When Annie Byers experienced an unplanned pregnancy ten years ago, she did what many young women in her situation are advised to do, and visited a local Planned Parenthood clinic.
“I walked in seeking help. We didn’t have insurance. It was an unexpected, unplanned, unwed pregnancy. My intention was to have the child. I wanted help proceeding with having a healthy pregnancy.
They asked, ‘Do you want an abortion?’
I said ‘no.’
They answered, ‘We can’t help pregnant women unless they want an abortion.’
I just sat there in silence. I was dumbfounded. I was shocked to learn that the only service they could offer me was aborting my baby.”
Annie’s mistake was easy enough to make; Planned Parenthood advertises “General Healthcare, Women’s healthcare, Pregnancy testing and services,” with the promise of “Care. No matter what.”
“They had successfully presented themselves as a women’s health clinic to me, and they had powerful name recognition,” Byers said.
If a woman was opting for life, or for a healthy outcome to a full term pregnancy, however, she will need to look elsewhere, because ten years after Byers’s experience, Planned Parenthood clinics still do not provide prenatal care.
When asked if prenatal services were offered at any Planned Parenthood clinics, a receptionist at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bloomington, Indiana answered, “Unfortunately that’s not something that our affiliate is capable of doing right now.”
Many search aggregates list Planned Parenthood as a source of low-cost or sliding-scale prenatal care, when what they actually do is refer eligible parties to Medicaid, or in cities where such partnerships exist, to other clinics that provide low-cost prenatal care.
On September 29, Cecile Richards’ testified before congress that “One in five women in this country has sought care from a Planned Parenthood health center.” In turn, Planned parenthood did not provide them with mammograms; Planned Parenthood did not provide prenatal care. Rather 86% of Planned Parenthood’s non-government revenue came from surgical abortion procedures.
Finding affordable, low or no-cost prenatal care is one of the most important and common health concerns for women, particularly those experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Women who want to nurture and deliver a live baby need to know how to access the care they need; where to turn, and where not to turn, lest they feel that abortion is the only option available.
“How vulnerable is a young, unwed mother,” asks Byers, “How vulnerable is that child? Now I see how vitally important visible sidewalk counselors and visible crisis pregnancy centers are, to pull down the veil on the lie that Planned Parenthood is the place for care.”
Pope Francis has opened up channels for a year of mercy — he’s allowing priests to grant absolution at the moment of heartfelt confession. There is reconciliation for women who have experienced crisis pregnancies and believed they had no option but to abort. It is mercy, too, for the men who often drive them to it. There is even mercy for people who lure women into clinics with promises of pre-natal care, while making abortion the only expedient choice.
Elizabeth Duffy blogs at Patheos, writes at Elizabeth Duffy: Perspectives on Catholic Life, Family and Culture, and has work published or forthcoming at OSV, On Faith, The Catholic Educator, and Image.