"Bogus clinics"—this rather creepy phrase (as if the abortuaries where women are deceived and their children destroyed are somehow the "real deal," the standard to be met in care for women and children)—embodies one of the abortion movement's most successful propaganda efforts. Aided and abetted by the "mainstream" media, who can often be counted on to parrot pro-abortion claims, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are ruthlessly portrayed as places where women are lured in under false pretenses, only to be intimidated and harassed at the most emotionally vulnerable time of their lives. So successful has this propaganda effort been, that even many in the CPC movement feel intimidated, frustrated and defensive. In many cases, a self-imposed bushel has been placed over this wonderful pro-life light.
In feeling this way, we couldn't be more wrong. According to a recent survey, not only are most Americans aware of CPCs, but a clear majority knows and approves of the work they do —even a majority of those who take a "pro-choice" position on abortion.
The survey of 630 women, conducted by the Wirthlin Group in October, 1997, found that 66 percent were aware of crisis pregnancy centers and the work they do to help women think through their options and carry their babies to term. Forty-nine percent knew of their local crisis pregnancy center. But perhaps most important, fully 87 percent of those who were aware of CPCs believe they have a positive impact on the women they serve. Even more remarkable, this positive attitude toward CPCs cuts across the ideological spectrum: 86 percent of those who take a "pro-choice" position view CPCs favorably, compared to 87 percent of those who are pro-life and 88 percent of those who take a "middle ground" position on abortion.
Even better: of those who have actually used the services of a crisis pregnancy center, 98 percent felt it had a positive effect on them—including 71 percent who felt it had a very positive effect.
This is remarkably good news, given the incessant smears by abortion advocates and the periodic, sensationalized media "exposes" of crisis pregnancy centers. Despite all their best shots, a clear majority of American women of child-bearing age, and of different races and opinions on abortion, nonetheless know about and have a positive attitude toward the work done at crisis pregnancy centers. This information should have clear, practical effects in expanding and improving the CPC ministry. As the survey notes: "The implications of this data are tremendously motivating for soliciting contributions (particularly among professional women and civic groups), for recruiting physicians to identify with centers, for encouraging physician referrals to centers, for recruiting volunteers, for building esteem within the movement and respect within the community."
This last is especially important. The CPC ministry is among the most important and most difficult within the pro-life movement. But pro-lifers do not need to make it even more difficult by getting discouraged over, or buying into, pro-abortion propaganda. That propaganda effort has clearly failed. "I found it intriguing that we as 'pro-life' people, have bought the lie of our opponent's campaign," commented one CPC provider regarding the survey. "We have subconsciously come to believe that we have reason to be ashamed, to hide from the community and to make apologies for who we are. I am excited and encouraged by the affirmation that this is not the case." Said another: "It gives me confidence to present the important work we do to the public. And, when I present our ministry to the public, I have the assurance that I represent the most popular view in America."
More than just confirming what pro-lifers instinctively knew—that the majority of American women are desperate for options other than the only one offered by abortionists—the survey provides some helpful information and insights to help CPCs become even more effective in their ministry. Perhaps the most important finding in this regard is that a "one size fits all" approach is not the most effective, given the different clientele they must serve.
A focus group was held to take a more in-depth look at much of the ground covered in the October survey. The group consisted of 19 women, black and white, mostly single, of different economic and educational levels. The results of the focus group show that women who had only a high school education and were of lower economic achievement, would turn to a crisis pregnancy center for such things as help in meeting their financial and health needs, and counseling on such things as prenatal care, career planning and parenting techniques. On the whole, these women were not "knee-jerk" adverse to a CPC's religious affiliation—many were themselves religious and often took a pro-life view. In fact, they are usually looking for a caring and loving environment at the center.
On the other hand, women who had attended college and were more advanced economically, held almost opposite views of their needs. They believed themselves fairly well-informed and able to find the financial resources to care for a child. Therefore, rather than counseling, these women wanted the center to be more of a health resource. Taking a strong pride in their independence, these women were not necessarily looking for a caring and loving environment; more important for them was that the center maintain a more "objective," clinical and professional approach in services offered. For this reason, these women, in marked contrast to the first group, tended to be turned off by a center having an explicit religious affiliation, believing that this made any information offered "biased." These findings confirm the experience of First Resort, Inc. in San Francisco, which works primarily with those of a more advanced socioeconomic background and which was featured in December's Life Insight.
The contrast between the two groups was nicely highlighted when each was asked to choose, out of four options, an ideal name for a crisis pregnancy center. While both groups picked "Women's Resource Center" as their first choice, they split dramatically in their second choice. The first group of women overwhelming preferred "Loving Care Pregnancy Center," while the second group put this one at the bottom of their list.
In sum, socioeconomic factors can help determine a woman's assessment of what her needs will be in confronting an unplanned pregnancy, and crisis pregnancy centers are most effective when they tailor their services and approach to the group of women they primarily will be serving.
Other helpful information to be found in the survey: Names involving "crisis pregnancy" had the lowest appeal among women. Women do not necessarily view themselves as being in a crisis upon finding out they are pregnant, and they resist any implication that they need to be pitied or patronized. Instead, women want to be empowered to carry their children to term, and clinics that reflect this understanding in their names, services and approach to women will be the most appealing to them.
Seventy-four percent of women said they would turn to a family member first if they were facing an unexpected child, primarily to their mothers. Thus, CPCs would increase their impact by promoting their efforts not just to women already pregnant, but to their parents as well.
In all, this Benchmark Survey of Crisis Pregnancy Centers is a shot-in-the-arm for those involved in this vital pro-life ministry, reaffirming the good work being done and pointing the way to new approaches to make the ministry even more effective. As one CPC provider commented: "I believe this research ... will be like a refreshing drink of water to the entire pro-life community. People have been working for years without knowing how effective they have been. Now we know for all those who have worked tirelessly over the years, the research and information will say, 'Well done thou good and faithful servant.'"
Well done indeed.