I had a patient in the clinic who really did not want an abortion but who had no resources to cover the costs of prenatal care or childbirth. She was single and without insurance coverage but made just enough money to be ineligible for state assistance. She already had outstanding bills at the hospital and with the local ob-gyn practice. No doctor would see her without payment up front.
We were willing to do the abortion for a reduced rate or for free if necessary. But she really didn’t want an abortion. Once I understood her situation, I went to the phone and called the local ‘crisis pregnancy center.’
‘Hello, this is Dr. Wicklund.’
Dead silence. I might as well have said I was Satan.
‘Hello?’ I said again. ‘This is Dr. Wicklund.’
‘Hello,’ very tentatively, followed by another long silence.
‘I need help with a patient,’ I said. ‘She came to me for an abortion, but really doesn’t want one. What she really needs is someone to do her prenatal care and birth for free.’
‘What do you expect us to do?’
I let that hang for a minute.
This Common Secret, Susan Wicklund.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers often disguise themselves as medical facilities, with advertisements offering “help” with an unplanned pregnancy. Their main goal is to keep the pregnant person from having an abortion at all costs. Usually, all they’ll give you is a free pregnancy test, some baby clothes, and maybe a box of diapers.
The patient referred to in the quote was given free prenatal care and did not have to pay the financial cost of childbirth by a local anti-choice doctor. She would often stop by Dr. Wicklund’s office to let her know how she was doing:
"He (the doctor) always moans and groans about being tricked into [doing this]," she says. "Then he goes off on these tirades against abortion."
"This Common Secret" is such a phenomenal book. And yeah, crisis pregnancy centers are generally evil, so there’s that.
And there you have it.
I mean. I try not to talk about these things. Because I’m not a woman and because the narrative here is crisis pregnancy centers = trying to keep women down and abortion centers = “we’re here to look out for women.” (Incidentally—This Common Secret is not a bad book.) But that narrative… well. I’m not saying that in individual circumstances, that might not be the case. The point is, I don’t know about you. I know my story.
Two things: the first is that, back in the 80s, a woman I know was brought over to the United States from the Philippines in order to be a house servant for a wealthy immigrant. She and the other servants—really, little more than slaves—had their immigration visas and papers stolen by her employer, in order to prevent them from leaving or acquiring other work. They slept on the ground or in pool chairs when this wealthy immigrant would leave the country for weeks at a time, without providing them money (hah!) or food. This woman became pregnant by one of her fellow “servants.” Eventually the other two “servants,” including the father of her child, were captured in an INS sweep and permanently deported due to lack of documentation. She was left behind, on the streets of South Florida. Not the kindest place for a teenage Filipina who spoke little to no English, had never driven a car, had no papers, and was pregnant, homeless, and penniless.
I think you can guess the place she ended up. It was one of these evil centers. And there, they paid and provided her prenatal care; they helped her learn basic English; and since there was nowhere for her to go back to in the Philippines, and little prospect that her son would have a good life there, in conjunction with some volunteer donors, the center hired and paid a lawyer to make sure she was put on a path to citizenship and not deported back to abuse and exploitation in her home country.
Her son was born when I was three, in the home of those volunteer donors, where she got a home and a job. I held the boy minutes after he was born, still covered in blood but wonderfully alive. He’s the closest thing I have to a biological brother; we grew up together. I figure you can guess those volunteers were my parents. But why did my parents volunteer? Why were they so involved in these centers? I assure you, my parents are not generally evil. So why?
I exist—am alive, have been alive for 29 years—because my mother (whatever her name was, whoever she was, because I don’t know that part of my story) was a woman like this, who was unmarried and alone and abandoned by the father of her child. And she walked into one of these crisis pregnancy centers, and they gave her that care, and they talked to people who talked to people who found a man and a woman who would adopt her son. My parents, who wanted a child so badly, and couldn’t have one. My biological mother couldn’t get that at an abortion clinic. They were in another business, and that’s okay, but I’m glad that’s not how it worked out for me.
So: my brother’s alive and a graduate of the University of Oregon. His mother attained her citizenship, became a hairdresser, married a wonderful man and had other children. And I’m alive. And I wouldn’t be adopted and I wouldn’t be alive if that center hadn’t been there and doing exactly what they had been doing. So that’s my story. Other people have other stories, of course. But I want to caution anyone who might read this: other people do have other stories. The world is not divided between the generally evil and the generally good. We are all just walking around in the dark and sometimes we blunder into each other and sometimes we find and help each other stand back up. You don’t learn this by turning people with different opinions into monsters. You learn it by asking people, in the simple but weirdly memorable words of David Foster Wallace, that close the beginning of his titanic work of human sympathy, Infinite Jest: "So yo then man what’s your story?" Anyhow—that’s mine.