What Really Happens at a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Texas

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In a recent interview, Senator Elizabeth Warren told reporters exactly what she thinks about pregnancy centers in crisis.

“In Massachusetts right now, these ‘crisis pregnancy centers‘ that are there to deceive people seeking pregnancy termination are helping to outnumber real abortion clinics by 3 to 1,” said the Democrat said of her home state. “We have to close them all over the country. You shouldn’t be able to torture a pregnant person like that.

Warren’s claims raise some common questions here in Texas: What do these centers actually do? Do they lure pregnant women under false pretenses and push them to choose life?

Warren’s observation is true here as well: crisis pregnancy centers significantly outnumber abortion clinics. There are six in the Fort Worth area. The largest and oldest local center, the Fort Worth Pregnancy Center, has been around for 25 years. With the annulment of Roe v. Wade and the effective ban on abortions in Texas and other states, demand for their services could increase. Here’s what I learned about the experiences of staff helping women.

Nearly half of women who find the center do so through a simple Google search, where its rating is almost five stars. A quarter of visitors arrive by word of mouth. The offices are simple, clean, and larger inside than they look from the outside.

When a woman arrives, she often doesn’t know if she is pregnant or not and doesn’t know what to do if she is. The staff will take her to a small meeting room with comfortable chairs – it looks like a therapist’s office.

“The first thing we do is listen to her and see what’s going on in her life,” says Cindy Leach, the center’s executive director since November. “What obstacles does she face? What are his fears? How does she feel about her pregnancy?

This initial conversation is vital; it builds trust.

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A Fort Worth Pregnancy Center staff member performs an ultrasound on a client. Once a test confirms the pregnancy, each woman visiting the clinic receives an ultrasound. Courtesy of Fort Worth Pregnancy Center

A staff nurse that day will administer a test to confirm the pregnancy – in 2021, staff carried out 852 tests. If the woman is pregnant, she may be offered an ultrasound.

Staff walk a delicate line between offering medical help and practical help. In addition to Leach and the Director of Development, the staff consists of a Nurse Manager, a Sonographer and other volunteers who are nurses – all under the direction of an OB-GYN who serves as Medical Director Offsite.

“A lot of changes in this room, the sonographer told me when I looked at the ultrasound.

In 2021, the center carried out 205 ultrasounds, the definition of an image is worth a thousand words.

“A woman who wants an abortion needs facts to make her decision,” said development manager Jamie Bryant. “She needs to know where she is, based on the measurements, if the pregnancy is viable. We look for things like an ectopic pregnancy. We help her assess her pregnancy, which is important during the decision-making process.

A DECISION ON ABORTION AND HELP RESOURCES

“The decision” looms large, of course. Many women arrive at the clinic not knowing if they are even pregnant, but once they know, there is an urgent need to figure out what to do. With the annulment of Roe v. Wade, abortion is basically illegal in Texas unless the woman’s life is in danger.

Bryant recalled a client who came to the clinic at just over 14 weeks gestation and was “determined to have an abortion.” The staff followed the usual protocol: ask her what she wants to do in the quiet room, confirm the pregnancy, then perform the ultrasound.

Bryant said that after seeing her little baby move around on the black and white screen, the woman told the staff, “I can’t have an abortion, I fell in love during that ultrasound.”

About 93% of women who come to the clinic choose to have their babies and most swear to be parents. In 2021, 18 women were referred to one of the partner adoption centres.

“I think it’s mother’s heart,” Bryant said. “Especially once we remove the barriers.”

The relationship does not end there. In fact, it’s only just begun. The staff have what might seem like a unique approach to decision. They say they never try to persuade a woman to have an abortion or not.

“Ultimately it’s his decision,” Leach said. “Women are smart. We want to present them with all the facts, not “Here are the reasons why you can’t have this baby.” We want to introduce him to resources that can help him overcome his obstacles.

Some crisis pregnancy centers have been accused of spreading misinformation about the consequences of abortion. NBC News recently sent producers to state-funded centers for seeking advice and reported counselors told them that “abortions cause mental illness and implied abortions can also cause cancer and infertility.”

Staff members at the Fort Worth Pregnancy Center said they offer two informational resources: a video that explains the abortion process and a pamphlet published by Texas Health and Human Services called “A Woman’s Right to Know.” Under Abortion Risks, the pamphlet suggests that “grief” or “anxiety” can be mental health risks. Sadness after the loss of an unborn child, whether through abortion or miscarriage, is normal, proven by studies, and hardly a sign of mental illness.

PERIMETER INFORMATION IN THE STATE BROCHURE

The pamphlet also mentioned that complications from an infection or tear in the cervix, caused by an abortion, could complicate fertility issues in the future. They are rare but not impossible. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Generally, elective abortion is not believed to cause fertility problems or complications in future pregnancies. But the risks to future pregnancies may depend on the type of elective abortion performed.

The leaflet mentioned a link to increased risks of breast cancer from abortion – shown in studies at the end 1980s but debunked by further research.

It is true that crisis pregnancy centers hope to provide women with the information and tools necessary to choose life. But if they choose abortion, staffers say, they should do so via “informed consent”.

“I can count on one hand the number of women who leave here delighted to have an abortion. They often feel trapped, Bryant said.

Lack of funding and support are the main barriers women face in choosing life and raising their child. The clinic offers help until the child is 3 years old; after that, he directs him to resources that can meet longer-term needs.

Pregnancy center staff will immediately help a client apply for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance coverage, and they offer prenatal and parenting classes, as well as in-house maternity diapers and clothing. For 25 years, the Fort Worth Pregnancy Center has carefully partnered with other nonprofits, including those working in housing and adoption and even a network of OB-GYNs.

Most of the center’s income, about 80%, comes from individual donations. The rest comes from grants, religious partners, and the state-supported Texas Alternatives to Abortion program.

The state has increased funding for the about $50 million per year, contracting services with pregnancy centers, social service providers, adoption agencies and maternity homes for pregnant women. So much for the myth that Texas has always and solely focused on the unborn child – not on helping women.

“The woman is the one with whom we build the relationship. We think she’s capable of having a baby and achieving her goals,” Leach said.

PRENATAL AND PARENTAL HELP

The Fort Worth center offers prenatal and parenting classes in English and Spanish, which is the primary language of approximately 20% of clients. More than half of customers are between the ages of 20 and 29, and nearly two-thirds are Hispanic. They come from all walks of life. Surprisingly, just under 30% of the women who come forward are married.

Classes are a big part of the centre’s work.

“We want to equip her not just to have a baby, but to be a good mom,” Leach said.

The father is also a big part of the conversation, in terms of choosing the mother. “He has the most influential voice,” Leach said.

In 2021, the center saw 964 clients, followed regularly unless a woman asked them to stop. Many return, pregnant again, not knowing where to turn but knowing that the center is a safe place.

A client returned to the clinic recently after flying out of state to take the first pill of an abortion-inducing diet. On the way home, Leach said, she regretted the decision.

“She called us immediately,” Leach said. “We were the point of trust.”

The woman asked for help and the center put her in touch with a doctor who gave her hormones to try to reverse the effects of the drug. It is not guaranteed and gynecologist groups are worried about the treatment. But in the case of this client, she is still pregnant today and in contact with the centre.

Customer visits and calls have increased over the past few months, especially since the announcement of the Supreme Court decision. Leach is determined to keep pace and continue the work of the 25-year-old clinic.

“We want to be the voice of hope,” she said. “We have always been a safe place. We understand the reasons why we should choose an abortion so as not to value it less. We’re not going to shame him.

This story was originally published July 15, 2022 5:03 a.m.

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Nicole Russell is a writer and mother of four who has covered law, politics and cultural issues for The Washington Examiner, The Daily Signal, The Atlantic and The New York Post. She was voted “most argumentative” in high school and is proud to have discovered that being an opinion writer in Texas was far cheaper and more exciting than earning a law degree elsewhere.

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