Pro-choice vandals and arsonists know where pregnancy help centers are located, judging by the 40-plus attacks on the centers and other pro-life organizations since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June with its Dobbs decision.
The majority of the public does not know about the 2,700 U.S. help centers, which provide free or reduced-price pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, parenting classes, and other services for women and families. This ignorance extends, surprisingly, to many in the pro-life crowd. Since pregnancy help centers—sometimes still called “crisis pregnancy centers”—are literally the hands and feet of the church for women and families in need, shouldn’t they have a brand as recognizable as Planned Parenthood's, one that is thoughtfully designed to make advertising, marketing, and organizing more impactful and fundraising easier both locally and nationally?
At a time when Democratic members of Congress, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Dianne Feinstein, and Amy Klobuchar, want to scrub pregnancy-help-center listings from the web, raising brand awareness of what those centers do in all 50 states has never been more urgent. According to those senators, women should only be directed online to clinics that provide abortions, because killing babies is “reproductive health” while other care is “fake.”
Family Research Council interviewed 630 women between the ages of 18 to 34 in the 1990s and found that 29 percent of respondents were familiar with the work of “crisis pregnancy centers,” as they were then generally known. More recently, pro-life speaker and author Marc Newman interviewed 1,000 college students about abortion issues. When asked, “If a woman had an untimely pregnancy, to what local agency would you refer her?” 57 percent volunteered Planned Parenthood, 39 percent said they weren’t sure and fewer than 4 percent said a local pregnancy help center. He writes in his book, Contenders, that
the real eye opener for me happened when I repeated the study at a large, evangelical Christian university located on the West Coast. Despite having multiple pro-life pregnancy clinics in neighborhoods surrounding the campus, 42 percent of students said they would refer the woman to Planned Parenthood, 53 percent said they didn’t know where to send her. And just over 6 percent said they would send her to the local PHC.
The opposition has a big advantage. A 2014 survey of 1000 American women and 300 men from 18 to 44 years old by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 93 percent of women and 90 percent of men had heard of Planned Parenthood, which dominates the abortion market in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute both compile data on the number of induced abortions each year, and their data vary widely. According to their numbers and Planned Parenthood’s self-reporting, the group provides either 56 percent of abortions in the U.S. each year (per the CDC) or 38 percent (per Guttmacher). Whichever number is more accurate, “the level of market dominance… could be taught in business schools as the ultimate example of planning and execution.”
Pregnancy help centers should seek the same recognition for themselves in the quest to save more lives. They already have a great reputation, as surveys routinely show those who visit them—about 2 million people each year—have favorable opinions of the services and care offered at the centers. Think of the lives that could be saved if even 50 percent of people, instead of the 4 percent noted above, referred friends with an unexpected pregnancy to a pregnancy help center instead of Planned Parenthood or another abortion clinic.
It is difficult to know the name of the local pregnancy health center when there are 2,700 different ones, however. What if each, for example, was called “Pregnancy Support Network” plus a city name?
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I am not suggesting the clinics become one large organization, only that they choose to brand as one. It is time for the pro-life movement to show as much strategic vision as the opposition. If we want to win the hearts, minds, and legislative victories in the years ahead as the abortion debate moves to the states, it is also time to act collectively, something the progressive movement does well.
Roe is defeated. Those who support pro-life causes have a chance at this moment to shift strategy to effectively win the cultural as well as legal and legislative battles in the 50 states over abortion. It is time for the Conservative Political Action Conference and other groups seeking to set national conservative strategy to add this issue to their top priority list. A 50-year campaign to end Roe can still lose if those who most need the help of pregnancy help centers don’t know they exist.