One day I was standing on the corner of Haight and Masonic. Normally, I avoid the Haight as it is a terrarium for street freak archetypes being gawked at by German tourists on pilgrimage to the Grateful Dead house. (“Oh, your dog plays didgeridoo? No, I don’t want a henna tattoo.”)
But this time there I was as the 71 bus arrived. An ad plastering the bus showed a smiling young black woman, wearing hoop hearings and leather jacket, head cocked with wry sassiness. Clearly way cooler than me.
The huge letters, visible from space, read “Pregnant? Find help and hope. Alpha Pregnancy Center.” Intrigued, I Sandberged and leaned in to read the teensy weensy disclaimer: “Alpha Pregnancy Center is not an abortion clinic and does not provide referrals for abortion or emergency services.” Alpha, located on Mission near Geneva, is a crisis pregnancy center. If you thought the anti-choice movement was content with passing state-level abortion bans, defending free speech for abortion clinic protesters, and arming Republicans with rape catchphrases, you’d be wrong. They’ve also carried to term 167 crisis pregnancy centers in California alone, including two in San Francisco.
Besides Alpha, the other CPC here is Third Box, on the 17th floor of 450 Sutter. Third Box is formerly known as First Resort, a name from the marketing geniuses who brought you the slogan “Failure is Always an Option.”
In February, a federal judge upheld a 2011 San Francisco ordinance against a challenge by First Resort requiring that CPCs not engage in false advertising. Hence the aforementioned five-point font disclaimer on bus propaganda.
According to a recent report by NARAL Pro-Choice California (at CPCLies.com), CPCs buy Google ads to lure pregnant women searching for actual reproductive care or abortions instead into a web of Christian mumbo jumbo. They have no medical qualifications whatsoever.
Alpha’s website, for example, offers health insurance and financial aid only to women who keep the baby.
If women still want an abortion, CPC staff resort to fear and misinformation, such as these actual quotes: “You shouldn’t use an IUD because I’ve heard of babies being born with IUDs stuck to their heads.” Or, “Many men are victims of abortion along with women and unborn children.” Some CPCs hand out small rubber fetuses.
Since literally anyone is as qualified to offer advice to pregnant women as crisis pregnancy centers, recently a group of comedians played a Twitter hashtag game, dispensing our own fake #CPCadvice. Feel free to use the hashtag to play along at home. (We'll RT & fav.) Here are my Top 10 pieces of equally worthless #CPCadvice:
“Studies show that pregnancy can impair your judgment. Let’s wait to decide on the abortion til after the birth.”
“It’s the sharing economy. You are offering your womb to your child as an airbnb. It’s like AirBaby.”
“It’s not an unwanted pregnancy so much as an unexpected c-section.”
“If you kept the baby, you’d be more like Sarah Palin.”
“You may be feeling Braxton-Hicks contractions, of course named after Toni Braxton and Bill Hicks.”
“Think about everyone alive. Is there anyone you wish had been aborted? No, right?”
“Think of giving birth as a mini rapture between your legs.”
“Do you hear that? It’s your baby’s heartbeat… Whoops. That’s Skrillex.”
“The ultrasound machine is on the fritz, so I’m just going to examine you using this electric toothbrush instead.”
“If you went to an abortion clinic, you’d have to get past a bunch of protesters. People who are like me, but yelling.”
NARAL Pro-Choice California’s campaign to raise awareness about crisis pregnancy centers includes comedy. On April 16 Stand-up for Choice at the New Parkway in Oakland features Kurt Braunohler, Aparna Nancherla, Eliza Skinner and me. If you don’t know, that’s an amazing show. Tickets and info at http://www.prochoicecalifornia.org.