Crisis Pregnancy Centers Keep Women Away From Abortion – Tennessee Lookout

When Cherisse Scott learned of her pregnancy, her partner had ended their relationship, leaving money for an abortion as a parting gift.

In a phone book, Scott looked up an abortion clinic. “If you need an abortion, call us,” one ad read. She made an appointment, but when she arrived at the facility, the building looked like an office, not a clinic. A female staff member then asked Scott about his life, finances and partner. She asked if the father was involved and if Scott had any food stamps. When Scott reiterated that she was seeking an abortion, the staff member tried to convince her otherwise.

“I said, ‘this was the best thing for me,'” said Scott, founder and CEO of Sister Reach in Memphis.

She was then taken to another room where she was shown simulated abortion procedures of babies coming out of the womb and other graphic images. She was forced to watch the videos for an hour before the staff asked her again. Did she still want an abortion?

“Maybe she thought it was going to change my mind,” she said.

Cherisse Scott, founder of Sister Reach. (Photo: submitted)

But Scott didn’t move. The staff member then called another woman, this time a black woman closer in age to Scott, who is also black. This woman spoke of her experiences and seeking an abortion before changing her mind, and that she had lived “happily ever after”.

“It wasn’t my script at all, and I was in a relationship that was very expressive about not going through the pregnancy,” Scott said.

She finally asked if she was in an abortion clinic. The facility was an emergency pregnancy center, an organization seeking to intercept women with unwanted pregnancies who might be considering abortions. It can be real clinics or work only under the illusion of a medical license.

Scott was told she would be referred to an abortion clinic. After missing work for the second time, she arrived at the center and was placed in a room with a hospital bed and an ultrasound machine. Showing him images of the fetus, the technician then told Scott that if she were to have an abortion, “my uterus will be perforated and I will not be able to have any more children”.

And it was the scare tactic that worked.

“I still wanted to be a mother at some point,” she said.

While crisis pregnancy centers may offer the support needed by some during an unplanned pregnancy, for others the centers use deceptive tactics to convince women to maintain their pregnancies, and often using the lure of l ‘abortion.

Reproductive rights advocates say the centers not only use questionable means to fulfill a program, but have been aided by the state, which contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to their operations.

“They will continue to make money and take advantage of desperate women,” said Briana Perry, spokesperson for the Safe and Free Tennesseea reproductive rights organization.

Crisis Pregnancy Center Choices says it provides a wide range of services for pregnant women, including STD testing, ultrasounds, adoption and parenting services, and a “judgment-free and safe space”, said Carol Ann Ferguson , executive director of Choices Chattanooga.

“What are the emotional, mental and physical aspects of that. Fully informed women will make better decisions,” Ferguson said, adding that for most of their clients, “abortion was on the table.”

For Scott, that decision was taken away from him. She struggled for years to provide for herself and her son, her almost non-existent partner. It wasn’t until she got involved in the reproductive justice movement that she learned the truth about what had happened to her, that she had been told lies to convince her to keep her baby while ignoring her requests for an abortion.

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Well funded CPCs

The United States Supreme Court’s decision this summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizatio, which overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade codifying women’s right to abortion, sparked a Tennessee law that banned abortions without exception for rape, incest, or fatal fetal abortions. The state ban went into effect on August 25. It also carries penalties for doctors who perform abortions, even if to save a mother’s life, including criminal charges.

In the wake of the ban, reproductive rights advocates believe there will be an increase in facilities denying reproductive health care, medical and other services based on religious beliefs.

“Even faith-based hospitals can mislead patients already refusing faith-based services,” Scott said, referring to reports of pharmacists refusing birth control for women and adoption services refusing Jewish couples. and homosexuals.

“They don’t have to be medically ethical because of their religion,” she said.

Crisis pregnancy centers have been intertwined and benefited from Tennessee policy.

They and other anti-abortion organizations receive state money through a dedicated funding source.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue has offered specialty “Choose Life” license plates since 2004 for an annual fee of $61.50, $35 of which is allocated to the Tennessee Right to Life Education Fund, an organization that provides resources for women dealing with unexpected pregnancies . The funds are to be used for counseling, financial aid and a statewide awareness campaign. A portion of the funds also reimburses social service providers who prepare adoptions for services and programs targeting at-risk women. In 2021 and 2022, Choose Life license plates generated $218,098.65.

Tennessee Lookout did not receive a response from Tennessee Right to Life after several attempts.

Thousands of public funds have also been allocated to purchase ultrasound machines for pregnancy crisis centers, anti-abortion clinics and pregnancy resource centers.

Last year, Governor Bill Lee allocated $180,000 to buy ultrasonic devices for crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion clinics across the states and made remarks about continuing to provide taxpayer funds to these facilities.

The Psalm 139 Project, an anti-abortion organization that partners with the Southern Baptist Convention, purchases ultrasound machines for pregnancy centers in crisis and also received $466,000 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

A few centers also receive federal and state funds to support their educational programs. Hope Clinic has received federal funding since 2013 and received approximately $120,000 in 2021 for its middle and high school sex education programs. Although comprehensive information on contraception is offered, the program focuses on abstinence as the primary method of avoiding illness and unplanned pregnancy.

Lee, one of the founders of Hope Clinic, also sits on the clinic’s advisory board as a non-voting entity. Metro City Council member Joy Styles sits on the board.

The National Institute of Family Life and Lawyers (NIFLA) has also been active over the past two decades in funding crisis pregnancy centers and converting them into medically compliant facilities, according to their website. According to NIFLA, 80% of women seeking an abortion have been persuaded to keep their pregnancy after an ultrasound.

NIFLA could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts since August. Tennessee Lookout reporters were told the offices were closed until October 3.

Staff members at the crisis pregnancy center say the state’s abortion ban won’t change the way they operate, staff members said.

“Just because there’s a ban in Tennessee doesn’t mean a woman isn’t going to consider an abortion yet,” Ferguson said.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers, anti-abortion centers or pregnancy resource centers

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) provides a range of limited services, from medicine – ultrasound, STD screening and treatment – to education – sex education and parenting classes.

In Nashville, Clinic of Hope for Women was founded in 1983 and for women facing unplanned pregnancies, CEO Kailey Cornett said. Although abortion services are not provided or referred, Hope Clinic offers information about different types of abortions and counseling for women who have had abortions.

Kailey Cornett, CEO of Hope Clinic for Women.  (Photo: John Partipilo)
Kailey Cornett, CEO of Hope Clinic for Women. (Photo: John Partipilo)

“Our goal is to help him make a decision that fits his value system,” she said.

For women who decide to maintain a pregnancy, Hope Clinic offers parenting classes and financial support, which includes connecting women with case managers for employment opportunities. Women can also receive temporary help with bills, but the focus is on “empowering women to be financially independent,” she said.

Although adoption can be discussed, Hope Clinic does not offer adoption services.

“A lot of women, in my experience, have a negative reaction to that word because of bad experiences with foster families (relatives),” Cornett said.

Choices offers medical services.

“We are entirely made up of a medical team. I know there are a lot of misconceptions floating around in pregnancy centers in general about not having medical staff, but that’s not the case for Choices,” Ferguson said, adding that there are registered nurses, physician assistants and an OBGYN doctor on staff.

Although Choices does not refer or provide abortions, the various procedures are discussed and side effects are explained in detail.

And if a woman is in doubt about a medical abortion, Choices offers advice and unproven “abortion pill reversals.” Abortion reversal procedures is a claim supported by NIFLA that medical abortions can be “reversed” with doses of progesterone, but this claim is not supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Although the claim is unproven, local doctors are offering the procedure, Ferguson said.

“We don’t benefit from any decision they make,” Ferguson said.

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