Over the past several years an odd new wave of criticism is being leveled at the pro-life movement.
Targeting pro-life crisis pregnancy centers otherwise known as pregnancy resource centers (PRCs), the pro-abortion movement has begun slapping the label “fake clinic” onto the centers and then driving forth efforts, both socially and politically, to shutter pro-life pregnancy centers for good which is far from an idle threat.
In 2015, the California State Legislature adopted the “Reproductive FACT Act,” which required PRCs statewide to provide the contact information for the local abortion clinics. Naturally, this was anathema to pro-life pregnancy center leaders, and the US Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional in 2018.
More recently, the wave of attacks on PRCs has continued to grow and gain traction in the culture. A documentary released in Spring 2020 by Vice News, “The Fake Abortion Clinics of America,” is the latest in the bizarre trend.
Setting aside for the moment the dishonest claim that PRCs are “fake clinics” (when they often promote their resources as alternatives to abortion itself and often explicitly state on their website they do not provide or refer for abortions), two fundamental assumptions underlie the attack on the work of PRCs: That the preborn are not fully members of the human family, and that abortion is an inherent good for women in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy.
The first assumption, that the preborn are not fully members of the human family, underlies just about every justification for elective abortion.
From the moment of fertilization, a woman is carrying a unique, whole, individual human being within her body. Having an abortion is directly killing this vulnerable human being. Since pro-life individuals believe abortion is killing an innocent, defenseless human being, it should not surprise people pregnancy resource centers try to place themselves near abortion clinics so they can offer women a different choice — choices and real help abortion clinics are not offering or promoting themselves.
Some claim pregnancy resource centers place themselves near abortion centers to “target women” into coming into the pregnancy center rather than the abortion clinic. Any organization or business would be foolish to place themselves as far away as possible from people who need their services. Of course pregnancy resource centers try to be close to abortion centers. They are an alternate choice many women choose.
If abortion advocates were really about women being able to make choices, then there should be no issue with pregnancy centers being nearby abortion clinics. There is nothing dishonest about placing your clinic in the area where expecting women are likely to be.
The abortion industry makes huge financial profits off of abortion, so having a pregnancy center next door is bad for business. Perhaps this is why the abortion industry makes baseless attacks that being near them is somehow damaging to women? It’s not. It’s providing them another choice, which many women choose.
Pregnancy centers are often a last line of defense against a woman deciding to end her preborn child’s life. Their work is important and needed as they empower women to choose life and provide help and support before, during, and after their pregnancy.
The Vice News film shames and attacks pregnancy centers for utilizing the means to make their clinic come up on an internet search. This is supposedly part of the way these clinics try to trick women who search “pregnancy symptoms” or other related keywords into Google. If any other clinic or business used keywords to enhance the ability of people to find them on the internet, no one would criticize them for marketing. Any business, organization, or clinic is going to try to increase the views on the internet to reach more people. It seems pregnancy centers are singularly attacked for this because their goal is not in line with the abortion industry, even though they can provide information many women are seeking, and provide their services for free — something abortion clinics certainly do not do.
People working in these pregnancy centers are condemned for discussing things like post-abortion depression, incomplete abortions, and embryology. It is also treated with contempt that some clinic workers have the audacity to share their beliefs about God. These clinics have the same right to free speech as any abortion center. Remember, women are not forced to enter these pregnancy centers. They go in of their own volition and they are free to leave whenever they see fit.
Those who criticize pregnancy centers in this manner unintentionally assert the idea that women are too stupid to figure out the difference between a pregnancy center and an abortion clinic. To act like these clinics trick and trap women is insulting to intellectual abilities women possess. Women are quite capable of discerning the difference between the two types of providers. Women are not tricked into going into PRCs. Women are smarter than that.
It is important to remember that PRCs are usually non-profit organizations who charge little to nothing for their services. They do not make money off of these women. Rather, these workers believe abortion kills an innocent baby and harms a woman. It is their goal to help women and support them in their decision to give life to their babies. Many also offer post-abortion counseling for women who have chosen to have an abotion and find they regret their decision.
Instead of making ad hominem attacks against the way particular clinics provide an alternate service to woman, our discussion should be focused on the one central question at the heart of the abortion debate – what is the preborn? If abortion is not directly killing an innocent human being, then pro-lifers should not make a big deal out of abortion. But, if abortion is directly and intentionally killing an innocent human being, then abortion clinics are responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings. Our discussion needs to reside there.
To date, no adequate justification for killing preborn human beings has been provided. We are waiting.
In addition, a second assumption underlies the attack on pro-life pregnancy centers: abortion is an inherent good for women in crisis.
The assumption seems abstract, but is no less significant. If abortion is the utmost good that can be provided to a woman in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, then it seems obvious that those who care the most for her would be obligated to help her obtain an abortion.
And this is where the problems start. First, why should anyone accept the claim that abortion is an inherent good for women in the first place? What precisely is it supposed to correct for or enhance? Many attacks on pregnancy centers are framed as a defense of women's healthcare, but abortion cannot be said to be a form of essential healthcare, since pregnancy is not a disease. It is the natural end state towards which the human reproductive system is ordered. Healthcare, properly understood, is the process or study of methods and treatments applied to restore the human body to its proper working order.
A body part that is not fulfilling the purpose or function towards which it is ordered is clearly not healthy. For example, eyes are supposed to see, and when they fail to perform that function correctly, treatment is administered to alleviate the malfunction (such as prescribing corrective lenses). You cannot call intentionally causing blindness healthcare in any way, shape or form. In a similar way, since abortion deliberately targets the end result of a natural process (in this case, reproduction), it cannot be properly called essential healthcare.
Using a slightly different example, Helen Watt makes an observation that is helpful here:
"If miscarriage is, as it surely is, reproductive failure, not reproductive success, the same is true of abortion: choice alone cannot turn dysfunction into function, or vice-versa...Genuine healthcare must be guided by health when responding to requests for interventions; it cannot afford to serve our wishes blindly in invading our bodies whenever we request it-often for reasons which can be separately addressed-and/or the bodies of our children." (emphasis in original)
Mary Rosera Joyce offers a similar thought about the act of abortion itself,
“Nor was such a use of medical procedures designed to recognize the physician’s dignity as a healer. Doctors who treat normal, healthy conditions as if they were deformed are practicing quackery. There are good, noble physicians who recognize better ways of responding to an untimely pregnancy. These ways might not be easy or lucrative. But, as everyone knows, quacks deal in the easy and the lucrative instead of the wise and the true.”
Pregnancy is the natural end state towards which human sexuality is ordered. The entire field of Obstetrics-Gynecology exists because of the need to treat the unique needs of both mother and preborn child, and to ensure their health and well-being during pregnancy and childbirth. It does not serve women in any way to tell them the exact opposite: that the best choice available to them during this period is a surgical procedure to rid them of their preborn son or daughter by destroying them outright.
Indeed, who is it that spends considerable time, energy, and resources to reassure women (and men) involved in an unintended pregnancy that they are strong enough and capable enough to be a good parent? Without a doubt, pro-life pregnancy centers are communicating what is undoubtedly true: A woman's fertility is a blessing, not a curse; something to be valued and cherished, not feared and hated. By attacking pregnancy centers, groups like Vice send the message that a woman's unique and special ability to carry her son or daughter to term is a defect in her very nature as a woman; a position that can hardly be called "pro-woman."
As Mary Rosera Joyce also puts it, by creating a legal right to abortion, the American court system created the grounds for the attack on femininity, masculinity, and healthcare itself.
Writes Joyce, “By lock-stepping the woman with her physician, the Court was not acknowledging her dignity as a person, but was adjusting to something construed as defective in her nature: her inconvenient tendency to produce unwanted “fetal tissue” as a result of her sexual contact with an infecting male.”
Groups engaged in attempts to shut down or silence pro-life crisis pregnancy centers only further this attack on true, legitimate healthcare.
Legal abortion has thus created a sort of paradox: While framed as being "pro-woman," it actually ends up being sexist in a fashion. It treats the male body as the standard for value, in that being unable to carry a child is the norm, instead of seeing value in the ability to carry a child itself, something which truly makes women unique. The sexism inherent in the abortion-choice culture becomes even clearer when one remembers it is sleazy males who have benefited the most from abortion and the responsibility-free sex it helps provide. In contrast, true masculinity sees the value in supporting and protecting the child one has helped conceive, as well as supporting her mother during this period.
Since PRCs exist to help men and women better fulfill their roles as fathers and mothers, attacks on Pregnancy Resource Centers ironically end up being an attack on the most beautiful aspects of both the feminine and the masculine sides of human beings. It gets worse when one realizes that the attack on pregnancy centers is a means by which to ensure the intentional destruction of innocent human beings before they are born can continue unabated.
Because it constitutes an attack on the very idea of healthcare, an attack on the nature of women and a rejection of the nature of men, and an attack on the very bodies of preborn human beings, it turns out that abortion clinics themselves are the true “fake clinics.” Vice News, and other pro-abortion groups, are engaging in the same sort of deception they charge pro-life groups with: Promoting fake versions of healthcare in lieu of real, holistic care for the health of men, women and children. While it is possible some pro-life PRCs are spreading false ideas (and if so, shame on them), this is a far cry from the abortion clinics, who exist solely because of false notions of what it means to be human.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.