The protection of women’s reproductive rights is a battle that has raged (and will probably continue to) amongst the populace for as long as anyone can remember. While the tangible focus of the struggle hinges on a woman’s right to an abortion, it speaks to an eons-long fight for equality, centered on a persisting cultural view of women’s bodies not being their own possessions. Women as a whole have made great advancements in the last century toward righting this societal view, but new battlefronts and tactics have emerged alongside those victories.
This week’s edition of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight threw one of these newer tools under the spotlight: crisis pregnancy centers. They aren’t wholly new, existing for decades in varying forms, but a renewed fervor from the evangelical base has seen them evolve into new forms that actively deceive pregnant women wanting to terminate their pregnancies.
These CPCs outnumber abortion clinics by over 1,000 across the nation, with extremely high ratios in some states. For example, Mississippi houses one abortion clinic against 38 CPCs. These clinics do all they can to manipulate and coerce women who come through their doors in an effort to bring their children to term. Utilizing everything from guilt and imprinting to blatant misinformation, these government- and state-funded organizations push women who cannot feasibly care for a child to continue their pregnancies, with no regard for what that child’s life will be once born.
What’s even more disturbing is how they celebrate subverting the prospective mothers’ own desires, as Oliver points out with a recording of anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson during a CPC conference: “The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic,” she says. It’s this sentiment that makes it no surprise that CPCs continually try to appear similar to organizations like Planned Parenthood, do their best to establish their offices as close to existing abortion clinics as possible and even operate mobile vans offering free ultrasounds within the parking lots of abortion clinics.
Even worse is the philosophy of those mobile clinics. During a CBN profile of one mobile CPC, an ultrasound tech is quoted as saying, “She’s stays on that table until she decides that she wants the baby.” Skin-crawling stuff, to say the least.
This is all made even worse by the misinformation about birth control that CPCs spread. You would think that organizations that don’t want women to get abortions would be all about condom use, but they promote the fact that condoms are effectively useless in preventing pregnancy. When confronted with scientific proof that condoms are 98 percent effective against unwanted pregnancy, CPC director Barbara Beavers laughs it off dismissively, stating she’ll show her interviewer “our data.”
For underserved communities, CPCs are often heralded as facsimiles for women’s reproductive health organizations like Planned Parenthood, further exposing those seeking pregnancy termination to their skewed ideology. CPCs also are not governed by HIPAA protections, meaning patients’ private information is not protected. In fact, there appears to be very little oversight at all within these clinics. A priest who started a CPC in Virginia was later found to have molested a woman over the course of two years under the guise of performing an exorcism.
It’s a hard episode to laugh through, though Oliver and his team don’t disappoint where they’re able to take their jabs. The return of Rachel Dratch’s Wanda Jo and the reveal of Oliver’s own mobile CPC van, which was incredibly easy to obtain, is a great exclamation point on a damning revelation within women’s healthcare.
It’s safe to say that the Pacific salmon is the only “momma meant to die for their babies” on this planet. Check out the episode below.