If you are a woman between the ages of 18-24 and you are having sex, you are a target. A local pregnancy ministry, also known as a "crisis pregnancy center," wants to have a heart-to-heart conversation with you. The nice lady won't tell you that she believes birth control is bad. But she will offer you a free pregnancy test and even an ultrasound. She will make you feel just like a patient in a health clinic.
Over 1,100 evangelical Christian pregnancy ministries across the US seek to create "a culture where lives are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and every woman chooses life for her unborn child."* Volunteers and staff lead women to Christ by keeping them away from birth control and abortion. These ministries are devoted to ensuring that sexually active women and girls get pregnant, stay pregnant, and become mothers. After all, that is what happens to women who do not have birth control, regardless of whether they are willingly having sex.
A new law took effect earlier this year in Baltimore City compelling local pregnancy ministries to post signs that say that they do not provide or refer for birth control or abortion. Now they are disgruntled, shocked, appalled. These signs give a hint to unsuspecting women that they are not at a doctor's office. A simple sign helps women make an informed decision about whether they want evangelistic help or a gynecologist.
But this means that pregnancy ministries must give women--wait for it--a choice. No wonder they're appalled.
"Why doesn't Planned Parenthood have to post signs?" they protest. Well, Planned Parenthood (1) is not a religious ministry; (2) is a respected gynecological health care provider; and (3) follows CDC and AMA guidelines, just as city health clinics, private practice gynecologists and hospitals do.
Maybe pregnancy ministries don't like the fact that Planned Parenthood provides affordable birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and referrals for adoption and prenatal care. These ministries certainly don't like the fact that women trust Planned Parenthood as a safe and non-judgmental abortion provider.
Pregnancy ministries are not concerned about the practice of gynecology. They are evangelists spreading a form of Christian anti-birth control, anti-abortion morality, which they carefully shroud in the guise of a health clinic. (If they were merely reaching out to their flock of already converted, then why try to look like a health clinic?)
The crux of the problem for pregnancy ministries is that the economic and social structure of the Western world depends upon the ability of individuals to plan families and space children. Nearly every person, when given a choice, will choose a health care provider who offers factual, science-based options to them and their partners.
If these ministries want to pray and offer baby formula and diapers to women who want to start families, that's one thing. Not fully disclosing their true evangelical, anti-birth control mission, however, is another. Thank goodness we have a government that recognizes the public health value of truth-in-advertising.
*[from the Carenet website mission statement]
by Keiren Havens,Vice President of External Relations, Planned Parenthood of Maryland