The documentary film 12th and Delaware covers the story of two clinics adjacent to one another in Fort Pierce, Florida. On one corner, sits an abortion clinic. On the other, what’s commonly called a “crisis pregnancy center” (abbreviated as CPC).
It is not happenstance alone that caused these clinics to share an intersection.
The abortion clinic was in business first. When the building across the street went up for sale, it was purchased by the organizers of CPC in order to divert the abortion clinic patients to their clinic to dissuade them from terminating their pregnancies.
If you’re not familiar with the services offered by a Crisis Pregnancy Center, I’ll give you some background.
These clinics are generally listed in the Yellow Pages and on the internet under the category “Abortion Services.” They are typically run by religious organizations opposed to abortion and birth control. They advertise counseling services for women grappling with unplanned pregnancies, “abortion alternatives,” and free ultrasounds.
Sometimes they are run by medical professionals, sometimes they are not.
Many of these clinics were (and possibly still are) receiving government funding under the “Abstinence-Only Education” umbrella. They do not supply women with birth control or refer them to sources that do.
While the description of a CPC may seem innocuous, or even benevolent, these organizations should be seen as anything but.
In 2006, a congressional investigation uncovered several deceptive practices being used in 20 of the 23 CPCs studied. Much of the deception surrounded false, and frightening misinformation that abortion causes breast cancer, drives women to suicide, and harms future fertility.
The breast cancer myth is also used by CPC in 12th and Delaware. This piece of information has been disproved by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Cancer Institute, and several other astute medical organizations. There is no proven link between abortion and breast cancer and yet, this is information widely touted as fact by many CPCs.
We also see the CPC in 12th and Delaware (and their protesters who gather outside of the abortion clinic across the street) suggesting to women that a majority of women experience extreme regret and emotional trauma after an abortion. This is in contradiction to the many studies done on abortion regret and mental health which indicate that abortion does not cause women undue psychological stress, depression, or mental unrest. These studies also indicate that most women do not actually regret their abortions.
Another disturbing tactic seen in the film shows protesters/supporters of the CPC advising a woman about to enter the abortion clinic that she could “bleed to death” while obtaining an abortion and making the implication that abortions are wildly unsafe, deadly procedures.
While abortion is a major surgical procedure, the protesters seem to be purposely overstating it’s risks and conveniently forgetting that childbirth (the alternative they are trying to push upon women) comes with it’s own set of potential risks.
When comparing the two procedures, bioethicist and medical historian Jacob Appel argues that, “abortion is convincingly far safer for maternal health than bringing a fetus to term.”
He also goes on to say:
“According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the likelihood of an American woman dying in childbirth is approximately 1 in 7,500. In contrast, a 2004 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found the risk of dying during an abortion in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, when the majority of terminations take place, to be roughly 1 in 1,000,000. That’s safer than a round-trip flight on a commercial aircraft. Even abortions performed at greater than 21 weeks (1.1% of all abortions) have a mortality of 1 in 11,000 — far lower than live delivery. If one measures only immediate morbidity and mortality, there is no way to spin these numbers to suggest that abortion is less safe than giving birth.”
Yet, the CPC profiled in the film seems to be either woefully ignorant that the information they are sharing is incorrect or is purposefully supplying women with misinformation in order to sway them to carry an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy to term.
At one point in the film, we see a 15-year-old girl visiting the CPC early on in her pregnancy. Later on in the film, the now seven-months pregnant young girl states that since the CPC advised her she could “lose her life” by terminating her pregnancy, she didn’t want to “take the risk of having an abortion” and presumably carries the pregnancy to term.
We also learn that she has just graduated from eighth grade.
Knowing that motherhood is indicated to increase a woman’s odds of poverty by 79 percent, and knowing that 40 percent of teenage mothers report living in poverty by age 27, one can’t help but be concerned for this young woman’s (and her child’s) future.
In another scene, we see another woman struggling with an unplanned pregnancy confiding in the CPC about her abusive boyfriend and their troubled relationship. In response to this disconcerting revelation, the CPC worker doesn’t refer the victim to a women’s shelter or domestic violence organization. She simply states: “For all you know, this baby may change him.”
It startled this viewer that someone who represents a cause which deems itself “Pro-life”, would show such reckless disregard for not only the woman’s life, but also the life of her potential offspring by advocating for it to be born into a violent, possibly life-threatening situation.
Earlier in the film, we get a look inside a training session being held for employees of the CPC. The center’s director advises workers that when a patient calls your standard abortion clinic, they are getting “a sales pitch” geared toward “selling an abortion.” She then instructs the workers to use evasive language when a woman calls their center asking if they provide abortions. Her reasoning? Because if they were to honestly and directly state that they don’t actually terminate pregnancies, the caller would hang up and they’d lose out on the business.
12th and Delaware is an important, eye-opening piece that is worth watching and analyzing. Not only to dissect the actions of the CPC profiled, but also to see the personal stories of the women shown in the film. Some are undereducated, vulnerable, and highly impressionable. Others are full of resolve and fortitude. All of them are in an undesirable, yet heart-breakingly common scenario: unprepared for pregnancy and in need of factual information and truthful, unbiased counseling that can aid them in making the choice most conducive to their own physical, mental, emotional, and material well-being.
As someone who has volunteered with Planned Parenthood in a few different capacities throughout the past year, one thing that always sticks with me is the response of the women I encounter in the community when I’m representing the organization. Many of them feel compelled to tell me about their experiences as patients.
Contrary to the claims of the CPC worker in this film regarding clinics giving “sales pitches” for abortions, the stories of the women who’ve confided in me have all included elements of honesty, accuracy, compassion, and trust. As a matter of fact, every single woman I have ever spoken with about the care they’ve received at Planned Parenthood has expressed relief and gratitude over the treatment they were given at our health centers. According to them, their experiences led to them feeling informed, empowered, and ultimately entrusted with making the best decision for themselves after being given the proper tools and information. They didn’t leave our clinic feeling shamed, deceived, spoken down to, or second guessed.
After watching 12th and Delaware, and reading the revealing 2006 congressional investigation exposing the dishonest practices of most CPCs, I can only wonder how many of their patients can say the same.