The Wrong Door: The Terror of the White Rose and the Truth Revealed by “12th and Delaware”

Charlotte Taft

The HBO Documentary, 12th and Delaware, provides a rare glimpse of what women face every day in "crisis pregnancy clinics." The filmmakers don’t propagandize or proselytize. They just show what really happens. Don't miss it.

A must see is award winning HBO Documentary, 12th and Delaware, that premiers Monday August 2, 8 pm EST. The film was shot in Ft. Perce, Florida. It shows both the inside workings of an anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Center, and of A Woman’s World, the abortion clinic across the street. It was produced by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing who brought us the chilling Jesus Camp.

In the early 1980’s I ran an abortion clinic in Dallas, Texas. It was a wonderful clinic. We took very good care of women and their families. But sometimes being in our building was like being under siege. The entrance to our clinic was on the second floor of a two-story building located on busy Central Expressway. At times we had hundreds of anti-abortion demonstrators outside on the sidewalk or in the parking lot. It was intimidating and infuriating.

But even worse was the fake clinic right across the breezeway.

Our Catholic landlord rented space directly across from our entrance to an organization called The White Rose. The White Rose was run by the Catholic Diocese and advertised as if it were an abortion clinic. Every woman going to our clinic had to pass them. Its location was, of course, no coincidence. It was one of thousands of fake clinics set up to trick women who were seeking abortion services into going into the wrong door. Once inside, a woman would be separated from her friends and family and shown a film narrated by a man in a white coat. The film seemed to be information about abortion as it began, but degraded into horrifying images of bloody fetuses and threats of death and mutilation.

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I could always tell when a woman had just come into our clinic from the White Rose because she would be standing at our front desk crying and shaking. She would have been waylaid there, sometimes for hours, before she finally figured out she was in the wrong place and had the courage to get up and leave. In nearly 40 years of working in the field of abortion I never got over seeing that kind of trauma and I never have. I was furious and literally could not believe that this fraud was allowed. 

A first trimester abortion is 30 times safer than continuing a pregnancy. Once we saw a woman who was late for her appointment because of a detour at the White Rose. We counseled with her and felt assured that she was confident about her decision. After the abortion she burst into tears and said, “I can’t believe I lived.”  A lie that is emotionally powerful enough is very difficult to undo.

I persuaded the local Yellow Pages to create a separate section for listing these kinds of ‘services’. Unfortunately the heading they chose was Abortion Alternatives which exists in many Yellow Pages even today. It’s ludicrous. Bookstores are not listed as ‘movie alternatives’. It still confuses people.

We also asked patients who had gone to the White Rose by mistake (and the ONLY reason anyone went there was by mistake!) to fill out a statement about their experience. Hundreds of these statements were later read into the Congressional Record during a hearing about fake clinics held by Congressman Henry Waxman. We told everyone who called our clinic to be aware that there was a place in our building that would not help them with an abortion. We put up signs.  And still some women went in the wrong door. Perhaps this was because White Rose volunteers wearing lab coats sometimes approached them in the parking lot and said, “Let me show you where you need to go.”

One of the most egregious acts of the White Rose, and the network of like facilities often known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers, is that they advertised financial aid. The cruel hoax is that there was no government financial aid for abortion, and all these years later, there still is not. The women most victimized by the White Rose were young, non-English speaking, and financially desperate. Even after being terrorized by the White Rose they still wanted an abortion because they believed that was the most responsible choice for them. If the anti-abortion movement can’t change peoples’ minds they will either intimidate them, shoot them or trick them. It’s not a pretty picture.

On occasion we saw a woman who came for an abortion, but really didn’t want one. When that happened we did our best to refer her to whatever medical and social service resources might be available. One day a young woman we’d seen came into the clinic with her six-month-old baby. She had no money and no place to stay. We were the only place she knew to turn for help. Because we cared more for her than we did for our own righteous anger we actually called the White Rose so that they could help her with a place to stay, food, baby clothes, and all the things they had been promising women for so long. We were stunned when they told us there was nothing they could do for her.

The young woman and her baby went home with one of our nurses.

As horrible and outrageous as these stories are, they are only made worse by the fact that this network of thousands of CPCS is still operating THIRTY YEARS LATER.  Every day women are still tricked. Eighty-percent of the counties in the United States don’t have an abortion provider available to help women—but there is probably a fake clinic there. Finally a light is going to be shined on these cruel and dishonest places. The HBO Documentary, 12th and Delaware, Monday August 2, 8 pm EST provides a rare glimpse of what women face every day. The filmmakers don’t propagandize or proselytize. They just show what really happens.

No matter what your thoughts or feelings about abortion, this is an opportunity to see for yourself what women actually experience. Don’t miss it.

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