Don’t let them fool you: Anti-abortion centers don’t give Coloradans the health care they need. It’s past time for our elected leaders to hold anti-abortion centers accountable for the harm they are causing.
Senate Bill 23-190, the Deceptive Trade Practice Pregnancy-related Service bill, led by New Era Colorado and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and sponsored by state Rep. Elisabeth Epps, Rep. Karen McCormick, Sen. Faith Winter, and Sen. Janice Marchman, is an opportunity to make sure that all people in Colorado receive health care that is accurate, medically-proven, and offered with compassion and understanding.
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My personal experiences and health history underscore the severe need for this bill and the protections it offers. In 1988, I was an ambitious high school student and a girl who would do anything to be loved after surviving childhood sexual abuse and neglect. At 17, I became pregnant. Out of desperation, I found a phone book and the number for what was called a crisis pregnancy center in my high school office.
Little did I know then that crisis pregnancy centers, also known as anti-abortion centers, have one mission: to prevent people from accessing abortion care, at any cost. Behind the doors of what are misleadingly designed to look like full-service reproductive care centers, anti-abortion centers give out deceptive medical information and use tactics to delay people from accessing health care services they want — intentionally targeting folks who are young and scared people, like I was.
These centers are often right across the street from actual abortion providers or close to college campuses, and advertise free ultrasounds and pregnancy tests to lure people to their doors so they can intimidate and shame them into carrying their pregnancy to term. That’s what almost happened to me, and what’s happening now for the thousands of people seeking abortion care in Colorado.
Little did I know, crisis pregnancy centers offer no tangible help — no financial support, no real medical assistance, and no educational classes.
Back in 1988, a woman welcomed me with a soda and a seat. I was already nine weeks along and the clock was ticking. The cross hanging above her desk seemed odd; after all, I thought this was a medical facility. She determined my due date and offered an exam, promising they could work with me to secure child care, finances, and housing. When I asked about an abortion, she told me that wasn’t an option.
Little did I know, crisis pregnancy centers offer no tangible help — no financial support, no real medical assistance, and no educational classes — which makes their aim clear: to prevent people seeking reproductive health care from getting the safe and accurate care they seek.
After visits to the high school for pregnant moms, working with counselors, it was clear that the crisis pregnancy center’s “help” was useless. At 12 weeks gestation, I went to get an abortion. The health care providers at Boulder Valley Women’s Health Care were kind, understanding, and recognized this was not what I wanted to do, but what I had to do.
Fast forward to April 2009: After an ugly divorce, I found myself pregnant again. I had no insurance, no money, and was living with my mom and teenage son. Not unlike my situation two decades prior, I was pregnant and in crisis. This time I wanted to have this child, and I knew I needed help due to complications from giving birth to my son prematurely in 1995. So I walked through the same doors I had in 1988. This time I knew what the intent of this center was. However, I also knew they might be able to help with medical advice, insurance, and other resources that I desperately needed.
Instead the woman scolded me for knowing better — not for being pregnant, but for being unmarried and sexually active. She wasn’t kind or helpful; she was condescending and off-putting. She said nothing when I explained my situation. She let me know that her organization did not help with those things, but she could offer me a box of maternity clothes and a months’ worth of diapers.
By the time I was finally able to get actual medical care, I had to spend the next two months on bedrest. I gave birth to my daughter, Addie, at 27 weeks. During delivery, I hemorrhaged and this time was left with permanent scarring and infertility. Later, at four and a half months old, my daughter died of presumed Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. To this day, I wonder if this outcome may have been different if I had been able to see an actual medical provider early in my pregnancy, instead of “crisis counselor” who had little to offer me.
Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned and with crisis pregnancy centers doubling down on their deceptive methods across the country, I know that a new generation of young people in crisis are even more vulnerable to falling into anti-abortion centers’ traps. Passing SB-190 in its entirety is our chance to protect the next generation’s access to transparent and comprehensive health care.
I deserved honest, compassionate, medically accurate health care in 1988 and 2009, and the next generation deserves it now in 2023.
This is Amy Mann’s personal story, with writing support from Mary Ann Grim.
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