Hard Truths
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Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 03:05:17 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe National Abortion Federation's new report -- Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice [pdf link] -- tells us more than folks like Kurt Ensminger want us to know about the tactics of "pregnancy help centers" from Maine to California.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) exist to keep women from having abortions. In many instances, they misinform and intimidate women to achieve their goal. Women describe being harassed, bullied, and given blatantly false information. Many assert that their confidentiality has been violated, and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health.

Robert Pearson established the first Crisis Pregnancy Center in 1967. Pearson made his intentions for creating these CPCs clear when he declared, "Obviously, we're fighting Satan. A killer, who in this case is the girl who wants to kill her baby, has no right to information that will help her kill her baby."

As always, the anti-choice chorus is protesting what it calls a "smear campaign" with its usual and entirely predictable denials.

"This is nothing more than a routine attack on pregnancy centers by organizations seeking to limit their competition," Care Net president Kurt Entsminger said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.

"Our network of pregnancy centers are held to a high standard of integrity regarding truth and honesty in advertising," he added.

Jor-El Godsey of Heartbeat International, another national pregnancy center network, said abortion businesses [are] "clearly threatened" by the "community efforts represented by compassionate, caring pregnancy centers to reach women struggling with the difficult decisions an unplanned or unintended pregnancy can create."

That's what they always tell the media. Now let's take a look at what they say to each other.

For public consumption, Entsminger and his peers play it by the book, defining the role of CPCs as "caring for women facing unplanned pregnancy" and "connecting them with local help."  But when talking shop among themselves, even some operators of CPCs object to the emotional abuse perpetrated upon unsuspecting clients by the routine use of shock graphics, including horrific videos whose only purpose is to make women literally afraid to have an abortion. One of these videos, titled The Harder Truth, is today routinely shown to women by many CPCs, even when a woman has only come in for a free pregnancy test. The Harder Truth is a punched-up version of The Hard Truth, which itself succeeded The Silent Scream as a CPC's ultimate weapon.

How traumatically upsetting are these videos?  The Silent Scream, easily the mildest of the three, provoked a firebomb attack on the clinic of Dr. William Harrison of Fayetteville, Arkansas. As to their accuracy, Dr. Harrison published his own highly qualified and expert opinion after viewing The Hard Truth.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting[Photo: ABC Nightline]

The images that we saw in ... Hard Truth, were definitely hard, but were they "truth?"

A nurse who once worked for me was here last week with two friends. After the video was over, one said to her, "I suppose you are accustomed to seeing this." She, appropriately appalled by what she had just seen, replied, "I have never seen anything like that in my life!" Well, I've never seen anything like that either, and I see the face of abortion almost every working day.

A skilled filmmaker can easily fool people who want to see a straw man as the real thing. The pictures shown in that video ... were a montage of near-term stillbirths and very late second-trimester abortions, with, perhaps, one set of fetal parts from a 12 to 14 week-old fetus. The pictures were taken using a variety of techniques and magnifications from varying distances in order to achieve maximum emotional impact. In fact, in the words of the video's maker, it was made expressly to "horrify" and to "outrage" Pro-Life partisans, and to "inflict excruciating psychic anguish on [women who have had abortions and on] their friends, families and the fathers of their children." And all this is presented as being the result of common abortion practice.
In 1985, a fourteen-year old boy firebombed my clinic after viewing The Silent Scream at one of Rev. McCarty's Pro-Life functions at his church, a video much less inflammatory than Hard Truth. Had he been shown Hard Truth, might his violent tendencies have had even graver consequences for me?

And the hard truth is that videos such as The Harder Truth have emotional consequences that are graver still for women who enter CPCs trusting that they will receive the truthful information and compassionate counseling that they are promised.  Which is, of course, the very reason that CPCs persist in using them.

Scott Klusendorf, a senior fellow of the National Pro-Life Action Center, holds a prominent position in the anti-choice movement as a motivational speaker. He holds training sessions for crisis pregnancy center personnel at conferences sponsored by Focus on the Family and similar organizations. And like many of his colleagues, Klusendorf doesn't like it that the mission of CPCs is being derailed by women seeking support to continue their pregnancies - you know, the very women that CPCs claim they exist to serve.

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Pro-life crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) outnumber abortion clinics nearly two to one, but there are still 1.3 million abortions annually. In fact Care Net, the nation's largest affiliate of CPCs, reports that 80 percent of clients seen by its centers are not abortion minded. That means the vast majority of women considering abortion blow right by the local CPC on their way to Planned Parenthood. This is true despite Care Net's laudable 1993 goal of making pregnancy care centers "so accessible and so effective in serving women that we put abortionists virtually out of business by the end of the decade."  
According to research presented by the Family Research Council (FRC) at a 1998 Focus on the Family conference for crisis pregnancy center staff the number of abortion-minded clients visiting CPCs is declining nationwide. ... The FRC report warns that if these trends continue throughout the CPC movement, it could "threaten the primary mission of centers -- to reach women at risk for abortion."
Crisis pregnancy centers are vital to the pro-life movement, but even if there were one on every street corner in America, it would never "put abortionists virtually out of business," much less by the end of the decade. "I'm glad that some women can be loved into loving their babies," writes Gregg Cunningham of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. "But I won't let that fact blind me to the reality that there are many others who will kill their babies if they are not made more horrified of abortion than they are terrified of their own crisis pregnancies."

A more principled colleague of Klusendorf's voiced objections about the lack of standards that lead to a "potential for abuse" of CPC clients when shock graphics are used  by "zealous lay counselors." It is telling that, in their exchange of letters published by Priests for Life [pdf link], the concerned opponent of emotional mugging by CPCs must be assigned a pseudonym.

[T]here is a real threat that counselors may misuse or abuse abortion pictures with clients that are not ready to view them. Moreover, most pregnancy centers are staffed with extremely zealous lay volunteers who are not trained to make a psychological assessment of a client. Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to expect that peer counselors may be led to make improper judgments about the suitability of graphic resources in certain instances. This could lead not only to counseling problems, but legal ones as well.
Planned Parenthood portrays pregnancy care centers as places of deception, intimidation, and scare tactics. Planned Parenthood specifically mentions the use of graphic videos by CPCs as one form of coercion. On its website (www.plannedparenthood.org), Planned Parenthood offers the following warning to women who are considering pregnancy options:

Beware of so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" that are anti-abortion....They will try to frighten you with films that are designed to keep you from choosing abortion.

[W] e must fact the reality that decisions in the marketplace are based upon perceptions, not reality, and so long as Planned Parenthood can successfully portray our centers as places that deceive and coerce women, our strategy to reach abortion-minded women will fail. Before we can share the truth about abortion with clients, we must first earn their trust and respect. That means, above all, that we must overcome the negative images projected by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and others. Put simply, pregnancy care centers must address practices that may contribute to these negative images. One of these practices is the use of graphic abortion videos.

An undeterred Klusendorf replied, "My question is what standards? [C]an you cite any major CPC affiliation (Help-All, CareNet, NIFLA, Heartbeat, CAPPS, etc.) that has ever published, much less advocated, a protocol for using graphic images wisely, one that CPCs could reasonably follow? ... If there are no established standards, how can we claim that CPCs refuse to follow them?"

Sometimes standards only get in the way. Klusendorf even defends the use of CPC shock tactics by comparing the situation of a woman considering abortion to the murder trial of Andrea Yates.

Associated Press reports that jurors in the trial of Andrea Yates, the mother who drowned her five young children in a bathtub, will view numerous pictures of the crime scene. One of the photos shows 7-year-old Noah Yates floating face down in the bathtub with his arms outstretched, submerged beneath the water. Others detail bruising on the children and how the bodies of Noah's four younger siblings -- John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months -- were laid out on a bed in the back bedroom. State District Judge Belinda Hill said the photos' relevance outweighed any prejudice they might cause the jury.

Klusendorf argues that, while "not every abortion-minded woman visiting a CPC needs to view graphic abortion pictures," a woman who "remains unmoved by love" and "hardens her heart" leaves a CPC no other choice: "Given what's at stake, it's not enough for her to simply imagine this horror. ... When it comes to moral persuasion, many times images of death work better than images of life."  

[W]hy conclude that facts and sonograms by themselves are sufficient to reach unstable, abortion-minded clients? I think just the opposite is true. In a visual, post-modern culture, using graphic pictures to change the way a client feels about abortion before using facts to change how she thinks (and, ultimately, behaves) on abortion makes perfect sense. This is not manipulation. It's meeting the client at her level.

And who's footing the bill for the 4,000 "pro-life ministries" across America dedicated to "meeting the client at her level" in the service of God?  You are. NAF's report details the funneling of a sobering amount of federal and state dollars into the "mission" of CPCs.

Each year more than 100 million federal dollars are allocated to abortion alternatives programs, a portion of which funds CPCs.
The first direct allocation of federal grants to CPCs began in 2000 under the maternal and child health block grant's Special Projects of Regional Significance Program. This program channeled $20 million in 2001 to community-based organizations that condemn sex outside of marriage and target teenagers. Close to $3 million of this money was directed that year to groups that identify as CPCs, and that amount doubled to $6 million in 2002.
Legislators frequently attempt to fund CPCs at the state level through state-sponsored programs, specific grants, or tax credits. ... In 2005, Kansas designated $300,000 for the Senator Stan Clark pregnancy maintenance initiative program. This program awards grants to not-for-profit organizations providing services to enable women to carry their pregnancies to term. ... Also in 2005, Minnesota enacted the Positive Alternatives Act which designates $5 million over four years for grants to nonprofit organizations that encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term.
In 2004, Missouri gave $1,330,000 to abortion alternatives programs and Pennsylvania lawmakers give approximately $4,343,000 a year to agencies that provide "alternatives to abortion." Also in 2004, Delaware granted $39,398 to a single CPC and Louisiana designated $1 million for CPCs. In 2005, North Dakota set aside $500,000 over two years to promote childbirth over abortion in the state, and ... [t]he Westside Pregnancy Resource Center received $25,000 from First 5 LA Commission, the local agency that distributes the tobacco tax funds in Los Angeles County. The Center is associated with Last Harvest Ministries, Inc., an anti-choice group based in Texas.

And that's only the beginning when it comes to state funding of church-sponsored CPCs in Texas.

As Judie Brown of the American Life League observes, "Satan is an extremely effective adversary, of course. And what he does best is deceive."  

Take Judie's word for it, because she and her friends oughta know.

Horrorshow videos are extremely effective when used on what he calls "unstable, abortion-minded clients" -- and after hysterically sobbing women have run all the way from the CPC next door to our clinic, I've collected enough tear stains on my shoulders to know it.  

by moiv on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 03:25:14 AM EST
Are you aware of any systematic effort to tally up the combined federal and state money that flows yearly to crisis pregnancy centers ?

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 09:47:21 PM EST
and I'll ask some people who ought to know.

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