**TRIGGER WARNING**: Abortion is mentioned in this article.
In Georgia, clinics, known as crisis pregnancy centers, provide counseling and pregnancy tests to women, under the guise of helping pregnant women. Considered ‘fake clinics’ by pro-choice activists, they are essentially part of the anti-abortion movement and have gained momentum thanks to the numerous new anti-abortion laws approved in the US, especially in conservative states like Georgia.
The reason these centers have been blasted by groups that defend women’s reproductive rights is that they don’t advise women on their options. Rather, they attempt to convince women to carry their pregnancies to term, even if that is not their choice.
At the Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Milledgeville, Georgia, women are greeted by a picture of a grave-filled cemetery that supposedly commemorates the thousands of the abortions that take place every day in the US. Messages like ‘life is beautiful’ are stenciled along the hallway and figurines of Jesus and the cross line the cafeteria walls. Critics contend that these centers are “disingenuous and predatory.”
Before opening each day, the Crossroads center, which is located in a discreet single-story building, next to a CVS near downtown, gathers its staff for a prayer circle in which they ask God to work with clients and ‘guide them.’ There are more than 90 centers like Crossroads across the state, where women are counseled, tested and offered alternatives to abortions like adoption. They outnumber abortion providers in the state three to one. Georgia has just passed one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the US, which would outlaw abortion after six weeks.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) says, Crossroads “exists to protect life-affirming pregnancy centers that empower abortion-vulnerable women and families to choose life for their unborn children”.
Some of these clinics have no medical personnel. Crossroads, which provides ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, has just one registered nurse. The rest of the staff are simply volunteers, who offer so-called counseling and advice. According to the center, women “get all their options [here] instead of like, you know, instead of just one.”
The center makes use of controversial “earn while you learn” video sessions, which give purple “mommy money” and green “daddy dollars” to those who watch pregnancy videos with titles such as Safe from the Start and Parenting with Respect. The “money” can then be spent on diapers, formula, blankets or baby clothes at the center.
Given that Crossroads serves lower-income areas, the “earn while you learn” scheme is viewed by critics as coercive, preying on poor women looking for information and counseling but who are instead lectured and bombarded with anti-choice messages.