Some faith-based “crisis pregnancy centers” are finally starting to realize that they are in desperate need of re-branding. To help remedy their (not undeserved) reputation of merely telling women not to have abortions, giving them some diapers, and sending them on their way, a handful of centers are now imitating Planned Parenthood and offering birth control to patients.
This is, of course, not without controversy, since many Christians believe this is tantamount to encouraging premarital sex. But plenty of studies show that birth control reduces the demand for abortion — which is the ultimate goal of the people who run these centers — so the pro-life crowd finally appears to be taking a page from the pro-choice playbook.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey explains in the Washington Post:
Eight independent Texas-based pregnancy centers merged earlier this year to form a chain called The Source. With Christian women’s health centers in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, the nonprofit organization plans to offer a full array of medical services, to include testing for sexually transmitted diseases, first-trimester prenatal care and contraception choices.
That model is similar to that of hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics. About half of the organization’s 600 clinics provide abortion directly; the rest offer medical services but refer patients to outside providers for abortion.
These groups are now vying for the federal money that Planned Parenthood denied when told they had to choose between providing comprehensive care for patients (including offering referrals for abortions in non-emergency circumstances) or taking the cash. Their principles mattered more than the short-term financing.
You wouldn’t expect these faith-based centers to hide what they believe, but it seems their traditional approach in hiding their true intentions is also becoming somewhat more transparent.
To make sure the Source centers maintain credibility, [Source chief executive Andy] Schoonover said he has hired “secret shoppers,” people who call the centers and ask whether they perform abortions, to ensure staffers do not pretend that they do. When women arrive at a Source site, they must sign a disclaimer saying they understand the center does not provide abortions or referrals for them.
When a pregnant woman comes into a center, counselors try to be “nondirective” in their approach, said Mary Whitehurst, the Austin center’s executive director. They present the woman with a pamphlet produced by the state with images of a fetus’s stages of development, which Texas requires all women considering abortion to receive. Then the counselors offer a folder from the center with three options — adoption, abortion and parenting — and will give additional information as requested, Whitehurst said.
“We are intentional to not undermine that reason she came,” she said. “If I know she’s there because she wants information about abortion, I’ll let her self-direct it. I’m not going to talk to her for 15 minutes about adoption.”
This is a big cultural shift within the “pro-life” movement.
The use of birth control varies for Catholics and evangelicals. The former believes it’s immoral, while the latter tends to support its use among married couples only. What the pill doesn’t do, contrary to many Christians’ fears, is promote promiscuity. Women have been having premarital sex for far longer than the pill has existed. If anything, access to birth control prevents what many Christians would see as a bad situation becoming worse: an unmarried couple deciding to abort their unplanned pregnancy.
This much-needed shift in thinking could have happened a long time ago, however, if more people were open to the facts. Instead, they ought to apologize for demonizing Planned Parenthood since they’re now practically ripping off the group’s blueprint for women’s health care in a major way. But first, other faith-based health clinics should follow their lead.
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