Pregnancy resource centers – often called crisis pregnancy centers (which is a dated name) – get talked about in the media like they are the half-baked, pro-life version of Planned Parenthood. The image you get is one of pastors playing doctor, luring vulnerable women in by advertising to be an all-inclusive women’s health clinic only to have nothing substantial to offer them other than a tract and a list of lies about abortion.
Planned Parenthood’s website (which has a page devoted to the topic) says, “These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They have a history of giving women wrong, biased information to scare them into not having abortions.” (We ran an article debunking this claim last year.) Wikipedia’s page is hardly better. It calls pregnancy resource centers, “a type of non-profit organization established to counsel pregnant women against having an abortion.” Way to bury the lead and minimize the work these centers are doing.
It may be vain to hope that a rational conversation will take the place of slander here any time soon, but we should nonetheless be clear on what these centers are and what they offer women.
For starters, the name “crisis pregnancy center” is an outdated term, replaced today by “pregnancy resource center.” This term more accurately reflects what these centers are – a powerful resource to expecting women – and avoids the danger of implying that pregnancy is somehow a crisis. Care Net, a support network for pregnancy resource centers, defines them on their website as:
“local, nonprofit organizations that provide compassionate support to women and men faced with difficult pregnancy decisions.”
Students for Life has a helpful page defining them and debunking the many myths surround them here.
The reason we tend to hear about these centers contrasted with Planned Parenthood is that both particularly service vulnerable, underprivileged women, most often expecting women. Also because while Planned Parenthood is a champion of the pro-choice movement, pregnancy centers are nearly always operated by pro-life organizations.
So while it’s easy to see why they are often compared, pregnancy centers are so much more than pro-life recreations of Planned Parenthood. At the end of the day, Planned Parenthood will never be more than a deficient women’s health clinic – I won’t even call it a “reproductive health clinic” because of it’s total lack of attention to the women who actually desire to reproduce.
These pregnancy centers are pro-women and pro-life non-profits that offer numerous resources to expecting women – among other things, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, medical advocacy, and material goods.
Many pregnancy resource centers are also women’s health clinics, but beyond that, they are a support system to mothers. They walk with mothers during and after their pregnancy, providing financial counseling, parenting classes, skills classes, and help expecting women get the prenatal care they need. They build relationships over time. And unlike Planned Parenthood, they do all this for free.
Pregnancy resource centers are an easy target, because they lack the national branding and government funds of organizations like Planned Parenthood. But in many ways they are better for it – instead of being one of many clinics nationwide all exactly the same, pregnancy resource centers are often community-operated, tailored to fit the needs of local women.
In an age so concerned with supporting local business and encouraging local community outreach, you’d think this model would be far preferable to a medical giant. These centers should be receiving praise as endeavors of utmost charity, instead of disparagement from anti-abortion activists.