CHATS

Online chats are a varied and coercive medium through which CPCs spread false information about abortion.

Much like CPCs themselves, the ways in which CPCs conduct chats vary; some are centralized, relying on a service provided by Heartbeat International called Option Line, and others conduct chats via text message. For the most part, CPCs prefer phone calls and in-person counseling, so it was hard finding CPCs that were willing to text message us. At times, when we preferred to message them, they really wanted to talk to us in person, so sometimes they ignored our text messages. For our research, we tried to capture the diversity of CPCs’ approaches. We tried, for example, to capture as much geographic diversity as possible; each group member honed in on CPCs near their home towns (in Kansas, New York, California, and Vermont). We also assumed a variety of characters comprised of diverse ages, interests, backgrounds, vernaculars, and who had differing questions about abortion and pregnancy. One of our group members conducted a chat entirely in Spanish, which is a service that Option Line provides. 

Candidly, we did not know what to expect from these chats. As a group, we discussed potential questions that we could ask CPCs, such as: what are the side effects of having an abortion? We quickly discovered that we would have to create characters and a very detailed backstory for each of these chats in order to glean information (however false) from CPCs. 

 

click here to see a rundown of the most common lies CPCs told us:

click this icon to see annotated transcripts of each conversation

Chat 1: Insight Women's Center, Lawrence, KS 

Character information: Sexually active 18 year old. Confirmed pregnant. Parents are very religious and would kill her if they knew she was having sex. Heard from a friend that this center provides information about abortion. Boyfriend is in college and is unaware of the pregnancy. She wants an abortion but is uninformed about the topic.

Misinformation summary: The operator sent two resources, both of which contain loads of false and misleading information. One is a link to a magazine called “Before You Decide” which I assume they hand out to visitors because the operator continually referenced it as a resource: https://issuu.com/care-net/docs/byd_3.1_digital_copy. There are multiple pages that detail risks and side effects of abortion, including PTSD, suicidal thoughts, spiritual struggles (one example: "What might God think about your situation?" On page 21), breast cancer, giving birth to a premature baby in the future, and giving birth to a child with disabilities. These are all FALSE! The second resource was interestingly tailored to an audience of people performing at-home abortions (who presumably ordered abortion pills online): https://www.athomeabortionfacts.com/ . I did not mention anything about performing an abortion at home or ordering pills, but perhaps they sent this due to the pandemic and my expressing a fear to leave the house.

Here, we see the zygote and fetus personified as well as the anthropomorphizing and sexing of the egg and sperm, which itself lays the groundwork for fetal personhood (Emily Martin, “Body Narratives, Body Boundaries,” Reproductive Rights Reader, 45).

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Martin writes that anthropomorphizing egg and sperm facilitates scrutiny/intervention and raises questions about the "rights" of cellular entities (45). Here, we see those "rights" mobilized in favor of a narrative that life begins at the moment of conception.

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Overstating the risks of abortion may lead to unwarranted fears ( Bryant et al 603). Though there is no evidence that a link exists between abortion and future pregnancy outcomes, this pamphlet leverages future pregnancies as an abortion deterrence tactic (Bryant et al 602; 604).

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Here, we see the zygote and fetus personified as well as the anthropomorphizing and sexing of the egg and sperm, which itself lays the groundwork for fetal personhood (Emily Martin, “Body Narratives, Body Boundaries,” Reproductive Rights Reader, 45).

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Visuals from "Before You Decide," online resource provided by Insight Women's Center (Chat 1).  Captions draw from course readings. 

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click through this gallery to see some of the false and misleading claims in an online pamphlet we received via chat!

Chat 2: Option Line 

Character information: Tracy, mid 30's, resident of Kansas City, Kansas. Has two kids and doesn’t think she can afford having a third. She was just laid off and is scared about making ends meet. Wants an abortion but isn't sure about the details of the procedure. 

Misinformation summary: The Option Line operator was adamant about the side effects of abortion, including depression (which they claimed was the most common), regret, and infertility. FALSE! When I asked more about the infertility side effect, the operator claimed she had a friend who experienced infertility. The operator also encouraged me to sign up for welfare in order to get benefits tailored for families. When I expressed concern about whether welfare would be sufficient (to cover the costs of my children as well as a newborn), the operator was enthusiastic, if not nationalistic, when she encouraged me that as a nation, "we will rise from this." 

click this icon to see transcripts of each conversation

Chat 3: Option Line

Character information: Kelsey, 17 believes she is pregnant. She lives on a farm in Addison County, VT and does not have a lot of financial resources. She wants an abortion because she wants to pursue a college education but needs to confirm if she’s actually pregnant first. Does not feel comfortable sharing her situation with her family. Desperate to receive information and resources quickly. Reaches out to inquire about pregnancy test and potential abortion because she is unable to get to a pharmacy due to COVID-19.

Misinformation summary: The Option Line "support agent," Ruth, was insistent that an ultrasound is needed to confirm a pregnancy. FALSE! Conducting an ultrasound is one such coercive method that attempts to establish an emotional connection by the mother to the fetus. Additionally, similar to chat 1, the operator outlined multiple long-lasting emotional side effects as a result of women undergoing and ultimately regretting their abortions. Lastly, it was surprising the information that was not known by the operator. For example, the operator was unsure if I could acquire a pregnancy test at my local CPC amidst the crisis. Desperate to confirm my pregnancy, this lack of information was far from comforting.

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Character information: Maddie is 22, pregnant, and is clear that she is not ready for marriage or a baby. She wants to schedule an abortion as soon as possible. Reaches out to CPC in southern VT to see if they provide and are scheduling abortions amidst COVID-19. 

Misinformation summary: Similar to other option line chats, abortion was explained as a procedure that left the woman with severe emotional complications and regrets. Additionally, after hearing that I was adamant about acquiring an abortion, the operator, Josie, informed me that "you can detect a heartbeat 18-22 days from the time you are pregnant." FALSE! Cardiac activity can be detected as early as five weeks but it is misleading to equate this activity with a heartbeat. Furthermore, Josie insisted that my local CPC could provide me with resources to help me parent. When I inquired if these resources would be available for 18+ years,  she responded "yes help... long term help." Lastly, she encouraged adoption as yet another option that would be best for myself and future baby. Additionally, she could not confirm if my local center would have a doctor or a licensed medical professional on staff, but that regardless, "you can rely on our centers, they are great!" 

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The Option Line chat began with a brief questionnaire which included the topic "reverse my abortion." FALSE. Abortion cannot be reversed which is interesting and concerning that Option Line would provide this as an actual possibility.

Chat 4: Option Line

click through the gallery to see the actual text exchanges by Elva with the CPC operator! They're filled w/ abortion LIES

Chat 5: San Fernando Valley CPC

Character information: Jackie is 19 years old, from Boyle Heights, thinks she's pregnant from her boyfriend (who has probably been cheating on her), has a very Catholic single mother, wants to go to college, has three brothers, and often uses protection with her boyfriend. She was referred to this CPC from a friend that wanted an abortion, but was convinced otherwise by this CPC. Reaches out to CPC for emotional support and to learn more about her options.

Misinformation summary: This chat was extensive and the volunteer continues to send me messages almost every day asking how I'm feeling. When I began talking to the volunteer, she made me feel nice and welcomed by calling me "sweetie," talking about my life, and asking me about my relationships. Here are some of the many lies I was told about abortion (the most important one saying she didn't want to push me into anything!):   

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Chat 6: Option Line in Spanish

Character information: Jackie is 18-24 years old, pregnant, and has abortion on her mind. She wants to have an abortion and would like information on what steps to take. Reaches out to CPC to see if they provide and are scheduling abortions in East Los Angeles.

Misinformation summary: Unlike the other chats, this chat was fairly abrupt. Immediately after asking about the procedure to abort, the CPC volunteer said that they do not offer or refer for abortions, but rather they offer options and information on state laws. It was cut pretty short thereafter when the volunteer told me to contact the Los Angeles Pregnancy Services in West Los Angeles, but I wanted to get more information so I asked about the abortion procedure. Like the other option line chats, abortion was explained as a procedure that has emotional risks. When I asked about the consequences, the volunteer didn't go into depth, but she did say that there might be complications because there are risks in all surgeries. The volunteer explained that in order to know the risks I'd have to speak to a medical professional. Then when I asked for more information, I was again told to contact the West Los Angeles CPC. I then asked if it was true that infertility could result from an abortion, and she said there was a slim chance, and then referred me once more to the West Los Angeles CPC.  It felt like the person I was talking to didn't want to talk to me. Now, this poses the question: “Who gets to be a good mother?” When I spoke in English to these volunteers, they seemed interested in my “pregnancy,” but as a Spanish speaker, it was hard to keep the conversation going.

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keep reading to see the most common lies CPCs told us!