HUFFPOST PERSONAL
09/21/2018 10:00 am ET Updated Sep 21, 2018

Here's How I Was Tricked By A Crisis Pregnancy Center

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It’s summer 2016. I’m 24, I have an apartment with my long-term boyfriend, and I’ve recently secured a job at the local university. Barack Obama has been president for my formative years, and his policy that has given me access to free birth control feels like the first thing a president has done to obviously and directly impacted my personal life. It seems inevitable that a woman will be president for the first time. It’s a comfortable time for many, and I don’t have the foresight to see what’s about to hit me on a personal level and women in the U.S. on a broader scale.

My bras start to fit a little more tightly. At first, I write it off as a lucky weight gain. Eventually, I take a home pregnancy test that comes back positive. A shock goes through my system. I have always done everything “right”: visiting the Planned Parenthood in the city at age 16 to get monthly birth control pills for $26 from my own paycheck, visiting student health the first week of college for a new pill prescription, finding a doctor as soon as I graduated college to keep up with the Depo Provera shots I had switched to after being diagnosed as a stroke risk from the estrogen in the pill. 

In eight years, I never missed a pill or took a late injection. I had been in a monogamous relationship for four years. And still, I had ended up here, the way so many women before me and after me had and will — pregnant and terrified.

Not fully accepting the results before me, I turn to Google. I need some sort of real confirmation from a medical professional. I don’t know how long it would take to get an appointment with one of my regular doctors, and I don’t want to take time off of work for an appointment so soon after starting a new job.

Planned Parenthood comes up in my searches, but its hours conflict with my workday and I doubt I can travel to and from their downtown office over my lunch break. One of the top search results catches my eye and seems like a lifesaver — a mobile clinic that travels to multiple neighborhoods in the city, including to campus the very next day. I’ve had positive experiences with Planned Parenthood and numerous gynecologists over the years, so I have no reason to be wary of a service provided by what I assume is a women’s health clinic.

In eight years, I never missed a pill or took a late injection. I had been in a monogamous relationship for four years. And still, I had ended up here, the way so many women before me and after me had and will — pregnant and terrified.

I book my appointment. The woman who responds to confirm it is prompt, friendly and comforting.

The next day, I walk to the mobile clinic on my lunch break. Two women greet me and direct me inside the trailer. I fill out a form with my personal information. There is a question with boxes to check for which options I’m considering ― delivery, abortion or adoption. I pee in a cup in the small bathroom. While one woman in another room tests my cup of urine, the other stays and talks to me. She asks me if I believe in a higher power. Finally, after missing multiple red flags throughout this process (a women’s clinic that advertises its pregnancy testing but says nothing about contraception services? No mention of affiliation with any national or regional health system?), the alarm bells start ringing in my head.

A few days later, I get a call from the clinic. The woman on the phone wants me to come back for an ultrasound. I tell her that won’t be necessary, as I’ve already called my regular OB-GYN. She tries to keep me on the phone, her voice growing faster and higher-pitched. I snap back that I have health insurance and will be seeing a real doctor, and hang up on her. Shortly after, I get a follow-up email. I delete it without responding. 

I don’t spend much time thinking about this over the next couple of years. It’s an embarrassing experience that I’d rather forget. But then, in 2018, the stories about crisis pregnancy centers start popping up everywhere, and I finally have a name for what happened to me.

John Oliver has a lengthy segment on his show, and this is now national news. The local Democratic Socialists of America chapter publishes a website with a list of local predatory clinics, and I’m shocked to see how many exist in my city. I’m appalled to learn that my state gives funding to them, at the same time that multiple anti-abortion bills pass my state Congress and are only prevented by the veto power of the governor. I’m disgusted when the Supreme Court sides with these facilities in California while Planned Parenthoods across the country are forced to close their doors. My stomach drops when I realize that of course the information I provided to that sham facility isn’t HIPAA-protected, because the people there aren’t real medical professionals bound by such laws.

These facilities are unfortunately only one example of the slow, methodical chipping-away of Roe v. Wade. Even if Roe can ultimately withstand the Supreme Court that is about to be set, it is unimaginable what new, harmful and deceptive caveats might soon be considered constitutional.

I redo my Google search — the name of my city and the phrase “pregnancy test” ― to see how I could have fallen victim to what now seems like such an obvious scam. The first result that comes up is a link to a website with the words “abortion help” in it. The site is neutral and seems geared toward helping women explore their choices while providing basic health services such as testing for STIs and pregnancy. The mobile clinics go by a different name than the overarching organization. Had I separately searched the parent organization back in 2016, I would’ve seen that there are various iterations of the website and that only one that touts its true mission: “To heighten awareness of the sanctity of human life and the benefits of sexual abstinence outside of marriage.”

Despite being college-educated and a proponent of sexual health and education, I was duped by the predatory practices of a crisis pregnancy center that targets people like me ― and especially women who are even more vulnerable than I am. These facilities are unfortunately only one example of the slow, methodical chipping-away of Roe v. Wade. Even if Roe can ultimately withstand the Supreme Court that is about to be set, it is unimaginable what new, harmful and deceptive caveats might soon be considered constitutional. 

I hope stories like mine can save the next woman from the shame and humiliation that I experienced. Our knowledge and our voices may be the only things that keep our choices protected. 

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