The Deceitfulness of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Art by Ryan Inzana

Pro-lifers pride themselves on having the moral upper hand in the abortion debate, because, after all, they’re for preserving human life, not destroying it. However that doesn’t mean that they are above a little deceit and coercion. Take crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs. These faith-based organizations lure women into their centers with the promise that they will help them to resolve their pregnancy “issues.” But all they really do is steer these women away from getting abortions. They pretend that they are giving women “accurate information about abortion” when all they really do is lecture them about the “physical, emotional and spiritual consequences.” (Taken from the web site of Pregnancy Decision Health Centers.)

I’m not saying that any center, faith-based or not, should push a woman toward abortion. But in the interest of helping her to make the best decision for her,  a crisis pregnancy center should supply objective, accurate and judgment-free information about all her options: 1) abortion, 2) giving birth and keeping the baby, and 3) having the baby in order to give it up for adoption.

Notice my wording: “in order to give the baby up for adoption.” It seems it is not enough for some of these centers to get the woman to “choose life.” They are often heavily invested in providing babies for the purposes of adoption. Demand has begun to affect the supply and there aren’t enough newborn, healthy (and usually white) babies to go around. So they pressure pregnant women to help to increase the supply. That way they can kill two birds with one stone: avoid abortion and procure babies for adoption.

These centers  use various techniques to talk women into giving their babies up. They tell them that if they choose to keep their babies they’re being immature and selfish. They paint worst-case scenarios about single mothers: poverty, homelessness, despair. And the one I really like: they tell them that giving their babies up is one way to right the wrong they committed by becoming pregnant out of wedlock in the first place.

Many of these organizations provide room and board and pay medical expenses for a “birth mother.” And then, if she changes her mind about giving her baby up for adoption, they tell her that she has to pay them back for the support they gave her while she was pregnant.

They also may purposefully misrepresent the terms of the adoption: They tell the new mother that she has to make up her mind right away, when in reality she might have months to make her final decision. They assure her that the adoption is open (meaning that she will know the adoptive parents and will be provided information about her child as he or she grows up), when the truth is that the adoptive parents are going to spirit her baby away and she will never know what became of him or her.

I’m not saying that adoption is never a good option or that abortion always is. I’m not even saying that women shouldn’t be made aware of all the consequences of their actions: bad and good. But don’t pretend that you’re going to help the woman make an informed decision when you really have your own agenda. Don’t use tactics like shaming to get a desired result. And don’t advertise your services as all-inclusive when in fact you never intended to help a woman to get an abortion or to keep her baby.

Check out this excellent article from The Nation: “Shotgun Adoption” by Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

To sign a petition about truth-in-advertising for crisis pregnancy centers, go here.

Mother Chronicles

The New York Times carries a column by Lisa Belkin called “Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting.” I ran across a few interesting articles the other day and thought I would share them with my readers.

Explaining 9/11 to a Muslim Child” is by Moina Noor.

Anita Tedaldi writes about terminating an adoption in “My Adopted Son.”

Lisa Belkin introduces the article “What Kind of Mother Gives Up Her Kids?”

Parents’ Thoughts on Death” features husband and wife, Damien and Diana Oliva Cave and their alternating comments.

After airlines send two children to the wrong cities in as many days (see article), Lisa Belkin asks for advice from Rebekah Spicuglia about letting your children fly unaccompanied.

Childbearing Choices, Part Two

Yesterday I wrote about women who put having children first or at least on an equal basis with their careers (or plain old jobs). Today I want to write about women who put off having children until it’s almost too late (or definitely too late in some people’s opinions).  These are the women who are known as “elderly,” which medically means any women over 35. (What does that make women who are having children in their fifties and sixties? Senile?)

I’m all for a woman’s right to reproduce when and if she wants to. But I admit even I raised my eyebrows when I heard about the women who got pregnant (usually with their first and only child) and gave birth when they were in their late sixties. How is that even possible? Well, I found out that it’s possible with the addition of a younger woman’s egg to the brew, making the woman who gives birth totally unrelated to her child genetically. If that’s true, then why not just adopt?

Ironically, few adoption agencies would allow a woman in her late sixties to adopt a child (unless the child is also older, like 17) , but clinics (primarily in the Ukraine) will perform IVF (in vitro fertilization) for her. Some women lie about their ages, but many clinics require only willingness and good health for a woman to be considered for IVF (although most consider 50 to be a reasonable cut-off point.)

When I first heard about women in their fifties giving birth, I was amazed. When I married my husband at the age of 49, I still hadn’t gone through menopause but had had my tubes tied since I was 34.  Reversal alone made it cost-prohibitive for us. Although my husband has never had children, we decided that we would let things lie the way they were.

Now I’m 57 and the thought that I could have a new baby is horrifying. My other children are all grown (and between the ages of 29 and 35) and I even have a ten-year-old grandson; would I really want to have a child who is younger than my grandchild? But what if I’d never had children? Would I feel differently then? (I might feel differently but the cost would still make it a non-option. I would rather spend the money on an adoption–there are plenty of children in the world who need loving parents.)

And yet, if a woman wants to give birth at an advanced age, who am I to say that she can’t? The argument that she may not live that long after giving birth should be a non-issue  as long as we deem it okay for sixty-year-old (or older) men to father children. They are congratulated for proving that they’re still virile; women are castigated for being selfish. Again, as in so many things, the double standard.

At any rate, I have more things that I want to do with my life than spend my last years raising another child. Does that sound selfish? If it does, what does that say about what is expected of women? That they are meant to be perpetual baby-factories? That they are still supposed to be devoting themselves to their children even when those children have kids of their own? I feel that I’ve paid my motherhood dues. I will always have membership in that club, but I don’t have to be an active member anymore.

It’s my turn to grow up.