Over the holidays, my husband and I traveled to Ironwood, Michigan to spend Christmas with his family. On the way to a surprise birthday party, I caught the words “pregnancy support” on a building sign as we drove by.
The suspicions that aroused from seeing this phrase were confirmed with a simple Google search on my phone: Ironwood has a crisis pregnancy center. And according to their website, they’ve been offering their services to the area for ten years.
Why I hadn’t noticed the crisis pregnancy center in Ironwood until then? It stuck out like a sore thumb because I’ve done a lot of research into crisis pregnancy centers, but the last time I was in Ironwood it had only been a couple months since I discovered what crisis pregnancy centers were and began learning how to spot them. Because of the way they present themselves, they typically go unnoticed by the general population while appearing like beacons of hope to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
New Beginnings Pregnancy Support Services is a rarity among crisis pregnancy centers by at least stating somewhere on their website that they do not provide, recommend, or refer for abortion and that their information should not be relied on a substitute for medical/professional advice. Interestingly, their website also isn’t completely wiped clean of their Christian, pro-life agenda and you’ll find the tiniest hints of it sprinkled throughout their website. They also don’t seem to have a secondary website meant to attract donors that states their true intentions of being a crisis pregnancy center.
However, they’re like other crisis pregnancy centers in other aspects. With the exception of admitting they don’t support abortion and the small references about their pro-life view, they present themselves like any other crisis pregnancy center.
*Professional-looking website layout with high quality stock photos of women, pregnancy tests, etc.? Check.
*Lot of empathize placed on being a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment? Check.
*Insistence on being confidential, supportive, etc.? Check.
*Claims of offering accurate information? Check.
*Not calling themselves a faith-based crisis pregnancy center? Check. Despite the few references to a pro-life view and Christian beliefs, they don’t actually come out and state they are a pro-life, Christian crisis pregnancy center. Instead, they refer to themselves in a vague way while still appearing to be supportive and confidential: “We are a safe, welcoming place for individuals, and families to receive education, services and support. All of our services are free and confidential.” (from their Facebook page)
Additionally, NBPSS states “Client information is kept confidential to the full extent allowable by law.” This gives the impression that they are a professional place that safeguards client information, but this statement is useless. Perhaps the ones that have gained medical status to be able to use ultrasound machines have to follow HIPAA laws to keep client information confidential, but, generally speaking, crisis pregnancy centers are not medical. Therefore, they’re not required to protect client information. Not surprisingly, there have been numerous instances of centers harassing abortion-minded women afterwards or even contacting her family, friends, and co-workers about her abortion plans in order to shame her out of getting one.
NBPSS’ website lists the logos for Heartbeat International and Care Net, the nation’s two largest crisis pregnancy center networks. NBPSS is officially a Care Net affiliate as they are listed on Care Net’s website as one of their crisis pregnancy centers, but not Heartbeat International. The center can also be found on Option Line, a website created by the two organizations to direct women to their pro-life Christian crisis pregnancy centers. Both organizations have a nasty history of falsely advertising themselves and offering inaccurate information in order to lure women and potentially scare or shame them out of getting an abortion, using birth control, having pre-marital sex, or anything not in line with Christian beliefs. Being associated with either one of these organizations is not a good thing.
Despite NBPSS’ website claiming to offer accurate information about abortion procedures and risks, the section on “Abortion Risks” indicates that at least some of their information may be inaccurate. It mentions that some studies suggest connections between abortion and breast cancer, which is something the pro-life movement has pushed like its fact despite there not being reliable, hard evidence to prove a link between abortion and breast cancer or that abortion increases a woman’s risk to get breast cancer. NBPSS’s “Abortion Risks” section also alludes to symptoms related to Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome, a term coined by the pro-life movement for a perceived connection between abortion and mental health. Though the pro-life movement insists women are likely to suffer from extreme negative emotions following abortion, PASS is not recognized by any health organizations as studies show there’s no link between abortion and mental health problems and more current studies show only a small percentage of women regret their abortion. In general, NBPSS seems like any other crisis pregnancy center by treating abortion as problematic—insisting that women thinking of abortion to schedule an appointment to be educated on with their own version of the facts—while parenting and adoption are presented as positive, noble, and perfect as if either of those options cannot possibly be riddled with their own issues.
Crisis pregnancy centers are strategically set up in key locations. The best spot for a crisis pregnancy center to set up shop is right next to an abortion provider, using a similar name and outward appearance in order to mislead women looking for the abortion provider into the center. They are also found in poverty-stricken areas and college towns as unplanned pregnancies are likely to occur in those places. NARAL’s report “The Truth about Crisis Pregnancy Centers” states that crisis pregnancy centers have also been setting up in areas with high concentrations of African-American and Latina women, noting that “the rate of unplanned pregnancy among African-American women, particularly among teens, far outpaces that of other groups—51% of African-American teen girls will become pregnant at least once before they turn 20.” A crisis pregnancy center in Ironwood seems out of place considering the town doesn’t have any of these ideal features…until you consider its geographical location.
Guttmacher explains, “In 2014, some 6,050 abortions were provided in Wisconsin, though not all abortions that occurred in Wisconsin were provided to state residents, as some patients may have traveled from other states [emphasis added].”
Women in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where Ironwood is located, are severely lacking in access to abortion services. The sole provider of any abortion services in the entire UP is the Planned Parenthood Marquette Health Center, which only offers the abortion pill. Women in the UP seeking abortion in Michigan beyond nine or ten weeks would have to travel to Saginaw County in Michigan’s mainland. Saginaw County is at least a three hour drive from Michigan’s UP. As Ironwood is located right next to Wisconsin’s northern border, it’s possible a crisis pregnancy center was set up there to catch upper Michigan women who find it would be easier and are willing to cross state lines to receive abortion services.
Whatever the reason for a crisis pregnancy center in Ironwood, it doesn’t look good between the association with deceptive crisis pregnancy center groups and hints of false information on pregnancy options. Perhaps someday I’ll go in to see for myself if my gut instincts and research are correct.
Note: At the time of posting, the NBPSS website appears to be down.