-By Julia Woods, student staff
You’ve probably seen it before: “Pregnant? Scared? Alone? We can help.” These are ads for Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC’s), and they are everywhere—inside busses, tacked to bulletin boards on campus, taped to the inside stalls of public bathrooms, even inside the coupon booklets that they give out at the CU Bookstore—almost as ubiquitous as the CPC’s themselves. For every abortion clinic in the United States, there are five CPC’s—drive around the city and you can spot them tucked inside strip malls and office buildings, operating quietly beside hardware stores and Chinese restaurants.
If you’re unfamiliar, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are organizations designed to persuade women against getting abortions. Most are faith-based, and offer resources such as counseling, legal and adoption referrals, childcare, and support groups for single moms. The trouble comes with their medical resources: although very few CPC’s have medical licenses, many offer medical services, such as free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and information (almost always inaccurate) on abortion, birth control, and STI’s. Some blatantly masquerade as clinics, while others merely imply some level of medical expertise—the inside looks like a doctor’s office, the staff wear white lab coats and stethoscopes, and there are pamphlets with official-sounding language linking abortion to everything from breast cancer to anxiety disorders. They target young, vulnerable women with unplanned pregnancies—people in need of emotional support, people who have too much on their plate to fact-check a helping hand. As a result, these women are manipulated into continuing their pregnancies no matter what, regardless of what choice is be best for them, their health, their values, and their future.
I’m a woman, a feminist, a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, and an active member of Advocates for Choice, CU’s pro-choice student group (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Advocates-for-Choice-at-CU/190229287675204?fref=ts), so I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with anti-choice extremists—these interactions have not been pleasant. I’m talking about the kind of people who openly preach misogyny, sexual repression, homophobia, xenophobia, religious bigotry, and racism, on top of their anti-abortion agenda. These people scream slurs from the gates of the Stapleton Planned Parenthood clinic—one woman called my mom a “murder granny” as she dropped me off for a volunteer training, and I’ve even had people take pictures of my car and license plates as I left the parking lot. There’s a group that hangs outside the clinic every Tuesday through Saturday morning, waving gory, medically inaccurate posters and verbally harassing people trying to access health services. Every now and then, one of them tries to get inside the clinic; this is dangerous and necessitates the installation of iron gates around the perimeter, security guards, and surveillance cameras.
While these fanatics make up a relatively small proportion of the pro-life movement, they are the ones with enough militant zeal to seriously devote their time, energy, and salaries to prevent women from accessing abortion. And they are the ones who dedicate themselves to establishing and maintaining Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
I decided to investigate our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, the Real Choices on Folsom and Arapahoe, and see how it compared to the horror stories I’d heard about other CPC’s. I would walk in, tell them I was pregnant, and let them react—all the while recording them on my iPhone.
But first, in order to get a better idea of what I was in for before I walked into the office, I poked around on the Real Choices website. Not surprisingly, it is a minefield of scare-tactics and medical misinformation: it characterizes abortion as something warranting “emotional and psychological trauma” (actually, the most common feeling reported after an abortion procedure is relief), it exaggerates medical risks (legal abortion is a relatively safe medical procedure,) claims that the morning after pill is a form of abortion (it is not), and describes in gory detail the most uncommon and graphic of abortion procedures (the vast majority of abortions in the United States are performed via medication abortion and vacuum aspiration). And it doesn’t stop at abortion: according to the website, all premarital sex is wicked, and birth control is a corruption of emotional and physical wellbeing.
Up until recently, Real Choices had an office in the UMC, just down the hall from the Women’s Resource Center. They gave out pregnancy tests and consultations, and even hosted events on campus, such as “100% M.D., 0% P.C.,” (which, from what I understand, was a slut-shaming session by a socially conservative psychiatrist.) Judging from this reputation, I did not foresee a very favorable reaction to my liberal feminist views—they would probably assume I was a witch and try to stone me. But if they tried to do that, at least I would have the whole thing recorded.