Are pregnancy resource centers tricking pregnant women who want abortions to walk through their doors so they can persuade them to carry their children to term? Yes, according to a new documentary by Vice News, titled “Misconception.”
In their new "exposé," producers Allison Yarrow and Claire Ward may think they’ve just produced a Sundance Film Festival-winning masterpiece, but their 18-minutes of bias can barely be called journalism. Here are a few of their documentary's misleading accusations against pregnancy resource centers:
1. They manipulate Google searches.
2. They pretend to be medical facilities.
3. They are presenting women with false information.
Assist Pregnancy Center in Annandale, Virginia, is one center specifically targeted in the film. Assist's former director of Client Services is even featured toward the end of the film, with her face blurred out and the words "Annandale, Virginia" posted at the top of the screen.
As an affiliate of the Christian crisis pregnancy center organization Care Net, along with Heartbeat International and the National Institute of Family Life Advocates, Assist follows the Standards of Care and Competence. One of these commitments reads, “Clients always receive honest and open answers.” Another says that “We do not offer, recommend, or refer for abortions or abortifacients, but are committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures.” In an email to Townhall, Jane Fuller, the executive director of Assist, explained how seriously her center follows these guidelines:
“We follow these commitments universally – on our client website, when answering the phone, making an appointment, or serving them directly in the center. Many women come in for the pregnancy test and/or ultrasound and openly share they are either seeking an abortion or are undecided. We DO go over abortion as an option with them and explain the medical procedure and potential risks.”
Seldom, Fuller explained, do women walk into Assist believing it is an abortion clinic, yet if someone does, the center is fully prepared to provide them accurate information:
“Rarely is there a walk-in that were wanting an abortion, but when it happens the protocol is that the Office Assistant states that we neither perform nor refer for abortions, and then explains what we DO provide: pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and information on abortion via our options counseling. We offer her an appointment, which they sometimes decline, but at other times have accepted. When people call asking if we provide abortions (which maybe happens only occasionally, maybe twice a month), it's the same script (and it is, literally, a script that all our staff and volunteers are trained on).”
So, the center knows what to do if an abortion-seeking woman walks through their door, but what about preventing them from walking in at all? Does Assist, in other words, make it clear to women that the center does not provide abortions?
“I would unequivocally answer ‘yes’ that it is clear to the average young woman that we do not perform abortions," Fuller explained. "If they Googled ‘abortion,’ we would not pop up. If they visited our website, they would see a list of our services on the homepage that does NOT include abortion (options are: ‘pregnancy testing, ultrasound exams, parenting programs, and STD/STI information.’).”
Those who don't approve of what pregnancy resource centers stand for would probably be uncomfortable with the fact that they sometimes receive taxpayer funding. At a certain point in "Misconception," the narrator says, “You’d be shocked to know that part of your taxpayer dollars are going to these centers. In the last decade, tens of millions.”
These filmmakers ignore, however, the egregious number of taxpayer dollars being funneled every year to Planned Parenthood. In 2013, the pro-abortion organization raked in more than $500 million. Again, to put this in perspective: Pregnancy centers receive "tens of millions of dollars" over a decade, Planned Parenthood receives $500 million in one year.
For what’s it’s worth, Assist is one particular pregnancy center that does not receive any taxpayer funding. The majority of its funds come from individuals, churches, and privately owned businesses, Fuller explained.
Finally, I asked Fuller how she and her staff felt about being defined as a “fake abortion clinic?”
“Mostly sad...sad that this misinformation may result in many women choosing an abortion without having been given an opportunity to know all the facts, and to know that there are other alternatives." she said. "Women have a right to know the truth, to make an informed decision.”
Roland Warren, President of CareNet, also chimed in on the film in a piece aptly titled, "The Misconception Deception." Warren points out that there are more than 2,500 pregnancy resource centers in America and that Vice News seemingly only featured a handful in their film. Surely, he argues, these kinds of ‘deceptive’ practices are a minority. If the producers did seek out more clinics, they apparently left them out of the film because they didn’t deliver any juicy footage. Warren highlighted some positive statistics that "Misconception" ignored:
98.7 percent of Care Net center clients who completed a written exit survey in 2013 indicated that their overall experience at the center was positive.
For all this talk about "deception," I’d challenge these filmmakers to take a look at their own strategy in making the film. A couple of people featured in the documentary go undercover and pretend to be pregnant while videotaping the pregnancy center employees. Couldn’t that be considered "deceptive?" Now, to be fair, similar tactics have been employed on the pro-life side. Live Action has visited a number of Planned Parenthood clinics while pretending to be clients. But, things they’ve discovered include: Abortionists admitting they leave babies to die on tables in botched abortions, others referring to unborn babies as ‘meat in a crockpot,’ and employees offering girls as young as 15 years old dangerous sex advice. Whereas all that the investigators in "Misconception" managed to find was employees gently encouraging women to keep their babies. Some devastating scoop, huh?
Let’s be honest, is it really a pregnancy center’s fault if a woman mistakes it for an abortion clinic? Women have their own mind and their own freedom. She walked in - she could easily walk out. Little evidence exists to suggest that pregnancy centers intentionally trick mothers into walking into their doors and choosing life. I’m sure any pro-lifer would agree, however, that if and when that happens, it’s a joyous occasion.