Not one to shy away from saying something that needs to be said because it will piss many people off, I am going to tell you today about the intersection between two controversial and taboo topics: Sex and religion. In the Philadelphia region, the two topics meet at 66 pregnancy crisis centers.
So called “crisis pregnancy centers” are organizations that appear as health clinics that help women who face unplanned pregnancies. They often have clinical-sounding names like “Pregnancy Resource Center,” “Options for Women,” or “Chester County Pregnancy Medical Center.” Their websites say their services include free and confidential pregnancy tests, options counseling, and referrals. Some of them even offer sex education classes.
When I was a student at Upper Darby High School, staffers from the local crisis pregnancy center came to two of my classes, once in Health and once in Child Development, and presented a lesson on sexual abstinence.
When I graduated from college with a B.A. in sexuality, marriage, and family, I was offered an interview at a pregnancy center. The job was advertised as a counselor who would educate women facing unplanned pregnancies about their options and then referring them to an obstetrician, adoption agency, or abortion doctor based on their decisions. It wasn’t until the woman interviewing me had asked, “How do you balance your faith with your role as a sexuality educator?” did I learn what they didn’t want the public to know- crisis pregnancy centers are covert Christian organizations that masquerade as health centers offering legitimate medical services in order to gain trust, and then provide medically inaccurate information about pregnancy termination to scare low-income women out of
Once I figured it out, I researched deeper and found so many frightening examples of lies and manipulation from these organizations.
One center offers free diapers, formula, and even a car seat for mom’s other children, who remember is often low-income, but only if she attends classes on “Post Abortion Stress Syndrome,” a bogus disorder unsupported by the medical community. The idea is to convince her not to terminate the pregnancy with dangling carrots of health and safety essentials for her other children.
The center that spoke at my high school was among the worst in my research. From the videos of their “sex ed” programs currently on their website, and from my memory of hearing two of their lectures when I was 16, their message is medically inaccurate and full of sexist typecasting. The lesson is based on the ridiculous premise that boys only want sex, girls only want love, boys can’t be trusted, girls are gatekeepers of sexuality, and other tired stereotypes.
The lessons are completely heterosexist, ignoring that same sex orientation exists, offering dangerously false claims that condoms aren’t effective, and use old urban legends (like the one where a man woke up from a one night stand to find the woman gone but the words “welcome to the world of AIDS” written in lipstick on his bathroom mirror) and untrue slut-shaming tactics (like “girls, if you have sex before marriage, when you finally find the man that’s right for you he won’t want to marry you because you’ll be like a used piece of tape that fell on the carpet- dirty with dust, hair, and particles on in”) to scare students instead of educating them.
There are 66 of these centers in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. The majority conceal their religious affiliation.
Let it be known, I don’t have a problem with folks opposing abortion. I do however have a huge problem with using lies and manipulation to advocate that agenda on vulnerable women while pretending to be a medical professional acting in the best interest of the patient. I don’t have a problem with folks supporting abstinence education for teens. I do however have a huge problem with religious organizations covertly coming to public schools and lying to kids about basic health.
My hometown of West Chester has two of these centers and the West Chester School District utilizes their “sex ed” programming. Does your local school district?
Dr. Jill McDevitt is a nationally recognized sexologist, and the only person in the world with a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree in human sexuality, making her the most formally educated person about sex on the planet. Dr. Jill has reached a documented 8.1 million people in her relentless promotion of the idea that sex should be fun, and everyone has the right to enjoy their sexuality without fear of violence. She founded Feminique, her sex education business, at just 21 years old.Dr. Jill McDevitt is a nationally recognized sexologist, and the only person in the world with a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree in human sexuality, making her the most formally educated person about sex on the planet. Dr. Jill has reached a documented 8.1 million people in her relentless promotion of the idea that sex should be fun, and everyone has the right to enjoy their sexuality without fear of violence. She founded Feminique, her sex education business, at just 21 years old.