The "quieter" anti-choicers

They may not be harassing people at clinics, but their tactics are just as scary.

Published January 18, 2006 6:50PM (EST)

In case you missed this over the long weekend: Feministe takes to task a recent New York Times article on a more "quiet" arm of the antiabortion movement. (I started reading it on the airplane home, but had to stop -- until now -- because it was totally harshing my Bahamas mellow.) Organizations such as Louisville's A Woman's Choice Resource Center (ask the cute babies on the Web site which "choice" the center is referring to), the Times reports, "represent a dimension of the anti-abortion movement that is just as passionate and far-reaching, consisting not of protesters or political activists but of Christian therapy groups, crisis pregnancy centers, adoption ministries, and support programs for single mothers and their children."

What the Times added, though all too quietly, is that these groups also lie.

"The article makes the centers sound a whole lot peachier than they actually are, but can't avoid the fact that the very purpose of these centers is to lie, mislead, and coerce women," writes Feministe. A Woman's Choice (sic) is linked to "a national network of crisis pregnancy centers and postabortion groups that share marketing strategies, legal advice and literature emphasizing what they say are the harmful effects of abortion -- including increased risk of breast cancer and a psychological condition called postabortion syndrome, which are considered scientifically unsupported by the National Cancer Institute and the American Psychological Association."

And: "If callers ask how much the center charges to perform an abortion, Lisa Arnold, a counselor and leader of the postabortion group, said: 'I say, "It changes, but why don't you come in for an ultrasound and we'll talk about it." You don't want to deceive them, but you want a chance to talk to them.'" Mmhmm. We don't want to deceive them, so much as we want to ... deceive them.

The Times says there are about 1,800 abortion clinics nationwide. The number of these centers may be nearly twice that.

A pregnant 18-year-old named Danielle says that she, unlike her boyfriend, doesn't want an abortion. "How would you feel toward him if you did abort?" asks Hollie Colwick, a sonographer at A Woman's Choice (sic), showing Danielle an ultrasound of the fetus and playing the heartbeat on a speaker. "Would you feel you killed your baby because of him?"

Danielle should be supported in her choice. But not like that.

The article also mentions "post-abortion recovery" groups, which are, in and of themselves, perfectly reasonable. While the majority do not, some women do feel depressed after abortion -- just as women do after, um, birth -- and they should get help, religious or otherwise. (It's perfectly understandable why one would feel an individual sense of loss, but hmm, you think the stigmatization of abortion -- even by pro-choice "I'm not pro-abortion!" people -- could play a role in the depression?)

"I would give [these centers] a lot more credit if they actually respected women, were honest, and believed in the personal autonomy of others. I would love to see more centers providing services for low-income pregnant women, for single parents and low-income families, and for adoption and foster care," writes Feministe. (And more nonjudgmental services, like Exhale, for women who need to talk after an abortion.) "But tricking women into coming to the center by claiming to offer all options, purposely putting off their appointment so that their pregnancy progresses as far as possible, claiming that they will always have the necessary financial resources to survive with children, and telling them unequivocally that they will suffer extreme emotional and physical consequences if they have an abortion (and if they don't, there's something wrong with them) is simply inexcusable. It's not any more 'pro-woman' than the rest of the anti-choice movement. It sees women as vessels through which to create more babies, which the mainstream 'pro-life' right-wing political movement has no interest in feeding, educating, housing, or otherwise taking care of."

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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