Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have a long history of intentionally misleading women to prevent them from accessing abortion care.
What is a Crisis Pregnancy Center?
Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) exist to keep women from having abortions. In many instances, they misinform and intimidate women to achieve their goal. Women describe being harassed, bullied, and given blatantly false information. Many assert that their confidentiality has been violated, and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health.
By and large, CPCs are not medical facilities, and most CPC volunteers who work directly with women are not medical professionals. Their main qualifications are a commitment to Christianity and anti-choice beliefs. Although CPCs historically have not employed medical staff, there is an emerging trend on the part of CPCs to gain validity by hiring part-time anti-choice medical professionals and purchasing ultrasound equipment.
Many CPCs use deceptive advertising practices to fool women into thinking that they are legitimate medical clinics that provide a variety of reproductive health care services, including family planning and abortion care. In reality, most CPCs do not provide full options counseling and generally will not refer for abortion care or birth control.
These fake clinics use deceptive advertising practices such as intentionally placing advertisements under the “abortion services” heading of phone and Internet directories and choosing names that are similar to abortion clinics to confuse women about what types of services they provide. Many CPCs are connected with religious organizations, but few disclose that fact in their advertising. Additionally, CPCs often locate themselves in close proximity to legitimate reproductive health care facilities. We have heard from many patients who mistakenly visited a CPC because it was on the same street—or even next door—to the actual abortion provider where they had an appointment.
How They Target Women
CPCs target young and low-income women. They lease buildings near colleges and universities, advertise in school newspapers, and lure women into their facilities with the offer of a free pregnancy test and options counseling.
Many CPCs are connected with religious organizations, but few disclose that fact in their advertising. Most CPCs do not initially disclose to women that they are driven by a religious agenda and that they oppose abortion and birth control. CPCs offer their “services” to women of all faiths, but their programs are often driven by extreme religious anti-abortion agendas. In some of their literature CPCs discuss religious messages about abortion and quote biblical passages that they claim show that God does not support abortion.
What Happens Inside a CPC
Once they get women inside their doors, CPCs often force women to watch graphic, misleading videos; pressure women with religious sermons; and provide medically inaccurate information about a false link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer, the effects of abortion on future fertility, and the mental health effects of abortion.
Some CPCs further mislead women by giving them false pregnancy test results so that they will postpone obtaining abortion care. Others have been known to give women ultrasounds depicting gestational ages more advanced than their actual pregnancies in order to make them think that they are too far along to access abortion services.
In some cases CPCs even promise to provide financial assistance to women if they carry their pregnancies to term, but this assistance usually doesn’t last once a woman’s pregnancy has advanced past the legal termination limit in her state. Even after women leave CPCs, they sometimes continue to be mistreated. In a clear violation of patient confidentiality, many CPCs call women and harass them about their decision to obtain abortion care for weeks after they visit the center.
Many CPCs even receive federal funding, and legislators frequently attempt to fund CPCs at the state level through state-sponsored programs, specific grants, or tax credits. In 2006, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a study, which found that 87% of the federally funded CPCs provided inaccurate and misleading information including the false link between abortion and breast cancer, the effects of abortion on future fertility, and the mental health effects of abortion. It is reprehensible that federal taxpayer dollars are being used to support fake clinics that deliberately deceive women with false medical information.
Where can women turn for accurate information and referrals for services?
The National Abortion Federation’s toll-free Hotline (1-800-772-9100) offers women unbiased, factual information about pregnancy and abortion in English, Spanish, and French. The Hotline also provides referrals to high-quality legitimate health care providers.