Imagine. A fourteen year old girl. She’s been sick for weeks. Throwing up in the bathroom at school between morning classes. Forcing food into her stomach and wearing a fake smile because she knows. She knows she’s pregnant. And she’s scared. She can’t tell her parents, she can’t tell the person who got her pregnant, she can barely tell herself. She needs help. She needs someone to talk to. She sees a sign on the bus ride home from school. A clinic sign with a number listed. She calls and schedules an appointment.
But when she arrives, she is hit with information.
The clinic staffers say abortion is a sin. She’ll never have children if she has an abortion now. Birth control is just as bad. She’ll get breast cancer. She is going to be a murderer. How can she even think about killing an innocent baby?
This place is not a clinic. It is a crisis pregnancy center. The title is misleading, and so is the marketing strategy. CPCs target young people, those in rural areas, the economically disadvantaged: people with limited options. They offer free pregnancy testing, free ultrasounds, free prenatal classes. They do not offer abortion services– though they do market themselves as abortion clinics to trick people. They sport names similar to nearby clinics, locate close to real abortion facilities, use old phone numbers of clinics that do provide safe, legal abortion.
According to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation, CPCs are set up in areas where there is a large population of people of color. They locate close to colleges and universities. Some even within walking distance.
In Harrisonburg, there are no abortion clinics. There are two CPCs nearby: one is downtown. One is about thirty minutes away. The nearest abortion provider is in Charlottesville.
A quick google search of “abortion clinics near me” brings up Harrisonburg’s CPC AVA Care. On the site, clicking on the section about abortion provides a set of a few questions one should ask oneself prior to having an abortion. Included is the question of whether a fetus is viable (and has a heartbeat).
When I was pregnant at nineteen, I was terrified. I was upset and disappointed and sick. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had ended up at a crisis pregnancy center. In a place where no one would have wanted me to make my own choice or to have any choice at all. Where no one would have wanted to help me. Where untrained people would have cared so little about me and more about what was inside me.
In the state of Virginia, there are over fifty-eight CPCs. This is double the number of reproductive health facilities.
Many people know nothing about these pseudo-clinics. But for people in need, people struggling with unintended or unwanted pregnancies, wanted pregnancies with defects, a lack of resources, or any other myriad of reasons people choose abortion–for those people, these centers are an obstacle. An obstacle they may not be able to overcome, and one that severely limits their choices and access to real reproductive healthcare.