There is SO MUCH conversation happening right now regarding abortion, Planned Parenthood, Women's Rights, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, etc. In some ways, I think it's great to see these matters discussed so openly, though I could admittedly do without the abundance of gross overstatements and downright ignorant opinions flowing freely. (For the record, I don't define ignorant as those opinions that differ from my own, but rather those based solely on a media-fed and superficial understanding of the complexities and multi-faceted issues that something like the PP videos highlight.)
I don't even kind of want to tackle blogging about the videos, OK? I just don't. You want my take on it? Call me up and we'll discuss over coffee. And donuts. Because that kind of heavy lifting, discussion-wise, requires carbs and frosting.
What I DO want to do is offer a personal, insider's perspective, if you will, on Pregnancy Centers (also known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or CPCs...or Dens of Lies and Religious Manipulation, depending on your leaning). There are "hard-hitting" articles, exposés and straight up propaganda out there about CPCs, which, I would argue, are not that different from some of the shoddy info out there about Planned Parenthood and the like. So let's level the playing field a bit and acknowledge that both entities are subject to bashing and slander. For the sake of this post, however, I'm going to address the nonsense out there about Pregnancy Centers.
A little history is helpful here...
At 17-years-old, I was hired and certified as a health educator for a reproductive health clinic that served teen men and women (boys and girls, if I'm being honest) in an at-risk area of Southern California. This particular clinic was funded by the state under a grant that sought to test the effectiveness of using the Planned Parenthood model of sex-ed (health ed, reproductive health, call it what you will), with the variable being that the counseling was delivered via fellow teens. So, teens counseling teens, but the exams and oversight were always handled by licensed (adult, duh) medical providers. I'll spare you the suspense and tell you that the numbers were in favor of teens listening to their peers, and rates of pregnancy and STIs were decreased in our patient population, many years over. (Whoop whoop!)
Why does this matter? It's germane because it marked the beginning of my foray into reproductive health.
Fast forward to a few years later, post-college, and I was searching for another opportunity to get back into this space. I was somewhat limited in terms of roles I could feasibly pursue, given that I didn't have any formal medical credentials, but I honestly wanted to stay on the other side of the exam room door. I enjoyed the counseling aspect, of being the "touchy feely" one. The bummer, however, is that there seemed to be limited roles out there for an unlicensed person to step in. The pervasive exception? Planned Parenthood. (Of note: I had no idea what a CPC was at this time, nor were they even kind of on my radar. Worth mentioning that there were, in fact, more than a few nearby where I could have feasibly inquired, but I had no idea what they were. You live, you learn.)
I eventually interviewed with Planned Parenthood. I figured, "Hey, I'm a Feminist. I can do this." Until they offered me the job as a Surgery Center Manager. Surgery Center is PP-talk for Abortion Center.
I feel compelled to state for the record that I was not following Christ at this time. That matters because I want you to hear this: I couldn't take the job. It wasn't a religious thing. I thought on it, slept on it, ate on it...and I couldn't do it. The idea of spending day in and day out listening to those aspirators (vacuums) was too much. I admittedly worked for an OB/GYN office in Manhattan that did abortions on site, but it was behind closed doors, way in the back, performed by a doc I never saw/met, and I could compartmentalize what was going down without having to let it sink in. But managing a center that existed solely to remove babies from women? Too rich for my blood, y'all.
Today, almost ten years later (Hi, I'm old), I volunteer as a Client Advocate for a local pregnancy center. (Hey, guess who learned about CPCs?! Little late to the party, but whateves.) I've been trained (again) to counsel women during unplanned pregnancies, and help them navigate the waters of what is RARELY an easy decision.
While there are many articles out there about pregnancy centers, many easy to find and bolstered all the more lately given the hubbub, they're largely FULL OF CRAP. Pregnancy Centers are touted as being illegal, manipulative, fake (I'm not even entirely sure what this one means...), biased against women, etc. And here's the thing, I get their arguments. Digging through the muck, you can ascertain the intent, and I get it. But they're missing a critical aspect of these organizations: pregnancy centers are largely founded by people who have a fundamental difference of opinion when it comes to life and love.
Life begins at fertilization. Hang out there for a sec. Fertilization = it's on. That being said, can you begin to wrap your brain around why people who stand on this truth would be outraged at the idea of brutally removing LIFE from a woman's womb? Can you grasp that Emergency Contraception Pills, which operate in part by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting to the uterus (and therefore preventing the sustaining of this life), would then be considered an abortifacient? I am not asking you to agree with this position, but if you track with me that these folks believe this to be the definition of life, then how can we not see how anything short of rallying wholeheartedly against any of the above would be callous and inhumane?
But let's not forget THE OTHER LIFE in the mix: Mama. What about her?
Her rights! Her body! Her decision! Blah, blah, rah, rah, rage and glory!
BECAUSE life is sacred, so, too, is Mama's life. So, too, is her well-being. It is from this very truth that most Pregnancy Centers* seek to walk along side these ladies with love, honoring her life, and seeking to care about more than a medical diagnosis.
LOVE means asking holistic questions--not her whole medical history, but her whole story. What support system do you have? Who's the dude? How are you feeling about the choices that are now glaring you in the face? What is your spiritual story? How could we claim to care about someone and NOT engage in these questions?
For the first time in this role, I am able to cry with women. I can pray over them (with their permission, of course), hug them (also have to get the OK), and send them home with a Bible or gentle, spiritual reminder of their worth (one more time...with a "yes"). It's not forced. Ever. It's offered. And I'll tell you what, I couldn't do that in any of those other "medical" settings. It wasn't deemed appropriate, nor my job.
So, say what you will about Pregnancy Centers, but if they've managed to create a space where women can be loved on, cried with, and recognized for the struggles of unforeseen, incredibly difficult decisions that have to be made, then I'd call that some damn powerful progress for women.
*Did you read that? Most. These centers are made up of individuals, and I am not naive enough to think there is nary a place where manipulation and half-truths are doled out. Are their hears in the right place? Maybe. Are they intentionally misleading women? Hard to say. But having been through the training curriculum of one of the largest pregnancy center networks, I can tell you that such behavior would be completely off-mission and not condoned.