When I called the National Abortion Federation Hotline in January 2005 looking for help finding an abortion clinic in my area, I had never even heard of a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I was 23 years old and in college completing my biology degree when I found out I was pregnant. Although I was in a committed relationship and deeply in love with my partner, I was not ready for a child at that time and chose to seek an abortion. The NAF Hotline operator gave me the location of a women's health clinic in my area, which I promptly called and made an appointment for an exam.
The day of my appointment, I pulled into the parking lot where the women's clinic was located and parked in front of the first building I saw. The sign in the window said "AAA Women for Choice" next to another smaller sign advertising "Free Pregnancy Testing." I was slightly confused by the bumper stickers on the SUV in front of the building with many anti-abortion, religious statements such as "It's a Child, Not a Choice," but didn't think much of it due to the prevalence of these anti-choice ideas in my area.
When I walked in the front door of the clinic, an older man sitting behind the counter welcomed me. I quickly gave my name and said that I had a two o'clock appointment. He acted like they were expecting me and asked me to have a seat in the empty waiting room while they prepared for my appointment. The waiting room looked like any family medical practice: there were magazines and children's books, and a basket filled with toys and stuffed animals for children to play with as they waited. Within minutes, a middle-aged woman, dressed professionally and appearing like a nurse, came out to escort me to my appointment.
She brought me into a different room and gave me a form to fill out. The form asked for basic contact information, but also asked for the personal information of my partner or spouse. The form asked about my medical history, including how many times I had been pregnant, obtained an abortion, and if I had children. As I was filling out the form, the woman began asking me questions, too. She asked why I was seeking an abortion, if I was sure that I was pregnant, and how many weeks I was into the pregnancy. She then began asking questions about my partner, such as did he know I was pregnant, did he want me to terminate the pregnancy, and why he wasn't there with me. I answered her questions, but began to feel guarded.
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She then asked me about my religious beliefs. I was immediately defensive at this point. I asked her why this was a relevant question to ask in a medical facility. "Because I can't properly counsel you on the issue of abortion unless I know your moral standing," she said. I decided that this was not the kind of place I felt comfortable seeking medical care so I asked her to complete the free pregnancy test and then I would be on my way. I gave her a urine sample and she agreed to run the test, but only if I watched an educational video while the results were processing.
The video I was forced to watch made false claims including: doctors who provide abortions graduate at the bottom of their classes and can't get real jobs; abortion is dangerous and often results in serious injury, even death, to women, and abortion causes severe psychological and emotional damage to women. The woman on the video said many women who have abortions have nightmares of babies crying and have guilt about their decision so intense that it sends them into depression.
The second portion of the video showed an illustrated enactment of a surgical abortion procedure. A picture of a uterus with a fully formed fetus inside filled the TV screen as illustrated metal instruments appeared. The instruments were shown probing inside the uterus and dismembering the fetus. Then a suction device entered the screen, pulling the fetus out of the illustrated uterus for disposal.
I was appalled and insulted.
I stood up to walk out of the room just as the woman was re-entering. She must have seen the look on my face because she stopped and asked if everything was okay. The older man at the counter was just behind her in the waiting room. I told them that I wasn't sure what kind of an operation this was, but they should be ashamed of themselves. I said they were obviously using fear tactics to manipulate women who come to them looking for guidance in an emotionally unsteady state. I walked out the front door without ever getting the results of my pregnancy test.
After calling the NAF Hotline again, I found out this anti-choice organization was called a Crisis Pregnancy Center. They had strategically picked a name and displayed signs in their windows to fool women like me into coming there, thinking that they were visiting the women's reproductive health clinic just two doors down. The more I read about these places, I couldn't believe that what they were doing was legal: blatantly lying to women about medical procedures, using fear and guilt to force them into completing pregnancies. I have since been speaking out in support of stricter regulation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and I hope my story helps prevent women from being misled by these fake clinics.