Inside the Shadow Clinics
They’re web savvy, well funded, and fighting to win the abortion wars
Miss Marsharne Sullivan is standing in the lobby of the Pregnancy Care Center in downtown Jonesboro, Georgia, during a recent October afternoon, when a young woman in trendy overalls walks through the door. She announces that she’s here for a pregnancy test, and she doesn’t look thrilled to be needing one.
Sullivan hands her a clipboard and gestures toward a floral-print upholstered armchair. As the woman fills out the paperwork, Sullivan, the center’s 29-year-old assistant director, sits down next to her. “Did you come from work?” she asks, her voice calm and honey-dipped. “Have you been stressed out?”
The woman fiddles with the pen and bounces her foot on the gray Berber carpet. She has little ones at home. “I always wanted more,” she says. “I just wanted them… later.”
It’s not clear how the woman wound up at the center. Maybe she Googled “unexpected pregnancy Jonesboro” and went to the first place that came up. Maybe she found the clinic’s Facebook page or watched its dramatized video of young women like her, who are worried and unsure whether they’re capable of caring for a baby. Or maybe she got the center’s phone number off the billboard that looms over the Waffle House on the boulevard just beyond the bail bonds shop. The sign reads “Free Pregnancy Testing” in massive type next to a black-and-white photo of an anxious young woman, her eyebrows knit in a grimace.
Sullivan collects the clipboard and ushers the woman down the hall toward a bathroom in the back, where the pregnancy tests are kept. While she’s in the bathroom, her eyes might wander to the huge poster hanging across from the toilet, titled “The Amazing Journey from Fertilization to Birth,” filled with detailed descriptions of what’s happening in the womb at each stage of development. Sullivan waits outside in a cramped anteroom, and when the woman comes out, they stand together while the pee stick turns colors. Most of the wall above the sink is occupied by another poster, this one written in the first-person voice of a newborn baby: at one month, “I can smile — even when I’m asleep,” and at two months, “I let you know I’m happy by cooing, squealing, and…