Early in July 2018, dedicated pregnancy resource center employees and volunteers were shocked to see that Essence magazine, a publication whose primary audience is people of color, had published a one-sided, deceptive “hit piece” against pro-life pregnancy resource centers, located in communities across the country. The Essence writer claimed pregnancy centers were dangerous for women of color, and among other things, only “appear” to be medical facilities and move into minority neighborhoods to “target” these women. But according to women of color who actually operate these pregnancy resource centers, the claims in the Essence article are false.
Pregnancy centers are not “fake clinics,” and they don’t “target” women
DeAundria Jones, RN, a Nurse Manager at East End Pregnancy Center, told Live Action News in response to the article, “NIFLA has nearly 1,500 members of which nearly 1,200 are medical facilities. These facilities are staffed by doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, all of whom are required to maintain an active license to practice. These medical centers provide—at no cost—a confirmation of pregnancy and resources beneficial to the women of the communities they serve. To say the clinics are ‘fake’ is simply false.” She added that pregnancy resource centers “have received overwhelmingly positive feedback” from the women they serve.
“I am a black woman with a history of being abortion-minded,” Jones noted. “I never even knew of a pregnancy resource center until recently. Had I known that there was someone I could talk to about how I was feeling and my concerns, doubts, and fears, I’m certain the outcome of my decision would have been different.”
As for the claim that these centers “target” certain women, she said, “Communities are not targeted. The women who come… are of many different races and nationalities. They are welcomed, shown love, and receive support… whether they decide to choose life for their unborn child or not.”
Pregnancy center client feedback is “exceptionally positive”
Nydia Figueredo, Senior Director of Operations are Care Net in Virginia, told Live Action News in response, “What we really do is meet women where they are, providing a confidential and nonjudgmental place for them to come where they can talk to someone they can trust. We are truthful with everyone and are always clear that we do not do or refer for abortions…. In addition, we do not show any graphic videos or materials or ever force anyone to stay if they choose to leave. And the feedback on our client exit surveys is exceptionally positive.”
Essence piece “highly biased” and fails to reflect “sentiments of many… women of color”
Mickeve Regis, Client Service Manager at ABC Women’s Center, a pregnancy resource center in Middletown, Connecticut, responded to the article by telling Live Action News, “As an African American woman myself, I wonder what would entice a major influential outlet, such as Essence Magazine, to publish content based on speculation and subjective viewpoints as a majority viewpoint.”
She said that the article shows its bias, with quotes like:
“Rollins believed the staff who served her, including the person who had conducted her ultrasound, had medical backgrounds. She was likely wrong. She assumed that they were there strictly to provide medical services. She was probably wrong about that too.”
“I can imagine,” said Regis, “that such statements confuse Essence supporters and decrease the magazine’s credibility. Not all Essence supporters share the same perspective on what it truly means to give women and families choices when undecided about their pregnancies. The article was highly biased and failed to include other stances that reflect the thoughts and sentiments of many African American and other women of color who seek out Essence magazine for inspirational and credible information.“
“Erroneous” Essence piece has “pre-established bias”
Another group — primarily comprised of women of color who work in pregnancy resource centers who are also medical doctors, registered nurses, and social workers — responded to Essence’s piece with an open letter (read it in full here), calling the article “erroneous information” with a “pre-established bias” putting forth “a gross misrepresentation of what human rights activists within pregnancy centers actually do.”
The response, signed by multiple medical professionals, including Glorya Jordan, RN, BSN, who is the Vice Chair on the Board of Care Net Pregnancy Resource Centers in Northern Virginia (as well as an African American foster, biological and adoptive mother who was once a pregnancy center client) reads, in part:
There are nearly 3,000 pregnancy centers in North America. How many did Essence “investigate” to find one that was making women… feel as though they were being deceived?….
Pregnancy centers have nothing to hide. Most state upfront, even over the phone, that we neither refer for, nor offer, abortion services. We serve the community by offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to confirm pregnancy as well as provide counseling, parenting, and financial literacy classes, and direct families towards resources available in their communities. In fact, Care Net-affiliated pregnancy centers (which number about 1,100), provided over $63 million in free medical, material, emotional, and educational services to women and their families in 2017 alone. Women are not tricked or deceived to think we do anything other than provide that type of support….
As to Essence’s claim that pregnancy centers “appear to be medical,” these professionals stated that a great number of pregnancy centers actually are medical, writing, “Our centers that provide medical services do so in accordance with state laws and operate under the direction of licensed medical directors. Our medical pregnancy centers ‘appear to be medical’ because they are medical. We direct women to doctors who will closely follow their pregnancies, listen to their concerns, and be proactive in monitoring their health….” The group added:
Unlike Planned Parenthood, which receives half a billion federal tax dollars annually, we are non-profit organizations, funded entirely by human rights advocates. We have very little money for advertising; therefore, a large portion of our clients come to our centers through word of mouth. Why would strong, intelligent women of color encourage others to come to us if they believed they were being deceived? We invite the writers and CEO of Essence to come to one of our urban centers and see the good work we do in caring for women and families.
These medical and social service professionals rightly feel that their legitimacy professionals in their field has been maligned by Essence’s claims that pregnancy centers seek to deceive rather than to provide medical and other services to pregnant women.
In a nutshell, Essence didn’t do due diligence with its article. It didn’t ask any women of color who operate pregnancy centers what really goes on there. Perhaps the editors of Essence should take the open letter’s authors up on their offer to ‘come and see’ what really goes on in these amazing pregnancy centers every day.