As a rule of thumb, if your position depends upon lying, then it’s not the right or moral position to take. That’s why I speak out like I do against the network of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) that dot the United States. Today, let me show you how recognizing the CPC’s lies led me to recognizing the lies I’d bought into as a Christian — and why I rejected them both.
Lies: The False Offer.
You’ve probably seen the bus benches and billboards: “Pregnant? Scared? Need help?” These ads always list a phone number. They might also feature a picture of a cute, confused-looking baby on it, as well.
If you call this number, you will almost certainly land in the clutches of a place like Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which will invite you in to take a free pregnancy test.
In turn, this test very strangely requires a few hours to run, which the office’s volunteers will explain as being caused by how complicated and sensitive the test is. During your wait, they will bombard you with (scare-quotes) “pro-life” videos and books and “counseling.”
Both of these will lie to you with every breath about pregnancy, childbirth, contraception, sex, and everything else related to those topics.
Lies from Top to Bottom.
If you’re not pregnant, hooray! Better get another test done–because the CPC is known to lie to women about not being pregnant. They lie to women like that because those women will probably be past 20 weeks’ gestation when they find out the truth.
If you get told you are pregnant, though, your troubles are just beginning.
And if you tragically thought the CPC would help you do anything that doesn’t involve a live birth, you’re in for a wild ride.
The CPC and organizations like it are why I don’t call those groups “pro-life,” because they certainly don’t seem to care about “life.” What they care about is forcing women to give birth by any means fair or foul. And so you’ll notice I use the term “forced-birth.”
Sidebar: Where the Fight Is, and Isn’t.
I need to make clear here one thing: if you personally don’t like the idea of abortion but you are not interested in stopping another woman from making that choice, then you are not someone I have a beef with. I don’t care what an individual thinks he or she would do if he or she were put in that position.
You’re allowed to not like abortion. You’re allowed to think you wouldn’t get one if you experienced an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. But the second you move to stop another woman from making that choice or take away her legal right to evict intruders in her own body, then yes, you and I have a problem.
This is my personal flesh and body you’re talking about, my rights, my ability to consent to each and every use of my body, my freedom, my personal sovereignty. Yes, I get kind of tetchy when my own bodily freedom and self-ownership gets put up for grabs. Funny that, I know. I bet black and gay people get the same way when they hear about white people talking longingly about what they call “the good old days” (as would wives of a certain age, back before marital rape became a crime; however, I’ve heard that even in my home state the local cops use a “no bruises, no marital rape” rule of thumb).
It’s terrifying to imagine that my personal rights could be erased and removed like that.
But if your personal feelings about abortion remain your own personal feelings and you’re not trying to force women to endure slavery against their wills, then you’ll never hear a peep of argument out of me.
Forced-birther efforts utilize lies and deceptions to strong-arm women into continuing pregnancies. Their efforts center around making abortion care hard to access, stigmatized, or needlessly burdensome. And y’all, that’s where I see their culture war as a problem for everyone.
The Case That Depends on Lying.
If these forced-birther groups really had a case, they wouldn’t need to lie to get their way. Instead, they’d be able to win honestly and with facts. But they can’t, which is why they’re using lies and deceptive tactics.
We should be holding them more accountable for their dishonesty.
And indeed we are starting to do so. People have begun speaking out about those lies.
A long time ago, I wrote “How I Became the Only Pro-Choice Pentecostal I Knew.” In that post, I talked about how I discovered just what a huge pack of lies the CPC tells to women and just how deep their deceptiveness goes.
That turned out to be a really popular blog entry, and I’m not surprised. I really don’t think people talk enough about the CPC’s deceptive and manipulative tactics, especially not people with insider perspectives on these liars.
My Experience with the CPC.
I was not a (scare-quotes) “counselor” for them myself. I use scare quotes there because their “counselors” are not actually formally trained at all in counseling. They generally know almost nothing factual about biology or pregnancy. Rather, the CPC recruits hard-right-leaning Christians precisely because of their forced-birther leanings.
The CPC wants volunteers who are eager to proselytize to terrified, vulnerable young women who are so desperately poor they can’t afford $10 for the exact same pregnancy test the CPC uses. And they got a very enthusiastic one in my then-husband Biff.
Yes, I was married to a lay preacher who volunteered as a fake “counselor” for a fake women’s clinic. So I saw firsthand how the organization worked.
Biff didn’t even hesitate to tell me all about how he lied to women and manipulated the truth to get women to go through with unwanted pregnancies. He was very proud of that fact.
The Forced-Birther Atheist.
That’s why I wasn’t really surprised to learn that the CPC had turned down an atheist who wanted to volunteer.
Though atheists may sometimes subscribe to the idea of forcing women to undergo hugely painful and traumatic procedures and face medical risks against their wills and consent, the CPC likes the idea for a very specific reason: to advance the cause of Christianity.
Their manual, when I read it so many years ago, was filled with crosses and Christian imagery. Biff used to tell me with the biggest Jesus-smile you can imagine about how every single shift they ran began with a Christian prayer. These “counselors” think of their shifts as spiritual warfare: no lie, no kidding, no exaggeration.
The CPC isn’t just trying to force women to gestate to advance their stupid culture wars, but to also convert them. Even if those women aren’t pregnant, the CPC will still try to get these young women to repent and join a church if they aren’t already members somewhere. And if they are, well, they obviously were having unapproved sex, so obviously they need a little extra Jesus help, right?
The Means to an End.
Forced-birthers utilize lies for a reason.
Controlling women’s decisions about their unwanted pregnancies? Just a means to an end. And forced-birthers take their real mission so seriously that they are willing to do anything–absolutely anything–to achieve that end.
They need fetus-worship to control women and bring them to Jesus. So they weaponize pregnancy as a culture war. All of it, they hope, will bring back their wistfully-misremembered “good ole days.” If they could manage those tasks in any other way, you can bet they wouldn’t care about fetuses at all.
Indeed, these Christians’ utter lack of concern for actual babies and children speaks to their culture war’s real purpose.
Honesty, integrity, these are just collateral damage. They are the first thing sacrificed by zealots in what they very seriously perceive as a war. You remember that silly thought game about how far you’d go to prevent Hitler’s rise to power? About which of your values you’d discard if it meant saving lives? A life? Ten lives? A million?
Well, these zealots play it out every single day. Along the way, they accidentally reveal their true desire, the real motivation behind every one of their moral panics and culture wars:
Bringing back Christianity’s cultural dominance.
Finally, Public Call-Out.
So you can imagine I’m really tickled pink to hear that there’s now a whole Tumblr devoted to women telling their first-hand stories about having been lied to by the CPC.
A long time ago I decided that I’m not a “means to an end” person. If a moral position depends upon me lying to people, manipulating them, or strong-arming them, then probably that’s not the best moral position to have.
At the time I was actually a forced-birther myself, I thought my position was actually correct. I thought this position had facts and figures behind it, making it the best position to hold because obviously it was the highest virtue of all: saving lives.
Little did I realize that no, actually, it doesn’t have facts or figures behind it. Worse, many of its positions are flat-out factually incorrect, like its assertions about how dangerous or unreliable safe, reliable birth control methods are. And the highest virtue of saving lives collides smack-up against other high virtues like freedom, self-ownership, and personal sovereignty.
Of what value is “life” if it is gotten at the cost of enslaving another human being? Of what value is life when very clearly the women forced to gestate don’t feel their own lives have value, and if children themselves get the short end of the stick so often from these same “pro-lifers” after they’re born?
I also had to concede that if I became pregnant against my will, I would quite literally sooner die than give birth or be forced into pregnancy or motherhood. There was simply nothing any society or person could do for me, give me, or assure me that would ever make forced gestation or parenthood palatable.
But this was a quiet little thought I only thought in the most quiet part of my mind. I never spoke it aloud. The dogma overrode truth and reality–for a little while.
Untangling the Lies I Believed.
It would never have occurred to me back then that my side would ever need to lie about anything.
That manual I read was quite the eye-opener, in that respect. It showed me in undeniable black-and-white that yes indeed, my side was doing exactly that.
(It was a Pearson manual, if anyone’s interested. I wrote about it more here. It’s a forced-birther’s one-stop shopping guide to manipulating vulnerable women. Even in the early 1990s, I recognized immediately that it contained nothing but manipulation and lies from cover to cover. That realization was incredibly traumatic for me at the time.)
But surely we were the ones in the moral high ground, right? Then why did we even need to manipulate women? Why did we need to lie about birth control’s safety and reliability? Why did we need to ignore the very real social dysfunctions and failures that lead so many women to need to seek abortion services?
Even when Biff “won” one of what he called his nightly “spiritual battles,” even before I’d read the CPC manual he operated by and considered second only to his own Bible, part of me always knew that this victory was pyrrhic. I knew Biff was only ushering in a new and really awful part of a woman’s life when she agreed to keep her pregnancy–that the miniscule and piddling bits of here-and-there help he and his group were offering were nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the realities she would now face.
But Biff didn’t care at all about any of his victims after they hit their 20th week of gestation. As I wrote then, once a woman was legally forced to continue a pregnancy, his interest in her vanished.
The Similarities I Suddenly Perceived.
In the same way, my thoughts lurched uncontrollably toward the undeniable impression that my religion was also lying to me. And it used the exact same techniques of manipulation and deception.
Why did Christianity need so many lies? Why did we not seem to have any true, verified miracles? Indeed, why did we constantly embrace stories that turned out to be frauds and scams and exaggerations?
We had a living god who supposedly truly lived and breathed among us. So why did we get angry when someone outside of our group outed one of our liars? We were supposed to be the most moral human beings ever. So wasn’t weighing these claims our duty in the first place?
That’s why this topic holds so much importance for me. This line of thinking deconverted me, after all!
Wondering why the Christians operating the CPC lied so much led me directly to wondering why Christians themselves lied.
Christians: Not the Good Guys.
When one uses a lie to prop up a position, then that person is admitting that the position does not deserve propping-up. A position based on lies does not deserve my time or energy. The second I learn that a person has lied about a testimony or a statistic, then I know to be very wary indeed of that person. They’re likely to be the kind of person who thinks the ends justifies the means.
No, I want all of my moral positions to be based on reality and the truth. I refuse to daily sacrifice my integrity and honesty. Moral and good people must reject any position that cannot stand upon objective facts and the real and honest truth.
And I am thankful, very thankful, that more and more people are standing up for the truth and rejecting dogma based on lies.
- Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Totally Full Of Shit (jezebel.com)
- While Cutting Family Planning Funds, Texas Lawmakers Divert Millions To Crisis Pregnancy Centers (sacurrent.com)
- Here Are Some Of The Lies That Right-Wing ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Have Told To Real Women (thinkprogress.org)
- Women share their stories of being lied to by crisis pregnancy centers (salon.com)
- So You Want An Abortion In Chapel Hill (prochoicenc.wordpress.com)
- The Absurd Lies “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” Tell Women: “College Is Free If You Have A Child” (classwarfareexists.com)
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(Cas tidied up this post a bit on November 23, 2020.)