Rather than seeing the headline (courtesy our pals at Feministing) "Huckabee Visits Crisis Pregnancy Center" as a bald attempt at pandering – which it is – it struck me instead as the combination of two things that make me want to punch someone.
Let me state up front that I'm not hostile to the message that "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" (the source of those PREGNANT? NEED HELP? billboards nationwide) pitch. I have no problem with a group distributing information about "abortion alternatives" as they call it. If people want to hear what they have to say, good for them. What bothers me – no, let's say "infuriates the shit out of me" – is the increasingly common false equivalency of politicians treating CPCs and Planned Parenthood as two (equal) sides of the same coin.
Abortions account for about 1% of the medical services provided by Planned Parenthood. Millions of low income people (did you know they treat men too? kids?) depend entirely on PP for healthcare they could not otherwise afford. There are doctors on staff at all time in addition to nurses, med techs, and so on. You know, the kind of stuff you find at a place that provides healthcare services.
What does a "Crisis Pregnancy Center" offer? Bulk-buy drugstore pregnancy tests and "counselors." And the quality of psychological care they provide must indeed be immense. To quote this terrific piece on CPCs that fraudulently advertise themselves as abortion clinics:
Curious, I called Austin Life Care, a prominent local crisis pregnancy center and grilled the unlucky receptionist about the services offered. She said they offered pregnancy tests and counseling. When I asked about the credentials of the counselors, she replied, "Well, we have all different levels of education and some of them are really academic."
In other words, we have a bunch of people from the Jumpin' Jesus Pentecostal Church, some of whom have mail-order degrees in Theology. Huckabee visited the Carolina Pregnancy Center, whose "counseling" program is an evening Bible study group. One of the primary excuses used to funnel money to these groups (they spring up daily and wildly outnumber PP, a testament to the low start-up costs associated with renting a storefront and handing out pee tests from Walgreen's) is that they provide "education." Spend a few minutes browsing the websites of CPCs and you can see what a crock of happy horseshit this is. Among stock gems like "How to tell your boyfriend" and "Telling your parents" is information about the only medical condition (ahem) they appear to care about treating: "Post Abortion Stress Syndrome." Which, unlike postpartum depression or the psychological damage done by bombarding emotionally fragile people with guilt and brimstone, isn't real. They're also not above making up medical information, telling women that abortion will make them sterile and cause cancer. I guess that's the kind of freedom inherent in not having any real medical professionals involved.
Yet more laws and more states seek to legitimize these places as legitimate providers of medical and educational services. Texas forked over $5 million (think of all the pee tests that will buy!), Congress has shelled out $60 million to CPCs in pursuit of Just Say No: The Sex Edition programs, and Congress wants to give them ultrasound machines. I find this last point particularly disgusting. Without the doctors to use them (ultrasounds are a medical procedure, not a "look at baby's toes" service) all that will do is create a shinier veneer of providing medical care where there is none to be found. Why is state money earmarked for organizations whose only "public service" is pimping their ideological message and flat-out wrong educational material?
They must really have a powerful, relevant message if they need to lie so much, misrepresent themselves, and suckle the tax dollar teat to stay afloat.