Politics & Policy

Pro-Choice Movement Opposes Abortion Alternatives in South Bend

Pro-choice activists in Washington, D.C., January 2010. (Molly Riley/Reuters)
A successful pregnancy-resource center has been denied a permit after the abortion-rights lobby persuaded the Democratic mayor.

The pro-choice movement idolizes female autonomy . . . at least until a woman chooses to visit a pregnancy-resource center and keeps her unborn child. Suddenly, what would otherwise be praised as a free choice is condemned as the result of “coercion,” “deception,” or “fraud.”

In South Bend, Ind., Democratic mayor Pete Buttigieg has provided the latest example of this fascinating hypocrisy. Just last week, he vetoed a rezoning measure that had granted a pregnancy-resource center — the Women’s Care Center (WCC) — permission to open a new location next door to a proposed abortion clinic.

Buttigieg’s capitulation to the lobbying of abortion-rights activists — including Whole Women’s Health, the very abortion clinic attempting to open a South Bend location — reveals how little the “pro-choice” movement supports choice when the choice is to continue a pregnancy.

“Issues on the legality or morality of abortion are dramatically beyond my pay grade as a mayor,” Buttigieg pronounced, just before exercising his mayoral power to incapacitate the efforts of South Bend residents to offer and obtain abortion alternatives. “I don’t think it would be responsible to situate two groups, literally right next to each other, in a neighborhood, that have diametrically opposed views on the most divisive social issue of our time.”

But — as Buttigieg would know if he had bothered to learn about the WCC before kneecapping them — the group has been so successful in assisting communities precisely because of this model, opening near abortion clinics to offer pregnant women necessary resources if they wish to keep their unborn children.

Most women who visit an abortion clinic or crisis-pregnancy center have found themselves unexpectedly pregnant and, often, they have no financial resources, they’ve lost their job, their boyfriend or husband doesn’t want a child, or they’ve been kicked out of their home by an unsupportive family. Many are unaware that they have any options other than abortion.

The WCC was founded in South Bend in 1984 to counteract exactly that misperception, and in the intervening decades, it has grown to become the largest network of crisis-pregnancy centers in the United States. It has also been one of the most successful, serving more than 200,000 women since its inception. And therein lies the real reason Whole Women’s Health and its supporters lobbied so hard to prevent the WCC from opening next door to where the abortion group wishes to set up shop.

In every city where the WCC has opened a new location, the abortion rate has responded by dropping steadily. In South Bend, for example, the abortion rate has decreased by nearly 75 percent in the 25 years since the WCC opened its first location; in 2016, the only abortion clinic in South Bend was shuttered.

In Fort Wayne, Ind., where the WCC has operated since 2004, the abortion rate has declined by over 50 percent, and two abortion clinics have closed their doors. In Niles, Mich., now that the WCC has been open for ten years, the abortion rate has dropped by almost 40 percent, and the abortion clinic has closed. The list goes on.

Abortion rates in these and other cities didn’t drop as the result of WCC employees picketing in parking lots and threatening women, as abortion-rights activists assert without evidence. Abortion rates dropped because pregnant women discovered other options, and many chose something other than abortion.

No one forced women to walk into the WCC instead of the abortion clinic next door, and no one forced them to remain. No one lured them in; the WCC website explicitly states that the group doesn’t provide abortions, and employees always say the same. No one told them they’d be sinning if they didn’t keep their pregnancies. In fact, one WCC employee told me she believes their work is so successful because they never condemn the women they counsel:

It is all about empowerment and dignity. It is about looking at the woman who walks through the door right now and seeing her as a person with dignity and strength and gifts that are really remarkable. Being with her as she tells her story, helping her to recognize her own goodness, to recognize her strength, to see how she makes decisions that she feels the best about, and empowering her so that the choice that she makes about her pregnancy is her own.

That doesn’t sound like coercion or deception or fraud. That sounds like choice.

Women have chosen to keep their pregnancies, because the WCC and many other pregnancy-resource centers made doing so a real possibility.

Women have chosen to keep their pregnancies, in South Bend and Fort Wayne and Niles and dozens of other cities, because the WCC — like so many other pregnancy-resource centers — made doing so a real possibility. They tell women the truth: that abortion isn’t a perfect solution. And to make choosing life possible, they offer counseling, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, prenatal care, and parenting resources — all at no cost to women.

Abortion clinics, meanwhile, aren’t charities. They’re businesses, and their most expensive procedure, by far, is abortion. There’s no monetary incentive to help pregnant women keep their children, but there’s lots of cash in aborting them. In this light, “choice” looks a lot less like a sacred value and a lot more like a profit margin.

“Coercion,” “deception,” and “fraud” are just convenient allegations to hurl at those who would undercut the bottom line of the abortion-on-demand business model. That’s why so many “pro-choice” activists blatantly ignore the testimony of women who were able to choose life because of pregnancy-resource centers. That’s why Whole Women’s Health persuaded Buttigieg to shut down the new WCC location.

With every assault on pregnancy-resource centers, the pro-choice movement confirms that its ultimate value isn’t choice at all. It’s abortion.


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