Reading Time: 11 minutes (paulisson miura, CC.)
Reading Time: 11 minutes

One of the biggest lies told by fake abortion clinics (called by the umbrella term crisis pregnancy centers sometimes, in lower-case to differentiate it from the actual name-brand Crisis Pregnancy Center chain of fake clinics) is that they are actually clinics, meaning that they are medical offices staffed by people knowledgeable about pregnancy and all the options available for pregnant women. They’re anything but, however. I’ll show you the first few pages from a CPC manual scan that a reader sent to me, which ought to settle that question nicely.

(paulisson miura, CC.)
(paulisson miura, CC.)

Pretty Much of a Muchness.

The manual I was sent comes from a longtime reader I’ve known and trusted for a while. We will be referring to this reader as Sender. Sender received this manual as part of a volunteer gig with a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) some years ago. Sender’s time with this fake clinic didn’t last long for various reasons, never progressing past orientation. Sender found the manual in a box of old junk and asked if I’d have use for it.

Oh boy, would I ever. YES. PLEASE.

People have asked me about the CPC manual I personally read in the early 1990s, the one that Biff had received for his own volunteer stint with a fake clinic. After that night, the manual vanished. I don’t think Biff realized I’d read it, but I do think he was chastised about having left it at home where it could be found and read. I don’t think I ever saw it again. Fake clinics seem protective of their manuals, and I’ve no doubt you’ll see why bigtime in the coming weeks.

This manual looks nearly identical in nature to the one I read, however. It is obviously a product of slightly more advanced technology than that earlier incarnation–the one I saw was in old-school typewriter font and mostly looked like it’d been made with a Ditto machine or something similar, and included silly line drawings of crosses, cherubs, babies, doves, and the like. This one, as you’ll see, is a weird combination of those earlier typewriters’ typefaces and early word-processing fonts like you’d expect to see in late 1990s word processors.

It’s also got more (mis)information in it than the one I saw, which is to be expected. Anti-abortion crusaders are constantly amassing new and worse pseudoscience beliefs to trot out to the women who visit their fake clinics. (Like all the flavors of Christianity itself, it seems like fake abortion clinics only increase the amount of nonsense they adopt into their beliefs.) So there is some new information in here that I don’t think I’d have known as a bright-eyed little Pentecostal lass, but overall it’s about the same idea.

This manual was slightly customized to the particular CPC where Sender briefly volunteered, as all of them likely are to one extent or another. The one I saw was customized to the same limited extent for the one particular fake clinic in Houston where Biff volunteered. I’ve removed the identifying information. For now, please know that this particular fake clinic is as representative of the breed as we could hope to have:

  • The fake clinic is located in a suburb that is fairly densely populated.
  • The area is dominated by religious fanatics.
  • The area skews poor and young.
  • It’s located 15-20 miles outside a major urban city.
  • That said, it’s also only about one block away from the little local college in its town.
  • And one block in the other direction, we find a real women’s clinic with a very strikingly similar name.
  • Just like the real clinic around the corner, this fake one looks exactly like an actual medical facility.

It’s quite striking to see what the fake clinic’s webpage omits, too. I looked in vain to see exactly which operator runs it–usually these fake clinics are part of a large group under the aegis of one big national- or international-level operator like Care Net–or to find a single name of a single person associated with it–not even the director.

They offer the same promises that pretty much all fake clinics make: free pregnancy tests, (mis)information about abortion, and vaguely-worded promises of support for pregnant women and needy mothers–as well as therapy for the regret they are totally positive all women feel after obtaining abortion care.

In short, they’re trying super-hard to look exactly like the real women’s clinic with almost exactly the same name that’s around the corner from themselves!

IMPORTANT: Please please please don’t speculate in comments about who Sender is, or exactly where this clinic is. 

A Supreme Need for Volunteers.

Like most Christian ventures, a fake clinic is run on volunteer power. There’ll be some kind of director at the top who gets paid pretty well by Christian standards (ranging from USD$50k to $75k), but the rest of the staff there will generally be volunteers.

One of the biggest operators of fake clinics, Care Net, claims to have 30,000 volunteers across the United States and Canada, and lists positions for volunteers ranging from Office Support Staff and Abstinence (mis)Educators all the way to Ultrasound Technicians (in the page I saw they specified that they wanted “licensed medical doctors or ultrasound technicians” for that last one, but as you’ll be seeing that’s not actually a sticking point for most fake clinics).

It’s very easy to tell that without that army of volunteers, there is no way that the thousands of fake clinics across the world could ever stay in operation–even with the barely-legal perks and assistance they get from their states and countries. Volunteers are totally the key to these clinics’ ability to function, despite the many limitations of depending on such a force. By not paying the frontline people who trick and deceive the women who make the mistake of thinking that they’ve found a real clinic that will help them, these fake clinics can save quite a lot of money.

(That link’s interesting, by the way; you can see quite a bit about the nuts-and-bolts of a fake clinic, including volunteers’ efforts to deceive women in any number of ways, including about exactly how much help they can offer. Even more surprisingly, the author of the book unwittingly exposes the long preaching and haranguing that fake clinics subject their victims to. Look for the story of Chris on p. 79, and then Anna–who walked through their door by accident because the fake clinic misrepresents itself.)

CPCs put out calls for volunteers both on their own website and by making appeals both to local media and area churches. The fake clinic we’re looking at today does all of these things. I found several newspaper listings for this fake clinic’s various fundraising efforts, all of which included blurbs about where interested parties could contact the fake clinic about volunteering.

Sender doesn’t mention where or how exactly they were recruited. I’m pretty sure that Biff got recruited through our Pentecostal church. He’d already been impressed with the crusade thanks to a young woman on campus who led our university’s forced-birther activist group, and when the church received a request for volunteers he was happy to march right up to the plate. I don’t think he’d have been recruited through school because the CPC wasn’t a specifically fundamentalist group so he’d have wanted the pastor’s okay there. Other people who have written about their experiences have said they were recruited through their universities.

Choosy Beggars.

2/99, STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLE. Click to embiggen.
STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLE. Click to embiggen.

As important as volunteers are to these fake clinics, however, not just any volunteers will do.

Page 1 of our fake clinic manual is its “Statement of Principle.” Their first statement of principle runs as follows:

XXXX is an outreach ministry of Jesus Christ through His church. Therefore, XXXX, embodied in its volunteers, is committed to presenting the gospel of our Lord to women with crisis pregnancies, both in word and in deed. Those who labor as XXXX board members, staff and volunteers are expected to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Whenever a Christian charity describes itself as a “ministry,” that’s a very good indication that it is not going to be very efficient at whatever it claims its focus is. And indeed, fake clinics have one focus and one focus only: evangelizing and controlling the lives of the women who make the dire mistake of trusting them. They’re expressing that focus in terms of fetuses and opposing abortion, but that’s just a smokescreen. The real goal is right here in the first statement of principle.

(We’re going to be talking more about this page later, but for now I’m just focusing on volunteers.)

Statement of Faith. Click to embiggen.
Statement of Faith. Click to embiggen.

Because this group sees itself as a ministry, all of its volunteers must be amenable to participating in a ministry. Most of all, they must be firm, committed Christians. If they aren’t, then they won’t be allowed to volunteer at all–because if such a non-Christian were allowed to be part of a fake clinic’s operation, they would quickly perceive that this venture is not about helping pregnant women at all, but about perpetuating a religious-political agenda using women’s bodies as their pawns.

Their next page is a “Statement of Faith” that covers an ecumenical sort of creed that all volunteers must agree with wholeheartedly. It sounds a lot like some Catholic creeds that get recited during Mass, but it wouldn’t offend any fundagelical (except maybe someone who rejects the Trinity–ahem, like Pentecostals often do; no idea how Biff reconciled that).

Mission Statement. Click to embiggen.
Mission Statement. Click to embiggen.

And the last page in this section is a “Mission Statement,” which of course must also be accepted by all volunteers. You’ll probably notice in this page a lot of basic dogwhistles about abortion: “sanctity of life,” “healthy life choices,” and an explicit statement that the fake clinic “exists to minister to these women, their families, and their friends with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.”

Their friends?!?

This page also contains a list of goals, which you’ll notice include the dissemination of abstinence-only miseducation to vulnerable young people and the assertion that this clinic wants to teach people “God’s design for sexuality.”

A few years ago I heard about an atheist forced-birther who was very confused and upset that she hadn’t been allowed to staff a fake clinic as a volunteer. That level of gullibility just floors me. She really and truly thought she’d be helping women and couldn’t grasp why her atheism would ever be a problem! But I’ve known about these places for a while, and she hadn’t yet learned what they’re really about. (I even showed up on that Friendly Atheist post! Gosh, where does the time go?)

This. Is. A. Ministry. Not. A. Clinic.

That’s why I tell people every chance I get that these are not real medical clinics and they are not actually focused on what they say they are focused on.

First and foremost, they are focused on spreading their foul blend of Christianity around, not on helping people. If they wanted to help people, that would have been their first goal–without caring if they converted anyone or made anyone happy they were Christian.

If someone won’t give a homeless person a sandwich without making them sit through a sermon first, then their real goal is not the feeding of that homeless person. And that’s how it runs with these fake abortion clinics.

The Ideal Fake-Clinic Volunteer.

Counselor requirements 1/3. Click to embiggen.
Counselor requirements 1/3. Click to embiggen.

The next section in the fake clinic’s manual is probably taken verbatim from some central resource, since there’s nothing on it specific to Sender’s clinic. It’s a few pages about the requirements for volunteers.

Now, you might think we already saw plenty of requirements for volunteers. But you’d be wrong! That was just a little taste. A potential volunteer might have thought they were ready for the challenge of lying nonstop to women every day, but this list would probably knock out a good 2/3 of the potentials.

Among other things, we see that volunteers must not only be fervent Christians, but also attend both church services and a Bible study weekly. In many churches, there is a separate evening set aside for group Bible study; often groups will be set up within the church by demographic or family status, so there’ll be a teen Bible study as well as a Young Marrieds, and one for older people and new converts and the like. The bigger the church, the more groups they set up. So volunteers must attend church twice a week, in essence. Good luck with that–the attendance rate for churches is tanking harder every year.

Volunteers must of course be able to memorize all the various Bible verses that fake clinic operators think are clobber verses against abortion (we’ll go over these in detail later on, don’t fear!).

Counselor requirements 2/3. Click to embiggen.
Counselor requirements 2/3. Click to embiggen.

They also must attend regular staff meetings. Biff loved these, and I’m not being sarcastic. The way he described them, they were like a church service except the sermon topic was always about how abortion was eeeeeeeeevil.

The second page demands a one-year commitment from all volunteers and a “counseling commitment” of four hours a week at least. It also mentions “prayer support from CPC Prayer Warriors,” and guys, you know that phrase is never gonna be not-funny to me.

Counselor requirements 3/3. Click to embiggen.
Counselor requirements 3/3. Click to embiggen.

Here we also find a demand that all volunteers pray before each shift–which I know I’ve mentioned Biff doing in the past. He thought it was awesome that every single shift began with a big group prayer. He also loved the fact that at every moment, he was supposed to be alert to an opportunity to SELL SELL SELL his religion to the women he was tricking and deceiving, which this second page also requires of volunteers.

The third page is the “Volunteer Agreement” that volunteers must sign; you’ll note it basically just covers the same ground we already saw. It includes a lot of religious culture-war rah-rah, but if you weren’t expecting that by now then I don’t know what to tell you.

A Predictable Result.

So when Aibrean talked in comments last time about a scandal that erupted in Ireland a couple of years ago when a fake clinic volunteer told someone that fetuses feel literally more pain than adults do, it’s easy to see why that volunteer might make such a mistake.

These fake clinics choose volunteers not for any medical or counseling knowledge they might have, but rather for their fervor and dedication to the crusade. They are forced to agree to and sign documents that demand rigid adherence to religious dogma and culture-war dogwhistles, but not to accepted medical or counseling practices.

After agreeing to all the requirements and statements of belief the fake clinic demands of them, these volunteers are thrust into the front lines of Christianity’s biggest, most pervasive, and most depraved culture war in modern times. They monkey with the very real lives and problems of women struggling with what are often life-and-death issues for them–and they are arrogant and cruel enough to think that they know better than those women do what is best for their own lives.

No wonder the volunteers at these places say and do things that don’t make a lot of sense. The real miracle is that they don’t land in the news every day for sticking beans up their own noses.

Maybe one day people will wonder why these fake clinics can’t find real medical personnel and real counselors to come volunteer more often for them, and why they depend on volunteers who can’t tell an IUD from a fetus on the ultrasound they just ran on a hapless victim. Or maybe they’ll wonder why these groups depend so extensively on misinformation and emotional manipulation–and yet insist that they’re doing the will of Republican!Jesus, who always approves of a lie for a good cause.

By the way, gang, we’ll be doing more with this manual in coming days and weeks. It won’t be an every-time topic, no, but by the time we’re done I can’t imagine anybody will have any doubt that these fake clinics are not what they claim to be, and that moreover they are downright wicked by any reasonable definition of the term.

I’ve got a slight detour planned for next time–see you soon!

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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