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State-Funded Misinformation: The Problem With Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Via NARAL Pro Choice America

Imagine you’ve come down with appendicitis. Scared and in pain, you go to an “Appendix Crisis Center,” where they tell you that if you take your appendix out now, you’ll have to undergo a frightening and dangerous procedure. Imagine they tell you that appendectomies cause depression, child abuse, and cancer. Imagine they tell you that most people who get appendectomies regret it for the rest of their lives. Scared and vulnerable, do you think you might believe them?

Welcome to the world of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (otherwise known as CPCs), where women seeking abortions get handed a Bible.

Last week was the CPC week of action, organized by NARAL Pro-Choice America and Feminist Majority Foundation, which aimed to spread awareness of these misleading and dangerous “clinics.” If the outrageousness of their claims doesn’t shock you, the fact that most receive state funding might.

NARAL conducted an undercover operation in twelve different states to find out how exactly these centers operate. I went over the report for my home state of Virginia.

Unsurprisingly, CPCs strategically position themselves in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of racial minorities,as well as college communities in order to reach women who are most vulnerable. They specifically target women who, they feel, are most likely to “need abortion alternatives.”

They also intentionally employ names that will confuse and mislead women, such as “First Choice” and “Emergency Pregnancy Services.” In a Heartbeat International seminar, Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood coordinator turned pro-life activist, told CPC workers,

“Yeah, we do kind of want to look medical … We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic.”

When these women get there, they’re bombarded with misinformation. In Virginia, 71% of CPCs investigated were giving women erroneous information — such as that abortion causes long-term psychological damage. One woman who visited a CPC in Belle Haven, VA reported, “I was told that the emotional impact of abortion could lead me to develop an eating disorder, or become an alcoholic and drug addict.”

And although these centers go out of their way to “look medical,” the medical facts don’t support their agenda. CPC literature collected during NARAL’s undercover study claims that abortion increases the risk of complications during future pregnancies and breast cancer. One pamphlet bears the headline “Women still die from abortion,” which might be appropriate if the mortality risk of abortion were greater than 0.0006%.

Interestingly, these centers don’t limit their lies to abortion. Women have emerged from these centers believing condoms have holes in them and that birth control pills were the same as little monthly abortions. The only right answer, as far as these centers are concerned, is abstinence — or motherhood.

Via NARAL Pro Choice America
Via NARAL Pro Choice America

According to NARAL, 34 states support CPCs, either by funding them directly, fundraising for them via “Choose Life” license plates, or referring women to them as a mandatory part of the abortion process.

The state of Texas has dedicated $5.15 million of their budget to supporting these crisis centers as part of an “Alternatives to Abortion” program — money that was diverted away from legitimate family planning resources. As the San Antonio Current reported, “By the state’s own calculations, the cuts are expected to cause an extra 24,000 unplanned births for women living in poverty over the next two years,” with an expected cost of $136 million in taxpayer dollars.

Yet, for some reason, the moral panic over abortion overshadows the state’s bottom line. Anti-choice activists’ are so committed to restricting women’s rights that not even simple economics can stop them.

So how can we stop these phony Crisis Pregnancy Centers?

Learn more. Check out the tumblr Exposing Fake Clinics, in which women who have been through the CPC experience speak out about what they encountered. Read more about NARAL’s undercover investigations on their website, and find out what’s going on in your state.

Sign ALL the petitions! Like this one asking congress to mandate all CPCs provide medically accurate information. And this one asking the Wisconsin government to stop funding CPCs altogether. And this one, organized by Planned Parenthood in Oregon. And… you get the picture.

Spread the word. Tell your friends about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. I mean, anti-choice activists groups posing as abortion clinics? It sounds like something out of a dystopian novel, right? The more people know about them, the less likely they are to successfully deceive anyone. So tweet with the hashtag #CallOutCPCs. Find out where the real clinics are in your area, so that you never mistakenly refer someone to a CPC. And, of course, be sure to share blog posts on the subject (wink wink, nudge nudge) on social media. Knowledge is power!

About the Author

Clara is a member of the class of '14.5, a Linguistics concentrator, and the founder of twitter account @feministtswift. She likes glitter, sparkly dresses, and dismantling the patriarchy.