When Liz unexpectedly got pregnant, she turned to Google. After finding a list for what she thought was an abortion clinic, she made an appointment and drove an hour from Columbus to Tupelo. She went to the center with the intention of having an abortion.
Once there, the 33-year-old married mother-of-three took a pregnancy test and confirmed what she already knew: she was pregnant. But then his appointment took an unexpected turn. Instead of being able to talk about terminating her pregnancy, Liz was given a baby bib with a Bible verse on it and sent home.
She started to cry.
“My heart was heavy and my eyes filled with tears,” she said. “I actually had my 15 month old baby with me. It stung.”
Once home, the bib “sat on my freezer near my kitchen and was a constant physical reminder of my already difficult decision.”
“I went to this clinic for help, with one ear open,” she said, “not for someone to make me feel like I was going to rot in hell.”
Soon after, Liz left the state to have an abortion. She didn’t tell anyone about the decision she and her husband made and didn’t want her real name used.
“When I walked into that clinic in Memphis, I knew I was in the right place. These women were there to do a job. They were there to do me a favor and help me, woman to woman, with a helping hand instead of a bib. “
In Mississippi, there are over 30 organizations that identify themselves as a crisis pregnancy center. The state has an abortion clinic.
The differences between the two are striking but not always immediately clear.
CPCs, as they are commonly called, do not perform abortions
Many centers nationwide will list abortions on their websites and / or open next to an abortion provider. For example, the Center for Pregnancy Choices in Jackson does not offer abortion. Their website, however, describes surgical and non-surgical abortions. Under the description of non-surgical abortion, the center clearly states that it does not perform this procedure. But when the reader clicks on surgical abortions, they are asked to make an appointment.
Once a woman is inside a CPC, she often receives brochures or leaflets that talk about adoption. Many exhibit models of fetuses at 10 and 12 weeks.
CPCs are non-profit organizations created, in general, to advise pregnant women against having an abortion. Nationally, they have been criticized for misleading advertising.
“Historically what we have seen is that many crisis pregnancy centers intentionally use names close to Planned Parenthood or could easily be interpreted as abortion providers,” said Felicia Brown Williams, director of Planned Parenthood Mississippi. “They do this with the aim, for lack of a better word, of making people believe that they will be given a full range of options or at least information about the full range of options available to them. that’s not the case. what people get once they get inside. “
“When you google abortion, CPCs show up,” said Shannon Brewer, director of Jackson Women’s Health. “They put it where they appear, so patients, if you’ve never visited an abortion clinic or don’t know the names of the abortion centers, then you would assume they are (providers abortion.)
“State to state (CPCs) find any empty building for rent or for sale near abortion centers, the closer they are, the better it is for them, and they which we call, “settle down” next to the abortion facilities and go out and harass patients all day when they come here. “
The state’s largest pregnancy crisis center, Center for Pregnancy Choices, declined multiple requests for comment. Its location in Fondren is one block from the Jackson Women’s Health Center, the state’s only abortion provider. Volunteers or protesters often stand outside the Jackson Women’s Health Center and attempt to direct women visiting the clinic to the Center for Pregnancy Choices, telling them they can get a free ultrasound.
The Women’s Hope Center on the outskirts of Clarksdale advises women on four choices regarding pregnancy, director Nancy Pennington said. The center was previously called Crisis Pregnancy Center, but changed its name several years ago to offer a wider range of services, Pennington said.
“We show them brochures, leaflets and a video to help them make a good choice and it tells about the consequences of keeping the baby, marrying the father, abortion and adoption. These are their choices. , and we let them know, ”she said. . “We’re against (abortion) but we’re going to let the girl know it’s her choice as long as it’s legal and make it a choice she can live with the rest of her life.”
CPCs are not licensed healthcare providers
Abortion providers and clinics such as Planned Parenthood are staffed with professionally trained doctors, nurses and other staff. The Jackson Women’s Health Center and Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg offer a range of health care options, including Pap tests, annual checkups, cancer and STI screenings, and access to contraception. They are bound by the National Health Insurance Portability and Liability Act which protects patient privacy. While some Planned Parenthood clinics perform abortions, the Mississippi clinic does not.
“What we at Planned Parenthood provide to everyone who walks our doors is medically accurate, evidence-based information, because that’s what people need and deserve to be able to make informed choices no matter what. their medical situation, ”Williams said. “This is one of the things that we are proud of as an organization, providing non-judgmental care. No one can fully understand a person’s situation except the person in that situation and it is not for us to judge. anyone for whatever reason. We are a healthcare provider and our mission is to make sure people get the care they need, no matter what. “
Over the past year, the Jackson Women’s Health Center has provided IUDs, a form of contraception, to more than 200 women. Through a grant, patients receive the IUD for free and pay an insertion fee of $ 50.
CPCs do not provide birth control.
“We have to obey every state law that is passed and we have annual inspections… when they come in, we have to be prepared,” Brewer said. “There are regulations on abortion, there are regulations on surgery centers that we have to follow, so we have two different sets of rules that we have to make sure everything is done. to comply with all of this. They don’t. have doctors and yet it is OK for them to give medical advice? “
CPCs are not subject to any state or federal standards. Although some centers have nurses on staff, this is not mandatory. Few of them have doctors on staff. The pregnancy tests they provide are similar to tests found in drugstores and many are self-administered, according to Kimberly Kelly, director of gender studies and associate professor of sociology at Mississippi State University.
The Women’s Hope Center does not have an ultrasound machine. While he once used rubber gloves to perform urine pregnancy tests, women now self-administer the test. If a woman is pregnant, she refers her to a local OBGYN.
The Pregnancy Center in Oxford performs a “limited ultrasound” by a qualified technician. He has a doctor who sits on his board of directors but who is not at the center every day. He distributes brochures and shows videos about the abortion process, but executive director Summer Farrell notes that the center is not a medical facility.
“We really let them talk, we listen, we are not a family member talking into their ears, we are not a medical professional,” said Farrell. “They worry about how their life is going to change, about their dreams. We want to help them go through this process.”
Many CPCs are religiously affiliated
Many CPCs are non-profit, charitable organizations. Most are affiliated with one or more of the following networks: Care Net, Heartbeat International, or the National Institute for Family and Life Advocates, Kelly said.
From her experience, Kelly said that CPCs do not distribute contraceptives, instead advocating abstinence.
There are approximately 240 Catholic CPCs and 2,000 Evangelical CPCs in the United States, she said.
The Women’s Hope Center, for example, is located in a building owned by a local Baptist church. The center pays its own bills, Pennington said, but she responds to the church’s pastor. If a woman confirms a pregnancy, the staff will give her a series of Bible studies. The center offers a baby wardrobe containing used or donated items and asks women to complete Bible studies to access the wardrobe, although this is not mandatory. When the women return, the center will pray with them often, Pennington said.
“We will help anyone, we have a lot of supplies,” she said. “We ask them if they are willing to do a Bible study. It is not mandatory but we know it is a good thing for them to do it. We are a Christian ministry so we believe the Bible teaches that each child is made of God but we do not impose this on them.
“We realize the world has rights out there. (Abortion is) legal, but we sure don’t want to push that. We’d rather they let the baby live, adoption or somehow. ‘another one.”
“My biggest thing, if a woman has decided not to have an abortion, or if you’ve convinced her not to have an abortion, why does she have to take these classes?” Brewer asked. “If you’re just there to help her, then you’re just there to help her.” You don’t know what she thinks about Christianity, you don’t know, why are you pushing this on her?
However, the Pregnancy Center in Oxford is not affiliated with any church or local denomination, Farrell said. It does not force women to take classes to access their supply cabinet.
“Our goal is just to talk to the client about their life and their needs and help them make a plan for what they want to do and give them all the information they need to execute that plan,” said she declared. “We ask them questions about their personal lives. They can share what they want and what they don’t want, it’s up to them to decide how much to share. There is no denigration of the Bible . “
Following:Baby born at Mississippi abortion clinic