Asst. Opinions Editor
Imagine you’re young and you found out you were pregnant. You’re not ready to have a child, you have no insurance, and most clinics need you to pay out of pocket for tests, or you have to wait months for an appointment. You go on Google to search for clinics that are able to provide you with the resources you need. One of the first ones to pop up is a pregnancy resource center. You look at the website and notice that your ultrasound is free of charge, along with any other tests that are needed to carry out a pregnancy. The website seems to advertise abortions, but it is not clearly stated anywhere. You call and make an appointment. You arrive, and the first thing you’re faced with is a counselor and “doctors” persuading you not to abort your “baby,” misinforming you about all the wrong things that happen when you have an abortion. The first thing that runs through your head is ‘why was this recommended as a women’s health center? They’re literally taking away one of my health options.’
Pregnancy Resource Centers, better known as Pregnancy Crisis Centers, are religious-led clinics whose “primary mission is to dissuade women from choosing abortion,” according to Katrina Kimport, a professor at the University of San Francisco. These centers don’t offer the option of abortions and promote pro-life ideology, as they have counselors that preach an anti-abortion agenda. Most of these clinics also offer baby clothing, diapers, and any other necessities for caring for a child, so they sound nice and encouraging towards families in need of these things, but their agenda behind their nice actions is horrifying. The main goal of these clinics is to promote and protect “life,” yet they don’t promote the lives of the women they are hurting while persuading them not to do what they want with their own bodies.
In 1967, the first pregnancy crisis center opened in Hawaii after abortion became legal in the state. This has led to the opening of over 2,500 centers all across the country. It’s not surprising to me that these centers started opening up as soon as abortion became legal because most of these centers are run by churches that belong to anti-abortion groups. Not to mention, all of these centers have people working in them that are not medically trained or medical professionals. In a survey by the NARAL ProChoice Maryland Fund, they reported that, in Maryland, 18 percent of the pregnancy crisis centers had employed people with medical training. This is very alarming to me, as, when I go on the websites for these clinics, they are advertised as being a center for women to get “correct information” and be well informed about “all” of their options, yet these people aren’t actually medical professionals.
On the Whittier Life Center website, they advertise that it is “Your life… Your choice… You do have time…. Be informed.” This implies that what you do with your body is your choice and that they will give you the information to help you inform that choice. They mention information about abortions, free pregnancy testing, lay counseling, encouragement, guidance, education in abstinence, and support. One would think that this center is here to support you in any decision you make, right? Wrong.
I called their hotline number on the website and was greeted with a friendly voice from a woman named Corey. She asked why I was calling, and I said it was because I thought I was pregnant — just as an experiment. Corey sounded extremely thrilled and asked about my age, and if I lived in the Whittier area. I mentioned I was 20 and that I’m a student at Whittier College, so Corey told me that I could come in for a free pregnancy test and ultrasound referral. I proceeded to ask them about their other services and bluntly asked if they perform abortions. Corey’s friendly tone changed into a very horrified judging tone, and she told me, “No, honey, why would you ever want one?”
At this point, I hung up the phone because I didn’t want to deal with someone convincing me that I don’t need an abortion. The next day, I got a call from Corey asking if I still wanted to come in and take the pregnancy test. I hung up once again. I figured if I went in that she would try to persuade me not to do what I wanted to do with my own body — having an abortion. I did not feel the support that was advertised on the website. It seems like they only support people that believe in their restricting ideologies.
I’m not the only one who has had a negative experience with this clinic. Alyssa Armstrong, a third-year at WC, offered to volunteer for this clinic with the impression that they were a women’s clinic where they help women get reproductive services. She was wrong. “I ended up going and finding out that the owner was going to have me volunteer and help out by watching videos. Luckily, my dad had gone with me to check out the area and make sure I was safe. I straight-up told the woman that I was assuming this center was a clinic and not an anti-abortion [center]. She was not happy and started lecturing me and was very aggressive with her wording, saying how there are these ‘nasty women with those pathetic and disgusting pink hats,'” said Armstrong. When leaving the clinic, they told Armstrong that she could come back any time she needed help, which sounds very passive-aggressive to me.
Almost three years ago, Jackie Au, the QC‘s Campus Life editor, wrote an article for Poetinis about the Whittier For Life Center, called Planning Parenthood. Au expresses her experience with the center, as she called them, like myself. “The pregnancy hotline number works and a friendly female voice belonging to a woman named Peggy picks up on the other end. [ . . . ] Peggy’s demeanor was pleasant and caring. She informed me that there are two of these centers in Whittier. Peggy wanted to know if I was pregnant, and seemed thrilled to hear that I was not at little risk of becoming,” wrote Au. Au mentions that they became less welcoming when hearing why she was calling, and that Peggy was hesitant to speak. Peggy went on to explain that their center offers pregnancy tests, but does not administer them, as they give those seeking them testing kits. This is very misleading, as they advertise on the website that they have pregnancy testing. According to Peggy, the center’s main goal is to convince women to make decisions that “both the woman and the child can live with.” This is ironic because it is the exact opposite of what they’re trying to do, as they are only forcing decisions on women that they may not be able to live with.
The Whittier Life Center is just one of many examples of how these pregnancy resource centers work, and how they are not real clinics, even though they advertise to be. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America and End The Lies, Whittier For Life is a fake clinic and not a women’s health center. It makes me so mad that these centers would prey on women like this only to support their pro-life agenda. Women who go to these clinics are often young, poorly-educated on reproductive health, and have a lower income. These women, who have the highest pregnancy rates in the country, go to these centers because of their free services. These women are the most at-risk for getting misinformation about birth control and abortions. According to Guttmacher, 87 percent of these clinics give out false or misleading information.
Au experienced this firsthand when the Whitter for Life clinic provided false medical facts. “She started to speak of medical “facts” such as birth control not being effective at all and that during a pregnancy, an embryo’s heart starts to beat even before a woman’s period is missed,” wrote Au. This is just one example out of probably millions that have probably happened before.
Guttmacher also reports that these centers inform women that “abortion significantly increases their risk of breast cancer,” which is false because this has been disproven since 1982 during a study that tried to link breast cancer and abortions. Other false information that may be said at this center is the risk of infertility from abortions, and that abortions will affect your mental health in the long-run by giving you depression. This information is extremely harmful and can cause a lot of panic in women, and it makes me so mad that these clinics are able to exist in our county.
The government isn’t currently doing anything to stop these centers even though they know what’s going on, as they have been shifting money towards them instead of donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood. The Trump administration even gave these centers grants, while taking funding away from Planned Parenthood because they didn’t want people to get their abortions covered by the state. Overall, this shows that the government doesn’t care about our reproductive rights, and it’s not fair! Men are able to get vasectomies like it’s nothing, but it’s harder for a woman to get birth control or reproductive care in this country. It took me two months to get an appointment with my gynecologist at Kaiser Permanente this year — do you know how ridiculous that is? No matter what we do, our reproductive care and rights are always being debated or put into law. This isn’t right, and we need change starting now. Abortion has been legalized for years; why are people still preventing it or discussing it as controversial? People need to stop forcing their own choices onto other people — it’s my body and my choice!
Featured Image: Courtesy of Vox