Fake Clinics Get Offensively Defensive When Revealed as Fakes

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

Recently, Cherisse Scott, founder and CEO of the reproductive justice organization SisterReach, published a compelling yet tactful account of her visit to a crisis pregnancy center over fifteen years ago. She says that she loves her son, but has struggled to provide for him most of his life because one of these fake clinics lied to her, tricked her into carrying to term, and never provided the help they promised to support her pregnancy and her son’s early life. This isn’t the first time she’s told her story publicly, [1] but the reactions from one fake clinic network were downright disturbing.

“Pregnancy Help News” is the misleadingly named blog of Heartbeat International, one of the largest fake women’s health center chains with more than 1,800 locations worldwide. In a post by Jay Hobbs, the organization’s director of marketing and communications, they call Cherisse “foul” and try to discredit her account at every turn, insinuating that she is a bad mother and implying that her piece was a publicity stunt to raise her profile as a possible replacement for Cecile Richards at Planned Parenthood. [2]

Along with spelling her name wrong, Hobbs shames her for her simple wish that she had accurate information about her pregnancy, provided by a medical professional, without shame or guilting. He dismisses the hardships she and her son had to face as a result of deceit by a fake clinic, much like the ones he creates propaganda for in his job at Heartbeat International. His reaction jives with the continuous beat we’ve been drumming about anti-abortion fake clinics, and shows how viscerally they hate being called out for what they really are… as well as how cruelly they’ll attack their detractors.

Fake clinics hate when the public learns that they’re not kindly old volunteers who want to knit you a baby bonnet, but in fact brick and mortar manifestations of a movement that deceives and shames women as punishment for having sex. Expect heavier shaming if you’ve dared to have sex while Black and poor.

We’ve grown used to the pro-life movement shaming Black women for their choices – whether it’s motherhood or not – but why is this fake clinic network so aggressively defensive to Cherisse’s recent account?

The answer lies in the upcoming Supreme Court case NIFLA v. Becerra, which will be heard on March 20. This case, and the high profile around it, is going to reveal their true intentions to a lot more people than are typically exposed to them, and fake clinics are going to have a tougher time working under the radar with big data and marketing technology, pilfering taxpayer dollars, and masquerading as one-of-a-kind helpful resources. The case surrounds a 2015 California law requiring anti-abortion fake clinics to, well, post something truthful on the wall. Centers without a medical license have to disclose that fact somewhere, and all fake clinics have to disclose that the state subsidizes birth control and abortion services. But these fake clinics aren’t used to telling the truth, and they got grumpy about it. One of the major fake clinic organizations, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), filed a suit arguing that the law violates their freedom of speech under the First Amendment. [3]

We’ve got these fake clinics cornered, and they’re getting defensive and sloppy: This is great news for anyone who sees direct action as the way to expose anti-abortion fake clinics for what they really are. We made an activism toolkit a few months back to equip activists and organizers with the resources they would need to spur bold action in their communities, and we have only just gotten started.

*Author’s Note: Cherisse Scott is a member of the Reproaction Advisory Council. We are proud to stand with her in this personal and necessary storytelling work.


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