Pro-life activists have tried to put laws in place requiring counselors at abortion clinics to give factual information to women considering abortions. Many of these laws say that a woman must be offered detailed facts about the development of her unborn baby, information on resources in the community that are available if she carries the baby to term, and physical and emotional risks of the procedure. Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups adamantly oppose these laws. They oppose them even when it is not mandatory for the woman to see this information, but she would simply be offered the CHOICE to view it.
A Georgia Planned Parenthood director named Kay Scott summarize the abortion giant’s position on informed consent when she said:
“Supporters of the Woman’s Right to Know bill say it would allow time for reflection, but this bill is really about deception. …women already receive full informed consent before having an abortion…..”(1)
However, when speaking with post-abortion women, a theme that is repeated again and again is the fact that so few of them were given factual and unbiased information about the risks of abortion and the development of the unborn baby. Some were outright lied to – others received biased counseling or no counseling at all.
Several studies have testified to this:
According to a survey publicized in David Reardon’s book Aborted Women: Silent No more, out of 252 women who experienced post-abortion trauma:
- 66% said their counselor’s advice was biased
- 40 to 60% described themselves as not having been certain of their decision prior to counseling
- 44% stated they were actively hoping to find an option other than abortion during counseling
- 5% reported that they were encouraged to ask questions
- 52 to 71% felt the questions were inadequately answered, sidestepped, or trivialized
- 90% said they were not given enough information to make an informed decision
- 83% said it was very likely that they would’ve chosen differently if they had not been so strongly encouraged to abort by others, including their abortion counselors
- 95% of women who had abortions at Planned Parenthood said that their Planned Parenthood counselors gave “…little or no biological information about the fetus which the abortion would destroy”(2)
From a review on the psychological effects of abortion by researcher Catherine Barnard who examined a number of different studies on abortion and informed consent:
“Several empirical studies in the U.S. have indicated the deficiencies of current abortion counseling practices with the majority of respondents reporting insufficient information provided by the abortion counselor; insensitive, unhelpful abortion clinic personnel, with respect to providing assistance in decision-making, and the provision of misinformation, thereby contributing to increased anxiety, confusion and levels of post-abortion depression and hostility.”(3)
In one incident, a young woman named Alicia went to Planned Parenthood to see if she was pregnant. She arrived for the pregnancy test with her husband and mother, yet when it came time to see the pregnancy counselor, she was ordered to go in alone and to leave her support people behind. According to Alicia, the clinic worker then asked her if she intended to have an abortion. Alicia indicated that she would want to keep her baby.
“You can be honest with me, are you being forced to keep it against your will?” I said, “Absolutely not. I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly, but if I am pregnant I want to keep my baby” and again she asked “So your husband or mom are not forcing you to keep it if you are?” I said, more aggressively and upset, “NO!”The clinic worker responded:
When she was asking me if I was forced to keep the baby she looked like she was reading from a script. I remember her saying that if I kept “it,” it would be very expensive and life changing. She was poking at the fact that I didn’t seem like I could afford to have a baby. She also asked if I was scared to say that I wanted an abortion, and that if I had any questions I could talk to someone that can ease my nerves. She never really said baby she said “it” a lot.”(4)
Alicia turned out not to be pregnant. She later commented:
“I have not been able to shake that experience, it was very disturbing that I had someone trying to convince me to abort my baby especially after telling her over and over again that I wanted to keep my baby. I didn’t sleep for a week!”(5)
19-year-old “Barbara” went to a clinic at her mother’s insistence after becoming pregnant. When she went, she wanted to keep her baby.
“The woman at the clinic started spewing facts so fast. They told me just enough to scare me….they mentioned all three points but made adoption sound negative and birth tragic, then really pushed abortion. I told them I was more than 14 weeks. She said they had to do it really quick because they couldn’t do more than a 14-week limit and pushed me to make the appointment for absolutely that day.”(6)
When Jennifer Clifford went to Planned Parenthood and found out that she was pregnant, she did not want to have an abortion. In her article “UN-Planned Parenthood” she tells her story:
“Next, the nurse asked me how I felt about the possibility that I could be pregnant. I let her know that I was excited at the idea but unsure of my future. She honed in on that uncertainty and probed further- what would I do with the child? Could I support it? What would my parents think? These were issues that I had not yet allowed to enter into my mind; I was taking the whole thing one step at a time. Consequently, I could not answer her questions as quickly as she blurted them out. As I floundered for responses, a look of smug resolution came over her face, as if she had already decided what I was going to do. I was a textbook abortion customer to her- young and afraid, and not knowing where to turn.” (7)
Clifford continues, describing what happened after the pregnancy test came back positive:
“She reminded me of my age and of my state in life. I knew I could not support the child on my own, so I asked her for a number I could call for government assistance. She claimed she didn’t have one to give me. It struck me as odd that she couldn’t provide me with a point of contact. Surely other women had been in this same situation before me and had needed information on how they could get help to keep their children as well. Why did Planned Parenthood, then, not keep such an important number handy?”
Clifford then asked for a referral to an obstetrician, which Planned Parenthood refused to provide. She goes on:
“The nurse breathed a heavy sigh of disapproval and curled her lip, as if I wasn’t understanding her point. ‘We don’t deal with pregnant women.’ Shocked, I wondered how this company could call itself ‘Planned Parenthood’ when it was unable or unwilling to deal with expectant parents….She seemed to sense my uneasiness and pressed some more.
She mentioned my parents again, appealing to my utter terror in having to break the news to them. The nurse bombarded me with negativity, playing on my fears and concerns and continuing to offer me the ‘easy way out.’… When I disagreed, she thrust a package of pamphlets at me on abortion costs and procedures, adoption information, and a small excerpt on prenatal care. She presented this to me and told me to come back when I had made up my mind…” (8)
This, then, is informed consent at Planned Parenthood.
Even some pro-choice activists have admitted that counseling at abortion clinics leaves something to be desired. Jennifer Baumgardner, who started the t-shirt campaign “I Had An Abortion” told the story of an abortion patient in her book “Abortion & Life.” She quotes the young woman saying:
“I went with my boyfriend and friend to Planned Parenthood. I think I was headed into my eighth week at that point. I went into a room for pre-abortion counseling- five quick, terse questions. I had assumed that I was going to get a half-hour and I would finally be able to tell someone or talk to someone about how freaked out I was, but I didn’t get to.”(9)
Another powerful source of information about how clinics really counsel women comes from former clinic workers who have left the abortion field and are now willing to describe how their clinics attempted to sell abortions to women using biased counseling and inaccurate information.
In an article in the Christian Herald, former clinic worker Kathy Sparks said the following about her response when abortion patients asked questions about the developing baby:
“Sometimes we lied. A girl might ask what her baby was like at a certain point in the pregnancy: Was it a baby yet? Even as early as 12 weeks a baby is totally formed, he has fingerprints, turns his head, fans his toes, feels pain. But we would say ‘It’s not a baby yet. It’s just tissue, like a clot.’(10)
While medical science has not yet determined exactly when the baby can feel pain, it is clear that Sparks was withholding vital information that would help pregnant women make a decision that they would have to live with for the rest of their lives. An unborn baby at 12 weeks does indeed have fingers and toes, a beating heart, and developing fingerprints. To characterize such a well-developed human being as “tissue” or “a clot” is outright dishonest.
According to Joy Davis, another former clinic worker whose testimony appeared in the Pro-Life Action League’s DVD “Abortion: The inside Story”
“When I first started working there [at the clinic], I had to sit and listen to women answering the phone for at least a month before they would allow me to answer the phone. We had to know exactly what we were doing when we were talking to these women. We had to find out very quickly what their problem was, play on that and get them in the clinic for an abortion. We were very good salespeople.”
Former Clinic Worker Deborah Henry elaborates on this theme:
“Many women could not afford to have babies, so we would use examples- like the price of babies’ shoes, the price of clothing, how much it cost to raise a baby. If they weren’t finished with their education, the hindrance it would have on their education, how would they find a baby sitter, who was going to take care of that baby for them? We would find their weakness and work on them….All they were told about the procedure itself was that they would experience slight cramping similar to menstrual cramps, and that was it. They were not told about the development of the baby….The women were never given any type of alternatives to the abortion.”(11)
In a rare moment of candor, abortion clinic worker Sallie Tisdale says the following in an article in Harpers Magazine. Tisdale was still working in the clinic at the time of the quote:
“It is when I am holding a plastic uterus in one hand, a suction tube in the other, moving them together in imitation of the scrubbing to come, that woman ask the most secret question. I am speaking in a matter-of-fact voice about ‘the tissue’ and ‘the contents’ when the woman suddenly catches my eye and says ‘How big is the baby now?’
These words suggest a quiet need for definition of the boundaries being drawn. It isn’t so odd, after all, that she feels relief when I describe the growing buds bulbous shape, its miniature nature. Again, I gauge, and sometimes lie a little, weaseling around its infantile features until its clinging power slackens.”(12)
Sometimes pro-choice publications also reveal the bias that is all too prevalent in abortion counseling. Planned Parenthood has a training manual called “The Complete Guide to Pregnancy Testing and Counseling.” It presents a hypothetical situation in which a woman comes to the clinic with ambivalent feelings about having an abortion. It suggests that the clinic worker:
“Tell her that no one makes the decision to have an abortion easily or ever feels really ‘good’ about it. Acknowledge that feelings of discomfort and sadness are normal. Ask about the reasons for which she and her husband decided on an abortion. Help her to reaffirm that this is the best decision for them right now. Remind her that feelings of guilt, sadness or loss do not mean that a wrong decision was made.”(13)
Life Dynamics discovered another document meant to train abortion clinic providers. The Reproductive Health Access Project gives “Pregnancy Options Counseling Points for the Ambivalent Patient.” Here are some of the points.
“2. Normalize feelings of ambivalence.
3. Acknowledge common feelings such as shame, disappointment, guilt and regret.
4. Reframe the situation – she may be making the most responsible decision by NOT continuing the pregnancy.
5. Be conscious of time – you do not need to know everything about the patient to help her make a decision.
6. Refer to the pregnancy, not the baby.
7. Elucidate that the patient’s choice not to be a mother now does not mean she is choosing not to be a mother in the future.”
Many, many more sources could be cited to prove that abortion clinics fail when it comes to abortion counseling. Numerous former clinic workers, beyond those quoted here, have testified that their former employers told them to lie, mislead, and withhold information. Many more women have testified to such deceit and coercion. This article only presents a fraction of the evidence that these deceptive practices go on in clinics all around the country.
1. Kay Scott “ABORTION: 24-HOUR-WAIT SUPPORTERS TRY TO DECEIVE” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA), Jan 21, 2005 pA15
2. David Reardon’ Aborted Women: Silent No More (Elliot Institute, January 1, 2002 http://www.amazon.com/Aborted-Women-Silent-No-More/dp/0964895722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359675798&sr=8-1&keywords=Aborted+Women%3A+Silent+No+more
3. Barnard, C. (1990), The Long Term Psychological Effects of Abortion, Portsmouth, NH: Institute for Pregnancy Loss; and Vaughan, H. (1990), Canonical Variates of Post-Abortion Syndrome, Portsmouth, NH: Institute for Pregnancy Loss.
4. Susan Michelle Tyrrell ““‘They kept asking me if I was being ‘forced’ to keep the baby’: Alisha’s Planned Parenthood visit” Life Site News December 1, 2011http://www.lifesite.net/news/they-kept-asking-me-if-i-was-being-forced-to-keep-the-baby-alishas-planned
6. Trish Diggins “Selling Lies: Deception & The Abortion Industry”, The Forerunner Mar 1, 1992 http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0433_Deception__Abortion_.html
7. Jennifer Clifford “UN-Planned Parenthood” The Catholic Resource Network, EWTN 1998 http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/UNPLAN.TXT
9. Jennifer Baumgardner Abortion & Life” (New York, NY: Akashic Books, 2008) 127
10. Gloria Williamson “The Conversion of Kathy Sparks” Christian Herald January 1986 p 28
11.Personal Testimony “Meet the Abortion Providers” Convention 1993
12. Sallie Tisdale “We Do Abortions Here” Harpers Magazine Oct 1987 p 68
13. “The Complete Guide to Pregnancy Testing and Counseling” Planned Parenthood 1985 (p 24-25) quoted in “Achieving Peace in the Abortion War” by Rachel M MacNair, Ph.D., published by the Feminism & Nonviolence Studies Association January 2009.