Last December, Care Net—the nation’s largest network of evangelical Christian crisis pregnancy centers—featured a birth announcement of sorts on the website of its 10-year-old Urban Initiative. Under the headline, “Plans Underway for Care Net’s Newest Center in Kansas City, Mo.!” a block of upbeat text described how a predominantly white, suburban nonprofit called Rachel House had “made contact” with “various African American pastors and community leaders,” who helped them “plant” a “pregnancy resource center” in a predominantly black, poor section of downtown Kansas City.
Evangelicals have long approached their anti-abortion work with missionary zeal. But over the past four years, national anti-abortion strategists have designated “urban” and “underserved” women and babies as a priority for saving. In practice, these terms tend to be euphemisms for “black” and, to a lesser extent, “Latina.”
Because crisis pregnancy centers are independently run and unregulated, it’s hard to say for sure how many there are in the United States. In a frequently cited 2010 report, the Family Research Council, a Christian right organizer and think tank, says there are more than 1,900 centers in the country affiliated with three major networks: Care Net, Heartbeat International and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. An entire section of the report is devoted to the “urban” work of pregnancy centers. “The concentration of abortion facilities in urban, minority and poorer areas of the U.S. is well-known,” the report declares.
The “concentration” claim has already been thoroughly debunked, but many anti-abortion activists still believe deeply in it. It’s that belief, in part, that’s stirred outrage over the gruesome story of Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic in recent weeks. Gosnell is being prosecuted for conducting illegal, dangerous late-term abortions, and rightwing pundits have argued that mainstream media ignored the story because it drew unflattering attention to abortion providers in poor, black neighborhoods. The implication is that anti-abortion activists care more about poor women of color than do the Planned Parenthoods of the world.
In its 2011 federal tax filing, Care Net reported spending nearly $1 million trying to “educate inner-city communities” and develop centers in “underserved areas.” In talking about this work, Care Net typically promotes North Philadelphia’s black-owned Hope Center as a model. But Rachel House offers a window into a different story, one that has unfolded in a series of headline-grabbing controversies over the past three years.
Fueled by a race-baiting, national marketing campaign and the missionary-like evangelism of its affiliates, Care Net has turned the complex reality behind black abortion rates into a single, fictional story. In that story, poor black women who have abortions are the unwitting victims of feminists and morally deficient reproductive healthcare providers, embodied in sadists such as Gosnell. Crisis pregnancy centers, in this fable, are the best place those women can go to be saved. Read More