Warning - Crisis Pregnancy Centers
We want to warn you. Allegedly some of our patients accidentally end up across the street from our clinic in the building called Women's Care Center. This is not an Abortion Clinic and cannot offer you abortion care. It is what is called a "Crisis Pregnancy Center" (CPC). It exists to keep women from having abortions. CPCs lure women into their facilities and make them believe that they are an abortion clinic, by offering "free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds".
Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are run by well financed anti-abortion groups that mislead women to further their anti-abortion agenda. Their goal is to keep women from considering and having an abortion. In many instances, they misinform and intimidate women to achieve their goal. They intentionally give you false or misleading information about the health risks of abortion, including inaccurate claims that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, and depression. Many are connected with religious organizations that are driven by extreme religious anti-abortion agendas and oppose all forms of birth control.
Our patients have described being harassed, bullied, made to wait very long periods of time for the results of a five minute pregnancy test, and given blatantly false ultrasound information regarding how far in their pregnancy they really are. Often they are told they are past the legal limit for an abortion and this turns out not to be the case. They provide a "free" ultrasound that is worthless to women that decide to have an abortion. Our clinic is required by law to perform our own ultrasound.
Please know we are here for you, providing medically accurate abortion information and care. We do not treat you like a crisis. We know what it is like to be in your shoes and would never mislead you. Read Below to learn more about CPCs.
What are Crisis Pregnancy Centers?
It has been reported that CPCs are storefronts that use false and misleading advertising and the offer of free pregnancy tests or other services to lure women into their offices. Then their goal is to dissuade women from exercising their right to choose.
While some CPCs may provide appropriate support and information to women facing unintended pregnancies, many do not. Many CPCs intentionally misinform and mislead women seeking pregnancy-related information.(3) In fact, some CPCs may force women to watch anti-abortion films, slide shows, photographs, and hear biased lectures.(4) No CPC will refer women to an abortion provider – and in fact, some may refuse even to provide information about or referrals for birth control.(5) These practices block women from making fully informed choices about their reproductive health and may endanger women’s health by delaying access to legitimate health-care services.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Rely on Deception
A CPC’s ideal client is a woman facing an unintended pregnancy who is seeking information about all her options but does not have access to a regular doctor or health center. CPCs recognize that if they are up front about the limited nature of their services and their ideological agenda, they will lose this constituency. Instead, to attract women who are undecided or considering abortion, CPCs often present themselves as comprehensive health-care providers. Their misleading practices may include questionable advertising tactics, providing dishonest or evasive answers when women call to inquire about their services or even selecting confusing locations or names that obscure their true agenda. Below are just a few examples of the deceptive practices used by CPCs.
Misleading Advertising Tactics
The deception often starts at a woman’s first step in her search for information: Internet searches and advertisements.
- Some CPCs list themselves in phone books or online directories under the headings "abortion," "abortion alternatives," "abortion services," "family-planning information centers," or "women’s organizations" to appear as though they offer abortion care or counseling, even though the only "abortion service" they provide is anti-abortion coercion. (9)
- One of the most potent tools that CPCs have at their disposal is the Option Line, a joint venture between Care Net and Heartbeat International that operates as a 24-hour call center and web tool that transfers or refers women to the nearest CPC. During its first month in operation, the Option Line received approximately 2,000 calls and since then has added instant messaging and email capabilities to its arsenal. Its operators boast that the service answers more than 600 contacts a day and Option Line claims more than two million contacts since 2003. (10) Further, a web search revealed that many CPCs listed by Option Line advertised under headings that could lead women to believe that they provide the full range of reproductive-health services, including abortion care and contraception.(11)
- Heartbeat International’s website promotes its Extend Web Services program by promising CPCs that "this effective web presence allows centers to compete online with abortion providers." (12) One result of this strategy was that a Google search of "abortion clinic" resulted 79 percent of the time in ads funded by CPCs. (13) (In response to this discovery, in 2014 NARAL Pro-Choice America worked with Google and Yahoo to remove the ads to ensure truth in advertising on these search engines.(14) )
Evasive Answers on the Phone
Misled by CPC ads, some women call crisis pregnancy centers to inquire about available reproductive-health services and prices. When presented with such inquiries, the staff at CPCs often evade the question or lie outright in order to convince woman to come to their center. CPC advocates have been very explicit that the goal of these phone conversations is not to answer questions but rather to lure women into their centers.
- The Option Line Handbook stresses to volunteers that "while [they] are on the phone, [their] objective is to schedule an appointment" so that women will come to the center. While the guidelines advise volunteers to give clients only factual information, the handbook also pressures them to keep the client interested and provide responses, whether or not the volunteer is qualified to do so, by reminding them that "callers are looking for fast answers and may turn elsewhere if they do not get them."(15)
- At a CPC conference, the trainer advised attendees, mostly CPC operators, to tell callers asking about abortion care that, although the center does not offer abortion services, it does provide free ultrasounds that the woman will need to have before she can get abortion care.(16)
- Worse, CPCs have a new strategy to bolster this telephone sales pitch. More and more states are passing laws forcing women to submit to an ultrasound before getting abortion care, (17) and national umbrella organizations openly state that an ancillary purpose of these proposals is to give CPCs a new tool of persuasion—they allow staff on the phone to tell a woman truthfully that by law she will have to have an ultrasound. While they may insinuate that their facility will help her comply, in reality there are no guidelines to ensure a CPC’s ultrasound meets these laws’ requirements. CPCs even are free to refuse to release a print-out of the image for a woman to take to her provider, should she indicate that she is seriously considering abortion.
- In a documentary about crisis pregnancy centers called 12th & Delaware, a CPC director trains volunteers in the telephone script she uses to divert questions from potential clients and lure them into the center:
If you don’t hook her right away, she hangs up on you. When she calls and she says "Do you do abortions?" I say "Are you calling for yourself or are you calling for your friend?"...and we engage in conversation. Because if she calls and says "Do you do abortions?" and I say "No," click. [The CPC director pantomimes hanging up the phone]. I’m trying to get her in the door. Take control of the conversation...I don’t mind the criticisms of taking control. "That doesn’t sound fair." Well too bad!(18)
Intimidation, Anti-Choice Propaganda, and Misinformation
Once women are enticed into crisis pregnancy centers, they may be subjected to a variety of coercive and offensive tactics intended to prevent them from exercising their right to choose.
- Women may be forced to watch shocking films, slide shows, or pictures, designed to scare vulnerable women into carrying pregnancies to term.
- One volunteer at a CPC states that to shake the complacency of women seeking abortion care, she pulls out a big, color photo of a fetus with closed eyes and a smile. She then flips to another full-page color picture: fetuses in a trash bin. Sometimes she takes [the pregnant women] into a tiny chapel to pray before a marble altar.(21)
- An Arizona man whose 16-year-old daughter had been raped took her to a CPC, not realizing that it was an anti-choice fake clinic. After being shown"brutal footage" including pictures of dismembered fetuses, the man claimed that, "they just emotionally raped her...They are advocates for the unborn, and to hell with the troubled person. They had an ax to grind, and just terrorized her."(22)
- In Milwaukee, a woman went to a "pregnancy help center" to talk about her options. Instead, she was told that she "had the devil inside her" and was then "bombarded with graphic images of disfigured babies and aborted fetuses."(23)
- In an effort to scare women away from considering abortion care, some CPCs provide false propaganda about the "consequences" of abortion—including false claims that abortion causes breast cancer, sterility, and psychological damage.(24)
- In a New York Times op-ed, one woman described of her experience at a CPC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: "the 'counseling' that I received included the following: I was cautioned that abortions caused breast cancer...I was warned that I would inevitably suffer from post-abortion stress syndrome.... I was told that I would not hear this information from doctors, because doctors make money performing abortions and would lie about the procedure’s risks." (25)