Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guest Blog: My Experience

Crisis pregnancy centers are not simply anti-abortion and anti-contraception; many also take part in adoption coercion, a practice that, to be effective, must first involve convincing a pregnant woman that she is unfit to parent her own child. Most victims of adoption coercion are young, unmarried, and financially vulnerable. The following was sent to us from a woman in Carson City, Nevada who visited the Community Pregnancy Center for support. Reprinted here with her permission.

I went to the crisis pregnancy center for multiple reasons which included: the pain I was in and fear of a ectopic pregnancy, that I needed a support system since I had moved 1700 miles away from family and friends, and that I needed a confirmed pregnancy paper because I was planning to go on Medicaid and resources to help me in my pregnancy. Surely these people would be able to help me and calm my nerves. Boy was I wrong!

So my boyfriend and I showed and it was by appointment only, so we made an appointment and came back 2 hours later. We got there and two older ladies met me. They made it very clear that my boyfriend was not allowed to come with me, which wasn't okay with me because he was my only supporter at the time. We talked a little bit. They asked me questions, how I was doing I told them I was scared and in pain. They asked me where I was from and if I was in school. A bunch of other small talk. Finally, they handled me the test told me what to do and showed me the bathroom. I took the test, it was of course positive. Two other test were, so why would this one be any different? After the 3 minute timer had dinged and the test results were in and they made me read the results out loud to them. Not sure what that was about, but whatever. They then asked me if I had planned to keep it.

I answered that I wasn't sure. Not because I was thinking about adoption or abortion, but because I was deathly afraid that it was ectopic and I would be forced to terminate. My counselors then proceeded to give me the “facts” on abortion. Most of which were lies, including that I would get breast cancer, be infertile, and I would without a doubt be very depressed and suicidal over it. They even went as far as to tell me that I shouldn't "cover one sin with another sin."

They then switched to the loving choice of adoption. To which I quickly replied that the father wanted his baby, was more than willing to marry me and had a very nice stable job. When I was finished they looked at me and just continued on talking about adoption. Like everything I had just said had absolutely no merit whatsoever! In the middle of it they asked me if I had told my parents and how my mom felt about it. I told them yes and that my mom was very excited and wanted a girl and that she was more then willing to support me while I finished up my degree. Again, blank stares and the continuation of the adoption speech. They then handed me some papers. One compared adoption to abortion. One had a bunch of numbers with doctors on it to call and the Medicaid address and number. Which by the way was wrong. That led to a vacant parking lot. The last was a booklet about the loving option of adoption. Here is some of the stuff it said:

Q 1: "If I keep my baby maybe my baby's father will... (marry me, stay with me, come back). Sorry but babies rarely have that effect on guys... especially guys who have sex with you before saying ‘I do.’ Statistically, you're much more likely to meet and marry Mr. Right later on if you release your baby to a loving adoptive parents than you are if you choose single motherhood."

(What I took for it: My boyfriend was pretty much just using me for sex and now that was knocked up he was never going to marry me and in fact leave me. After he left me I would never found “Mr. Right” because no sane man would ever want to raise another man's baby.)

Q 2: "Ultimately, You are the mother of this baby and it is you - Not your parents, friends, or the baby's FATHER - who should make the final decision."

(What I took from it: So even though this baby was half Josh's, he really had no right to it and that I and only I get to make decision for it.)

Q 3: "Adoption saves your child from the all too frequent damage that comes from being raised in a fatherless home … Children in families without fathers are five times more likely to grow up in poverty, four times more likely to commit suicide, two to three times more likely to abuse drugs. 70% of long term inmates grew up fatherless and girls without a father in the home are more likely to get pregnant before marriage."

(What I took from it: So apparently I am going to such a horrible parent that my child needs to be saved from me. So that he or she doesn't turn into a low life criminal.)

Q 4: "The realities of single motherhood mean that your opportunities for dating, marriage, higher education, good jobs, and a comfortable standard of living may be severely limited."

(What I took from it: Pretty much any hopes and dreams I had have gone up in smoke and I'll never make anything of myself.)

Q 5: "Now, with the prevalence of open adoption, you not only choose your baby's adoptive parents, you can get to know them and stay informed about where and how your baby is. Depending on the specific arrangement that you and the adoptive parents agree to, you can have varying degrees of news and contacts as your baby grows up."

(The Truth: Open adoption is not legally enforceable in most state. In fact only in 4 states is it. The adoptive parents can and often do close the adoption at any time. Cut all contact from you, move to another state and not even have to give you a reason why. Statistics suggest that as high as 80% of open adoptions close with in the first 2 years.)

We soon finished our talk. They said close to nothing about parenting. They did offer parenting classes but that was about it. No kind encouragements. Nothing along the lines of, "I bet you'll make a great mom" or "children are a blessing from God, wait and you'll see." Out of all the papers they gave me, none of them where about parenting. Nothing about how if I wanted, I could make it work, or anything. They almost reluctantly gave me the proof of pregnancy that I need to get on Medicaid. They did offer me a free ultrasound, but I feel that even this was to serve their purposes. I believe they thought that if I saw the ultrasound then there would be no way I could abort. I was however thankful for this because it relieved me of the fear of having an ectopic pregnancy.

Now this may not seem like much to you, but it was overwhelming when I was pregnant. I went to these people looking for help and advice. I was scared, highly hormonal with no real support system and facing a life-changing event. But how was I treated? I was told I was a sinner, that the man I loved would leave me, that my child would suffer majorly if I kept him, that my son needed to be saved from me, that I would never achieve my goals and dreams, and that there was better more deserving loving people out there that my child should go to. It was like getting hit by an emotional truck. It quite frankly ruined my pregnancy to hear this stuff. I was angry for a long time by the way I was treated and a small part of me felt that they were right. I was still in school, I had no job, I wasn't married, I hadn't done it the “right way” and as such I felt like I didn't deserve my child. Because of that I never bonded with my son while he was in the womb. I was actually terrified that if I allowed myself to love him, if I dropped my guard let him have his rightful place in my heart, something bad would happen to him. I would miscarry, or go into way to early labor, or he would have some kind of birth defeat that would cause him die shortly after birth.

Pregnancies are supposed to be a joyous time. A time of celebrating and welcoming a new person to the world. But the way I was treated robbed me of the joy I should have experienced while I was pregnant. My son didn't ruin my life. He didn't crush my dreams or goals. Josh wouldn't have and didn't leave me. I make a damn good mother if I say so myself! My son is healthy happy and very much loved. He didn't need to placed because he was wanted.

Carson City, NV

Sunday, November 7, 2010

O Hai!

Sorry for the break in blogging posts. We've been in transition. Check back soon for more!

-CPC Watch bloggers

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Public Apology to Asheville Pregnancy Support Services

I've always said an organization that cannot admit its own mistakes has no business being in existence. In a world of polarizing ideals, especially in regards to reproductive health, CPC Watch set out to offer a clear picture to women facing a difficult decision. Specifically targeting deceptive health centers that use misinformation and skewed research to manipulate women's health care decisions, we have been called a "beacon of truth in an otherwise turbulent sea."

Our commitment to honesty and respect isn't flawless, and we don't pretend it is. We make mistakes, occasionally misreporting on an issue or publishing a testimonial that we later find to be false.

I received an email today from Dr. Cummings, owner of Asheville's FemCare, the only abortion clinic in the Western NC area. She had received a call from the CEO of Asheville Pregnancy Support Services regarding a man picketing her center with a "FAKE CLINIC" sign. When questioned, he said he had gotten word from CPC Watch that her center was a deceptive crisis pregnancy center. Dr. Cummings told me that, while APSS was pro-life, they were not deceptive and should be removed from our list.

I had to check my records. I know we rarely list a CPC without first checking to see if it fits any part of our criteria. We are very public in our process. Our criteria includes:
  • Center has affiliations with/are promoted by anti-choice organizations (must also fit one or more of the below criteria; we decided last year that a promotion by an anti-choice organization is not enough to be labeled a "deceptive health center").
  • Center falsely advertises that it offers abortion services when it does not; or, center suggests that it offers abortion services or referrals when it does not.
  • Center's website and/or informational materials contain false or misleading information about abortion, contraception, or sexual health. Such false information may include claims regarding a link between abortion and breast cancer/infertility/clinical depression, equating certain forms of contraception with abortion (including emergency contraception), or dishonest claims about when abortion is available in an area.
  • Center hides its affiliations with anti-choice organizations and/or religious groups.
  • Center actively uses scare tactics to dissuade women from choosing abortion or single parenthood.
  • Center offers no medical services and claims it does.
  • Center lies to women about how far along they are in their pregnancy, or regularly delays appointments to put women further along in their pregnancies.
  • Occasionally, we will list a center when we receive a negative testimonial, as was the case with APSS.
Asheville Pregnancy Support Services, while pro-life in its mission and highly religious, does not hide anything about what it is there to do. From what Dr. Cummings told me, the center provides and accurately reports ultrasounds. She says she is comfortable referring her own clients to APSS when they choose to forgo abortion. APSS does not tout any sort of "options counseling" and does not manipulate research on abortion or contraception. Basically, Asheville Pregnancy Support Services operates the way a pregnancy-to-term support center should operate.

Personal testimony was indeed the reason we initially listed APSS as a deceptive health center. However, looking back at the initial reporting, I see a run-of-the-mill account of a CPC visit with very limited detail and a few holes. I was wrong for believing such account point blank, and I wish I had taken further steps to fact-check the story. I made a mistake, pure and simple, and for that I take full responsibility.

In light of this, I wish to offer a sincere apology to Ms. Deb Wood of Asheville Pregnancy Support Services and her entire staff, plus any clients that may have encountered the picketer. While we may disagree on issues such as pregnancy termination or sexual activity outside of hetrocentric marriage, from what I understand I have absolutely no reason to keep the center on our list.

A word about the picketer: CPC Watch claims no affiliation with the man.

Once again, I regret the confusion that brought a picketer to APSS, and thank Dr. Cummings of FemCare for helping clear things up. Additionally, I want to invite directors of CPCs everywhere to email me if they believe their center does not fit our criteria for listing. We strive to offer accurate, evidence-based information on all reproductive options and only wish to target centers that willingly ignore sound research to suit their agenda.


Lauren Guy-McAlpin
Project Coordinator

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why I'll Be In Raleigh August 10

The following is a ChoiceUSA cross-post.

The National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay, anti-gender equality, unapologetically theocratic organization, is currently touring the nation in its "Summer for Marriage" tour. According to the group's website, the mission of the tour is to "stand up and make it clear that [they] will not let marriage be redefined." The NOM claims that "the institution of marriage, the very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning."

Stopping in major cities all over the country, the NOM is promoting anti-gay candidates for office, intimidating local LGBT communities, and attempting to build its ranks. I say "attempting" because the number of NOM supporters at all stops have been embarrassingly low. According to the NOM itself, the "largest crowd" they've had at any stop has been in Madison, Wisconsin, with NOM-supporters topping 54 individuals. The kicker? Pro-marriage equality and LGBT rights activists outnumbered this "crowd" with a whopping 466.

The problem with this, however, is now the NOM can play the victim card. And play it they have. Just as their buddies in the anti-choice movement have done in the past, the NOM's organizers have found a way to convince supporters that their unifying belief in marriage inequality is the majority opinion while simultaneously being a poor, oppressed minority. Their website is full of terms like "anti-marriage bigots" and "bullied by pro-homo activists;" not surprisingly, these blog entries contain story after story of undocumented (read: conveniently unprovable) "attacks" by the opposing side. One member wrote that the pro-gay rights activists "frightened small children." Now, I've been going to demonstrations for a few years now, and one thing I've learned is that protests surrounding heated topics like abortion and gay rights are no place for children. Unless of course you're parading your children around specifically to prove your... oh, right.

It occurs to me that the NOM may be intentionally drawing small crowds in order to put on just such an act. In fact, gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign fathom the same. From Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president of communications:

"NOM's highly-touted bus tour is less about so-called 'traditional marriage' and more about creating an elaborate and cynical stunt. NOM rolled out a summer of nationwide events in order to draw lawful protesters, all so that NOM and its allies can pepper ongoing lawsuits challenging public disclosure laws with made-up stories of harassment. This unprecedented victimization crusade is the lowest denominator of political activism, and it won't fly."

Stunt or not, I still believe it is vital for pro-equality forces to be highly visible at these anti-gay rallies. These are not your run-of-the-mill homophobes; the NOM draws the worst of the worst to their rallies. Still, the conservative-fringe nature of the NOM and supporters does not mean they lack political clout. These highly radicalized organizations, in the vein of Operation Rescue and the Tea Party Movement, carry a high amount of influence over the voting population at large: they are not at all without a financial and social power.

The important thing, however, is not to allow their intentionally infuriating rhetoric lead "our side" to becoming reckless ourselves. The anti-gay camp (just like the anti-choicers) know their presence is infuriating to us, and in many cases the present themselves in a way that is explicitly meant to incite rage from their opposition, rage that is videoed and edited together to make us look like the bad guys. This is not to say we should be at all apologetic in our counter-protests and demands for equality, but we need to be aware that everything we do can be used against us.

Now, I am not one of those activists that believes marriage equality will somehow end all discrimination against the LGBT community. How could it? But I do believe that the "traditional marriage" camp is using marriage specifically to target the LGBT community as a whole, not to mention couples and individuals everywhere who refuse to define our relationships in such strictly hegemonic terms. It's one of the many things same-sex couples do not have the right to do in most U.S. states, and marriage in and of itself provides a way to not only attack same-sex couples, but unmarried couples, single parents, and couples with egalitarian views and "non-traditional" role sharing as well. Under the incantation "One Man, One Woman," the National Organization for Marriage exists to challenge not only LGBT rights, but the rights of all men, women, and everyone in between to choose their own way to express their commitments for one another and define our families on our own terms.


Is your city on the map? Organize against the National Organization for Marriage in your community by contacting Equality Across America or GetEqual today!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Note from a former CareNet employee

The following was mailed to Cedar River Clinics in Washington State in October of 2009. It is reprinted here with permission from the Feminist Women's Health Center.

"prolife" centers don't do much to help women after their child is born

John Kerry said "You can be certain and be wrong." This is how I feel about myself after having worked in the prolife ministry for over 9 years for CareNet and their affiliate "prolife" centers as a software vendor.

I believe that personal information between a client and her counselor should never leave the room. My client intake software is designed to store data on-site at the center so that I never see it. No one has any business seeing personal information except a client and her counselor.

CareNet doesn't feel this way. They heavily endorse an internet based company ekyros.com. Hundreds of their affiliate pregnancy centers use the internet based ekyros.com client intake software. These centers make clients think that their pregnancy history and other confidential information will never leave the room, then they turn around and enter it online and this personal information leaves the center and gets into the hands of ekyros employees.

I am losing my business because I will not change my software to send client data outside the walls of the center. A client already has enough on their mind. They do not need their right to privacy violated.

I don't care about losing my company. The client's right to confidentiality is more important than my business.

I only bring up the point to say that I worked for CareNet and their centers for years for 15 thousand a year and without health benefits and now my wife and I are going under. My wife is ADHD and her medicine is expensive. My situation has convinced me that CareNet and their affiliates don't respect the women who visit them. I know this because they had no respect for my wife and I even though we worked for them for years without medical benefits barely above the poverty line. They won't help the girls after they have their child and have proved this time and again. My situation just helped bring this fact home to me through personal experience.

The very name 'prolife' is deceptive, because it implies that pro choice is pro death. It is fringe prolifers that have murdered innocent people at abortion clinics.

CareNet and their prolife affiliates treated my wife and I like a non-person.

They don't do anything to help the young girls who visit them stay off welfare. These prolifers wash their hands when the child has to grow up in low income housing projects and does nothing to keep the child from turning to crime to support the household. In fact many voted for Bush who believes in tough prison sentences instead of providing educational and other programs to help ensure that these youth do not turn to crime in the first place.

Check out CareNet's financials. They take in millions a year. Their president and board members each make over 100,000 a year, yet they give 0$ back to their affiliates or to the girls they say they serve.

Ask a center who uses ekyros.com if it bothers them that they promise absolute confidentiality to the client and then place the client's information in the hands of the employees of an outside internet company. Ask them if they inform the client where their information is going? You will see that the client is a non-person to them and (in their eyes) doesn't even deserve the basic respect of asking the client whether they are comfortable with their personal information leaving the center.

All this is just to say that when the prochoice people say the prolife centers are deceptive and don't look out for the welfare of the client in the long run,

The prochoice side is the side that really looks out for the mother and offers family planning and even works with the mother to have her child and looks out for her and her child in the long run if she decides to have the child.

The prochoice side is the side that is not deceptive and really treats the mother and others with respect.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ACTION ALERT: Demand honest advertising in online business listings

In our recent project to create a Google Map of all CPCs in the country (that will hopefully replace our typed-out list once we get it integrated), we've noticed a number of CPCs advertising themselves as something they're not. In more than a few situations, CPCs have created Google business listings and categorized themselves as abortion clinics. In other situations, they list "abortion services and referrals" and "contraception referrals" under their services. As we all know, crisis pregnancy centers by definition do not offer any of the above.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has noticed this tactic as well.
Focusing primarily on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com, NARAL has published a letter to these high-traffic internet business directories asking them to hold CPCs accountable for false advertising:
Our Letter to Superpages.com and Yellowpages.com

NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than one million of its members and activists across the country call on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com to remove deceptive anti-choice ads that violate your terms-of-use policy.

We understand that you are probably unaware that the advertisers post misleading listings.

To date, we have identified approximately 112 anti-choice organizations advertising under "Abortion Services" on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com, even though the directories have a category called "Abortion Alternatives." We have verified that none of the 112 anti-choice organizations provides or refers for abortion services.

We are confident that you will agree that ads posted by anti-choice organizations under the category of "abortion services" violate your terms-of-use policy. These listings are clearly "purposefully deceptive," "false, misleading," and "fraudulent."

We ask that you remove the material immediately, and protect the millions of people who rely on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com every month to provide accurate information.

You can add your name to the letter here.

CPC Watch does not have nearly the capacity of large-scale organizations like NARAL, but we are still doing our part to help keep high-traffic business directories free of deceptive advertising. Through our Google Maps Project, we are informing Google of misleading categorizations and false statements about provided services. But we still could use more help.

What can you do? For starters, help us alert Google that their listings are inaccurate. Here's how:
  • Go to Google and type "abortion clinic" followed by the name of your city or town (or any city/town you want).
  • Compare the agencies listed in the Google Maps area with our CPC list. Know, however, that we are in the middle of updating our records and may not have all CPCs listed. If possible, click onto the center's website. CPCs are almost uniform in the way they present themselves on the web; read about them here.
  • If you see a CPC that is listed as an abortion clinic, an abortion provider, or is categorized under abortion services, abortion referrals, etc, you can report it to Google. Click "reviews directions, and more" to get to the main listing page.
  • Click "more" and then "Report a problem."
  • Fill out the form. Select “Listing contains incorrect information or spam” and select "category." In comments, type: "This center is listed under ‘abortion services’ but it does not provide or refer for abortions." Keep it simple; there's no need to get inflammatory.
You can also help us continue to build our Google Map. With the map, people who view the Google business listings for an included CPC will see that the center is in a map called "Deceptive Health Centers." If they choose, they can click over to our website and read about CPCs, then decide for themselves if they wish to utilize their services or look elsewhere for reproductive health care and counseling. View our progress here!