We Need Feminist Crisis Pregnancy Centers

When you hear “crisis pregnancy center”, you probably think “anti-choice.” That’s an accurate assumption– from my experience dealing with an unplanned but wanted pregnancy, I’ve seen that crisis pregnancy centers exist only to perpetuate the anti-choice agenda– not to help pregnant women.

As pro-CHOICE feminists, I think that we need to provide more resources to women who have “crisis” or unplanned pregnancies, but do not personally want to go through an abortion. Crisis pregnancy centers shouldn’t try to convince women to carry unwanted pregnancies, but they should provide needed help to underprivileged women who do want to give birth.

What would a feminist crisis pregnancy center look like?

It would be both pro-mother and pro-choice. Once a teen or young
woman has decided that she wants to give birth, she should be respected.
No slut-shaming, no “marry your baby’s daddy,” no fearmongering.

It would promote choices in birthing as well as parenting. Women
would be given access to information about the benefits and risks of
different birthing practices. She should be given access to educational
resources so she can choose her own obstetrician or midwife.

It would offer realistic parenting classes that promote responsible
parenthood while also encouraging women to view themselves as
individuals– with personalities and careers beyond their choice to
become parents.

It would offer free counseling services to women coping with anxiety
and depression during an unplanned pregnancy. The center could refer
women to psychologist or licensed therapists if the situation mandated
it.

It would encourage pregnant women to view their bodies as beautiful
and sexy. It would provide information about maintaining a good sex life
and a positive body-image before and after pregnancy.

Above all else, it would help women find the financial and material
resources needed to make it through pregnancy and give birth. It would
offer information about the WIC program. Donors could bring baby car
seats, maternity clothes, cribs, nursing bras, breast pumps and canned
goods to help these women.

That’s my vision for a feminist crisis pregnancy center. What are
your visions? What would it take to make it happen?

 

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34 Comments

  1. Nicole
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    These sorts of things do exist, in some way or form, in some places. My boss has volunteered with something like this in my hometown (Ottawa, Ontario) although I’m not sure how pro-choice it is and it’s certainly not as well-rounded as the one you are envisioning.
    I know that it is a resource for pregnant teens and young adults who need help. They help the women finish their education, and I think they might help them find work after too. My boss speaks very highly of it and I don’t think they have a political agenda.
    However, I’m not sure if there’s any element of pressure involved. I believe it is run by a Catholic church, and my boss used the phrase “Women who choose to keep their babies,” when describing the stakeholders they serve, so I don’t know if this centre makes a point of trying to help influence that decision or not (maybe they do, maybe they don’t). I could find out more about it and post a link when my boss comes back to work.

  2. Claire
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with you.
    I think it’s so hard in the choice debate to be as pro-mother as we should be. We’re fighting so hard for the right to not be a mother, our rhetoric doesn’t always reflect the right to choose motherhood. But a space for women, especially lower-income and young women, who are pregnant is something we all need. A positive space where they can get all the information correctly without judgment or shame. A space where they have the resources and support to be the best mothers that they can be. Because let’s face it, society only values the “right” kind of mother and very few of us have that privilege.
    This is what the government and private charities should be spending money on, instead of abstinence-only and traditional CPC lies.

  3. uberhausfrau
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    different state/counties have their own programs for helping pregnant woman and families in crises of all stripes – poverty, mental/physical health, abuse, etc. my parent’s home county has a fairly decent family program (for the record – http://www.fysb.org/) – it also helps that my mom is a social worker and knows the ins and outs of getting social aid.
    again, the first step is negotiating and getting to all those resources. info should be plastered in schools, libraries, in doctor offices, “welcome to your new town” packets, etc.
    or find your local anarchists.

  4. johanna in dairyland
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Love it! My thoughts …
    I know it’s aimed at women who have chosen to continue a pregnancy, but, in my vision, it would be a place where any woman facing an unintended pregnancy could turn – including those seeking an abortion. It would have resources for local clinics and abortion funds. It would also give referrals for birth control. And there would be volunteers who could accompany women through any path they choose – abortion, adoption, birthing and raising a child.
    And volunteer doulas!!

  5. Comrade Kevin
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    It would need to provide training sessions for the greater community and for those interested in learning more. These could be promoted at local colleges and universities.

  6. redmuser
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but I do know that Planned Parenthood in Michigan was a huge help for me with both of my pregnancies (first one I kept, second I didn’t). PP asked me what I wanted to do when I first got pregnant, and when I told them that I wanted to keep it but didn’t know how I could afford it, they set me up with an appointment and educated me on WIC and Medicaid and a bunch of other stuff, even gave me flyers on depression and dealing with my anorexia. They were super helpful.

  7. SwanSong
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Planned Parenthood, at least the one in my college town, provides nearly all of the services in your vision =) including pre-natal care, abortion services, birth control, and counseling for a range of reproductive choices. The only one I think it may not provide are a donor program for car seats etc. (though they do provide services at low or no cost to poor women). They also do referrals. There are also many feminist women’s clinics across the country. I think your vision for a feminist CPC DOES exist, it’s just a matter of a) getting the word out of ones that are already there, b) making feminist clinics aware of services they could provide but aren’t, and c) starting your own (or finding people with your vision who are qualified to run a health clinic) if you’re not satisfied with what you’re getting.

  8. Rosie's girl
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree on the volunteer doulas front! And maybe I misread this somewhere, but doesn’t Planned Parenthood offer a lot of these services? I know that everyone focuses on the abortion/birth control/condoms aspect of PP, but I thought I heard somewhere that if you decide to carry a pregnancy to term, they offer parenting classes and ob-gyn/midwife referrals, as well as information about WIC, medical aid and food assistance. Is this just a regional thing?

  9. Surfin3rdWave
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad to hear that there are resources like these in some places!
    I live in a small town in MS, and I wanted to give birth but couldn’t find any charity resources besides the hypocritical Baptist-run CPC. They didn’t offer any of the resources I needed. Planned Parenthood in the nearest big city didn’t have those resources either, but they were very kind and supportive of me.
    I did, unfortunately, have an abortion– which I do regret because it is a decision I only made because of serious financial desperation. But I’m glad to know that CPCs similar to the one I envision exist somewhere.

  10. Evelyn
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    The ideal clinic would not have anti-choice protesters outside!

  11. uberhausfrau
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    i think some PPs are better than others. this is purely anecdotal but when an online friend found out she was pregnant with limited resources and went to her local PP for help she was essentially told “we dont do that here.”
    in a way it is good marketing. if you are “pregnant and scared” you call the “pregnant and scared” number in the phone book with the worried woman cartoon and flowers and end up at a CPC. if you are pregnant and pretty sure you dont want to be, you call Planned Parenthood.

  12. heidi
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I had a very similar experience at my local PP – wasn’t pregnant, just hoping for an IUD with the fiance [at the time] and they required marriage and THREE CHILDREN before considering that. So we got married and he got snipped. Not sure if it was just a small town, deep south PP or what, but I was Not Impressed =(

  13. IAmGopherrr
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    “What would a feminist crisis pregnancy center look like?”
    Planned Parenthood

  14. IAmGopherrr
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, if its run in partnership with the catholic church I’d bet strongly that it the cheap religious, pushy, lying kind.

  15. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    What would a feminist crisis pregnancy center look like? It wouldn’t exist, because feminists don’t seem to think that unintended pregnancies are crises. Have you ever noticed that? This is only the second time I’ve ever seen a feminist refer to an unwanted pregnancy as a crisis (the first time was in a Care2 blog post). Crisis Pregnancy Centers use the word “crisis” for a reason. It’s not just a clever name. It’s a way for them to frame unwanted pregnancy to fit their agenda. When someone is in a crisis, they feel out of control. They have no idea what to do. They need serious help, and they’re more suggestible. Isn’t that exactly what anti-choicers want? While feminists and pro-choicers know that reproductive freedoms are being chipped away slowly but surely, we also know that we still have choices. It’s a lot harder to feel desperate and out of control when you know you have options.

  16. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious, and you certainly don’t have to indulge my curiosity, but I have a question. Do you regret the abortion, or the fact that you were in financial desperation? I ask, because I’m afraid that a lot of women are taught from an early age to take the blame and feel guilty for things that they have little or no control over.

  17. uberhausfrau
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    first, there is a very large difference between unplanned, unexpected or unwanted pregnancies. the OP uses the words “unplanned” and “unplanned but wanted.”
    but being ambivilent or kinda scared/kinda excited about an unplanned pregnancy can throw all those high “i know my options” ideals out the window. ive said it before and i’ll say it again – pregnancy and parenthood is purely theorectical until you are faced with a positive test. than it all comes crashing down as very real.
    throw in the chance that the situation is not ideal (for many it never really is, some times are just better than others) and you’ve got a double whammy. it turns into a “crisis” when all you need/want is a little help for you to make the best choice and you cant get or find it. that goes for women wanting abortion and contraception resources or women who want social aid to continue a pregnancy. when your support is limited, your options are limited and your chance for an optimal outcome is limited. that is not free choice.

  18. Kessei
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I must not know any feminists.
    Every woman I know personally know who found out she was pregnant (including those who were actively trying to be pregnant, and including myself) had a period of about two days to two weeks in which they were completely flipping out that they shouldn’t've gotten pregnant and had made a bad decision and should perhaps get an abortion. To most it felt exactly like a crisis, even when it was a very wanted baby, because it is a MONUMENTAL decision to keep a pregnancy and have a baby.
    And the bulk of these individuals were employed, heterosexual and married, and had at least some college education. Now imagine we’re talking about a young, single woman, perhaps one without support networks, or one whose race or ethnic background would make her more likely to experience severe prejudice relating to the pregnancy, and tell me it wouldn’t feel like a crisis so long as she knew she had “choices”.
    Whether because of cultural conditioning that pregnancy=shame, or because of the overwhelming change and risk which comes with a pregnancy and a new baby, feeling desperate and out of control seems to come with the territory for many (most?) women. It’s a sensation that the anti-abortion folks capitalize on, but not one that they create.

  19. uberhausfrau
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    i know you’re not asking me but im going to come up in support of surfin3rdwave because her story and subsequent posts are very similiar to my situation. shoot, i wrote something very similiar to this on girl-mom and livejournal.
    a year out of college and less than a year into a relationship, 2 months in a new town, working retail and temp jobs, still getting rent help from the folks i found out i was pregnant. still “knowing” this was a bad time, i was still thrown for a loop. i talk to my parents hoping for wisdom and my mom treated me like i did the worst.thing.evar and shot down any ideas i gave for continuing the pregnancy. my pro-life straight out said “get an abortion.” i was crushed. boyfriend, now husband, was supportive for continuing the pregnancy and that “we’d make it work” but i was tired of it and just wanted it to stop.
    ultimately i dont regret the abortion, it was the best thing and it seemed like our fortunes changed with a week of the abortion, but it was something i had to work through for several months, especially when shortly after the abortion and permanent jobs fell in our laps, i found all the support and resources i would have needed. that was just salt in the wound. and when it felt like feminist circles werent sympathetic, that was a stab in the back.

  20. Jen R
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’m pro-life, and the services you describe sound like my absolute ideal for a crisis pregnancy center. That’s something that All Our Lives (full disclosure: I am a co-founder) hopes to be able to do someday.

  21. Jen R
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    This sounds absolutely wonderful, and I think you’d find that a lot of pro-life people would be interested in such a center. The organization I work with, All Our Lives, would love to be able to offer a service like this someday.
    (Apologies if this posts twice — my first attempt doesn’t seem to have gone through.)

  22. Surfin3rdWave
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    *hugs*
    Thank you. I’m glad I’m not alone in my experiences.

  23. Surfin3rdWave
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Your statements only work if your definition of “choice” is “abortion”. Many feminists wouldn’t choose abortion for themselves, and many form strong attachments to their pregnancies.
    Maybe my embryo wasn’t a baby, but it was something beautiful that my partner and I created when we didn’t think we could. We’ll never be able to do it again. It was probably out only chance.
    And I’m infuriated that so many of my fellow feminists fail to see why I would have been hurt by the situation. “Unplanned” isn’t “unwanted,” especially when infertility is involved.
    I can support every other woman’s right to choose without wanting abortion for myself.

  24. lovelyliz
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I believe this is one of the best posts I have ever seen on feministing. One suggestion is that these CPCs would give pregnant women the opportunity to contact/get group counseling with other women in similar situations.
    Props.

  25. Rosie's girl
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate you saying this, because it is totally true that unplanned does not have to mean unwanted.
    My current pregnancy was definitely unplanned, and for a time even unwanted due to financial reasons and life situations, but I still couldn’t bring myself to consider an abortion, because I had gone through a miscarriage once and couldn’t bring myself to end another pregnancy. I was fortunate enough to live in an area where there were plenty of resources for me, and had a very supportive partner and family, which allowed me to make my decision without too much heartache.
    That being said, I don’t know that I would have made the same decision if the situation had been different, and I certainly wouldn’t presume to advocate what anyone else should do. Choice should mean all kinds of options, including adoption and support for parenthood, not just the ability to have an abortion.

  26. cedartrees.wordpress.com
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Crisis pregnancy centres are also often very closely linked to adoption agencies or adoption lawyers, and they encourage mothers to ‘make an adoption plan’ in order to dissuade them from abortion.
    However, the way they do it is very often extremely exploitive of mothers. Adoption in North America is big business, grossing billions of dollars per year (Estimated $1.4 billion in 2000 with a 11.5%% growth rate — see http://www.exiledmothers.com/adoption_facts/adoption_industry.html and http://www.originscanada.org/infant.pdf).
    The adoption industry has spent millions, often in the form of government research grants (see http://wp.me/p9tLn-3p), in order to refine methods that increase surrender rates. These methods are used by CPC’s in order to increase the likelihood the mother will “choose adoption.” This is exploitation.
    Those of us who were victims of these methods believe that adoption and abortion are NOT alternatives to each other, that the adoption decision can only be made once the mother has recovered from birth, and that any relationship with prospective adoptive parents will almost certainly influence her decision (see http://wp.me/p9tLn-n), which amounts to coercion.
    This news article is not an aberration: http://www.exiledmothers.com/adoption_facts/robbing_the_cradle.html .

  27. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    A woman is either pregnant or not pregnant. She either wants to terminate the pregnancy or continue with the pregnancy. So, yes, when I talk about having choices in this context and not “reproductive rights” as a whole, I’m talking about the choice to have an abortion. That’s a choice people who support crisis pregnancy centers don’t want to be available. In effect, they don’t want women to have a choice. They want women to be forced to continue with a pregnancy, and they do that by giving false information and guilt tripping women who don’t want to be pregnant anymore. They want to turn unintended (or unwanted or unplanned or whatever you want me to call it so that we don’t get into a semantic war instead of getting the gist of what I’m saying here) pregnancy into a crisis by creating an environment where a woman has no options and becomes more suggestible.

  28. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I didn’t say that no pro-choicer ever feels like they’re in a crisis when they have a pregnancy that they don’t want. I’m saying that in the back of that woman’s mind, she knows she has options and knows that she’s the best person to make these kinds of important decisions about her life. It might take her some time to remember that, but it’s still at the back of her mind. Anti-choicers don’t want women to think that they have options. Crisis pregnancy center personnel go so far as to tell pregnant women that they have no right to an abortion. They also fill these women’s heads with other lies. They want to turn unplanned pregnancy into a crisis for every single woman. So when she gets pregnant, she needs professional help and becomes more suggestible to other people’s advice. Of course, CPCs don’t provide professional help, but they won’t tell you that. They’ll take advantage of your suggestible state and tell you what to do, not help you make that decision for yourself.

  29. kb
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    this actually already exists in the form of most most feminist health clincs. I think what the poster is imagining is something with more resources to deal with government regulations/social issues than just health. but this is the thing that cpcs are so insidious about–Unlike them, all places that do abortions (that I’ve seen at least) will give you information and referrals and advice on other options for your pregnancy if you don’t want an abortion, or aren’t sure and want to talk to other people.

  30. kb
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that many of them have enough resources to really do all of the social services she’s envisioning. They can give you info on WIC, for example, but I’ve yet to see one that has the time to help you fill out the form if you need it, or help you look for housing, etc. .
    I do think that many planned parenthoods or other feminist clinics would love to do this, but it’s a matter of being able to pay the staff etc

  31. L.K. Louise
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Long story short: I’ve volunteered with Roman Catholic CPCs that fall along some of these Feminist CPC ideas (in the areas of medically accurate information about pregnancy (and zero tolerance for misinformation), and while we couldn’t talk about abortion due to our funding, we could (and did) give the address to other clinics that were open with abortion information and services. They could definitely have strived to do better in regards to sexual positivity, but it was a major step.
    I’m not sure if that’s just a Roman Catholic thing or a religious thing (as in, the cities around me have few RC CPCs, and most are of a *higher caliber* than the many Protestant CPCs, which, due to the congregational style and funding options of many protestants, don’t have to worry about getting their neighboring parish sued and losing property over it.
    So yeah, it’s not so good on any religious side, but please be a little nuanced in your (otherwise correct) religiously-influenced criticism.

  32. Wednesday
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand why we need to buy into the anti-choice model and name of a CPC. Especially when we already have a variety of existing pro-choice clinics, some of whom already offer some or all of these options.
    What we need to do is work to ensure that more of those clinics offer these services, and to ensure that people know that some of those clinics _do_ offer prenatal care and other assistance for low-income women with pregnancies they want to keep but are having trouble affording.

  33. johanna in dairyland
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I think what I had in mind is different than most health clinics (at least the ones I’ve been to). While many commenters below were able to point to local PP’s that have these services, the ones I utilized were never so comprehensive. Not to be down on them, they fulfilled the exact need I had (free health care and birth control), and I’m eternally grateful, but if I had been pregnant and wanted someone to help me through any of the processes, they just wouldn’t have the staff/volunteers/infrastructure to do it.
    What I’m thinking of is more like a traditional CPC, but when one walks in “pregnant and scared” as the billboards say, you’d get access to a full range of options. And the volunteers I have in mind would essentially be abortion doulas, or adoption doulas, which still don’t exist in many places. And, even for women who choose to continue a pregnancy and raise a child, referrals for birth control for those who want it can and should be done on site to minimize hassle and maximize access.
    Again, nothing I say is to put down the good work of PP clinics and abortion and reproductive health providers. I’ve utilized PP clinics and have done clinic defense. But, anti-choice CPCs are able to pull people in because women facing unintended pregnancies in sometimes dire circumstances are in need of community, compassion, and support. I’d like to see feminists running the show and actually providing the comprehensive services that CPCs purport to (though very rarely actually do) provide, because I think feminists can do it way better.

  34. Marj
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like it could be an idea for a sister organisation to PP (Planning Parenthood?). The clinics near me do refer for these sorts of services, but their focus is clearly on providing medical care, not social assistance. Having an office dedicated to helping women navigate the systems and access the support they need to become mothers sounds like a great idea.

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