CareNet Pregnancy Center Spreads Misinformation in Burlington

The slightly faded white and blue sign outside the CareNet Pregnancy Center’s offices on Colchester Ave. in Burlington, VT is the best publicity they have. So I’m told by the woman who takes my piss and drips it onto one of those hormonal pregnancy strips. The kind you buy in the drugstore. “It’s negative,” she says, and shows it to me.

I mime surprise. I’m actually pretty certain I’m not pregnant. But I’m here to see what it’s like in a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), a Christian center that advertises free pregnancy tests and “options counseling” for women with unwanted pregnancies. Their website makes it clear that their affiliation is religious, but the office itself doesn’t. It looks like a small, casual medical office at first glance. But the woman who takes me back to the office with the ultrasound machine and the table full of rubber gloves, trays, and plastic cups is the only medical professional in the office. When she’s not there, women have to administer their own pregnancy exams, and the office can’t do ultrasounds. Those are the only two medical services the Center provides. I told her that I missed my pill for a few days last month and I’m worried. It may be too early to tell, but I still want a test. To accomplish this, she sends me into the bathroom to pee on a cup. She then takes the piss and drips it onto one of those disposable pregnancy test sticks you buy in drugstores.

Throughout our exchange, she’s asked me many very personal questions. Questions about my medical history, including about any previous pregnancies, which I expected. But I was surprised when, upon hearing that I’d had a miscarriage at age 23, she asks whether I looked at the “flow.” She wants to know whether I’d seen anything in it, because at 12 weeks the fetus has all the parts an adult human being has, and it’s “just wiggling and dancing around in there.” She shows me one of these dolls from the “Touch of Life” doll set to illustrate her point about how complete a 12-week-old fetus is. It’s kind of curious, when you think about it. Misinforming women into thinking that the work of making a new human being is mostly done by only 12 weeks into the process doesn’t make much sense. If it’s that complete, why does the pregnancy continue for the rest of the 28 weeks? If women could give birth at 12 weeks, it’d save us a lot of trouble, not to mention epesiotomies. It’s actually not true, unless you don’t count a skeleton as an essential part of a human being. But 12 weeks is the first week when the fetus is actually called a fetus and has a human-looking profile. What’s the point of getting women to believe that a fetus is mostly developed by 12 weeks, when that isn’t the case? What the point of lying about this insignificant piece of medical trivia? It works on two levels: first, it promotes the myth of pregnancy as a happy, flower-scented time full of puppies, rainbows, and soft-focus picnics in the park with your adoring husband. It helps, if you’re trying to convince someone to remain pregnant, to gloss over the health risks and unpleasantness of pregnancy. But, second and more importantly, it also means that a woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy because she just doesn’t want to be pregnant is being irrationally selfish. And that’s a great way to make a woman feel ashamed of choosing to terminate.

That is, I think, the core of CareNet’s strategy. From slight misinformation to outright lies, they subtly tilt the information in a certain direction so as to make you feel worried and anxious about making the “wrong” choice according to them, and warm, fuzzy, and even noble about making the “right” choice. Natural, I suppose, if that’s your mission, talking people into doing what you think they should, but still a bit jarring for me. I’ve been going to Planned Parenthood on and off, since I was a teenager (more than a decade ago now), and I’ve never experienced any sort of opinion pushing at all. Excepting, I suppose the push for contraception whenever I was sexually active. In any case, CareNet’s approach is very emotionally manipulative. My nurse kept emphasizing how anxious I looked, how I looked like I hadn’t slept the night before (I got plenty of sleep that night). When asking about my family, she asked if I didn’t think my parents would love being grandparents. When I said that my sister had recently had a baby (also true), she asked whether my parents had been happy about this. Well, of course. I’m not a teenager after all. But, you know, this is about my life, not my parents’ or anyone else’s. That’s the basic fact that CPCs are straining to obscure.

The other really jarring part was when she asked me so many questions about my religious beliefs. I lied and told her that I believed that there’s “something bigger than us” out there. I’m actually an atheist, but I didn’t want to get into that with her right then. She asked me whether I thought there was a purpose to life and whether that affected my opinions about abortion. I said I hadn’t really thought about it. She asked me about my relationship with the baby’s father, many probing personal questions, like whether I thought he would help raise the baby and how long we’d been together. She also didn’t stop shy of discouraging abortion. She also told me that she gets women in “all the time” who were using both the pill and condoms, and got pregnant anyways. I should think about whether it’s all worth it, she told me, this heartache and worry about being pregnant, and birth control is so unreliable anyway…

“Are you asking me if I think it’s worth it to have sex, even knowing that I might have pregnancy scares?” I asked.

“Well, uh, yes,” she said.

I thought about it for about five seconds. “It’s definitely worth it,” I said. “Sex is awesome.”

“Oh! Well, I guess you answered that question,” she said. I like to think she was a bit flustered to hear a woman so firm in her endorsement of sex. But who knows.

Then I asked her about getting an IUD, and she told me that she couldn’t actually prescribe one for me, even though she is a nurse. It was only then that she revealed that this was not actually a medical center. But she referred me to the Community Health Center, which, as a patient, I can personally endorse. They are lovely hard-working people there and it makes sense to send someone without insurance (like myself) to their currently-under-construction doors. I left on that note, and came into the lobby to discover that my friend had gathered up all the brochures they have in their office and was perusing them on the chair. We left with polite farewells and assurances that if I had any more questions, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop by.

Brochures from CareNet Pregnancy Center
Brochures from CareNet Pregnancy Center
Note that the second from the right, on the bottom, reads, “Post-Abortion Stress in Men.” Apparently abortion is responsible for anything  in men, from feeling distant from their “mates” and children to “uncontrollable rage.” Hear that ladies? If your man abuses you after you get an abortion, clearly it’s your own fault for getting an abortion. Next time, just have the baby! I’m sure he won’t be abusive then.
In a little while, we’ll have a new post up that documents, in a more academic fashion, the misinformation spread by Crisis Pregnancy Centers like CareNet. This report represents my experience in the CareNet Center, and alone, it would not constitute much of an indictment of CPCs. However, in my next post, I will detail exactly what practices are representative of CPC tactics, and why they represent a failure to trust women and treat them as adult human beings. An adult is a person who can be trusted to make their own decisions, when given all the information. Clearly CareNet does not regard women as adult human beings.

16 responses to “CareNet Pregnancy Center Spreads Misinformation in Burlington

  • Grace Stone

    Totally not true, Care Net is very professional and helpful to all the woman they serve.They gave only the facts and an unbiased stance.

    • FedUpVT

      Really. Well, obviously CareNet is not helpful to women who are seeking abortions. Also, they are not helpful to women who want to have an active sex life but don’t want to get pregnant. Also, they are not helpful to women who aren’t Christians and aren’t interested in approaching their decisions around sex and reproduction from a Christian perspective.

      Did you miss the part in my report above, where I mentioned how the woman who interviewed me told me that it’s practically useless to use birth control? Or how about the part when she told me that a 10-week fetus has all the parts an adult human being has? Do those count as facts to you>

  • FedUpWithIdioticVermontFeminists

    Dear Woman Who Pissed In a Cup at Carenet,

    As I read your touching story of pretending to be pregnant so you could get the inside scoop of a pregnancy center, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for you. Believe it or not, the human life is not a joke; it is to be treasured and appreciated. As you stated in your response, women should have a free choice to do what they please with their bodies and with their lives. And you are right, they have every right to walk into a Carenet Pregnancy Center, get a free pregnancy test and possibly even a free ultrasound if the pregnancy is positive. They have every right to then leave, get in their car and drive home, ignoring every single comment a counselor made to them during their visit. They may choose to get an abortion. Or they may realize the many physical and emotional affects an abortion may play in their life and choose to keep their baby. That is a choice she is going to have to make on her own no matter what Carenet counselors tell her. This woman also has every right to then grab a baseball bat, walk to your house and smash every window out of your car. Maybe even slash your tires in the process.
    FREE CHOICE is great, isn’t it? Yes! It is so great being a woman because we are just so cool that we cannot only choose what we want to do with our own bodies, but we can also make choices that affect others as well; after all we are awesome feminists who think we deserve the world. Now, if your small little mind can wrap around this thought, imagine that tiny, precious baby living inside this woman’s body that is considered a ‘choice’ rather than life to many of you feminist-whackos. I’m not sure what type of education you received as a child, but human life begins when a heart starts beating. And when an object is breathing, it is living. Once it starts breathing, it starts to develop and mature into a more functional human being like you or myself. If that breathing is disrupted or terminated, that object is now dead. It has been murdered (a sick and disturbing thought if you ask me). Although these parts are extremely small such as their eyes, nose, mouth and fingers, it is still alive during this entire process. Pretty cool, huh? And as it grows and matures, more significant organs start to develop, especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. His or her fingers start to open and close, they start to suck with their mouths, the kidneys are now excreting urine into their bladder, nerve cells are rapidly firing in their brain and they can squirm their bodies back and forth when they feel their mother’s movements. So the “wiggling and dancing around” is actually true. As for the whole Free Choice discussion, what about that baby inside its mother’s womb? Doesn’t he or she have a free choice as well? Shouldn’t they have a say in this matter or whether or not they would like a doctor removing them from their nice, cozy waterbed? Although you may say they are not fully functional at this point, to be honest, I have met plenty of individuals in my lifetime that have the same intellect as a premature infant.
    Carenet Pregnancy Center’s mission is to help people. Help people like you, myself and also those tiny innocent babies that have no say at all. Carenet is not trying to convince but rather to inform their clients of the many risks associated with terminating a pregnancy. Many woman experience post-abortion symptoms such as guilt, pain, a feeling of loss, and an inability to have children later on in life. Many claim that they were unaware of these consequences before the abortion procedure. It makes my heart hurt when I hear of pro-choice individuals neglecting to discuss these issues before an abortion is performed. And if they do, they cover it lightly enough to make it seem healthy and acceptable in all circumstances. Carenet wants a woman to know that she doesn’t necessarily have to have an abortion. She has many options such as carrying her child that she is responsible for conceiving or giving her child up for adoption. The reason why they care so much about your medical background, sexual past and religious affiliations are
    because they desire to get to know you more so they can help you with your situation. Not because they want to lie to you and spread false information about your pregnancy.
    The reason why you believe that this center fails to trust women and treat them as adult human beings is because many don’t deserve it. It is just like raising a child. Trust is not obtained from a mother and a father until they see a change in their child’s behavior. Many women in this world are irresponsible and immature and haven’t had the ability to make rational and responsible decisions about their lives. Therefore it is necessary for brighter individuals to make these decisions for them.
    And you are right, sex is great. But some people are so addicted to it that they disregard the consequences. Once pregnant, they argue that they have every right to do what they want with their bodies even if it means ending their pregnancy. But consequences will come back to bite you in the butt; when you murder and get caught, you go to jail. There is no escaping that, my friend.
    Lastly, the “religion topic” is a touchy subject, I agree. Many believe in some type of higher being, some believe there is nothing there at all. I am not going to convince you to believe one way or another, but having faith provides hope and hope provides a sense of peace. These women go to Carenet because they are searching for hope, for a listening ear who is willing to give them the attention they deserve, and to seek advice in determining how they should handle this pregnancy. Some may not believe in God but they believe in a hope that will get them through this difficult time. These pregnancy centers are placed all over the country to provide comfort and support for these women who are literally killing themselves with the stress and anxiety that comes along with finding out your pregnant. The best part about having faith and trust in God, is having the knowledge that we are not alone. When no one else is around to listen, God is always there. Carenet Pregnancy Center is a place that provides this hope and peace when a man or woman’s life seems to have turned upside down. They offer comforting and educational advice to individuals seeking support. If you ask me, this seems like a blessing, rather than a lie. I’m sure if you gave Carenet a chance, you would spend less time posting these ridiculous articles and more time on getting to know the counselors and support staff who are responsible for providing this love and support to men and women all over our country.
    Before going around and sharing your sap stories about Carenet and all the emotional harm they caused to you, sit down and be thankful that God was willing to put you onto this earth. Think about the many disasters ruining our world, how we have more freedoms than most will ever see in their lifetime, and realize that life could be a lot worse.

  • KM

    Right on FedUpVT! CareNet is awful! Not about helping, all about guilt! The “caring touch” a person receives there lasts only as long as they think they’ve convinced you to be a broodmare for jesus….

  • eagle

    Ouch. I’m beginning to get a picture of yet another strong advocate for choice: our current buzz word to justify ending a human life if we’re inconvenienced or feel like it.
    I don’t know anything about the Care Center. I’m just grateful to be here. A product of a one-time encounter brought this commenter in to the world. I love my life. I’m grateful for it. I’m happy to be here, problems and all. I was adopted. Nothing’s perfect…but being alive is perfect for me. My life is worthwhile. Let ME make the choice if I think it’s worth it. I have a voice too, and I’m grateful my birth mother walked through the nine months with a human being forming inside of her…me. I only wish that we all had as much resolve to uphold human life as we do to save trees.

    • FedUpVT

      That’s great. Personally, I owe my life to an abortion. My father’s high school girlfriend aborted her pregnancy when they were both 18 years old. This permitted them both to go to college, where my father met my mother, and voila! Me, plus my two siblings.

      What now?

  • R. Rowley

    I just wonder if your experience would have been any different had your pregnancy test turned out to be positive. It’s easy to enter a crisis center, knowing full well that you are there only to find fault in it. Had this been a true crisis for you perhaps you would have felt differently. There are plenty of places to turn for abortion consultations, Care Net makes it obvious from the start that is not their purpose. Seems fair to me.

    • FedUpVT

      Hey, thanks for thinking you know my mind better than me. Do you do that to everyone or just women? I already know what I’d have done because I already went through the experience and guess what? I got an abortion. And I feel glad I did. CareNet does NOT make it obvious from the beginning that their purpose is to evangelize and dissuade women from getting abortions.

      • R. Rowley

        Your snarky banter is truly a talent. Of course you already know you’re perfectly and gloriously entitled to your opinion but your personal war against CareNet is a farce. Again, why bother going to a place that you are dead set on making a case against for your own personal enjoyment? I’m glad you got the abortion you so badly wanted but I’m sorry, CareNet makes it blatantly obvious from their website, brochures and guidance that they are simply NOT going to refer you for an abortion, period. Everything I read both online and at the local facility clearly stated this. Enjoy your life. 🙂

      • FedUpVT

        Well, Rowley, CareNet told me that the majority of their traffic comes from walk-ins off the street, from people who see the sign and come in, without going to the website or reading the literature. My experience mirrored that experience. But obviously, nothing I say can possibly convince you that not everyone experiences reality in precisely the same way you do. It’s literally inconceivable to you! That’s your blind spot, not mine.

  • Annie Laney

    I volunteer at a local CareNet center and am proud to do so. I do want to say that we love the women who come through our doors, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, age, etc. We love them if they have had abortions in their past or are considering an abortion now. We make it no secret that we are a faith based (pro life) organization, or that we will not refer for abortions. WE are here to offer information that they may not get elsewhere so that she can make a more informed decision. Yes, we encourage these women to carry to term; then to parent or place for adoption if that is out of the question. We continue to see these women throughout their pregnacy for continued support and education if desired.(actually until that child is 2!). We have material resources that we provide as well-furniture, clothing, diapers, etc. We provide FREE ultrasounds to verify the viability of the pregnancy and the age of the fetus. HOWEVER……we also let the abortion vulnerable/minded woman know that IF they choose to abort we are STILL here for them (of if they struggle with an abortion in their past). MANY of our volunteers have abortions in their pasts and due to this experience and it’s aftermath (perhaps years or decades later) is what led them to volunteer in our ministry. It’s what God often does-create Beauty from ashes. We have post abortive support groups for women and men and we do not stop loving the women who have had an abortion. I just wanted to make sure that those reading this have a better understanding of just what CareNet is and does.

    • FedUpVT

      Look, if CareNet really prioritized helping women over anything else, they wouldn’t need to lie about basic medical facts, such as the fact that a 12-week fetus is not “dancing and wiggling around in there” with “all its part” and “looking just like a human being.”

      Decent human beings should be able to agree that lying to women who are in a moment of crisis about basic medical facts is morally wrong. But then I’ve come to expect such moral dissolution from people who are vocal about their Christianity.

  • Annie Laney

    I am sorry that you feel that way, and I know that i have no power to change your mind. However, a 12 week old fetus DOES have all of its parts at that time….of course it can’t function outside of the womb and I am sure that is not what you were told, either. just that it looks just like the model you were shown-THAT is not a lie. And it IS moving around by that time too; some women can even feel movement at that time. We do not lie at our center, and ALL of our facts can be verified by non-biased medical sources (read: non Christian). We could not stay in business if we were giving out false information (at least in Washington state). We have a full board of legal and medical experts that help keep us “above reproach”, especially as we expect people like you to come in masquerading as something you are not, and try to “catch us” doing something wrong/unethical.
    And, Christians SHOULD be vocal about their faith-not overbearing, ram it down your throat, hellfire and brimstone, but unashamed. If we as Christians really believe that what the Bible says is true, we should be concerned for EVERY one that does not. If you sincerely believed, and had supporting evidence, that the local train station was going to blow up, wouldn’t you want to warn people about that? To Christians, the consequences of a life without Christ are a very bleak prospect, and we would be totally remiss if we did not care about others and want to share “the remedy” with them. Please don’t shoot us down because we CARE. And I know there are lots of “christians” out there who go about it the wrong way, thus alienating people to our faith, and that grieves me. And I myself am not a “perfect Christian” who goes about her life perfectly. But I do care about the women we serve at CareNet and there are literally thousands of testimonies of women (of many faiths or NO faith) who’s lives were touched/ changed for the better in part because of the services and love we provide.

    • R. Rowley

      It’s obviously no use to inform her of anything, I too was going to explain that actually CareNet is quite right about fetal movement and all the wiggling – obviously they didn’t intend for one to think the fetus could walk out of a vagina and perform card tricks at that stage – but I decided it’s a wasted cause and would fall on deaf ears. Anyway, I just wanted to say… I am agnostic, having no preference in my religious beliefs and while at CareNet I stated so on the paperwork I was asked to fill out. I simply checked “other” under religious preference and I’ll admit I was nervous that doing so would incite open debate on the why’s and why not’s of my beliefs. However, I was asked during my initial consultation if I wanted to discuss any religious aspects, I said no thank you and we moved on. It was comfortable and appropriate – especially since everything I read and signed explained CareNet’s stance of being faith-based and that no abortion services or referrals would be offered. It’s very simple to understand for most people. I’m not sure why this blogger is bent on tearing down a facility just because they believe in God and don’t perform abortions but there is no changing that. I was happy that CareNet was an option available to me in a time of need. Have a nice day! 🙂

      • Annie Laney

        Thanks, R. Rowley, you are a perfect example of someone with no faith/religious preference (so non-christian, of course) who had a positive experience and was helped by CareNet.
        “FedUp” is correct in that in many areas the “client base” is walk in, especially in urban areas, However, they still get the same paperwork with all the same information that they would see on the website, etc, so, assuming they are actually READING the paperwork that they sign, they have full knowledge. They are free to walk out if they don’t like what they read. And as you experienced, they can also decline to discuss spiritual things-for heavens sake, we aren’t some covert cult trying to trick you into a relationship with Jesus! Many of these women, although saying they do NOT wish to discuss spiritual things, are still very open and accepting of prayer, but again, if they say no, we don’t pray for them at that moment. Additionally, many of the client advocates (some would call them “counselors” but that is inaccurate) are able to learn of other belief systems during the appointment. We want to know what our clients believe, and to understand where they are coming from, be it atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan (we actually get a lot of Wiccans here), etc. FedUp believes she was lied to (and perhaps the center she visited WAS using deception, and if that is the case it is unfortuneate). CareNet centers all around the country are under attack, with opponents calling trying to trick the receptionist into a mistake, coming in, like she did, with an agenda to discredit a valuable, FREE and CONFIDENTIAL service to the community, trying to shut us down. For this reason, oversight for CareNet and it’s practices has tightened up significantly, and we strive to improve our presence and service in the communities where we are located. Lying is not part of the training or continuing education ALL volunteers must receive.
        Anyway, I am so glad that you had a positive experience at CareNet, and hope you will tell others about us if it ever comes up. And if you ever come to faith in Jesus, consider volunteering-it really is a blessing! (Yes, FedUP, being a Christian IS a prerequisite to serving in our centers……We ARE a CHRISTIAN organization).
        Best Wishes 🙂

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