She went undercover at a crisis pregnancy center. She was told that the abortion is reversible.
In October, investigative reporter Olivia Raisner visited five anti-abortion organizations crisis pregnancy centers— clinics that often receive state funding, despite not providing medical services and promoting misinformation to discourage pregnant people from choosing abortion — in Indiana. She entered each clinic armed with the urine of her pregnant friend, a button on her shirt that secretly doubled as a camera and scheduled appointments. There, she refused to sign any document that asked her not to record conversations to “make sure that everything she did was legal,” Raisner told me in a phone interview. “The anti-abortion movement has been filming, not legally, for years, and we don’t want to stoop to their level,” Raisner said.
On Thursday, Mayday Health posted a video capturing Raisner’s experiences at CPCs. In one clip, after she tests positive on a pregnancy test and says that she is considering an abortion, an employee immediately begins spouting a steady stream of easily refutable lies. The staff member advises Raisner, without any evidence, that “there have been a lot of suicides” after abortion and that “it’s a very common problem.” Ironically, research has shown that being denied an abortion negatively impacts someone’s mental healthY more than 95 percent of people who abort do not regret the decision. However, the employee sternly asserts that other mental health issues could arise, and she warns Raisner that having an abortion could even cause her to have an eating disorder. She told Jezebel that several clinics said this.
The clinic worker featured in the Mayday video specifically emphasized the (false) claim that if Raisner used a medical abortion, he had the option of “reversing” the abortion through a special pill, through a method dangerous and untested named “Abortion Pill Reversal”. Raisner told Jezebel that as medical abortion becomes more widely used, given its continued availability in all 50 states, anti-abortion activists are increasingly promoting this false and medically dangerous claim.
Even though Raisner had the facts about the abortion clinics, he said it still required significant effort to “keep my emotions and anger at bay” as clinic staff members lied to his face. “I knew that the longer I could stay there and really sell my story as a pregnant person, the more I could record,” he explained. “I needed to show the interactions that are taking place countless times a day across the country, for all the pregnant people who go to these centers and don’t have the information.”
As Raisner explains in the video, it’s common for staff at crisis pregnancy centers to pose as real doctors to push random and inaccurate medical claims about abortion, almost as an improvisation against choice. Staff member Raisner interacts with the earnings to go over all the successes, including that abortion causes infertility (it doesn’t) and that medical abortion pills are unsafe due to “high levels of estrogen and progesterone” (they don’t have none). “They offer free ultrasounds, financial assistance, all the necessary resources and make it very tempting to lean on them,” Raisner told Jezebel. “Unfortunately, we know they are fake medical clinics whose only agenda is to spread lies, shame people to that they do not abort”.
At the five clinics Raisner visited, he said it was as if all the employees were reading the same prewritten “script,” with different anecdotes interspersed. “The conversations were almost identical: When I told them I was thinking about abortion, they all led with ‘suicide’ and the risk of that,” Raisner said. This sounds like the worst possible co-optation of increased public awareness of mental health.
Activists conducting covert sting operations around abortion are not uncommon, but are well known to be most frequently perpetrated by anti-abortion activists who go to abortion clinics and collect and manipulate images to galvanize cultural panic about “Planned Parenthood selling parts.” of babies”. (The summer 2015 seems like yesterday.)
To prepare to run his own sting operation, Raisner researched local crisis pregnancy centers, made calls describing his made-up “situation,” and booked appointments. Before these appointments, she said she “practiced using this little remote control” to operate the button camera and prepared questions pregnant people often ask, such as about abortion safety and possible concerns. Of course, as the Mayday Health video states, medical abortion results in fewer extreme complications than Tylenol.
All over the country, even before Roe vs. Wade was struck down and several states immediately banned abortion, crisis pregnancy centers outnumbered clinics providing actual abortions by a three to one ratioand many centers receive state and federal funding. Also, because they are not actual healthcare facilities, they are not subject to the same HIPAA privacy standards that actual healthcare providers must adhere to. However, they collect all of the same private and personal information that healthcare providers collect, with the freedom to share this information as you see fit.
Raisner told Jezebel that the clinic staff took her driver’s license, her address and asked her about her job and her family and friends. “They deliberately try to identify other people in your life who could supposedly help you raise this baby,” she recalled. After she left the clinic saying that she was not sure if she would have an abortion, CPC employees followed her several times and asked her to come back.
Crisis pregnancy centers have increasingly become a major surveillance apparatus for anti-abortion activists and even state governments contracting with anti-abortion clinics, with potentially dire consequences when abortion and miscarriage are increasingly resulting in criminal charges.
Several victims of crisis pregnancy centers have saying the Expose Fake Clinics campaign on similar experiences, including one that said that after leaving a clinic, a CPC worker “started calling her almost daily and telling her that she would die, or end up in hell, or get very sick if she had the abortion. ” Some said they were forced to sign contracts agreeing not to have an abortion before leaving the clinic.
“They just want you to give birth, and they’ll say anything for that: they offered me money, they gave me baby blankets, they invite the premise that they’ll support me,” Raisner said. But it’s all just words. “It’s clear that that support really stops after that person gives birth.”
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