There are two reproductive health clinics that offer abortions in Charleston, West Virginia—the only two abortion providers in the state—as well as eight crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), of the state’s 46 total CPCs. Now, one of the Charleston CPCs has moved next door to one of the city’s reproductive health clinics. Spokespeople for the CPC, which shares a name similar to that of the reproductive health clinic, avoided giving a straight answer as to whether the next-door location was a coincidence or if it was intended to confuse patients on their way to the clinic.
The Sunday Gazette Mail spoke to representatives from the CPC, the Woman’s Choice Pregnancy Resource Center, which moved next door to Women’s Health Center, the abortion provider. When asked if the new location was coincidental, the CPC’s director, Linda Chatting, told the paper, “Well, it may be a coincidence or it may not. It might work out nicely because we are dealing with the same women. If we get to talk to some of those women, that would be great.”
When asked the same question, the CPC’s spokesperson told the Sunday Gazette, “No. Well, yeah, sort of. We didn’t intend on being there, it’s just that building came open and it was really close to where we were before. I think it could be beneficial to women, because they have to pass by our building to get to the clinic.”
In fact, Woman’s Choice appears to be employing a common anti-choice tactic of attempting to trick women into visiting a CPC rather than an abortion provider. CPCs have a history of moving into buildings near abortion clinics so they can gain access to women on public sidewalks and driveways, making it far easier to protest and accost women trying to enter an abortion clinic.
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CPCs also often choose names similar to those of abortion providers. Until 2002, the Woman’s Choice Pregnancy Resource Center was known as Lifeline of Charleston; it changed its name then to avoid “confusion with other organizations.”
Last year in Duluth, Minnesota, a CPC called Women’s Care Center built a new clinic directly across the street from Women’s Health Center, the sole abortion provider in northern Minnesota. The CPC’s director, who also runs the “40 Days for Life” campaign, whose participants picket the Women’s Health Center every year, said the CPC needed to be “immediately proximate to the Women’s Health Center” to be effective at giving “previously abortion-minded young women [the opportunity to] choose life for their precious babies.”
Dr. Lynette Leighton, speaking on behalf of a New York City ordinance that would require CPCs to disclose to all patients prior to their entry that they are not medical organizations and that they do not provide abortion or birth control services or referrals, told a harrowing story of a young patient of hers who accidentally entered a CPC believing it was an abortion provider.
On the way to the clinic, however, Michelle saw a nearby building with a large sign: “Unintended Pregnancy?” Thinking it was our clinic, she went in. She was surprised that instead of taking her medical history, the staff asked her about her relationship with God. They told her that ending a pregnancy is murder, and if she followed through with her abortion, the baby would feel pain during the procedure. They showed her pictures of fetuses from much later in pregnancy. “I can’t get them out of my head,” she said.
I expected Michelle to say that she had changed her mind and wanted to leave our clinic. Instead, she touched my arm, looked into my eyes, and thanked me for being there. “I’m ready now.”