Every day at the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic we receive phone calls that begin with questions, such as:
"Could I make an appointment for an abortion?"
"Do you do abortions there?"
"How much does an abortion cost?"
"Where can I find a free abortion?"
"Are you an abortion clinic?"
As the director of our clinic, I know that our center has a team of gracious and loving client advocates who are always filled with compassion when responding to these questions. Our initial response is always the same: "Do you think you are pregnant?"
Obviously, we receive a variety of responses to this general question. Our main goal is to encourage them to visit us for a complimentary pregnancy test. We outline that if the test is positive, we will provide them with a free ultrasound to determine if they have a viable intrauterine pregnancy. We work to fully inform each one of all her options. An educated woman is one who can make an educated decision. That is our goal in discussing all options including abortion, single parenting, marriage to the father of the baby, and adoption.
Recently our website's traffic has increased. Many of these Internet callers assume we are an abortion clinic. Upon deeper conversation to ask how they learned about our center, I have discovered the fact that Google chooses to pull us up when someone keys in the search term "abortion" in our city. We did nothing to position ourselves within these search results.
In a discussion with a website expert, I learned more about how the Google search engine programming works and why we are listed in these searches. The understanding that we did nothing wrong eased my heart. Our center certainly would never be false or deceptive in our advertising of our services! We clearly inform our callers that our clinic is not an abortion clinic nor do we provide referrals for abortions.
In spite of this truth, many of these callers continue conversing with our staff. We are then able to share that our center exists to help them with free and confidential services to determine if they have a viable pregnancy. We also outline that we provide detailed information on abortion, the various procedures and risks, as well as all levels of support to women in unplanned pregnancies.
Most of the time, our callers appreciate our kindness and many will visit. In a handful of cases, the callers have become upset, even irate. Some have even gone so far as to accuse us of being deceptive because of our search rankings. When we hear the anger in their voice, we understand the possibility that this isn't really an abortion-minded caller, but rather a pro-choice individual just wanting to harass us. Regardless, we treat all callers with respect and try to discern just how we can help them.
My staff will continue to communicate with agitated callers as much as possible. We are always professional and kind with the understanding that many have already been wounded by abortion. It is a delight to have the opportunity to dispel some myths about pregnancy centers with those from the abortion rights point of view! I am very thankful that we receive these phone calls. It gives us an opportunity to speak life into a very hard situation.
As someone who has experienced abortion twice, I remember how stressful the decision-making process was for me in my youthful days. To even pick up the phone and call for abortion information was extremely difficult. It is no different with our clients today. For them to discover that the number they called is not the abortion clinic can add additional stress. We are immediately sympathetic but clearly outline that providing information about abortion and abortion alternatives is one of our main reasons for existence!
If the searching individual visits our website, they will see that we do not offer abortion services, but rather that we provide accurate information about abortion procedures, risks that are involved, and positive alternatives to abortion. They will also be able to view all our services and learn that our services are completely free of charge. Often, they contact us without even going to our website.
Clearly, our center will continue to receive these sorts of calls. Our policy in these communications is unchanged in spite of the Google situation. Our staff works to discover if they have had a pregnancy test and, if so, how far along they are in their pregnancy. We also offer them an ultrasound to determine if they have a viable pregnancy and explain what "viable" means. Few callers have ever considered that they may miscarry naturally and may not need to consider an abortion.
Many times, I will ask them if they found us on Google. If they initially think we are an abortion clinic, the conversation will go something like this: "Did you find us on Google by any chance? I have no idea why Google places us under abortion clinics. I guess it is because we talk about the different abortion procedures on our website." Normally we also state, "We are not an abortion clinic, but we have all kinds of services that we can offer you during your decision-making process, free of charge and confidential." In most cases, the conversation normally continues.
If the caller is upset to discover we are not an abortion clinic, we listen patiently to their point of view. We then reiterate that we have no control over our Google rankings but are here to help them with their unplanned pregnancy.
One year our local phone book placed us under "Abortion" by accident. Immediately I called the phone book company about the mistake. I asked them to refund our money and make sure our listing was in the correct place in the next printing of the phone book. I also requested they provide me with a letter stating that I had not requested our center's advertisement to be under "abortion services." They were gracious enough to comply with all my requests and were apologetic about the mistake. Despite their apology, nothing could be done because the phone books were already printed and delivered. Phone calls began to come in from individuals believing we offered abortion services. Every time our team would explain to them what the phone company had done.
The good news is that there are children alive today because of this phone company's mistake. Families — children, moms, and dads — were saved from abortion because of the mistake!
Contrastingly, I have no control over how our center appears on Google. I truly believe because of this situation, children, mothers, and fathers will be saved from abortion.
So our center goes forward in our mission. We continue to place our paid advertising under "Abortion Alternatives." Our staff continues to clearly state the services that we offer on our website. Our team informs and loves women in unplanned pregnancies, helping them with life choices. And Google? Well, they are welcome to keep sending me those in need.
Nancy Knowlton has worked with women in unplanned pregnancies since 1988 and is the Executive Director of the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic in Cookeville, Tennessee. For more information, visit www.cookevillecpc.org.