Why crisis pregnancy centers should trust women

June 27th, 2018

June is always a busy month for Supreme Court decisions, and yesterday, on the third anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended marriage equality to all fifty states, the Supreme Court issued a number of decisions that were not as well-received by liberals. As has been the trend, the big decision affecting reproductive rights and reproductive care, including abortion, was not actually about abortion itself but about free speech.

In a 5-4 decision on the case NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court upheld a challenge to a California law that required reproductive health clinics to provide certain information to clients. The court found that the law likely violates the First Amendment. The 2015 law was enacted in response to the rise in crisis pregnancy centers, many with religious affiliations, who were not licensed medical clinics and often provided women with misleading or inaccurate information about their options. Per the law, clinics had to post information that their services did not include licensed medical help, and they were required to inform patients that free or low-cost abortion services are available through the state.

A lot of controversy swirls around crisis pregnancy centers, or pregnancy resource centers. Ideally, such a center would provide women and their partners and families a holistic place to turn to for counseling around abortion, pregnancy, and childbirth as well as assisting families with non-medical resources like adoption referrals, financial assistance, and parenting help. But too often, they offer inaccurate and misleading information about the mental and physical health risks of abortion services or fail to mention abortion as an option altogether.

As someone who identifies as a pro-choice Christian, I take the “choice” part of that label very seriously, and generally, I support the efforts of pregnancy resource centers to prevent abortion through the offering of financial assistance and adoption referrals. In order to make the right choice for themselves, their partners, and their families, women must have access to complete and medically accurate information. Too often, these centers are able to take advantage of women who are already stressed and scared by preying on their fears about the risks or costs of abortion in order to convince them to carry a pregnancy to term.

While I sympathize with the Christian grounding and desire to cherish and support bringing forth new life into the world, even in circumstances that are less-than-ideal, first and foremost these decisions should be made by those who are most affected. At their worst, these crisis pregnancy centers — and, more broadly, anti-abortion Christians — do not seem to trust women as fully capable moral actors who can weigh ethical conflicts. Truly trusting women to make their own decisions about child-bearing and their health, to weigh their personal moral and ethical convictions with the support of their community, family, partner, and friends, would necessitate providing them with full and accurate information. If the anti-abortion argument is so persuasive, surely it does not require withholding information, misleading, or outright lying about abortion to women coming to pregnancy resource centers in a moment of stress.

In some states, crisis pregnancy centers are partially funded by sales of license plates. In Tennessee, these license plates have a picture of the face of an adorable white baby on one side, with big letters that say, “Choose Life” across the bottom. I believe the intention is for the viewer to focus on that second word, “Life,” but the important word for me, as a pro-choice Christian is “Choose.” I want women to have access to the resources, information, and medical care they need in order to affirmatively and deliberately choose that life (or not), rather than mistakenly believing that they don’t have a choice.

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