Teresa Diamond, the executive director of CHOICES, an anti-abortion pregnancy center with two locations in Teller County, appeared on Monday’s Truth & Liberty livecast with Richard Harris, the executive director of the Truth & Liberty Coalition, and Mark Cowart, the pastor of Church For All Nations in Colorado Springs, to discuss the services offered by CHOICES. The Truth & Liberty Coalition is a conservative activist group aligned with Andrew Wommack’s ministries, which clashed with Colorado public health officials over COVID policies last year and is known for its conservative politics. Harris, who began the livecast by urging viewers to read the latest Mesa County election report, has appeared at election conspiracy events across Colorado, most recently at Tuesday’s Capitol rally with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
Anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers are often criticized for misleading or misrepresenting themselves to people who are seeking access to abortion.
“Pregnancy centers were created to provide support for people who find themselves in crisis situations,” explained Diamond. “They don’t say ‘crisis pregnancy center’ anymore, we say ‘pregnancy and parenting centers’ because we want to provide education for the place that they’re at right now. You’re in the middle of a pretty hot topic right now if you come in with an unplanned pregnancy, not knowing what to do, not knowing where to turn, and you’re immediate reaction in the culture we live in is fear. The pervasive message is to abort that child, even if you’re married. It’s the pervasive message that’s coming at women. A pregnancy center is a place where a woman and a man can go and find somebody who has an unbiased opinion about their life right now and the choices that they’re making, because they’re probably not making the healthiest choices and they’re finding themselves in a situation where they need some love and support and compassion, and that’s what pregnancy centers provide.”
Diamond also described the services provided by CHOICES. “What we provide is free pregnancy testing, free OB limited ultrasound,” she said. “We also offer a parenting class for young adults who decide to keep their child and they need some help with that. We have them join our parenting program and they get paired up with a mentor and they start taking classes every week and they learn how to become a parent. They can take classes on labor and delivery up to when that baby comes home and what to do with that child. They get to meet with an awesome mentor who is volunteering their time to be a part of that person’s life and help them find their way. It’s really awesome.”
Victoria Dadet, the senior advocacy manager for New Era Colorado, a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that works to engage young people in politics, says the real purpose of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers like CHOICES is to prevent people from seeking abortion. “Part of New Era’s work on college campuses involves working around this issue of crisis pregnancy centers because they are on college campuses in Colorado,” she says. “That’s really where we focus our work. These places are very often claiming to provide a wide range of reproductive health services that they don’t actually provide. The reason why they misrepresent the services they provide is because they’re seeking to recruit people who are wanting access to abortion and then coercing them into carrying their pregnancies to term. A really big goal for these crisis pregnancy centers is simply preventing people from accessing abortion, and preventing people who want access to abortion from actually exercising their own autonomy and agency to make these decisions for their bodies.”
Diamond described how CHOICES counsels its clients. “Before we have the pregnancy test it’s talking about hopes and dreams and what you want to achieve in your life,” she said. “During the pregnancy test — whether it comes back positive or negative — there is a conversation that happens with that person and draws out, with a positive test, that you are stronger than you think you are, and you have resources at your fingertips that we can provide you with. We will walk with you on this journey as long as you want us to.”
Diamond also described how CHOICES provides material support for clients who decide to complete their pregnancy. “With our baby boutiques, they join our parenting program and earn dollars to shop at our baby stores and they can get everything they need,” she said. “There’s so many resources in the community that also help them.”
Dadet says such claims are common with anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, but they are often misleading, or come with strings attached.
“In my experience, the ways that they describe their pregnancy support services, they describe the bare minimum and they don’t actually go into the details of how you access those services,” she notes. “We’ve seen crisis pregnancy centers offer baby supplies, but only for a certain amount of time, only for a certain number of weeks, or a certain number of months, and after that you’re on your own. They don’t always tell people that upfront. They don’t always tell people that when they are in a crisis pregnancy center seeking access to abortion, and that’s one of the ways they’ll coerce people. They’ll say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. If you’re concerned about not being able to get supplies for your baby we can help.’ They don’t say that they’ll only help for a certain amount of time, or I’ve also seen crisis pregnancy centers that require people to fulfill certain activities in order to qualify for the baby supplies and resources. Some of those activities can look like watching an ‘educational’ video series about pregnancy that infuses a lot of religious ideology into it that people might not be expecting when they sign up to get access to these baby supplies. I’ve also heard of [pregnancy centers] running programs that create — I’ve heard the term used ‘baby bucks,’ where you do a certain amount of things and the pregnancy center gives you a certain amount of baby bucks and you can use that to get different supplies. They make it seem like it’s a really easy, straight forward process to get these resources and support, when in practice it’s really not. A lot of it is a recruitment tool to bring in more people to work with them on this issue of being anti-abortion.”
Diamond noted that ultrasounds are an effective tool for convincing clients to complete their pregnancies. “We’ll have a conversation and they’ll say, ‘Well I really haven’t decided,’” she said. “Can we offer you an ultrasound, maybe to just help you see how far along you are in your pregnancy, so you can determine what you’re going to be doing? When you offer the ultrasound, the statistics of a woman who keeps her child is probably 80%, 85%, depending on where you live. It’s a beautiful thing. When someone is very abortion-minded coming through the door, they’ll say, ‘I’m going to have an abortion.’ We’ll say, ‘What do you know about abortion? You really need to know how far along you are in your pregnancy so you know what you’re getting into.’”
Dadet is also familiar with this tactic. “Something we have heard from people who have engaged with these crisis pregnancy centers is the ultrasound experience typically isn’t just them confirming that you are pregnant,” she says. “Oftentimes they try to use emotional manipulation, so when they’re doing the ultrasound they’ll refer to the pregnant person as ‘mom.’ They’ll refer to the fetus as ‘baby,’ and they’ll really start to use language to create this feeling of like, you are now a parent and you can’t get an abortion because now you’re a mom. Now you have a child, when that is not actually the case.”
Diamond said that part of her motivation for her work with CHOICES is her own experience with abortion. “When I came out of that situation my heart was just broken and I was an emotional mess for a long time after that,” she said. “No one’s really talking about the pain and heartbreak, regret and guilt and shame that post-abortive women are feeling today. Even the women that have a platform to talk about it, that are for abortion, are not owning that pain. They’re in denial.”
Anti-abortion advocates often reference the damage that abortion does to women, but Dadet says those claims are inaccurate. “We hear that messaging a lot around abortion being harmful for women,” she says. “That’s a myth. We know that the number one reported feeling after an abortion is relief. That feeling has been reported for years after receiving the abortion. There’s tons of research that shows that people who want access to abortion and are able to get it are better off than they were before. This whole idea that these anti-abortion counseling centers push out of abortion being harmful, it is definitely misinformation. It is also playing into this narrative that the anti-abortion movement in general has really crafted that abortion providers are preying on people.”
Dadet also notes that anti-abortion advocates often use faulty comparisons to slavery or the holocaust when trying to talk people out of abortion. “One thing I’ve heard from a lot of anti-abortion folks, when they talk about Black people, specifically, they talk about how abortion is genocide,” she says. “Or when they talk about Jewish people, specifically, they’ll talk about how abortion is just like the Holocaust. They’ll also talk about how abortion is like slavery for Black people. They really utilize this white supremacist messaging to make it seem like marginalized communities are being hurt by having access to reproductive health care, but we know that that is simply not true. We know that people are better off when they are able to be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies, especially marginalized communities.”
Cowart mentioned Nazi Germany during his discussion with Diamond. “During Hitler’s time, because this is a spirit that drives this thing, and God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear… They asked Herman Gorring under Hitler, ‘How did you get these Jews to do this?’ They got in box cars willingly and he said, ‘It’s easy. You scare people,’” he said. “When you get people scared and fear is there they’ll do just about anything.”Anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers can be problematic for people in rural areas like Teller County who aren’t near an accessible abortion clinic. “Colorado has three times as many crisis pregnancy centers as we do real abortion clinics,” says Dadet. “We know that a lot of counties in Colorado don’t have access to abortion clinics, so these pregnancy centers will set up shop in those places and really misrepresent themselves as providing access to abortion when they don’t. It’s really a problem with abortion being accessible. It’s really exciting that we’re able to protect abortion access legally, but we still have this problem in Colorado of making sure that abortion is accessible across the state. Part of that work looks like making sure that we have abortion clinics in all Colorado counties and also making sure that people aren’t getting targeted and harassed and coerced and manipulated by these crisis pregnancy centers.”