Pregnancy Care Centres have become the worst part of my existence on the planet from the moment that I discovered what exactly they were. To clarify, Pregnancy Care Centres (PCCs) are usually organizations that claim to be the first stop anyone having an unintended pregnancy should make. Since most of the people who find themselves facing an unintended pregnancy are under 25 years old, much of their target audience could be considered vulnerable due to their age. In my specific town, teenage pregnancy trends have been among the highest in the country for many years.
Crisis Pregnancy Centres (another term for PCCs) look like traditional non-profit agencies in many ways. They often rely on volunteers and never intend on making a profit, all the money they raise goes to the client and a few critical staff members. The main difference is that none of their funding comes from public organizations like the United Way or the Trillium Foundation. This is because they are not a non-profit agency but rather are a religious organization. Check out the grant applications for either agency listed above and you will see that they explicitly state that they will not fund agencies with a religious mandate.
So what is this religious mandate in the case of CPCs or PCCs? To prevent any client who enters their doors (in their hopes this is all pregnant women) from considering or (OMG!) actually having an abortion. That is right! No option of having an abortion with support from the agency. The kicker though, if you do run off and manage to find a way to an abortion provider (either a 1.5 or 3 hour drive, if you have a vehicle and money for gas, etc.) the PCCs will provide you with post-abortion counselling. This I imagine involves a lot of guilt and shame, and minimal actual counselling.
That is where the problem that is specific to the one agency, I actually live right next to in town, comes into play. No one that is employed by the agency has any formal counselling or crisis training at all. The executive director has a business degree and prior to this job, no non-profit experience at all. All of the funds come from local fundraisers and donations from most if not all of the local churches.
So the major problem is that, not everyone knows exactly what these agencies do and how they operate. As a feminist I believe that all women are entitled to know the details and consequences of all available choices before being asked to make a decision. I also believe in being open and honest about services provided and limitations to service up-front. As an example, clients seeking support to leave an abusive relationship are told by crisis workers that should they return to the situation, Children’s Aid will need to be informed.
Luckily in my town and the most up-to-date phone book they have clearly indicated the difference between agencies providing abortions and those providing “Abortion Alternatives” if you search under the heading “Abortion”. Two things to note; if you search under the heading “Pregnancy” it does not clarify the difference and lists one of each type, the only one that is local is the non-abortion provider.
And that brings me to the final straw; there is no local abortion provider. This is an extremely impoverished town where many people are regularly isolated outside of the town limits without access to a vehicle, some with no vehicle or phone. The barriers to what I refer to as “real choice” are so high, we rarely see women break through them. No one in this town is specifically mandated to support and/or transport women for out of town abortions. The closest thing is a women’s resource centre and a health unit that will do the best they can to arrange transportation, depending on the staff member’s own beliefs.
Having never been pregnant before and thus also not having had any previous abortions, I can only speak to what I see and not what I have experienced, but this troubles me greatly. I would like to find a large group of local like-minded women who are willing to volunteer and bring this needed service to the community. We may find that the numbers don’t change and we see only one or two women each year, or we may find that because new options are being presented, many women may access the alternatives they were never given before.
For one of the best and most well known abortion providers/clinics check out this link to the many Morgentaler Clinics across Canada. And since it came up, yeah to Dr. Henry for all his hard work on the issue of choice, which was finally rewarded in 2008 with the Order of Canada award.
*** Cross-posted on the Feministing Community ***