Have you unintentionally visited a CPC? Do you know someone who has? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share your story.
CinKay Espinoza, South Texas
My name is CinKay Espinoza and I’m a daycare teacher and mom living in Alamo, Texas.
I fell victim to a crisis pregnancy centers about three years ago in McAllen. I was pregnant with my son and even though I already had plans of keeping him I was scared because my parents hated the man I was with—who is now my husband—and I knew they’d be angry if they found out I was pregnant.
I was on my parents’ health insurance, so I knew that as soon as a doctor using my insurance confirmed that I was pregnant my parents would find out right away. I looked up places online for free ultrasounds and a place called McAllen Pregnancy Center came up. The website said they provided free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds, abortion information, and post-abortion assistance. After reading that description, I figured they were a very progressive place and so my now husband and I went there the next day.
We explained the situation to them and their first question was “Are you considering an abortion?”, which we weren’t. Before getting any services they said they wanted me to watch a video. I honestly didn’t think anything of it so I said okay and they sat me in a room with no lights on, gave me headphones, and put a portable DVD player next to me. They left me alone and said for me to watch it when I was ready. It was a video giving all kinds of false information about abortion and pregnancy. I remember them telling me that a heartbeat can be detected at the moment of conception. After watching that horrific video they asked me to take a pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy. I already took a test so I already knew but it wasn’t a big deal.
After the test came out positive I asked them about the ultrasound, since that was the original reason why we came. They said I could only get the free ultrasound if I was considering an abortion. They then took me into a prayer room and told me to add my name to a book so they can pray for my baby and me. At that point I was pissed off about how much I was mislead, so I refused and walked out. It was horrible how misleading the website was and how completely different the center was once I was inside.
Emma Robinson, Dallas
When I was 16 I didn’t fully understand sex. I grew up with a mom who taught sex-ed, but in Texas you don’t learn anything useful about sex at school so the nitty gritty details escaped me. I was inexperienced and feared disappointing my mom. Needless to say, I was at a disadvantage.
As a black girl, you’re taught to NEVER “act fast” and subconsciously I had shame about sex after being molested as a young girl. For two months I was sure I was pregnant, sure that my life was over, sure that my mom would be ashamed of me for wasting my potential. Millennial to the core, I immediately got online to look for at-home abortion remedies. I made plans to seek out herbs, started rehearsing lies to tell my mom if I had a bad reaction to anything. Looking back I’m horrified because if anything had happened I may have died.
After finding a place to get a pregnancy test, I debated whether I was even brave enough to go. Having an answer to this question would determine where I was going next so I made the appointment for an evening during the week after school. The crisis pregnancy center was two blocks away from my school, connected to a church, so I walked over as soon as class let out.
The reception was warm, weirdly. The women working there acted very excited to see me. I walked into the space and didn’t see anyone else, but there was a room in the back with several other women. The lights were low and it felt like a cozy living room. There was a table set up with a bunch of pamphlets about the false ills of abortions, and the second I saw that I thought “Oh F**K THESE ARE WEIRDOS” and got really scared. Not knowing if I was pregnant was one thing, but being attacked by Christian Fundamentalists was scarier. We sat in a room together and discussed how we got there. We went around in a circle talking and one by one went into another room full of medical equipment to get tested. We prayed for quite a long time before receiving the results. This entire time I felt the anxiety in the room heighten. The women around me were picking up on how resistant the women leading the discussion were to any options that didn’t end in “I am keeping this baby”. We were getting antsy and one of the women angrily asked when we were getting the results so they brought us into a different room one by one to get results. The second I got my results (a negative) I got out of there. Some of the women stayed, so I assumed they were actually pregnant.
I didn’t escape without a lot of pamphlets intended to make sure I had “information.” My fear lifted as soon as I knew I wasn’t pregnant, so walking back to the train I mostly worried about how the other women were going to handle it.
Alicia was 12 weeks pregnant and wanted an abortion. After finding what she thought was an abortion clinic in Bellaire, Texas, she called them and made an appointment. At the time, Alicia didn’t know that the number she called belonged to a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) and that they would do anything in their power to keep her from having an abortion.
The woman that Alicia* spoke with on the phone, Joanne*, gave her the building address but did not give her the suite number. Instead, she waited for Alicia in the parking lot and then led her into an unmarked room in the unmarked building. Alicia told Joanne that she wanted an abortion and Joanne said that they could do that after she filled out some paperwork. Alicia filled out generic medical paperwork and gave the woman at the front desk her driver’s license before being led back into another room. Joanne told her that if she wanted to have an abortion, she had to watch video footage of an abortion first. The video was graphic and disturbing. After watching the video, Alicia still wanted an abortion. They scheduled the procedure for a week and a half later. Alicia asked the woman at the front desk several times if she could have her license back, but each time the woman responded by giving her another pamphlet. Alicia became distracted when some other people came in, and she left without her license.
It wasn’t until the next day that Alicia realized that she had left her license at the CPC. She called them, but they would not verify whether they had it or not and said they had to wait for Joanne to come to work. They didn’t call her back about her license for four days. When Joanne finally called Alicia, she told her that she would have to come back to get her license. When Alicia went back to the CPC, they suggested that since she was already there they should go ahead and do an ultrasound. After the ultrasound, Joanne told Alicia that she was too far along in her pregnancy to have an abortion. She told Alicia that they could help and offered her baby clothes and diapers. Alicia insisted that she wanted an abortion. Joanne said that they would have to reschedule her abortion for another time, and then she continued to push back the appointment until Alicia was 18 weeks pregnant. At that point, Joanne told Alicia that there were a lot of people who would pay to have a baby and said, “Don’t do this to yourself, you’ll mess up your life.”
Alicia was able to make an appointment at a real abortion clinic and have the procedure at 18.5 weeks; she barely made the 20-week cut–off for abortions in Texas. Even though Alicia stopped visiting the CPC and taking their calls, Joanne didn’t give up. She continued to call Alicia daily, leaving voicemails that said, “Do you believe in God? I don’t think you do because everyone has a purpose and you’re taking this from this innocent baby.” Joanne called from different numbers multiple times a day in an attempt to get Alicia to answer the phone, and called continuously they day of Alicia’s abortion procedure. When Alicia told Joanne that she had already had the abortion, Joanne responded by telling her not to go on birth control because it would give her cancer. Joanne continued to call and harass Alicia even after she had an abortion.
*- Alicia submitted her story anonymously so her name has been changed to protect her identity.