Wednesday, February 3, 2010

“The HIV virus slips through condoms like grains of rice through a tennis racket.”

Multiple choice: whom do we have to thank for this vivid nugget of misinformation? And let me be clear: the title of this post is NOT TRUE.
  1. Condom industry saboteurs, attempting to take down Trojan (et al) for unknown reasons.
  2. Judy, the talking embryo
  3. “Nurses” in “clinics” offering “pregnancy options counseling.”
If you picked 3, congratulations: you’ve got a fully functional BS detector.

Limited service pregnancy centers (sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers) are set up by organizations with the purported mission of offering services and advice to pregnant women. Which would be fine, if they weren’t also spreading lies. If you were to walk into one of these places…

You might: see staff in white coats, giving pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.
But: no doctors or nurses! Limited service pregnancy centers are not medical clinics, and they’re not regulated as such. In general, they’re staffed by volunteers.
You might: be given a pregnancy test.
But: you could get the same one at your local drugstore. Remember, these aren’t medical clinics – they don’t have any more access to medical tests than you do. Chances are you’ll have to wait a while for those test results, even though they usually only take a few minutes… funny, I wonder why it takes so long? Anyway, prepare to hear an earful while you wait, because...

You might: ask questions about pregnancy.
But: don’t expect the answers to be true! Volunteers who visited limited service pregnancy centers in Washington to gather information for Legal Voice were told the gem about rice and tennis rackets, as well as:
  • “if you are 2 ½ weeks late, it [pregnancy] won’t show up on a test. You should wait a few more weeks before coming back.”

  • “wait until [you’re] 12 weeks and see if [you] miscarry.”
This isn’t just happening in Washington – NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia posted a video about similar experiences.

It’s nefarious to take advantage of women’s need for medical information in order to spread anti-choice ideology. Legal Voice is supporting legislation in Washington that would require limited service pregnancy centers to be honest and upfront about their services, to protect the privacy of medical records, and to provide medically and scientifically accurate information.

The bill is in danger of getting stuck in committee – if you live in Washington, please contact members of the Senate Health Care Committee TODAY and ask them to support Senate Bill 6452.

If you’re still not convinced, Lisa Stone wrote a great post last week on why these organizations ought to be legally obliged to be truthful about who they are and what they do.


  1. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! I really like your blog!!

    Common Cents

    ps. Link Exchange?

  2. Oh, BTW, it's complete BS. PRCs do have medical directors, ultrasounds are done by Registered nurses, and the pregnancy tests are not over the counter. You'll also not see them in white lab coats. All "medical" information they provide, including handouts, is sourced and referenced with all the source information being posted on the literature. I checked. I'm still trying to track down the "rice through a tennis racquet" remark. It keeps appearing in NARAL talking points and communications, but I've never seen any information as to which PRC it actually originated at. I have to wonder if it's not a fabrication, like most of the info they are putting out.

  3. Got it. The post is attributed to a Planned Parenthood employee named Glynnis Kirchmeier. She testified at a Senate committee public hearing that she "was told by someone at a limited service pregnancy center in Tacoma that AIDS go through a condom like rice through a tennis racket.

    In the interest of fairness, Ms Kirchmeier was registered at the hearing as a "college student" but admitted during questioning by Senator Cheryl Pflug of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care committee that she was an employee of Planned Parenthood. Senator Pflug asked the question after Kirchmeier testified to visiting numerous PRCs in the Tacoma area.

  4. The “tennis racket” statement is only one example of the medically inaccurate information we’ve found to be dispensed at Crisis Pregnancy Centers. We’ve heard stories from women who have visited over 20 centers across the state of Washington, some of whom have been given accurate information, and some of whom have not. Some of the centers give out information that is blatantly false. A pamphlet called “What you should know about the Morning After Pill”, published by Heritage House in Snowflake, AZ and dispensed by numerous crisis pregnancy centers, states that infertility is a possible side effect of emergency contraception. This is false.

    Among the 20 centers we collected data from, results varied widely as to whether or not they claim to have medical staff. Some are open and honest about their missions, and others are not; Some do indeed have volunteers wearing white lab coats, and others are staffed by nicely dressed middle-aged women who do not claim to be doctors or nurses.

    Some of these centers are open with their donors that ultrasounds are used solely to try to deter women from abortions. They should show the same openness and honesty to the women who submit to these ultrasounds in the belief that they are going to get medical care.

    Our goal is to create a set of standards so that every crisis pregnancy center is open and honest with the women it serves, so that no woman is misled or her health put at risk.

  5. Let me ask you this then. You've heard stories from women who have visited over 20 centers across the state of Washington and have collected data.

    How unbiased is your data? The three "college students" who testified in Olympia identified themselves as being volunteers for or employees of Planned Parenthood. It is commonly recognized that they send "plants" into PRCs posing as "women in crisis" in an attempt to collect data with which to discredit them.

    Has there ever been an independent medical assessment of Pregnancy Resource Centers? Has any group like the AMA had evidence that their information is false? My wife is a volunteer at a PRC and I know the amount of training, recordkeeping and administrative paperwork that is required to meet state standards, and the standards of their national organization.

    Like I said, the information I've seen has listed the medical sources for the data. I don't question that PRCs may be putting out data that pro-choice groups don't agree with, but is it "medically inaccurate?" There are a lot of medically peer-reviewed studies and publications out there that doctors take sides as to whether they agree or disagree with the data.

    In all fairness, with the exception of an Austrailian entry with no source data, I've seen no medical data online to show that emergency contraceptives have any link to fertility.