What are Crisis Pregnancy Centers Really?
As women’s health providers we know that providing sensitive care and allowing our patients be empowered through making decisions about their health is the hallmark of well-being. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) often advertise themselves as being places where women can receive medically accurate options counseling and support when they find out they are pregnant. In fact, these centers are anti-abortion organizations that use deception and false information to push women into carrying their pregnancies to term.
A 2014 article published in the journal Contraception talks about CPCs and how they use misinformation or blatantly false information about abortion to make women’s health care decisions for them. They frequently advertise themselves as women’s health clinics that offer pregnancy testing, counseling, ultrasounds, and other services. According to the evaluation of CPC websites done in one study, over 50 percent of CPCs are religiously based, and 80 percent of the websites displayed misleading or false information. Much of the false information involved the risks of abortive procedures, when in fact abortion poses less risk than carrying a fetus to term. States include these organizations in their resource directories for women seeking information about abortion and the alternatives. It is absolutely abhorrent that states are openly providing women with false information about such a serious decision.
As with any medical procedure women who have an abortion are required to undergo an informed consent process (the key word here is informed). As of 2017 there are 35 states that require counseling prior to an abortion, with 29 of them highlighting what information they must receive. Of the 35 states, 27 require a counseling and a waiting period of at least 24 hours after counseling before the woman can have the procedure. CPCs offer this counseling, and while some of their websites say that they include information about abortion, this information is often in accurate or riddled with lies to dissuade women from having an abortion. NARAL Pro-choice America states that the goal of CPCs is to talk women out of having an abortion by using misleading information and/or shaming them. They emphasize the importance of the informed decision making. NARAL also discusses how many CPCs are located near other legitimate clinics and contain similar names that could easily confuse women as to what type of services they are receiving. Additionally, these organizations will almost never refer to abortion clinics and rarely provide contraception counseling or referrals.
What should we do?
As women’s health providers, the best thing we can do is continue to offer our patients unbiased and comprehensive care. Through thorough education and options counseling patients can make the best health care decisions for themselves. It is always important that we not impose our personal viewpoints and beliefs on our patients. As this is what is done at many CPCs, it is a good idea to discuss the differences with patients between a women’s health clinic and a CPC. Women have the right to know what kind of care they are receiving. They also have the right to accurate health information and holistic, fact based counseling. Knowing what CPCs are in your area and how they advertise can help you talk to patients about where they are and what they are about. By maintaining our commitment to safe, unbiased, and patient centered care, we can be a beacon of truth during times of deep uncertainty in these women’s lives.