeking abortions include claiming that having an abortion increases your risk of getting breast cancer or warning that after an abortion, you are more likely to have future miscarriages.
Some CPCs also commonly refer to “spiritual consequences” or “Post Abortion Stress Disorder” resulting from terminating a pregnancy. This information is misleading; although choosing to get an abortion is not an easy decision, many women feel that they made the right choice in undergoing this medical procedure.
The report revealed that CPCs are not medically licensed clinics. Sometimes employees wear lab coats, insinuating that they are trained medical personnel. This builds a false sense of confidence in clients that they are being given well-founded information.
When Liz Blanchard, the director of the Northfield Crisis Pregnancy Center, found out about this, she was not amused. So she fired off this lovely email to McMillan with the subject line "Put on your big girl panties" (courtesy of NARAL's database on these outfits).
I would love for you to look into the eyes of a woman who has suffered for years after her decision to have an abortion and tell her that what she feels isn’t real…you have no idea. Also, you must not know what the word CRISIS means. Please Google it and you will understand that CRISIS PREGNANCY is not ambiguous — not to women who are experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Maybe you should Google “ambiguous” also. The next thing you should do is drop out of school and ask for a refund, because clearly you’ve spent a lot of money on an education and you haven’t learned a thing about research. What you have written is ignorant, uninformed, unethical and would not be considered a reliable resource by any professor I know.Wow. How sexist and patronizing can you get? Indeed, McMillan--who's actually a guy--told ThinkProgress that it was so unprofessional and full of shrill that he actually thought it came from a spammer. He isn't the only one whose jaw dropped when he read Blanchard's screed.
If you want to stand for something Ms. McMillan, be prepared to defend what you stand for with legitimate answers. [...] Put on your big girl panties and come talk to me.
Linnea House, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, told ThinkProgress that she was “astounded” when she read the email that McMillan received. NARAL does a lot of work to investigate and expose CPCs, but House said the organization has never received this type of response directed at an activist. She noted that it displays a “lack of compassion and professionalism” for any individual who disagrees with the CPC’s point of view.Speaking as someone who's had a lot of contact with Christianists, this email doesn't come as too big a shock. These people simply can't bear to be criticized--many of them have spent so much time in a bubble that they aren't used to being called out.
“If she is willing to write down her juvenile thoughts to someone, what is she saying to young women and men who don’t know that she is not a medical professional?” House said in reference to the CPC’s director. “This type of behavior would be unacceptable from any type of medical or nonprofit professional.”
Many of you know that I was weakly pro-life until two years ago, when I could no longer stand the lack of respect for basic human dignity on the pro-life side. I'm even more convinced of it after reading what McMillan found. If this sort of thing is considered mainstream in the pro-life movement, it's probably no wonder Cheryl Sullenger still has a job. And to think that nearby South Dakota tried to make women visit one of these outfits before having an abortion.