With surges of anti-choice bills in state and federal legislatures, America’s political climate has taken another turn towards social issues. In fact, the political climate hasn’t been so anti-choice in decades. For example, Arizona is introducing a barrage of bills that would force women to view ultrasounds of their fetuses. Another bill in Congress would prevent businesses from offering their employees health insurance that covers abortion.
And in an effort to make it even more difficult to obtain abortions, the House recently passed a bill that would axe all funding for Title X and Planned Parenthood. This bill is moving forward despite that fact that Planned Parenthood is already barred from using federal funds to provide abortions, outside of rape and incest cases. Instead of decreasing abortions, though, Planned Parenthood has said that this bill would eliminate important health services provided to lower-income women. Most outrageously, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska Republicans are attempting to pass laws that would legalize homicide against abortion providers—so much for protecting life.
Given all of this recent anti-choice fervor I shouldn’t have been surprised when the movement reached our lonely corner in the frigid North in the form of an advertising campaign. Perhaps you’ve noticed the flyers cropping up all over campus with grainy black and white images of an ultrasound of a fetus, labeled“Baby Lucy.”Vita Clamantis, a campus anti-choice group associated with Aquinas House, has been putting up posters in order to “provoke thought and discussions at Dartmouth.” The organization plans to post more flyers showing the monthly development of the imaginary Baby Lucy. According to one flyer, Baby Lucy tells us, “By now, I can grasp with my hands, kick, or even somersault! I am five and a half inches long and weigh nearly half a pound. At this point, eyebrows and eyelashes have appeared on my face.” According to the Aquinas House website, the flyer campaign is supposed to culminate in a baby shower for Baby Lucy at the end of term. In an apparent attempt to make this egregious campaign less polarizing, the bottom of each flyer directs those in need of support to contact an unplanned pregnancy center for post-abortion healing.
After seeing this footnote, my curiosity was piqued—what exactly, is a “pregnancy center?” From the title, it sounds a bit like Planned Parenthood—so why would Vita Clamantis, with its staunch anti-choice position, be supporting it? As it turns out, the Dartmouth Free Press has reported on the Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley before (formerly known as the Care Net Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley). It is one of many “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) in the U.S. which are supposed to look like real abortion clinics (and are sometimes even located closed to Planned Parent locations), in order to lure pregnant women and inundate them with anti-choice propaganda.
Using federal funding, CPCs offer free pregnancy tests similar to those found at CVS. And even though CPCs rarely staff medical technicians, they nonetheless offer ultrasounds. When asked whether or not they provide abortions, CPCs dodge the question. As a part of a Congressional report for California Congressman Henry Waxman in 2006, undercover reporters showed that 87 percent of CPCs they visited provided false or misleading information. The false information provided by CPC counselors included statements to the extent that having an abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, or that abortion causes post traumatic stress disorder comparable to the kind seen in Vietnam War veterans. A 2010 report by NARAL shows that CPCs also give false information regarding the risks of surgical abortion. This information states, for example, that abortion might result in a woman’s uterine lining being sucked out. Women who have visited these CPCs also report being interrogated about their religious beliefs, being shown graphic depictions of abortions, and even being asked to pray with counselors.
The CPC in West Lebanon is no different. In 2008, DFP reporter Mary Novak visited the Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley, posing as someone worried about an unplanned pregnancy. , Along with stressing the increased risk of post-abortion stress, counselors falsely advised her that having an abortion would increase her risk of infertility in the future. While they were sure to emphasize the risks at every stage of abortion, they had absolutely nothing negative to say about natural childbirth, which is far more dangerous than having an abortion. The counselors also pressured her to get an ultrasound, interrogated her about her religious background, and offered her a Bible. Towards the end of her visit, Mary was directed to a downstairs gift shop to start buying baby clothes. Mary Novak described it as a “frightening and intimidating” experience.
Women’s reproductive health is already under attack. Vita Clamantis is perfectly within its rights to question individuals’ beliefs with “Baby Lucy” blurbs. However, their association with the Pregnancy Center, an organization that uses scare tactics to prevent abortions, is disturbing. Regardless of one’s personal opinions about abortion, it is reprehensible that a campus group would support and donate to a center that poses as a medical clinic and knowingly disseminates false information in order to mislead women.
And, dear reader, if you happen to find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, please don’t go to the Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley; you’re not likely to find accurate information there. Besides West Leb’s Planned Parenthood is just down the street.