Inside the Less-Than-Christian Practices at Crisis Pregnancy Centers
Trigger warning for discussion of abortion.
Right before Christmas 2007, I bought a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t scared as much as I felt a bookmark was placed in my life, and the next exciting chapter was about to start.
I called my adoptive mother and told her the news. She didn’t yell at me, but told me she was concerned because I wasn’t married, and that it wasn’t god’s will for unwed mothers to keep their children.
A week later, she called me back and told me my older sister and her husband wanted to adopt my baby. My sister has three children, all of whom have birth defects, and my mom said that they wanted a “normal child.” I was upset. One, I never said I was considering giving up my child. Two, she had this plan all lined up within a week! Three, she tried to explain to me using the Bible that it would be a sin for me to keep my child because I wasn’t married. Later on during my pregnancy, my boyfriend’s mother wanted to have a baby shower and asked me to tell my family since she had never met them. I called my mom, and she told me that none of the family would come since I was unwed and keeping the baby. She also told me she couldn’t come to the hospital when I was giving birth.
You would be shocked to find out that my parents run a faith-based women’s center that offers free pregnancy tests, counseling, and concern for “crisis pregnancies.”
Many Fundamentalist Christians hold the view that an unwed mother should have no legal rights to their child, and that by remaining unmarried they are abusing the child. Two other women who have gotten media attention for being asked by church leaders to give up a child for adoption are Peggie Hayes and Tina Anderson. Hayes experienced an ultimatum to give up her child or give up her god in 1983 from Mitt Romney, who was a bishop in the Mormon Church at the time. Tina Anderson was a teenager who was raped by a married man in her church and became pregnant. Tina was shipped across the country to be homeschooled, give birth, and place the child up for adoption. The pastor orchestrated the sending away of Tina, after he made her apologize to the wife of her rapist and the congregation for becoming pregnant in the first place. Currently, her rapist is appealing his 15 to 30-year prison conviction on the grounds that information about the pregnancy and rape should not have been admissible in court because he told that to his pastor.
You may wonder how people could sit in a pew and see a teenager apologizing at the pastor’s behest for being with child and not stand up and demand that the pastor be fired. But I can. I was raised Independent Fundamental Baptist, the same denomination as Tina’s church, and this type of mentality is common. Fundamental Baptist churches all over America have started pregnancy counseling centers or women’s resource centers with a two-fold purpose: scaring women away from abortion, and getting them into church.
It wasn’t me who said, “Scare women away from having abortions.” It was my adoptive father, a well-known Reverend, who is the head of Baptist For Life in my state.
When I have been late for a period, I have been driven temporarily insane wondering if I was pregnant. It’s a very vulnerable time in life. For most of my adult life, I have qualified for full welfare benefits, so just being able to run out to get a pregnancy test wasn’t feasible. Many women who consider abortion do so because they are low income. Even more women use birth control to prevent pregnancy because they are low income. That’s the appeal of the free pregnancy test at a crisis pregnancy center. Yet here is a man who presents a caring and helpful image to women in need, but in the comfort of church, home, and like-minded people, says his goal is to “scare.” If that doesn’t give you pause, I don’t know what would. But there’s more.
When a woman who thinks she is pregnant walks into a Baptist run center, she gets more than just a test to allay her worries and some pamphlets on what to do next. She is trafficked into an “Earn While You Learn Program.” This program gives women a chance to earn diapers, clothing, and other baby needs such as strollers, cribs and car seats by attending church, reciting Bible verses, and attending Bible studies. At one point I know that making a profession of faith was part of that program, but it’s no longer on the website as part of the opportunities to earn provisions. What this really does for needy women is make them perform religious acts and learn dogma in order to meet the needs of her child. It’s spiritual prostitution. The website for Agape Pregnancy Center in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (my hometown, and Agape was started when I was a teenager, so I was there when most of the planning was done), makes this Learn and Earn seem like parenting classes. From the beginning, it was all about getting women to accept Christ as their savior, getting them to get into church, and pressuring the father to get saved.
Not only do Baptist centers have the underlying motive of deterring abortion and sexual activity, they also have undertrained staff members. The requirements for working at the center are being a Christian, Baptist, and in good standing at the local church. There is a one day seminar for training. That’s it. Sad, isn’t it? Basically, if you go in, you are going to be helped by a bored homemaker who is so upset by abortion she probably cries at the thought of it. Remember how my own mother tried to tie up the loose ends on my pregnancy? She works at Agape Pregnancy Resource Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. One thing I can tell you about my adoptive mother: she is an iceberg. Love and kindness is just what’s above the surface, and judgment, jealousy, guilt, and fear are what lie beneath.
Every year, there is a banquet for the pregnancy centers where they honor the volunteer who spent the most hours there and led the most women to God. It’s just a numbers game.
The stance my father and many of his Christian friends have about the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is that it cheats god out of punishing sexually active women (even though it’s for men, too) with STIs. Also, the information given at faith-based centers incorrectly uses “STD.’’ The reason for this is because “disease” sounds worse. Trained medical professionals use STI, sexually transmitted infection, because many can be cured.
Growing up, I was told birth control only prevents pregnancy. Then it was a big joke that women would claim they were on the pill for their skin but really so they could be whores. The other reasons that women have for using birth control are downplayed. The very same people who are starting up these centers have told these misogynistic jokes and taught me these negative and inaccurate mindsets. I was also taught that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, did so to prevent “blacks” from reproducing.
There have been quite a lot of politicians making many abhorrent statements about rape and the use of birth control in the past year, and the same people who got these fools elected support and volunteer at these types of centers. One of the deciding factors for whom to vote for is their stance on abortion. That’s all most care about: getting people into office that will obstruct access to birth control and sexual education while cutting the funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that can perform abortions. It’s overwhelmingly selfish to believe that just because they personally wouldn’t have an abortion or premarital sex or use birth control, no one should be allowed to either. Unbiased reproductive health clinics have prevented more abortions than passionate preaching.
I suppose my last insight would be about my own abortion. One of the main things that anti-choice advocates will tell you is an overwhelming amount of women who have abortions regret it. That’s a half-truth and very vague. There are many reasons why women have abortions; mine were low income and my mental health. After my first child was born, I lost it. I couldn’t sleep or eat anything but steamed broccoli. I eventually started to hallucinate that people were coming to steal my baby. I went to the emergency room and wound up in behavioral health, where I was given sleeping medication and got very much needed rest, and then was placed on Citalopram, which is a generic anti-depressant. Since then, I have been in regular counseling and had a wonderful home care worker who came to visit to see how I was coping with depression and motherhood. I am very fortunate. Too many children have been killed because their mothers didn’t get the support I have.
I became pregnant the second time while I was using Mirena, an intrauterine device, as birth control. I became septic and was in a lot of pain. My only humane option was to abort. The other was to let the fetus fester in my womb with a foreign object and bacteria until my body expelled it all, while I would have been in agony and unable to care for my child. I would have probably died as well, so my son would have been without a mother. I am upset that I got pregnant while on Mirena, but I knew that was a slim chance before I had it put in. Reality is hard sometimes, because the strange and unlikely can happen, and they don’t have to have a reason. But I don’t regret my abortion. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t done it.
The snap reaction of many people is to tell a woman not to abort because life is sacred, yet this new life might be born into poverty, abuse, and also might not be born at all because the mother might die trying to carry it. If each of us could show more public support for women who choose to plan their pregnancies and terminations, the real number of women who regret abortion would drop.
Written by Delaine Rae
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