Last week I watched the new HBO documentary, 12th & Delaware. It documents two clinics located across the street from each other in Fort Pierce, FL. One is called A Woman’s World Medical Center and the other is called Pregnancy Care Center. A Woman’s World, opened in 1994, provides comprehensive reproductive services, including abortion. Pregnancy Care Center is a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), founded on “pro-life” ideas and does not provide birth control or any sort of comprehensive services. It was opened in 1999.
When I began to write about 12th & Delaware I didn’t know how to organize my thoughts. I tried different approaches and none of them sounded like anything more than a rant from an angry person. So I took a step back and thought about the film for a week. I also saved it on my boyfriend’s dvr in hopes that he would watch it. What helped me organize how I feel about it was explaining him why it is important to me that he watch it.
First I explained to him what it was about and why it’s important. Then I told him the problems with crisis pregnancy centers. I explained that they disguise themselves as women’s clinics that provide services related to pregnancy but they do not provide abortions. He looked at me and said, “okay, so what’s problem with that?” I went on to tell him that the big deal is that these CPCs lure (young) women through the door with signs that, for example, say “Pregnant? Need Help?” These messages give the idea that a pregnant woman could go into the clinic and receive the services they need or want, whether that be prenatal care, an abortion, adoption services, or other reproductive health services. I told him that this is not the case. CPCs do not perform abortions. Not only do they not perform abortions, they are extremely anti-aboriton and anti-choice. They believe that the only answer is to carry the pregnancy to full term. He understood what I was saying and seemed to have one of those ah-ha moments. I continued talking. I told him that these clinics scare me and in my opinion they are horrible. They lie to women who walk in looking for help and support and until recently they were not obligated to tell women upfront that abortion is not an option at their facility. I was upset and could have gone on forever but I stopped and he agreed to watch it.
The juxtaposition of the two clinics might have left some pro-choice viewers with something to be desired. There was not much focus on the pro-choice clinic. I definitely think that it is important to recognize the amazing work that the employees of Women’s World Medical (and the other clinics like it) do. The doctors and support staff that work at clinics that provide abortion services and comprehensive reproductive health services are heros in my eyes. But by highlighting the behavior of the employees of the CPC and the anti-choice protestors outside the pro-choice clinic, 12th & Delaware showed the closed minded, immoral, dishonest, dangerous, and harassing behavior of the pro-life movement.
I enjoyed the documentary. A lot. About 10 minutes into it I opened my computer and started to take notes. I knew I wanted to write about it. This film lets the viewer have a candid look at the world inside a crisis pregnancy center. The footage of Anne, the director of Pregnancy Care Center (the CPC) is astonishing. A lot of the time I was sitting with my mouth wide open shaking my head. I think at one point I was even laughing in disbelief. I have been aware of CPCs for a long time now and I have also volunteered as a clinic escort in the Northern Virginia area. I have seen the anti-choice protestors out on Saturday mornings and I have heard the things they have to say. But this documentary was something else. I saw Anne lie to young women who came into her clinic. I saw her inappropriately coerce women into having an ultrasound (buying her lunch and basically locking her in the exam room). I watched as she trained employees on the tactics they should use to keep women in the clinic as long as possible so that they would decide against having an abortion.
Since watching 12th & Delaware, I keep thinking about all of the other crisis pregnancy centers across the country. There are 4000 “pro-life” centers and only about 800 pro-choice clinics that provide abortion services. There are so many people out there just like Anne and Father Tom (one of the founders of the CPC) who will do almost anything to keep women from having abortions or the right to choice. Right now there is a young woman somewhere sitting in a crisis pregnancy center being fed lies about the dangers of abortion and preached to about God and life. Not only is this infuriating, it makes me sad. Young women who don’t know any better believe people like Anne when she lies and says that abortion causes breast cancer. They believe her when she gives false information about the number of weeks they are along in their pregnancy.
I know that people like Anne and Father Tom think what they are doing is right, that it is okay to say almost anything if it keeps a woman from having an abortion. But in some ways seeing this in 12th & Delaware I am left feeling more validated in my pro-choice beliefs. I know that I am right and the pro-life side is just plain wrong. Anti-choicers have murdered abortion doctors because they believe what the doctor is doing is murder. That is wrong. They are just plain wrong. Anti-choicers threaten my life and the lives of all women.
I have said it a million times to friends, family, and others, I believe that what a woman wants to do with her body is her choice and her choice only. It is not my place or anyone else’s to tell a woman what is best for her. The government should have no place in the decisions that women make about their reproductive health. I am not anti-life, I am pro-freedom and I trust women. I care about having the ability to make my own decisions and have control over my body. I believe in giving people information about reproductive health. Comprehensive information that will allow them to make the best decision for themselves based on their values and beliefs, not mine or anyone else’s.
People like Candace Dye and her husband (the founders and owners of the pro-choice clinic featured in 12th & Delaware) deserve a medal of honor. They, and others like them, wake up every day and fight to protect a woman’s right to choose. They risk their lives so that the abortion doctors can get to the clinic safely and help women in need. They continue to provide women with invaluable reproductive health services and access to safe abortion even when a crisis pregnancy center opens across the street from their clinic. I commend my fellow pro-choicers for their strength and willingness to stand up and fight for the right to choice.
If you haven’t seen 12th & Delaware yet, you should. It’s a little scary and depressing but it left me feeling empowered to never stop fighting for women’s rights and the right to choice.