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the Body Politic
Vol. 09, No. ma - Mar/Apr 1999, Page 27
Copyright © 1999 by the Body Politic Inc.

New Video Exposes Deception at Crisis Pregnancy Centers

By Anne Bower

It was the escorting that did it. Videographer Sunny Chapman had been a volunteer escort helping women get past demonstrators at abortion clinics. In a telephone interview she told the Body Politic that many of those women told her of their terrible experiences at so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers -- places whose goal is to dissuade women from having an abortion, by using fright tactics and not providing the ususal non-directive counseling found at family planning clinics.

Ms. Chapman said, "It was the same story all the time. The women were always angry and very upset -- but having their abortions anyway." After hearing these tales, Ms. Chapman said she wanted to "raise the level of public awareness about Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC)" and the idea for her two new videos, Misguidance and In Bad Faith was born. Her goal is to let women know what they are in for before they walk in the doors. "It's perfectly OK for anti-abortion people to operate counseling centers -- as long as the clients know that. And they don't."

Misguidance, at 11:44 minutes, is the shorter of the two digital video films. It focuses on the story of Katy, a 26 year old artist and teacher. As a pregnant teen, Katy mistakenly went to a crisis pregnancy center for help. She had seen their ad in the yellow pages, noting the free pregnancy testing and abortion counseling.

Katy went to a Crisis Pregnancy Center with a friend who also was afraid she was pregnant. The two young women were separated upon entering, given their tests, and made to sit and watch a very graphic frightening movie about abortion. It took almost an hour for the test results to return even though most CPCs use an over-the-counter pregnancy test which should give results in five minutes.

When Katy's pregnancy is confirmed, the "counselor" gives her brochures with misleading information about abortion and promises that if she has the baby, the center will get her help like diapers and a crib.

While Katy tells her story to the camera, intercut are scenes of "sidewalk counselors" yelling at patients outside of clinics plus parts of telephone recordings Ms. Chapman made while talking to CPCs. From the conversation it is easy to see that the centers are not providing accurate and unbiased information.

In Bad Faith, with a running time of 28:24, uses Katy as the center of the story, but includes other experts who comment on the CPC experience and operating procedures. Dr. Raymond Robinson, an Ob/Gyn who provides abortions, tells of experiences his patients have had with CPCs, and shares his opinion of their practices. David Hurwitz is a teacher and volunteer clinic escort who talks about some of the problems CPCs have created for the women he assists. Tracy Sefl, a sociologist from the University of Illinois, attended a training workshop for CPC volunteers as an observer. Ms. Sefl confirms how CPCs work to get the women in the door without telling them what is the real purpose of the organization.

"It was the same story all the time. The women were always angry and very upset -- but having their abortions anyway."

But there is more to In Bad Faith than just exposing the CPC agenda. Ms. Chapman is an activist and she uses this video to offer suggestion to other activists on how to combat CPCs in their community. Two speakers, Noreen Wilhelm, Director of External Relations for a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Ohio, and Jasamine Sornabala, an attorney specializing in adoptions and the daughter of a doctor who provides abortions, give suggestions, such as writing letters to public officials, on how to expose what goes on at these centers.

Do an experiment. Look carefully in your local phone books under abortion and see what you can find. In my hometown phone book, Bell Atlantic has tried to be helpful, listing the three anti-abortion sites under the heading "Abortion Alternatives" which clearly states that the following do not provide abortion services. But how many frightened and panicked women are liable to take time to read the description?

The two display ads in the local phone book both mention abortion but talk about "abortion facts" or "education on abortion & alternatives." The word Free is prominently displayed on both ads, a word that can not be rightly used in the display ads of either abortion providers (except for "pregnancy test"). All of the listings for the CPCs and related agencies, like Catholic Social Services, all come before the clinics because they are listed alphabetically under the "abortion alternatives." It would be easy to look at that page in the phone book and not look any further.

And, of course, as Ms. Chapman has pointed out in her video, when you call these sites it can be very difficult to find out that they don't do abortions. Out of almost 50 calls she made for research for the video, she reported only one site told her on the phone that they were an anti-abortion organization -- not exactly "truth in advertising."

Ms. Chapman says these two videos were made to give an audience an insiders look at the "emotional terrorism" used by CPCs to sell an anti-abortion message. The shorter video, Misguidance, could be used in a high school or college class settings or while doing tabling. In Bad Faith would make a good centerpiece for an evening's panel discussion about CPCs and might be a good fundraiser for abortion rights organizations. Ms. Chapman intends to enter In Bad Faith in film festivals and offer it to broadcast outlets. (A pro-choice organization could make either one of her videos available on their local public access channel.)

Both videos (VHS format) are currently available for purchase or rental and Ms. Chapman is also available as a speaker to talk about her films. You may write:

Sunny Chapman
447 Cherry Drive
Dayton, OH 45405
phone: 937-274-6438
email: sunnychapman@cwix.com

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