NARAL Pro-Choice California has written a report exposing the tactics of so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs) in their state. Pairs of volunteers recently went undercover into fourteen CPCs and made phone calls to eighteen others. The full report of their findings will be released next month.
The study found CPCs use names that sound like reputable clinics to persuade women into thinking they are going into an organization that will provide them all of their options. Many CPCs are decorated with pictures of aborted fetuses and religious propaganda to discourage women from ending their pregnancy.
NARAL found CPCs push their anti-choice agenda by spreading false information to patients. Condoms are effective ninety-eight per cent of the time when used correctly. However, “sixty percent of CPCs investigated said that condoms are ‘ineffective in reducing pregnancy and the transmission of certain STDs.” The American Psychological Association found that “a woman who chooses abortion is at no greater risk for mental-health problems than if she chooses to carry an unintended pregnancy to term.” However, a CPC brochure read that having an abortion “‘can be far worse’” than continuing an unwanted pregnancy.
This most recent exposé on CPCs is yet more evidence that these federally-funded organizations not only mislead women in crisis, but blatantly lie to them. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s investigation [PDF] of state-funded CPCs revealed that the majority are not medically licensed and that they spread false and misleading information about abortion. In 2006, Rep. Harvey Waxman’s (D-CA) office investigated CPCs that received federal funding and had similar findings. We have also written about additional research into these centers.
CPCs are often funded by taxpayers on the state and national level, and some recent legislation ensures that CPCs be honest about what they are and what services they provide. Montgomery County, Maryland, enacted a law that requires CPCs “without licensed medical professionals on staff to post a disclaimer that states they do ‘not have a licensed medical professional on staff’ and that the ‘Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.’” The law also requires that CPCs that do not refer women to abortion or birth control services say so on posted notices. The Austin, Texas, City Council unanimously passed a similar law. CPCs have shown resistance to these kinds of legislation. In Maryland, a CPC claimed that in being forced to post the truth about their organization their right to free speech is infringed upon.
These CPCs pose as comprehensive health centers designed to help women who are facing unplanned pregnancies, yet they withhold information and lie about the effects of services they oppose – abortion and contraception. Legislation similar to that in Maryland and Texas may prove valuable in ensuring that women are aware of the limitations of CPCs, and might be replicated elsewhere.