Human Coalition: The Frankenstein Monster of CPCs

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

Today, I’m writing to tell you a creepy Halloween story. It starts with just your average Christian radio broadcaster, as many scary stories do. He decided radio wasn’t lucrative enough, so he stepped into the world of stocks and bonds. For years he toiled in the private sector and then a Baptist organization, but in 2007, he began an experiment which would prove harmful to many: using online marketing to target women seeking abortions online, in an effort to convince them not to. [1]

He started small, with geo targeted search engine marketing: when someone would search online for “abortion” or related terms, they would instead be directed to results for a crisis pregnancy center — or anti-abortion fake clinic — within ten miles of their location. He began testing different techniques to make his misleading advertising more effective, and got a taste for this ghoulish experimentation. After a multi-million-dollar donation from a conservative fracking billionaire in 2011, he was ready to build his labs and grow his dangerous creation. [2]

The man is Brian Fisher and his monster is Human Coalition. Previously known as Online For Life, Human Coalition’s mission is to end abortion entirely by blending two key tactics: operating crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) and creating digital advertising systems to make other CPCs recruit more effectively and efficiently, reaching a very specific population. In a speech to the Family Research Council (FRC) – I probably don’t have to tell you that they’re labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – he lamented that most pregnancy centers are unable to “capture” the “abortion-determined woman,” instead mostly attracting women who are undecided or likely to keep their pregnancy, but seeking services based on financial or other needs. But Brian wants the customer who doesn’t need him. In his own words:

“The abortion-determined woman will not walk into the pregnancy center voluntarily, they must be outreached to and found and brought into a system of care. The reason is because they don’t want to go to a place that won’t offer them an abortion. Does that make sense? They want to go to a place that is going to offer them an abortion.” [1]

Human Coalition doesn’t care much about reaching people who are actually looking for help, they want to pull in women who specifically don’t want what they’re providing. Not only that, but each client is just another test case for their grand experiment. See, testing metrics online wasn’t enough for Brian: he made his centers into laboratories. The Cura Women’s Care Clinic chain, which Human Coalition operates, frequently runs tests on their clients to see what factors draw women in, convince them to make future appointments there, and change their minds about ending a pregnancy. Later in that FRC talk, he describes some of these trials in detail:

“We began to test the idea of offering them gift cards […] We pulled out our goldilocks and the three bears and we said we’re going to offer three different denominations of gift cards: small, medium, and large, and see if by offering her gas money, (to come to an appointment at Cura) if it increases her propensity to come in.”

They settled on the medium amount — $35 was too much to spend on one woman, $15 wasn’t enough to get them in the doors. They continue to test this “lab-driven” practice with different denominations in different places, and run other tests on their hotlines, online, and even inside the clinics: Brian later described how all their waiting rooms are painted blue because they tested how different colors impacted women’s emotions and decision-making.

Human Coalition’s Cura Clinics, located in Atlanta, Georgia; Grapevine, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Raleigh, North Carolina serve as laboratories for them to experiment with theories for how to deceive women all around the country, and bring them into Cura and other CPCs. These women seeking medical care are being tricked into their facilities and unwittingly turned into Human Coalition’s guinea pigs … it’s a great pitch for a horror movie, but unfortunately, it’s all too real.

And that’s why Human Coalition is so devious: truly a Frankenstein-CPC. What Brian Fisher did in founding Human Coalition was combine several things that should never go together: coercion, unwitting test subjects, online phishing, and ultra-conservatives with deep pockets, all to prey on women needing unbiased and comprehensive medical help. We started our work against Human Coalition at Netroots Nation in August 2017, and we’ve only just begun … the monster has met its match.

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