Crisis pregnancy centers are faith-based non-profits that set up shop near legitimate abortion providers and/or in low-income areas where women are less likely to have access to reproductive health care and more likely to be susceptible to the false medical information and high-pressure counseling they dole out alongside free pregnancy tests. Here's a Colorlines investigation on how some Kansas City CPCs are specifically trying to "save" black and Latina babies — and how it's possible to help low-income women who want to carry to term without tricking them into doing so.
From Akiba Solomon, who visited several centers in Kansas City for her story:
Last December, Care Net—the nation’s largest network of evangelical Christian crisis pregnancy centers—featured a birth announcement of sorts on the website of its 10-year-old Urban Initiative. Under the headline, “Plans Underway for Care Net’s Newest Center in Kansas City, Mo.!” a block of upbeat text described how a predominantly white, suburban nonprofit called Rachel House had “made contact” with “various African American pastors and community leaders,” who helped them “plant” a “pregnancy resource center” in a predominantly black, poor section of downtown Kansas City.
Rachel House’s mission is clear: It is an evangelical ministry with the primary goal of “protecting the unborn.” But the nonprofit doesn’t do picket signs and bloody-fetus images. Instead, it draws in young women facing unintended pregnancies with things like free pregnancy testing, first-trimester ultrasounds and baby supplies. The Rachel House team proudly emphasizes the quality of its care. “We tell all of our clients, ‘Even though you’ve done a pregnancy test at home, we’re going to do another one here,’ ” explains Rachel House client services director Susanne Hanley. “We buy the hospital-strength pregnancy tests. We don’t know what they used; they could have used one from the dollar store, or whatever.”
Rachel House is good at its job, and its staffers are targeting "underserved" women:
“A couple of years ago we revisited our mission statement,” says Rachel House president Kathy Edwards, a middle-aged, married mother who eerily resembles “Big Love” star Mary Kay Place. “When you’re passionate about doing something, you want to do it well. We asked ourselves if we were where women were more apt to get abortions, because there’s not a pregnancy center for them to go to. And we thought, ‘No. We’re not in the urban core.’”
Evangelicals have long approached their anti-abortion work with missionary zeal. But over the past four years, national anti-abortion strategists have designated “urban” and “underserved” women and babies as a priority for saving. In practice, these terms tend to be euphemisms for “black” and, to a lesser extent, “Latina.”
There's another community-centric non-profit in the area that's somewhere between Planned Parenthood and Rachel House. Called Uzazi Village, it strives to combat black infant mortality rates without any dogma (or calling abortion "black genocide"):
The deliberately homey, loft-like space has shiny wooden floors and African-inspired wall hangings. Here, Uzazi promotes natural, home-based childbirth. It also offers its clients free pregnancy testing and pregnancy confirmation for Medicaid eligibility; free doula and breastfeeding support; training for emerging doulas of color; STI/STD information and even support groups for LGBT youth. Payne doesn’t use the phrase “reproductive justice,” but Uzazi Village certainly embodies the concept.
“I wouldn’t want to run them out of town or tar and feather them, because I don’t think that they’re doing bad things to people,” founder Sherry Payne said regarding CPC evangelicals. “You can even argue that they have a very useful service. But I think it’s a partial service. I [wonder] if the services they’re providing in the community they’ve picked out are going to be respectful to the women being served, or are they just pushing their own agenda and their own way?”
(Image via Uzazi Village)