The anti-choice movement in America has long been known for so-called “sting videos,” in which an undercover agent tries to catch Planned Parenthood doing various “bad” things, like violating parental notification laws, saying they allow sex-selective abortions (which are totally legal, although I imagine IRL instances of them are rare) or otherwise making it too easy for women to obtain safe and legal abortions. The most famous of these fanatics is Lila Rose; you can read Jezebel’s profile of her here.
Well, now the pro-choice movement has a sting video operation of its very own called The Crisis Project, and it shows just how much false, misleading, and downright dangerous medical information is given out at so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” anti-abortion propaganda centers that advertise themselves in an intentionally misleading way.
The brains behind this operation is one Katie Stack, a 24-year-old reproductive rights activist and grad student at Minnesota State University whose inspiration to expose the machinations of these centers was inspired by her own experience with one when, finding herself pregnant, she visited what she thought was a real women’s health facility. In a 2011 New York Times op-ed, she described some of the false information the center told her:
The “counseling” that I received included the following: I was cautioned that abortions caused breast cancer, even though the National Cancer Institute has found serious flawsin all research that suggests so. I was warned that I would inevitably suffer from post-abortion stress syndrome, even though the American Psychological Association says there is no evidence of increased mental health problems among women who have an abortion in the first trimester. I was told that I would not hear this information from doctors, because doctors make money performing abortions and would lie about the procedure’s risks.
Legislative efforts to get these places to stop masquerading as sources of legitimate medical info and treatment have thus far been tricky; because they don’t charge “patients,” they are not commerce that can be regulated. So while states are still puzzling out this legal conundrum, the only other viable option seems to be exposing their lies and ideology to the public in an effort to dispel the ambiguity which their very existence relies on. (“The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic,” anti-choice activist Abby Johnson once said.)
Enter Katie Stack, who impersonates a potentially pregnant young woman currently considering all her options:
In the first video alone, Katie catches the counselor telling her that the morning after pill is like an abortion, and that it could cause major bleeding that could land her in the emergency room. (False!) She then shames her for having pre-marital sex and encourages her to take a year off from school to take care of her baby, i.e. “the consequences of her actions,” which is a nice way to think of a child. She also tells her having an abortion will “harm herself” and potentially “ruin her life.” (Becoming a parent at 19 while still living with her parents will not disrupt her life at all.) Are you angry yet?
While their tactics may look similar, Stack emphasizes the difference between The Crisis Project and anti-choice sting group Live Action:
“The videos that Live Action puts out are promoting the myths and the fears that the antiabortion movement, such as the idea that abortion clinics cover up sex trafficking. Whereas our work is really much more investigative. We’re not creating unusual scenarios, we’re not looking to prove a particular thesis necessarily. We’re just going in there and letting them talk.”
Let’s hope these videos are effective at getting the word out. Unlike Planned Parenthood, these centers do not furnish women with the accurate information they need to make medical choices for themselves, but seek to bully and trick them into complying with the anti-choice movement’s idea of morality. The more people know about their true goals and what services they actually offer, the less effective they will be.