Abortion and contraceptives aren’t the only things that crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) can’t help their visitors with–our investigations proved that they are incapable of handling the nuances of unintended pregnancy. Through our investigations, it became clear that many CPC volunteers are not properly trained to compassionately counsel sexual assault survivors or refer them to the appropriate resources. One of our investigators was pressured by a CPC volunteer to have a transvaginal ultrasound after she could not locate a fetus during the abdominal ultrasound. When our volunteer told her that she had been sexually assaulted in the past and would not be comfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, the volunteer continued to aggressively push for the transvaginal ultrasound.
At another crisis pregnancy center, our investigator told her volunteer counselor she had become pregnant as a result of sexual assault. The CPC counselors encouraged her to contact the police and did not put blame on her in the counseling session. However, when she was leaving the CPC she was given a “mommy bag”–a cloth bag filled with baby items and a pamphlet titled, “Protecting Yourself from Date Rape.” The pamphlet places the blame on sexual assault survivors and was an inappropriate resource.
Our CPC investigations also revealed that CPCs do not know about, or at least do not discuss, the impact pregnancy can have on mental health. One of the investigators told the crisis pregnancy center that she had a history of depression and was concerned because if she continued the pregnancy she would not be able to continue taking medication since it would cause fetal development complications. The CPC volunteer did not address her mental health concerns, but instead told her that having an abortion could worsen her depression. Click here for more information about pregnancy and mental health.
CPCs are often judgmental about their visitors’ sexuality and unintended pregnancy. One CPC volunteer told our investigator that “women just don’t know how to say no anymore” in regards to her having sex outside of marriage, and continued to make other judgmental comments. The executive director of another CPC responded to our investigator’s inquiry about abortion by saying, “you’ve already made one mistake by having sex, don’t make another.” Many of the pamphlets that CPCs provided served to shame and stigmatize unintended pregnancy. CPCs’ literature not only stigmatizes unintended pregnancy, but also reinforces stereotypical gender roles. CPCs’ limitations go beyond the lack of information they provide, several of the CPCs we investigated restricted access to their services by having irregular hours that were inconsistent with their advertised hours and by requiring their visitors to provide a photo I.D. While three of the CPCs requested an I.D. but did not refuse service when the investigator was unable to produce one, two CPCs turned investigators away because they did not have identification. There is no reason why CPCs would need to have a visitor’s I.D. By requiring their visitors to show an I.D., CPCs make their services inaccessible to people who want to remain anonymous. CPCs advertise “walk-ins welcome,” but four of our investigators found the CPC to be closed when they went there during business hours.
A volunteer attempting to visit a CPC in San Antonio arrived only to find a sign on the door that said “be back soon.” She waited for almost an hour, but no one returned. One investigator showed up for her appointment only to find that the CPC was closed. She remained in the area for over an hour and called the CPC multiple times.
On Monday morning [a week later] the same man with whom I originally scheduled by appointment called me. Apparently he had gone into work, discovered the seemingly endless list of missed calls from me and then felt the need to tell me that he ‘didn’t think [I] would show up.’ When I told him that I was coming in for a pregnancy consultation, which I told him when scheduling the appointment, he then said there had been a family emergency. He ended the conversation with ‘so are you good?’ and promptly hung up without offering to reschedule my appointment.”
The CPC was inoperable because one volunteer had an emergency and did not alert visitors who had appointments.