On the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, chronicler of modern anxieties John Oliver took aim at a horrifying trend in women’s health: crisis pregnancy centers. Oliver went to town on how CPCs mislead pregnant women by convincing them that the location offers abortion services. In reality, CPCs will go out of their way to convince women to carry babies to term.
As part of his screed, Oliver played a clip of anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson speaking to the heads of CPCs at the 2012 Heartbeat International conference – a gathering of pro-pregnancy centers around the U.S. Johnson encouraged the CPCs to give women the wrong impression about their services.
“We want to appear neutral on the outside,” Johnson said in the clip. “The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic.”
The segment noted that CPCs actively use the word “choice” in their titles, which only serves to further confuse pregnant women. Oliver played a phone call to the White Rose Women’s Center in Dallas, wherein a woman asked the center how much they charged for a first trimester abortion. The person on the line hesitated before saying that it was their policy to have people come in so that they can “discuss then, and go forward.”
Oliver pointed out how, once women are inside CPCs, Heartbeat International encourages them to not have abortions by providing their affiliates with pre-written scripts. Said scripts are full of false information, such as “35 percent of suicidal behaviors among women may be attributable to abortion” or “abortion almost doubles the risk of breast cancer.”
In what’s possibly the worst example of misleading, Oliver shared an anecdote about a woman who was told by a CPC that she’d be able to get an abortion during the third trimester of her pregnancy, all while knowing that was untrue in the state of New York. In other words, the center preyed on her ignorance and knowingly delayed her abortion until she couldn’t have one.
At the end of the segment, John Oliver highlighted the ridiculous nature of CPC’s with an over the top gesture. In typical Oliver flair, he drove the point home at the end of the segment with his own CPC, called Our Lady of Choosing Choice, Inc. He also bought a van to start his own mobile pregnancy center, called “Vanned Parenthood,” where he could tell women outlandish falsehoods with no repercussions. Some sample untruths: “Getting an abortion turns your breast milk into kombucha,” and “after an abortion, your vagina seals shut like an Egyptian tomb.”
What’s more ridiculous, he’s asking, the comedic falsehoods he’s knowingly spreading, or those that are provided to women who really need help?