Conner Sokolovic, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Intern and East Carolina University Senior
It was a sunny morning in Greenville, NC, the home of East Carolina University. After a brief drive, I parked in the back lot and walked around the side of the building, concealed for the most part from the main street. “Carolina Pregnancy Center” was lettered on the door. I walked into the small, vacant lobby and took a moment to look at the numerous brochures they had available. The brochures ranged from vague and general information about the center to advertisements for maternity houses (pro-life, religious compounds for pregnant women to stay at during pregnancy), and adoption agencies. None of the brochures provided information for abortion providers or services. Upon closer inspection it was apparent that every brochure was heavily laden with religious (Christian) references and overtones, foreshadowing an agenda that has less to do with helping women and more with promoting ideology.
Eventually, the receptionist came out of a back room, and I began giving her the story – which I rehearsed in my head during the car ride there – about a close friend who was pregnant and wanted information regarding her options. She responded, in what seemed to be a speech more overtly rehearsed than my own, by insisting my “friend” set up an appointment to undergo an ultrasound as soon as possible. When I asked if there was any information that I could bring to my friend, she told me that they did not keep their pregnancy options information in the public waiting room (red flag, anyone?). However, after a little more talking, I convinced her to go into the back area to try get me more information. I like to indulge myself in imagining that this success was due to my charm and charisma, but it is much more likely she was simply new. I heard some muffled talking in the back, and when she emerged, she informed me that the information would be available when my “friend” came in for her appointment. Then, she steered our conversation in the direction of the door. I don’t know about you, but when I think about organizations that claim to help women, I don’t think “clandestine” should be the first word to come to mind.
Carolina Pregnancy Center is one of many so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). They grossly outnumber abortion providers nationally, especially now in the wake of recently passed restrictive legislation. In North Carolina alone, CPCs outnumber abortion providers 8 to 1, and they position themselves in close proximity to universities. In short, CPCs are designed to attract young women looking to evaluate their options regarding pregnancy, and use any means necessary to convince them not to have an abortion. These centers are fueled by religious dogma, and funded by religious organizations. . . and your tax dollars! In the 2013-2015 North Carolina budget, lawmakers allocated $250,000 of YOUR taxpayer dollars to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an umbrella organization that supports more than half of North Carolina’s CPCs. Some states have adopted measures that require these centers to clearly identify that they are not a medical clinic and to not flat out lie. CPCs will shamelessly look someone in the eye and tell them that abortions are linked to cancer. That is one of the many documented completely ridiculous lies that an overwhelming majority of these centers tell.
At East Carolina University, the Crisis Pregnancy Center is located closer to some of the dorms than the actual Student Health Center. It has an extremely well made (and well paid-for) website, and still comes up close to the top of any search engine results that use “pregnancy” and related terms. I grew up in Greenville, and I used to attend church in my middle school and early high school years. I remember the church provided opportunities every summer to volunteer at the Carolina Pregnancy Center. It’s unsettling that these facilities are so inextricably tied to churches. It scares me that, should someone seek advice from a person in their church community regarding a pregnancy, they will likely be referred to a CPC.
At NC State University, where my younger sister will begin her first year this fall, there are even brochures for a CPC, located just blocks away, mixed in with factual information and referrals to actual medical facilities. I am not only worried about her, but about all of the potentially affected college students.
What we need to do, since we now know the full scope and scale of our problem, is address it whenever possible. Inform your friends about CPCs, and check your university’s website and student health centers for any information that would serve as a referral to a CPC. Then, take action to get it removed! After all, this is ultimately a battle of education.