Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is pregnancy options counseling becoming obsolete?

The other day, I had an interesting private twitter conversation with well-known abortion advocate and author Robin Marty.

Marty was promoting a local project that plans to call itself a "pregnancy center," but that will refer for abortions. The idea is that it will treat abortion, adoption, and parenting as equally valid options and offer support for all three. I wondered aloud to Marty if this was a pro-choice acknowledgment that Planned Parenthood can no longer be feasibly marketed in such a fashion, given that its prenatal services have diminished rapidly over the last few years. We wound up on a different question: do women actually go to Planned Parenthood, or to pregnancy centers, in order to explore their options? Or do women generally make their decisions in advance, and go to Planned Parenthood if they want an abortion and to a pregnancy center if they've chosen life?

Marty's position (edited slightly to reflect how she'd write if not limited to 140 characters):
A person goes into a pregnancy center when she's already made the choice to carry to term. We've hit a point where there is so much information out there, most people think they know what they want before they walk through any door, in my opinion.
I wasn't sure if I agreed or not, so I promised her I'd explore the topic in a blog post. Here you go, Robin.

According to Planned Parenthood's annual reports, nine out of ten pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood get an abortion. But this doesn't tell us much, because it's a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Has PP dropped its non-abortion services because people don't want them anymore? Or do most pregnant PP clients have abortions because PP is increasingly abortion-focused in its offerings and counseling? Hard to say.

We've all heard stories about women who change their minds on the sidewalk at the last minute. Heck, Chicago-area pro-lifers even developed a protocol for women who change their minds mid-abortion. But these are just anecdotes; we don't know how common it is, and I haven't made any attempt here to separate Planned Parenthoods from places that are obviously abortion businesses and make no pretense otherwise.

Conversely, though, I'm fairly confident that many women going to pregnancy resource centers have not made up their minds. (If they had, the abortion industry and its allies wouldn't be so obsessed with "warning" people that pro-life pregnancy centers and clinics don't do abortions.) Most pregnancy resource centers offer free pregnancy tests, a service for which PP and other abortion centers charge; no doubt people do use those free tests, or else the PRCs would stop offering them.1 (After all, PRCs are on a much tighter budget than Planned Parenthood.) Along the same lines, the increasing use of ultrasound technology at PRCs is driven in large part by their ability to change minds on abortion.2 Sonogram machines are expensive, so again, I doubt PRCs would make that investment if they didn't think women were coming in who might be impacted by it. If the choices were being made ahead of time, we would expect PRCs to focus exclusively on offering maternity and baby supplies, parenting classes, etc.

That said, there is something to Marty's point about there being a lot of information out there, and particularly on the internet. Look at Online for Life, which reaches abortion-minded women through internet marketing, connects them with local pro-life resources, and is able to follow their journeys through pregnancy and birth. And Secular Pro-Life's own project aims to inform women about malpractice lawsuits and health code violations long before they make an appointment at a shoddy abortion facility.

So yes, the trend is real, even if we haven't yet reached the point where all or most women choose life or abortion before seeking a provider. And this trend isn't surprising to me, either. I think that it's impossible for a counselor to be truly objective about a woman's options, because you just can't avoid the moral issues surrounding abortion. People with no opinion on abortion are unlikely to care enough to become pregnancy options counselors anyway (and even if they did, how long would they remain ambivalent?).3 Women in crisis pregnancies who are truly undecided about what to do probably realize this, and may respond by "self-counseling," i.e. consulting their friends and/or the internet. It seems that we pro-lifers and our loyal opposition are in a race to be the first voice she hears.

1. According to a joint report by several national PRC umbrella groups, American PRCs provided 730,000 pregnancy tests in 2010. 
2. According to that same report, American PRCs performed 230,000 ultrasounds in 2010. I should note that sonograms are not solely used when an abortion-minded woman comes to a PRC; they are also used as a backup to pregnancy tests where there is some doubt as to whether or not the client is pregnant, and to detect ectopic pregnancies. And of course, they are used routinely at those centers that offer full-service prenatal care on site. Most PRCs, though, don't have the budget for on-site prenatal care and instead have referral arrangements with supportive community physicians.
3. The purportedly neutral project Marty was promoting is staunchly pro-choice. Its fundraising page states: "It is time to demonstrate that anti-abortion organizations do not have a monopoly on supporting parents and people who are continuing their pregnancies." I found that a fascinating departure from the usual slander that those meanie anti-choicers never actually do anything to support born people.


dudebro said...

How about some sources that are not from lifenews?

And is just a sneaky way to list doctors so they can be stalked and terrorized by pro life butters.

Kelsey said...

The LifeNews piece is a summary of PP's annual reports. If you want to look at the annual reports, they're easy to find, so be my guest. I'm sure you'll report back if you discover that LifeNews is wrong. (It isn't.)

And you do realize that there are *pro-choice groups* that maintain directories of abortion business, right? Of ALL of them, not just the ones with problems. They even include addresses (which doesn't, incidentally). That's because abortion clinics are businesses that advertise for clients; their locations aren't secrets.

Crystal Kupper said...

Your last sentence says it all.

Marauder said...

"Most pregnancy resource centers offer free pregnancy tests, a service for which PP and other abortion centers charge; no doubt people do use those free tests, or else the PRCs would stop offering them."

This is anecdotal, but due to past donations, I'm on the mailing lists for several Birthright locations in various states. Some of them send me their annual newsletter, where they list how many of which services they provided during the course of the past year. I've noticed that pregnancy tests tend to be the service that has the highest numbers.

Michelle Ewing said...

Most women I have referred to a local cpc had their mind set on abortion. They felt trapped. A few in the end did abort. This clinic does not shame mothers, but they do not attempt to dehumanize the child either. Many women have their minds set on abortion, but when they are shown all the resources they often reconsider. I think profits would get in the way of pointing out other non profits and government assistantce and it would quickly be much like other abortion clinics. And they defiantly not offer post abortive consuling.

dudebro said...

The True Pooka would disagree with that assessment:

The site also doubles as an intimidation tool to be used against doctors. It doesn’t matter what type of doctor you are, if you’re a family health doctor and abortion consists of 1% of your medical activities, they’ll label you an ABORTION DOCTOR and list your name next to numerous other doctors who secularprolife have judged to be unsafe doctors ( judgment passed using their hard earned degrees in Looking Shit Up On-Line from Internet University).

If the site was really genuinely concerned about the well-being of women then why do they present this false dichotomy-description of malpractice suits?

The reader is left with the ominous feeling that there’s a massive cover up of what is in reality a very dangerous medical procedure. It’s with this in mind that the reader then sees not just the names of doctors who have been involved in medical malpractice suits but also doctors who have not. Tossed in with their support of the myth of abortion trauma syndrome, has placed itself clearly in the realm of being no more than a propaganda tool designed to spread misinformation.

35% die from bedsores compared to 0.0005% from abortions.

But SPL (secularprolife) doesn’t want you to know or think about that because it gets in the way of their trying to drum up fear over a fictional safety issue they’ve created to try to scare women into not getting abortions.

Kelsey said...

"It’s with this in mind that the reader then sees not just the names of
doctors who have been involved in medical malpractice suits but also
doctors who have not."

...dude, bro! that's just demonstrably not true. Have you even visited the site?

Whoop-dee-do, you've found a fellow conspiracy theorist to quote. And you criticize SPL for a link to LifeNews!

ann said...

And he wonders why I call him a troll.

TheTrue Pooka said...

Hi, Philip Rose a.k.a. TheTruePooka here.

It's demonstrably true. I followed up with some of the doctors listed on that site. I also contacted not just their offices but also the local courts to check the records (alleged NYC cases as it's local and not out of my way to do so).

AbortionSafety's site listing for which room you access records for this sort of thing in NYC is incorrect.

It has to do with a quirk of how local government lists out locations (rooms) for records and access (a lot of business entities with multiple file-storage/ account locations do the same thing).

But you wouldn't know that because no one connected to this little project actually went down to the courthouse seeking confirmation.

you just lifted the information off of the internet. Next time try actually doing real research and you folks won't get caught out in an easy lie this way.

Now, you can either go down and check yourself or you can keep screaming how it's a "conspiracy theory."

That makes no nevermind to me.

However, be aware that little errors like this just show people that you're either lying or horrifically ignorant.

As my father used to say to me when I was a wee lad;

"You may think you're fooling everyone but you're only fooling yourself."

dudebro said...

Nope. My claims have been backed up. And why don't you attempt to debate me rather than flinging ad homibems around.

ann said...

What constitutes personhood?

dudebro said...

A functional brain,for starters.

ann said...

How is functionality determined?

Simon Jm said...

You can do better than that.

Simon Jm said...

And a coma victim doesn't have a full capacity functional brain so you first attempt says they aren't persons.

OFC a brain under anesthetics isn't functioning either but the underlying capacity is still there, unlike a severely damaged but recovering brain.

Ann said...


Guest said...

If my family doctor did abortions (even as only 1% of his/her practice), I would sure as hell want to know about it.

bluechimera said...

Glad to see people on the pro-life side actually considering this with an open mind. I was always frustrated in the past to see pro-lifers touting Planned Parenthood's low rate of prenatal services as some kind of conclusive evidence that they're hard-core abortion pushers, soulless salespeople determined to squeeze one more abortion out of one more woman if they could.

Instead, as this piece explores, PP's prenatal rates are most likely low because women do not generally seek out PP for these services, regardless of what PP might prefer.

It's a lot easier to be rational about these kinds of things when you think of your political opponents as actual people, as opposed to, y'know, demonic caricatures of people.

lady_black said...

What would make you think that medical services rendered to another patient are any of your business? Are you always that nosy?

Jess Tommassello said...

That GYN I went to that performed abortions that you said was lousy? She had terrible bedside manner as a direct result from her abortion advocacy. She attested that there was no need for me to undergo expensive CF blood tests because they can check for that in the womb. I will try to avoid abortionist GYNs in the future.