The Lies They Tell

Today #ExposeFakeClinics launches the #GramTheVan campaign to raise awareness about the deception and lies of fake clinics, particularly in Ultrasound Vans—that’s right! Mobile fake clinics are a growing tactic being used by fake women’s health centers. Help us call them out! Learn how to take action right here. Below, Lady Parts Justice League writer Molly Gaebe shares her story of a recent trip to a fake clinic.

By Molly Gaebe

I knew what I was getting into. I was walking into the doors of a fake clinic, a place whose sole purpose is to coerce women out of abortion, whether they have made their minds up or not. I knew this as I walked in the front door that said “Choices” in pale yellow, pink, and blue. I knew this as I walked into the waiting area, complete with a glass intake window and pamphlets displayed all around the room. My heart sank for the young couple who was waiting for their appointment, silent, still with their winter coats on, because they did not know. How could they?

This place is designed to look exactly like a medical clinic. But look closer, and you start to see the anti-abortion cracks everywhere. Every pamphlet is about the horrors of abortion (no science to be found anywhere) and the joys of birth (which, for the record, is 14 times more dangerous than abortion). Under where you sign your name agreeing that this place can use your personal health information however they choose, is a disclaimer that includes this line: Volunteers are well trained in crisis counseling and are here because they care about you. They are not necessarily degreed or licensed.

Okay, I won’t even get into the intense creep factor of the “because they care about you” Mommy Dearest vibe. That is for another time and blog. But right there in the fine print, they say, these volunteers are not degreed or licensed aka have no professional training whatsoever. A person signing this form probably wouldn’t even process that line. I mean, it all looks so official, and it’s designed that way.

I was greeted by a woman who is soft spoken and welcoming. She handed me the cup to pee in, which I did—kind of (thank you, friend with pregnant pee!). Then she ushered me into a room with a small brown couch and a chair for her. The room had a coffee table with a big binded book on it, along with a box of tissues.

She asked me all about my life. I told her I have had a surgical abortion before (I have) and am interested in a medication abortion because I heard it is safe, and I cannot afford to have a child right now. She picked up the big binded book from the coffee table, opened it quietly and cautiously, like something bad was about to happen. It was if she was about to read an R.L. Stine book to a child called The Curse of the Mummy’s Abortion.

Page by page, she went through this massive binded document with sections describing the worst possible outcomes of medication and surgical abortion. It looked very official, these lies laid out in print surrounded by stock photos of tortured-looking women with their heads in their hands. The whole (seemingly never ending) appointment was about making abortion seem unsafe and like the riskiest decision I could make around my pregnancy.

When I told her I had had an abortion before, out came the lies about the effects that my abortion will have on my fertility, my mental health, and my chances of getting cancer. One of the pamphlets she read included this line:

A Possible Relationship with Breast Cancer: Carrying a pregnancy to full term gives a measure of protection against breast cancer, especially a woman's first pregnancy. Terminating a pregnancy may result in a loss of that protection.

WHATTHEHELL. For real. HAVE THIS BABY or you revoke your rights to a cancer free life. The guilt factor they heap on you is really impressive.

Throughout the appointment, I told her twice that my abortion made me feel relieved, because it absolutely did. That clearly wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear. After I told her about my good experience and joy around my first abortion, she went silent. Then she read more from the pamphlet that listed only these as the possible things I would feel after another one, should I choose to accept it: Guilt, grief, anger, difficulty bonding with a partner, eating disorders. She wasn't done. Clinical depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.

The entire sessions was this relentless hammering on possible disastrous emotions and behaviors and future cancers and perforations I would experience. Not calm, not relief, not joy, all the emotions I felt when I actually did have one.

She told me there is a link between breast cancer and abortion because our bodies “change with the hormones” and “everything in our body is interconnected.” Ok, sure that sounds like science.

I was also told that if I went through with my (very early) abortion I could have a hysterectomy and die. I was told it could endanger my chances of getting pregnant in the future, and if I managed to get pregnant, it would risk my health. She gave me some sort of convoluted explanation about how having had an abortion is like having scar tissue on your arm. If the scar is deep enough, it will affect your nerves and your muscles and “how you feel and how you use it.” Sure, this sounds like more science.

I want to say here that yes, there are risks and complications associated with abortion, AS WITH ANY PROCEDURE. But to misrepresent them as the most likely outcome is flat out wrong. It’s condescending and harmful to people who are looking for help, guidance, and FACTUAL EVIDENCE. The facts are that abortion is one of the safest procedures out there, and that the most common emotion associated with it is relief. We don’t need places like these mischaracterizing abortion. Doctors already go through all the risks of abortion with their patients. We don’t need abortion haunted houses like these frightening vulnerable people.

I also want to say here that the woman was very nice to me. She wanted me to know, as the disclaimer said, that she cares about me. If these places really cared about the people walking in the door, they wouldn’t have to scare and lie to them. If they really cared, they would work in their communities to provide sex education and birth control and advocate for more resources for couples like the the one in their waiting room. They don’t, because their concern is only to coerce people out of abortion, and into birth.

No matter what their circumstances or what they want. I told her when I came in, I wanted a medication abortion. Her response was to send me out the door with lies, a prayer, and a few  bags of diapers and blankets (which I donated to a women’s shelter.)