Crisis Pregnancy Centers:
Public Awareness

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In late 1997, the Family Research Council commissioned a professional polling company, The Wirthlin Group, to conduct a survey on public knowledge and perception of crisis pregnancy centers. Among the subjects covered in this survey was the public awareness and the roll of advertising.

The survey questioned 630 women aged 18 to 34 living in the United States. It was conducted from October 17 to 20, 1997.

Some of the interesting results:

Have you ever heard of a place where a woman can go called a Crisis Pregnancy Center, which helps women with unexpected pregnancies think through their options, and encourages them to carry their baby to term? Yes No
All 66% 34%
Pro-life 71% 29%
Pro-choice 61% 39%
Middle 67% 33%
Have you or has someone you know ever used the services of such a center? Yes, self Yes, someone else Yes, both No
All 3% 19% 7% 70%

Thus, CPC's are fairly well known in the community, far better known than I think most pro-lifers would have guessed. Fully 10% of the women questioned had visited a CPC personally, and many more knew someone who had.

What kind of impact do you personally believe this type of center has on the women they serve? Positive Negative
All 87% 7%
Pro-life 87% 7%
Pro-choice 86% 7%
Middle 88% 8%

The wording of this question was probably slightly slanted toward generating a positive response -- by saying "women they serve" rather than "women who go there" or some such more neutral wording. (Responses to surveys can be significantly affected by such subtle differences in wording.) Still, the positive response was so overwhelming that even if it is somewhat exagerrated, it is still very encouraging. Perhaps most significant was that pro-abortion women had just as positive a view of CPC's as pro-life women. Apparently campaigns by Planned Parenthood and the National Coalition of Abortion Providers to paint CPC's as "phony clinics" trying to deceive and manipulate women have not only failed to be persuasive to the average woman, they have not even succeeded in convincing their friends that this is the true story!

Many CPC's try to operate very quietly because they think they are widely disliked. This survey indicates that this is an unrealistic fear, and they need not try to hide in the shadows. We do not need to fall for the propaganda of our opponents. Most American women respect CPC's.

Women who said that they knew of a CPC in their area were asked the following question:

How did you learn of the existence of such a center in your area?
Word of mouth 32%
Other advertising 23%
TV advertising 15%
News media 14%
Radio advertising 12%
Church 8%
Drove past it / have seen it 7%
Health care professionals 7%
Class at school / college 7%
Yellow pages 6%
Other 5%

In the published material on the surveys, the analysis concludes that yellow page advertising, which is probably the primary advertising medium for many centers, is not very effective. On this point, I must challenge their interpretation of the results.

Note that this is a survey of women in general, not of women who have been to a CPC. Think of some type of store in your town that you know of, but have never been to -- a place selling a product that you have never bought. How do you know about it? Probably not from the yellow pages. If you have never wanted to buy the product, why would you be looking it up in the yellow pages? You probably learned of it from some more "in your face" type of advertising, like television or billboards. But now think of stores that you actually have been to. How did you find them? In many cases this would be from the yellow pages.

Yellow page advertising is for people who have already decided to buy the product, and now just want to know where to find it. Television advertising is primarily for people who have not decided to buy the product, to make people aware of its existence and to persuade them that they want it.

When was the last time you just happened to see a product advertised in the yellow pages and ran out and bought it? Probably never. But when was the last time you decided to buy something, and then turned on the television to watch for a commercial telling you what stores in the area sold this product? Probably never.

The same principle applies to CPC's. Television commercials and billboards can make people aware of the existence of CPC's. A good advertising campaign of this type can get CPC's into women's minds, so that if they or a friend do have an unplanned pregnancy, they will immediately know that there are practical alternatives to abortion readily available. Yellow pages ads let women find a CPC once they have decided to visit one. They are two very different kinds of advertising which serve very different purposes.

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Posted 9 Sep 2000.

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