Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Not a Replacement for Planned Parenthood

The newest plan in the anti-abortion play book is the creation of crisis pregnancy centers on steroids that would provide a variety of health services that would supplant the need for Planned Parenthood clinics and other mainstream women’s health centers:

This quote sums up the rationale behind this beefed up crisis pregnancy center model:

The idea…is that a woman can go to a Guiding Star center and find the services she needs for her fertile years under one roof: well-woman care, OB/GYN and birthing services, pregnancy-support services, natural family planning education and fertility care, pharmacy needs, counseling, grief support, adoption resources and even spiritual care with a chapel. Having all the services from vetted partners in a single building owned by Guiding Star, Jacobson pointed out, eliminates gaps between a positive pregnancy test and a doctor’s appointment. It also allows women to get help with lactation or pregnancy difficulties that may make them wary of having another baby.

As usual, this flowery rhetoric sounds wonderful, but these crisis pregnancy centers are never going to replace Planned Parenthood, because of their insistence on treating public health issues through a lens of sin.

As the reader probably knows, the original flavor of crisis pregnancy centers are purposely designed to be deceitful, masking their religious and anti-abortion aims with free pregnancy tests and neutral language and imagery. Once inside, crisis pregnancy workers (who seldom have medical or secular psychological credentials) provide misinformation about abortion and contraception options, along with a heavy dose of guilt and shame. The use of lies and deception in crisis pregnancy centers has been well-documented:

The main reason that these new flavor crisis pregnancy centers won’t replace Planned Parenthood clinics is because they fundamentally don’t think there is ever a legitimate reason for a woman to not want to be pregnant. Consequently, these crisis pregnancy centers don’t provide access or information about contraception. Even crisis pregnancies run by non-Catholics, such as Care Net and Heartbeat International (which are evangelical and ecumenical Christian affiliated respectively) claim that providing access to or information about contraception to single or married women. Given that the vast majority of Protestant, Orthodox, and even Catholic women use contraception, these views are grossly out of step with the views of the average American pew sitter. By not offering access to any kind of family planning options, other than the natural sort, these crisis pregnancy centers are essentially saying that a woman should be happily and dutifully pregnant, regardless of the circumstances. Ignoring the role birth control plays in the lives of women means that these centers are not addressing the reproductive health needs of the vast majority of American women.

The Obria Foundation, one of the main organizations mentioned in the National Catholic Register article, says on its website that it teaches abstinence-only sex education at its centers. Such programs are notorious for being medically inaccurate and having high failure rates (i.e., high teen pregnancy rates). Indeed, last year, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black ruled that abstinence-only sex education is so flawed that it cannot be considered real sex education:

When Hawaii public schools dumped its abstinence-only sex education program “Try Wait!” (which was created by Catholic Charities) back in 2009, not only did the teen pregnancy rate plummet, but so did the abortion rate as well:

Simply put, providing abstinence-only sex education at a purported medical facility is nothing more than a deliberate misinformation campaign on public health issues.

Another issue that the National Catholic Register article fails to mention is the issue of funding. Because these crisis pregnancy centers don’t provide access to contraception, they aren’t eligible for FQHC grants. So assuming these facilities are able to provide more complex medical services, how could poor women afford them if Medicaid is not accepted? This becomes especially complicated once prenatal care, the care of troubled infants (e.g., premature, addicted, disabled), the care of sick and/or addicted mothers is factored in, all of which are very expensive to treat. Unless the Domino’s Pizza CEO pumps an unlimited flow of cash into these centers, I don’t see how poor women could afford the services.

Lastly, I don’t see how a religiously motivated service can provide unbiased service to people from a diverse backgrounds. The only people I could honestly see using these beefed up crisis pregnancy centers would be other conservative Christians with the ability to pay out of pocket. Women who want contraception won’t be interested. Women seeking abortions won’t be interested. Non-Christian or non-religious women who refuse to tolerate conservative Christian moralizing won’t be interested. Women who want medically accurate reproductive health information won’t be interested. Poor women won’t be interested, if nothing else because they won’t be able to afford them, which is probably a good thing, because it seems like they’d be getting inferior services anyway.

The philosophy behind crisis pregnancy centers of any variety assumes that there is a certain way to be a woman (i.e., pious, fertile, submissive), and that it’s the job of the facility’s workers to make sure that the women who frequent it adhere to this model as much as possible, regardless of the circumstances. This is why crisis pregnancy center workers have no problem with lying to their clients, because they believe that by doing so they’re acting in the woman’s (and particularly the fetus’) best interests. If nothing else, these crisis pregnancy centers show the need for secular healthcare that provides medically accurate information and a full array of reproductive choice options. The problem is that for too many women, this has become a luxury and not a right.