There are 750 abortion clinics in the United States, but more than 4000 Crisis
Pregnancy Centers. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are funded by groups of Christian fundamentalists and the federal government. They do not offer women choices. Instead they bombard them with shame and outright lies about the reality of abortion and birth control. The ad on the NY subway train for one of these places reads: FREE ABORTION ALTERNATIVES. It should read: UNBELIEVABLE LIES USED TO ENSLAVE WOMEN. I know how dangerous these “clinics” are from first hand experience.
On August 6th, I contacted such a facility in Manhattan advertising its services on the train. I posed as a terrified, pregnant woman. I was left with and appointment, an address, and a password for entry. The next day I witnessed the atrocities these places commit on women. I arrived at the given address and was followed into the elevator by an obvious staff member. She asked what I needed on floor 2 and I recited “EMC” (Everything Medical Center), the password, with a gulp.
The elevator released me into what looked like a medical waiting room where the staff member informed the woman accompanying me that the appointment must be conducted alone. “Only the patient,” she insisted with a smirk, “it’s just the way we do things here.” In fear of both the imaginary circumstances of my character and the very real circumstances I was entering, I silently followed.
Winding through a narrow hallway we proceeded into a medical examination room set up with a small circle of chairs, a video screen, but no doctor. One young woman was already seated, armed with a clipboard. Neither woman introduced herself to me, despite their aggressive interrogation and my obvious fear.
When was your last period?
I don’t know…2, 3 months?
You don’t know?
Were you using any protection?
Only a condom.
Well those hardly work. Were you taking birth control?
Well that doesn’t always work either.
I don’t understand why you’re upset.
I’m not ready to be a mother.
You’re already a mother.
I don’t want to make a mistake.
You already did when you laid with that boy. What do you think sex is about?
It’s about sharing something.
I don’t think it’s just about having kids.
Well you can’t have a baby unless you have sex. Your parents had to have sex to make you. We really need to stick to the form though. What religion are you a part of?
I don’t have one.
You have no faith?
Were you baptized?
We’ll come back to that.
Do you ever want children?
No…I’d really like to do other things in life.
Like what? Don’t you like children?
Well yes, I’d actually like to work with kids, but I CAN’T have one.
So you do like children? She likes children but doesn’t want them. She doesn’t
understand that she’s already a mother. You’re probably about 9 weeks along and that’s a two-day procedure easily. I see you holding your stomach, let’s go take a pregnancy test.
I can’t do that again. I have to go.
What do you mean?
How do I get out of here? I need to leave.
You need to calm down and deal with the consequences of what you did.
Please, I need to leave. My boyfriend made me come. I don’t want to be here.
He made you? GOOD.
I didn’t feel like I could leave. It felt like prison. Nobody ever even tried to comfort me. Eventually, I found my own way out of the unofficial examination room through the narrow hallway and ended up in the waiting room. The staff member stormed up behind me carrying a stack of propaganda. At this point I didn’t even feel like I existed. The staff member spoke entirely to the woman accompanying me (she was posing as the mother of my boyfriend) as if I were invisible. I felt invisible. She ranted and raved about how I didn’t understand the risks. She could end up in a permanent vegetative state or die. It happens more often than you think. You think the New York Times is going to put that on the front page of the newspaper? You think the abortion doctors are going to tell you that? That doesn’t make them any money. She continued on to state that my risk for breast would increase 140% if I had an abortion. Yes, one hundred forty percent. And you’re not going to be 16 forever. You’ll regret this when you try to have children again, and can’t.
I felt judged, belittled, targeted… I felt like I’d already done a terrible wrong, and now there was nothing I could do right. I felt like I was worth nothing. The way that woman looked at me… It’s criminal! With their emotionally charged advertisements, they’re literally preying on women who associate their pregnancies with a crisis. All across the nation these Crisis Pregnancy Center’s spew inflammatory rhetoric and dangerous distortions of the truth to instill fear
and shame amongst women in an extremely vulnerable situation. This is not something we can excuse or ignore. There’s a vital need for a powerful force of truth to counter these outrageous lies. The blatant lies I was told, the secrecy, the shame: it was just unreal!
****The conversation reproduced in this piece is not taken directly from any recording. I wrote from memory, but if anything the reproduction is generous compared to what they said.
This is one of their MANY subway ads.