By ANNA HALBROOKS-FULKS
A group of VOXers visited the Bethany center, a local crisis pregnancy center, for their annual open house last year. We had seen their ads on campus reading, “Pregnant? Scared? Need help?” and “Counseling about all options”. Curious about crisis pregnancy centers, we went to see what we would find. We were greeted by two very pleasant women, one of whom was a registered nurse, who pointed us to a library of brochures and showed us around the center.
One pamphlet called “Abortion, before you decide” emphasized the possibility of death as a side effect of abortion. It also linked abortion with breast cancer and contained information about a psychological condition they called “Post-Abortion Syndrome.”
“Post-Abortion Syndrome” does not exist. The American Psychological Association is on record as saying that a woman who chooses abortion is at no greater risk for mental health problems than if she chooses to carry an unintended pregnancy to term. The National Cancer Institute has concluded in dozens of studies in the last decade that abortion does not cause an increase in breast cancer risk. A legal abortion is a safe medical procedure.
We talked to the women about VOX and our work on campus, saying that our main goal was to prevent unintended pregnancy by promoting safer sexual practices. The nurse spoke to us about her reluctance to rely on latex barriers, and also said that Plan B could cause an abortion.
Medical establishments, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, maintain that emergency contraceptives such as Plan B do not cause an abortion.
I asked the center if they counseled women about birth control. They said this was not one of the main services that they found relevant to women’s needs, but should a woman ask, they would send her to the Fredericksburg Health Department.
I examined more of the pamphlets including “For Great Sex Put This On” with a picture of a finger wearing a wedding ring, “Second Virginity” and “Saying No To Sex- It Makes Sense”. The women informed me that they counsel women on how “to keep from being in a similar [crisis pregnancy] situation again.” I talked with them about their religious affiliation and ideology. They said that they hoped that everyone could practice abstinence until marriage.
Wrongly emphasizing death as a side effect of one option does not qualify as “counseling on all options”. Such crisis pregnancy centers are not medically licensed, do not provide medical care and mislead women about their confidentiality agreement.
A friend of mine visited the Bethany Center and said she felt intimidated and coerced when she would not give them a form of identification. Although they advertise as being confidential, their confidentiality agreement states, “Yes, there are times when confidential information may be shared without your permission…[including] sharing information with companies we contract with to provide services on our behalf.”
VOX has undertaken a Support Without Shame! campaign, because it is our firm belief that women in crisis pregnancy situations deserve support, regardless of their choices, without being subjected to scare tactics and shame. We have collected approximately 300 signatures in support of a policy that requires these centers put a disclaimer on their flyers when they advertise on campus, giving some sort of identification of their agenda when they counsel women.
Women in crisis pregnancy situations deserve medically accurate information and unbiased counseling. But in order to make sure that no one finds herself in a crisis pregnancy situation, people deserve medically accurate information about preventing unintended pregnancy—like information about and access to birth control methods.
These centers have every right to exist and push their anti-choice, abstinence-until-marriage agenda. We are simply asking that they be a bit less misleading. While they continue to go about their mission, VOX will continue to decrease abortion rates by promoting safer sexual practices and birth control use.