Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Turning Point?

Differing beliefs are healthy.

Tricking vulnerable people into a situation where your beliefs have undue influence on them isn't.
Recently, a “pro-life” women's health center called The Turning Point (TP) put out, through columnist Jim Harbison, a very inaccurate portrayal of itself to encourage more women to patronize it. More pregnant young women full of angst and uncertainty.
Such women should gather as much information as they can, talk with good friends and family, and maybe meditate on what to do, then do what feels right.
According to “pro-life” folks, such women must exclude the option of abortion. They should, if that's how they feel; but what women don't need is to get tricked into visiting a “health center” that will mislead and even intimidate them to prevent an abortion, without regard for the pregnant woman's individual wishes and needs.
“Pro-life” is one of those misleading political phrases like calling a pro-logging bill “The Pristine Forests Act.” I'm incredibly pro-life. Thoroughly enjoy it. Nurture it when and where I can, among humans, animals, and plants. By contrast, some of the most vocal “pro-Lifers” are pursed-lipped judgmental sorts whose ideological view is rooted in an emotional fear that other people are having too much fun.
Harbison's plug for The Turning Point completely omits its strong anti-abortion mission.
There are numerous videos available in which similar “pregnancy crisis centers” draw in young women, often by misleading them, and then subject them to strong propaganda and even flat-out lies, such as that an abortion will leave a woman sterile or cause breast cancer. There's no evidence either statement is true. These places tend to be quiet, with comfortable furniture and many photographs of happy babies. In some, staff-members are not doctors or nurses, but untrained “counselors.” (As someone said, “Whom would you like to consult about a broken leg – a doctor who mends them or someone who merely has strong opinions about broken legs?”)
How precisely does TP follow that model? I can't know for sure; but in a recent Sound-off, one woman described her experience with TP as enduring pressure against abortion and being fed false and frightening information. Although Sound-offs are anonymous, her account certainly tallies with what others have documented about similar operations. (See my blog post for links.)
Many of TP's leaders or board-members are highly experienced anti-choice activists who must be well aware of this tactic. Both Gary Coppedge (notorious for his role in the recent municipal recall effort and for the loathing many folks in Oregon and Washington express toward him over a failed effort to sell a loading dock that people didn't want or need) and anti-abortion activist Dr. Anthony Levatino are on the the board. Levatino has said a doctor performing abortions is “a paid assassin.”
It's instructive that Harbison's promo never mentions the center's real purpose. He writes,
“Pro-lifers many times choose to disregard the life of the mother to give life to the baby. Turning Point seeks to value mother, child and father to the benefit of a healthier community.” That would seem to distinguish Turning Point from pro-lifers.
Who would guess from his column that the outfit has also called itself “The Turning Point Pro-Life Pregnancy and Medical Resource Clinic”?
It's also fair to add that this is a time for folks to take more than the usual care to be precise. Calling abortion “baby killing” and using fraudulently edited tapes to scream “selling body parts!” may be effective rhetoric; but neither is accurate, and a bozo like Robert Lewis Dear might believe you. And kill real and innocent people.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-New this morning, Sunday, 20 September, and will appear later today on KRWG-TV's website, under "Local Viewpoints."]

[I haven't much else to add, except (below) several URL's in case anyone wants to see how blazenly some of these "centers" or "clinics" mislead pregnant young women.  It's appalling; and sometimes they even locate near an actual clinic.
How closely The Turning Point follows that model is, as I say, unknown, although one Sound Off describing a patient's experience there sure contained similarities to the videos; but I'd urge anyone consulting the place to get a second opinion on any medical information received there.  
Obviously there's nothing wrong with counseling young girls on how to arrange adoptions, whee that's feasible, or even adding a religious or spiritual component, if the customer appears interested in that -- and hasn't come in under false pretenses.   Many of these places -- and, again, I can't say that The Turning Point does this -- mislead potential customers on the phone, either by purporting to do abortions, by waffling on that question when they know they do not perform them, or by leaving the impression there are actual doctors on staff when there are not.]

[I also want to mention -- sincerely -- that I'm sorry to see Jim Harbison retiring from writing columns.  I thoroughly disagreed with most of those columns, but they represent views held by a significant minority of our fellow citizens here.  But Jim's a gentleman.  I enjoyed having him as a guest on the radio show when I did one, and hope he'll appear on KTAL when we get that community radio station on-air early next year.   When I ran into Jim the other night at Luna Rossa, and told him this column would take issue with his, he cheerfully welcomed that news, just as I'd have done had our situations been reversed.   People often ask me if it's difficult to be attacked so often in the newspaper.  The short answer is, "No!"  If people insult or make fun of me, I read that with interest: occasionally there's useful criticism in the comment, though rarely; often there's mere invective or name-calling -- which means I struck some nerve -- and if the insult is reasonably witty I enjoy it for that.  As Jim said the other night, "It means they're reading me."]

[These are four of the websites I looked at for background, in writing this column.  All, as I recall, contain footage shot inside these "crisis centers" or tapes of initial phone calls in which the "crisis centers" were misleading or evasive on what services they offered.  Since it was a few weeks ago, I just refer to a couple of them by numbers.  I've inserted a few notes I made at the time.  None of these were taken inside The Turning Point or necessarily reflect what goes on there.
Video I
Video II 
California abortion crisis center
New York Pregnancy Crisis Centers
According to my notes on the California-oriented video, it does include at least one pregnancy center alleging that abortions are linked to breast cancer, and we hear from a woman who consulted the place and says,"no matter what I said, the answer was always the same, 'Keep the Baby!'"; another was told, “stop whoring around.”  A woman also says, "Most women I saw there were young like me, I wanted to tell them to run away, 'You're not going to get the help you need here.'”]


  1. Thanks so much for your article, it's so important to see this in print these days. I just read another excellent article in the Opinion pages of the NYTs today, that details the loss of women's rights since 2011 and this year especially, making it particularly hard for Texas women to get care. The woman from Turning Point spoke on KRWG a few months ago making insinuations that she was speaking for all of LC but she was not, and I let KRWG know that so I'm glad your article will appear there too. The young women in our community need much better care than that foisted on them by those type of extremists.

    Your neighbor,

  2. "How precisely does TP follow that model? I can't know for sure; but in a recent Sound-off, one woman described her experience with TP as enduring pressure against abortion and being fed false and frightening information."I think she also fails to mention the pressure to get an abortion as well. Honestly I am disappointed in this article. You use articles from other regions to criticize this Clinic and then accuse them of malpractice? please have more proof of your accusations

  3. Thanks for your comment. I sought to comment on an earlier newspaper column in which Turning Point was portrayed not as a "pro-life" advocacy operation but as a wonderful counseling center that was not pro-life. As I reaearched, I learn more about what's happening at pro-life "crisis centers" around the country, which I thought was interesting and appalling. I was very careful to make clear that although I knew The Turning Point had pro-life leaders, and had even been called pro-life, I did not know whether or not it was guilty of lying to clients, misleading them, or intimidating them into doing what Turning Point approved of rather than what they really needed to do for themselves. I'm concerned; but made clear I am not accusing them of those abuses.