Analyzing an opinion letter on Planned Parenthood and crisis pregnancy centers

Whenever Faust submits one of his anti-abortion letters to the paper, more letters echoing the same ideology are likely to follow so I wasn’t surprised to see this letter in the paper last week:

Here are some tidbits of information regarding Planned Parenthood (PP) and Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Wisconsin. According to Planned Parenthood’s own report from 2014-2015:

*PP’s non-abortion services (birth control, cancer screenings, etc.) have decreased over time.

*98% of American women never visit a PP facility in any given year.

*.08% of women of reproductive age went to PP for a breast exam (none received a mammogram).

*PP performed 323,999 abortions in 2014 nearly one-third of the nation’s abortions.

*Their revenue in 2014 reached almost $1.3 billion dollars, and they received $553.7 million in taxpayer dollars that year.

There are eight Crisis Pregnancy Centers within 50 miles of Black River Falls. There are four-plus centers in La Crosse, one in Eau Claire, two in Marshfield, and one in Necedah:

Apple Pregnancy Care Center, Eau Claire 1.800.712.4357

Agape Pregnancy Resource Center, La Crosse 608.784.4966

Birthright of La Crosse, La Crosse 1.800.550.4900

New Life Resource Center, La Crosse 608.785.2377

Gerard Hall La Crosse (Maternity Home) 608.392.3985, 24/7 helpline

Birthright Marshfield, The Hannah Center, Marshfield (Maternity Home) 715.387.6300

7 Sorrows of Our Sorrowful Mother, Necedah 608.565.2417

These dedicated centers do not receive tax dollars but are helping women over the long haul.

This list does not include help provided by Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Service.

Katie Edwards

Black River Falls

I had seen the report she was referring to some time ago and I remember wondering what factors could be contributing to these decreases in healthcare services. Were they affected by new guidelines recommending pap smears be performed less often? Were women getting longer-term birth control like IUDs, which may result in fewer visits as women only need these types of birth control replaced every few years? Did some low-income women gain access to insurance through the Affordable Care Act and now gets reproductive healthcare through a regular doctor? Could Planned Parenthood performing nearly 1/3 of the nation’s abortions be the result of anti-abortion groups and lawmakers lobbying for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that have forced many independent providers to close down?

Anti-abortion supporters don’t ask questions as to why healthcare services are decreasing. They see reports like this and automatically declare that it’s proof of their beliefs that Planned Parenthood is nothing more than a “murder mill”.

Planned Parenthood did indeed receive $553 million in tax dollars that year. HOWEVER…A legislative provision called The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services except when it’s medically necessary to save the life of the woman or in cases of rape or incest. Seventeen states use state funds to provide medically necessary abortions—Wisconsin isn’t one of them. Title X, a grant program that helps provide family planning and reproductive healthcare services to low-income women, strictly prohibits its funds from being used towards abortion services. Translation: TAXES DON’T FUND ELECTIVE ABORTIONS!!!

The writer neglected to describe the services crisis pregnancy centers have to offer, but the letter seemed to imply that they were somehow better alternatives to Planned Parenthood and were more beneficial to women. Luckily and somewhat ironically, I’m currently researching 64 crisis pregnancy centers in Wisconsin—here’s a quick run-down of their services:

*21 claim to have medical staff. Yet 56 offer pregnancy tests. This could mean that, for a majority of centers, pregnancy tests aren’t being administered by medical professionals or the tests themselves are self-administered (three centers admit their tests are self-administered. From personal experience, Apple PCC does self-administered tests—they didn’t state they did, however).

*50 provide material support—diapers, formula, etc. —to mothers. 20 of those centers state material support is through an Earn While You Learn program where women earn points through classes and/or Bible study to be able to “buy” items.

*All 64 offer options information. In general, centers insisted on an appointment to receive information, but some had some information on their website. 18 centers had information on their website that was inaccurate or exaggerated (abortion causes breast cancer, miscarriage rates being as high as 40%, etc.)

*35 perform ultrasounds. 18 describe their ultrasound services as “limited”, half of which describe “limited” means only confirming a heartbeat and gestational age. Only six of those centers claimed to have medical staff. There could be 29 centers operating ultrasound machines without people that aren’t trained to use them and/or the guidance of medical professionals. In Wisconsin, women must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion and Wisconsin law states that abortion providers have to perform this ultrasound themselves or arrange for a qualified person to perform it. This didn’t stop three crisis pregnancy centers from suggesting they do ultrasound imaging for the purposes of receiving an abortion. They do this as a tactic to delay or prevent women from getting abortion services. Women seeking abortion services are promised a free ultrasound only to find out at their appointment that their free ultrasound image is medically worthless and doesn’t meet state abortion requirements.

WSC_ultrasound.jpg
The Women’s Support Center states it does ultrasounds while mentioning an ultrasound is needed for an abortion, suggesting that they perform the required ultrasound needed for abortion services. They neglect to mention that their ultrasound images don’t meet state requirements for abortion services.  

 

*13 perform STD testing. Only 4 offer treatments for the STDs they test for.

*2 offered prenatal care—in the form of prenatal vitamins.

*Only 1 center performed pap smears.

*None dispensed birth control or performed mammograms.

I wonder if services were intentionally left out of the letter as crisis pregnancy centers have a mixed bag of services and are mostly not medical. Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform mammograms, but neither do crisis pregnancy centers—well, Wisconsin’s crisis pregnancy centers anyways.

Based on the services alone—not including the misinformation crisis pregnancy centers spread and deceptive tactics they have employed—crisis pregnancy centers aren’t a better alternative to Planned Parenthood as most don’t provide medical services and when they do those services are extremely limited.  Planned Parenthood may not provide mammograms, but neither do crisis pregnancy centers—well, Wisconsin crisis pregnancy centers anyways.

Perhaps the only real benefit of crisis pregnancy centers would be its material support to women that carry to term and need help obtaining baby items, but I’m not entirely sold on it. There was one crisis pregnancy center–the Alpha Women’s Center–that actually provided a breakdown of how their version of Earn While You Learn works.

AlphaEWYL_edited-1
Provided I’m doing my math right, a woman would have to complete 4 lessons or memorize 8 Bible verses in order to receive the maximum amount of diapers (20) the center will give out per week, per child. This doesn’t seem like a lot when you consider a newborn can go through 10 diapers a day.  Also, I’m admittedly concerned that they list used car seats as used car seats can be unsafe due to lack of instructions, missing parts, unnoticeable damage, or aging plastic.

Lessons are 2 points each while verse to memorize are 1 point each. The amount each baby item costs varies, but the larger the item the more points it costs. Consumable items cost less points, but the center limits how many of these items can be earned per week, per child. This is assuming the items are in stock as there’s a disclaimer stating they cannot guarantee the availability of the item as most of the items are donated. This is also assuming women are comfortable participating in this particular Earn While You Learn program as it’s completely based around Bible study. (I personally find it to be an attempt at religious indoctrination in exchange for baby goods.) I don’t doubt this can be helpful to women that need a little help rounding out their consumable supplies, but I do debate that it helps women “for the long haul” when its required that women complete a potentially large number of tasks for a small amount of items that may not be in stock.

Contrary to what the opinion letter claimed, tax dollars do help fund crisis pregnancy centers. A lot of tax dollars that has gone towards crisis pregnancy centers has come from federal programs for abstinence-only education. A center in Wisconsin petitioned the city of Madison for low-interest loans to build a maternity home, which could have come from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Community Development Housing Reserve Fund had the city council not withdrew support over concerns about the crisis pregnancy center’s misleading medical information. While governor, Mike Pence took $3.5 million from the state’s Temporary Assistance For Needy Families and gave it to Real Alternatives, an anti-abortion group that helps open, finance, and direct women to crisis pregnancy centers. Seven states have used TAFN dollars to fund crisis pregnancy centers, apparently giving $30 million over the course of 4 years.  The Bush administration gave $60 million in federal tax dollars to crisis pregnancy centers. These numbers seem small in comparison to the tax dollars Planned Parenthood receives in order to give women access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services. However, its a lot of tax dollars to be giving to anti-abortion groups that have used deception and inaccurate information to misguide women about their options.

This isn’t including money generated from the sales of Choose Life license plates or fundraising events like the various Walks for Life that are tax free because these crisis pregnancy centers are non-profit organizations. Again, money that goes to anti-abortion groups that lie to women and, at best, offer a couple healthcare services that may or may not be provided by licensed medical staff.

APPLEFundraiser_edited-1
Apple PCC of Eau Claire’s Walk for Life 2017. This sort of money could cover the costs of at least two babies in the first year. 

Of course, the deception or the lack of essential services doesn’t stop anti-abortion supporters like Katie Edwards from praising crisis pregnancy centers and making them out to be valuable alternatives to women’s healthcare clinics regardless of whether they actually provide any medical services or if they’re known to be untruthful to the women they claim to want to help.

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