In honour of Family Day

A reminder that not everybody wants to start one, or add to the one they have already.

Via a friend on Facebook, I got a link to an article about the stresses women wanting abortions may go through when their closest option for medical care comes from a Christian group with its own agenda.

Cienna Madrid visited six Christian-run medical centers in Washington to see what kind of advice she and her intern would get if they asked for pregnancy tests and told staff they’d want abortions if the tests were positive.

Only half of the six pregnancy centers Megan and I visit during our weeklong pregnancy test spree disclose over the phone that they don’t perform or refer for abortions. None mention that they’re Christian-run clinics. “We do not discriminate, judge, or lecture,” says a woman with Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic, a crisis pregnancy center in Bellingham, when I pointedly ask if the organization is Christian and if they refer for abortions. She dodges the referral question, saying only, “Come in and take a free test. It’ll only take a minute and then we can discuss your options.”

Christ is waiting in the waiting rooms—Bibles, crosses, and Reader’s Digests everywhere. But by the time women are in those waiting rooms, most have already committed to an appointment, which is the goal.

At every center, Megan and I are faithfully given false information about abortions that is presented as fact. Their statistics come from debunked medical studies, the conservative Medical Institute, and Focus on the Family.

“Facts” like the ones offered in a film called Choice of a Lifetime by which Madrid learns, “my chances of dying within the year are four times greater than if I chose to keep the pregnancy.” That risk of breast cancer will rise by 50%, that she will be unable to bond with children later should she try to have any, and she’ll be at risk of suicide because of post-abortion syndrome, which even the American Psychology Association has said doesn’t exist.

Two groups in Washington teamed up and spent a couple years investigating the care provided by these “limited service pregnancy centers,” Planned Parenthood Votes! and Legal Voice, a women’s law center. The result of their work was published in January.

According to the allegations, women were subjected to inappropriately long wait periods for pregnancy test results and were provided false or misleading information about abortion, birth control, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections. The report concludes that the centers “provide inaccurate information designed to delay women from making decisions about how to handle unintended pregnancy.”

Madrid, who went through a pregnancy scare of her own as a teen, remembers what the fear was like.

In times of personal crisis, it’s hard to critically challenge where “facts” are coming from—especially if the person presenting them is kind and matronly and she hugs you and fetches apple juice. A woman who is emotionally overwhelmed and doesn’t quite know what she’s getting into is pretty easy to dupe. She might not question “facts” like the “fact” that abortion leads to suicidal thoughts, breast cancer, infertility, and death for many women. She won’t be able to forgive herself. Even rape victims aren’t able to forgive themselves.

In Madrid’s case, she was in France at the time, not adept with the language, and accidentally found herself at a Christian adoption center instead of a clinic. When she made it understood to the woman there that she wanted a pregnancy test but not a baby, the woman refused to help her.

it was more important to deny medical access that might conflict with her religious views than to help a scared teenager with no support system find the services she needed. That was the Christian thing to do.

Madrid reports that none of these centers in Washington state qualify as medical clinics because they aren’t licensed with the state. They’re run by volunteers giving limited information to those who come in or no information at all if it conflicts with their religious leanings. Even so, they often don’t openly admit they’re Christian centers and are often the only choices available for women in small towns.

Women’s advocacy groups have lobbied the Washington State Legislature for the last two years to approve a bill that would make it clear to women what services these centers do—and don’t—provide. The bill would require pregnancy centers to inform patients up front that they’re powered by the Lord, not science.

So far, anti-abortion groups there have been able to halt and delay this from happening. At some point, perhaps that will change.

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