By Myra Duran, a junior at UCLA and she is on the Executive Board of FMF affiliate Bruin Feminists for Equality.
If you are a student, you probably see so-called crisis pregnancy center ads all the time on campus. They read something like, "SCARED? PREGNANT? NEED HELP? Call 1-800-HELP NOW for a FREE pregnancy test. WE CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR OPTIONS."
But the problem is -- these are false promises.
I am a member of Bruin Feminists for Equality at UCLA. We joined the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics this Spring. Like the Campaign, we have two goals: to warn women, especially students, about fake clinics in our community and to let the government know deception on the public dime has got to go.
So-called crisis pregnancy crisis pregnancy centers lure women into their facilities with promises of free pregnancy tests and options counseling. But once inside, most provide women with false or misleading information about abortion, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases. The real zinger is many of these CPCs receive our federal taxdollars to carry out their deception.
So, with my boyfriend in tow, I went to find out for myself what kind of information and options a local CPC really offered. By reading its mission statement alone, a woman might mistake the center I visited as being feminist: "empowerment" is the central theme. Their brochure claims to offer "pregnancy options counseling" as well as tests for STDs and other screenings. But as I learned firsthand, their talk about options? Not so much.
The moment I walked in the door, I was hit with spa-like music and an offer of hot tea, which seemed designed to give me a false sense of comfort. The receptionist asked me to fill out paperwork and two things stood out: a question about my religious affiliation and about my partner's name and age. Another red flag was a disclaimer in very fine print about how most of their "staff" are volunteers and not certified health care professionals.
After I completed the paperwork the receptionist transformed into my counselor. She led me to a white, isolated room (without my boyfriend) and asked if the Director of the clinic could sit in our conversation. I agreed.
First, they asked me what I was going to do if I was pregnant. I replied, "I don't know." They said their facility does not recommend or perform pregnancy terminations. Quite suddenly I became keenly aware of a distinct pressure being placed on me by both women. It felt like a two-on-one tag team and I was their prey. The Director kept saying I was at the right place because other clinics do not provide the same "facts" that they do about abortion. She kept calling me "sweetie," as she told me abortion just complicates matters for women. She claimed abortion causes women psychological harm and she forcefully stated that abortion would not be the right choice for me.
So much for options counseling.
After the bombardment of questions, they asked for a sample of my urine -- in a Dixie cup (of all things!). Then, I was led to another room with what looked like an examination table. There a woman dressed in a white coat introduced herself. She did not identify herself as a doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse, but she certainly had the white coat. She asked me questions about my late period and if I was on birth control, but she never gave me any kind of a physical exam. Then, finally, she told me that I was not pregnant.
My response was, "Well, if I'm not pregnant, can I get birth control to avoid situations like this?" She said, "We don't get funding for that." I then asked her for condoms, and she replied again, "We don't get funding for that." There was only one prevention method she mentioned: avoid having sex altogether.
After this consultation, I was led back into the white, isolated room where I began. My initial 'counselor' greeted me with handfuls of abstinence-only education pamphlets. She then asked me if I felt "empowered" after this whole experience.
I replied, "No," and left.
But I am empowered by being a part of great group of active feminist students at UCLA and by participating in this pivotal national campaign to expose fake clinics.
Students need to know CPCs target campus health centers to get referrals. Thankfully our UCLA health center does not refer students to CPCs. But a nearby campus, Santa Monica College, does refer students to a local CPC. In fact, according to our sister feminist club at SMC, their student health center even invited a local CPC to table at their campus health fair this Spring.
No woman should be deceived into visiting one of these places unintentionally. So I am working on my campus to make sure women know where they can go to get comprehensive and un-biased reproductive health care and to warn them about fake clinics in our community.
Policy makers need to understand how CPCs intimidate and misinform women. Over the past eight years, the federal government pumped millions of dollars into CPCs as part of various abstinence-only-until-marriage initiatives. But funding for family planning has remained static or been decreased. President Obama seems interested in returning to evidence-based sexual health and pregnancy prevention programs. His 2010 budget proposes to eliminate most of the giant pots of federal money set aside for CPCs and failed abstinence only education programs.
We must speak out now to end federal funding for these fake clinics.
It is high time to end the dark ages of the Bush era. We can no longer afford to believe the sun revolves around the earth, the threat of global warming is a fiction, and that abstinence-only education and CPCs merit hard-earned tax dollars.
So get involved and help expose fake clinics on your campus or in your community. Empowerment through action is a beautiful thing.
For more information on the FMF's Choices Campus Leadership Program and the Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics, visit www.feministcampus.org.
Originally published on RHrealitycheck.org.