by David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
My own journey to understanding the abortion experience was first prompted in 1982 when I read an article about Nancy Jo Mann, the founder of Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA). Pro-abortion critics of WEBA complained that the name was misleading. “Women aren’t exploited by abortion,” they insisted. “It’s something they freely choose. Besides, abortion is a procedure, not a person. Only people can exploit others.”
Grammatically, the critics were right. A better name would have been Women Exploited by Abortionists.
Of course, abortionists aren’t the only ones who manipulate women into choosing abortion. There are the unwanting boyfriends, unsupportive parents, and selfish husbands. There are the genetics counselors, the racists, and the population controllers at family planning clinics, high schools, and social service agencies who steer women toward abortion as a means of social engineering.
But the bottom line is that physicians have a legal and moral duty to protect their patients. They have a duty to recommend only those medical procedures which are most likely to help their patients. They also have a duty to discourage and even to refuse treatments that are more likely to hurt their patients than help them.
Abortionists aren’t doing this. Instead, they offer abortion on request. They let patients (or their partners, parents, or other ignorant advisors) prescribe their own course of “treatment.”
At the risk of repeating myself for the hundredth time, this is analogous to a woman coming to a doctor complaining of a lump in her breast, declaring she has breast cancer and demanding a radical mastectomy. If the doctor responds, “Jump up on the table and we’ll do it right now,” that’s not medicine. It’s malpractice. It’s the prostitution of medical skills for non-medical reasons.
Business Before Medicine
The truth goes one step beyond even that horror. At least the doctor in the above example didn’t have an ad in the yellow pages offering quick, low-cost mastectomies on request.
But abortionists do just that. They use professional advertising campaigns and PR budgets to promote their medical bordellos. They use modern marketing techniques like offering “free pregnancy tests” as a “loss-leader” to attract potential abortion clients. Even before the pregnancy test results are back, a trained salesperson (who is often described as a “counselor” even though she seldom is licensed or has any formal training as a counselor) will begin to orient the customer toward abortion.
Carol Everett, who once directed an abortion clinic in Texas, has explained that her “counselors” were trained to identify a woman’s “hot buttons” — those problems and concerns that were uppermost in her mind. Whenever a woman began to drift away from choosing abortion, the “counselor” would bring up a “hot button” issue to steer her back to making the “right decision.”
Abortion counselors are selling a product. Like every sales team, they are trained to believe in their product. Just as a toothpaste salesman convinces himself that Brand X is the best, abortion counselors convince themselves that abortion is best for their “clients.” They believe that if there any problems surrounding a pregnancy, abortion is the solution. When in doubt, abort. The woman can always have another baby when things in her life are better, they assume.
Abortion is provided as a consumer product. Yet even in this respect, abortion clinics fall far short of operating like respectable businesses. Even retailers have an obligation to follow “truth in advertising” laws. They cannot deceive their customers or conceal any risks involved in using their products.
But this is exactly what abortion clinics are doing. Like old fashioned snake-oil salesman, they market their product by promising women that abortion is a panacea that can solve every problem related to an “unwanted” pregnancy for one low price.
But is abortion safe? “Of course!” they respond. “Millions of women buy this product every year. You don’t see dead bodies out in the street, do you?” The only thing that separates abortionists from other scam artists are their medical degrees.
So what’s the solution? Well, look at how our society finally protected gullible people from the snake-oil salesman: we passed consumer protection laws. Indeed, laws like the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act are already on the books. These same laws can be used to battle the deceits of the abortion industry.
The problem is that these statutes are simply not being enforced against abortionists. With your help, we hope to change that.
Expose Deceptive Abortion Practices (EDAP)
To address this problem, the Elliot Institute is launching a new project called “Expose Deceptive Abortion Practices” (EDAP, pronounced “´dap”).
EDAP is a collaborative project of pro-woman and pro-life groups who wish to expose the abortion industry’s deceptive and illegal business practices. Specifically, it is a systematic effort to compile evidence and consumer complaints to substantiate the charge that abortion clinics routinely violate consumer protection laws.
In recent years, I have been quietly attempting to persuade pro-life attorney generals in various states to investigate and prosecute abortion clinics for violating consumer protection laws. Unfortunately, these efforts have been fruitless. I suspect that these attorney generals are afraid that any investigation of the abortion industry would immediately be attacked by the pro-abortion media as a “witch hunt” undertaken to win “anti-choice” votes rather than protect women.
I’ve concluded that even our most pro-life attorney generals will not launch an investigation until they have a mountain of evidence and hundreds of complaints from women on file.
We must be their investigators. In the process, we must also help to ensure that the voices of women who have been injured by abortion are heard.
Irregular, Unfair, or Deceptive Business Practices
EDAP focuses on the practices of abortion clinics that violate normal business law, unfairly profit from patients or otherwise exploit, manipulate, or deceive patients.
We want to establish that business interests (cutting costs to reduce profits) often prevail over the patient’s interests. Furthermore, we want to show that these business practices fall short of even standard business ethics, not to mention medical ethics. In this regard, our efforts to document these illegal and deceptive practices will be much more broad than past efforts to document medical negligence.
It is in the area of abortion “counseling” that there is most clearly an overlap between unethical medical and business practices. In this regard we are very interested in applying the standards of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which are much more consumer-friendly than the standards normally employed in medical malpractice cases.
Generally, consumer protection laws prohibit any business practice that involves “deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation or the concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact.” It is not necessary to show an intent to defraud or deceive. Under the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a deceptive trade practice is defined to include any conduct which “creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding.”
In addition, proof that women have actually been injured as a result of this misleading information is not necessary. The likelihood that women might be confused, misled, or deceived is itself sufficient to warrant prosecution by the state’s attorney general. Furthermore, whether the defendant is prosecuted by the state or by a private attorney, the clinic and abortionist may be held liable for both punitive damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Identifying and Assisting Women in Filing Complaints
While the issue of deception is clearly a major issue, it is not the only illegal business practice that should be documented. In the accompanying article, “EDAP Investigation File,” we have identified other specific areas of investigation that can be used to justify the investigation and prosecution of illegal or deceptive business practices. Many of these avenues do not even require complaints by women. Still, a mountain of complaints from women is absolutely necessary to overcome the political reluctance of state prosecutors.
Since sending individual complaints directly to the attorney general is likely to be frustrating (given the political nature of this problem), this is not what we are recommending. Instead, women should initially send their complaints to either a central collection point in their own state or to the Elliot Institute.
We encourage local and state organizations to distribute the brochure on pages 5 and 6 of this issue as widely as possible. The brochure explains what we are doing with this project and includes an unofficial complaint form.
How You Can Help
If your group wants to serve as a collection point in your state, the address to which the complaints should be sent can be changed so they reach your organization. In that case, however, please notify the Elliot Institute so that we know who is participating, and most importantly, so we can put you in touch with other organizations in your state who are also participating in this effort.
These brochures can be distributed virtually anywhere. They can be given to women attending post-abortion ministries or programs, seeking help at crisis pregnancy centers, and entering or leaving abortion clinics, or to women who have filed lawsuits against abortion clinics. They can be left at churches and in public venues, such as laundromats or doctor’s offices. Notices of the opportunity to participate in this project should be included in pro-life newsletters and church bulletins, which are received by millions of women who have had a past abortion and are now looking for a way to expose the truth.
Attorney generals will be most interested in complaints that are from very recent abortions. But complaints about deceptive abortion practices that took place even ten years ago, or longer, should still be collected. This “old” evidence will help to establish that the pattern of deceptive business practices described in more recent complaints is typical of a deeply ingrained, long-standing and widespread pattern of deception in the abortion industry.
It is likely that both your attorney general and the media will be most interested if a large number of complaints can be brought forward simultaneously. For the initial stage of this campaign, the minimum goal should probably be to collect no less than 100 complaints.
Once you and the groups participating in your state have reached your initial target level, a campaign to file official complaints with the attorney general’s office should be launched. The women who completed the enclosed survey would be sent a copy of the state’s official consumer complaint form and asked to complete it and submit it to the attorney general’s office. (In most states, the women can request anonymity on this form, and that request will be honored by the attorney general’s office.) The organizers should try to encourage the women to all submit their complaints in the same month.
After the first wave of official complaints are filed, a press conference should be held to explain this flood of complaints and to provide a platform for individual women to express their demand that the attorney general should crack down on deceptive abortion practices.
Additional information on participating in EDAP is included in the article on pages 3-4. We will assist anyone participating in EDAP in any way we can. Your comments and suggestions are also welcome.
Please ask your local pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers to participate in EDAP.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 7(3) July-Sept. 1999. Copyright 1999 Elliot Institute.