“You are not alone.”
“Get the facts before you decide.”
These are just some of the quotes from the websites of fake women’s health centers. Fake women’s health centers, sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs, abound in the United States—NARAL estimates that there are 4,000+ centers across the country. In fact, in Minnesota alone, there are 90 CPCs, making them outnumber abortion providers by 15-1 (NARAL). They claim to offer comprehensive and nonjudgmental education and care to those facing unplanned pregnancies, including free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, pregnancy and child care materials, parenting classes, and more (New York Times).
These all seem like helpful things to offer pregnant people. So what exactly is the problem? They mislead individuals about their options and pressure patients into continuing their pregnancy and disparaging abortion and birth control. These fake health centers exist in every state and are funded by major anti-choice organizations, such as the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Care Net, and Heartbeat International. Some are licensed medical clinics, but a majority are not. Using legal loopholes, these facilities can operate with no medical license and no government supervision. Many fake health centers are 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofits and often receive funding from abstinence-only government programs, state sales of “Choose Life” license plates, and private donors (NARAL). In Minnesota, they receive government funding from the Positive Alternatives program. These funds allow fake health centers to relentlessly target vulnerable women. According to research done by NARAL, Care Net and Heartbeat International spend more than $18,000 per month on pay-per-click advertising campaigns which target people looking for abortion services. This advertising is designed to mislead women and ultimately discourage or prevent them from having an abortion.
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota writes that “CPCs try to trick women into entering these facilities by masquerading as full-service women’s health clinics.” These centers are often strategically placed near abortion providers. Once inside, individuals are subjected to a wide range of dishonest tactics to try to dissuade them from getting an abortion. These include vague answers to questions about pregnancy and their options, cherry-picked studies, intimidation techniques, medically inaccurate information, delaying tactics, biased counseling, and more (NARAL, Guttmacher Institute, Huffington Post, New York Times, Time). A 2010 NARAL study found that 70% of fake women’s health centers investigated told patients that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer; 85% told their clientele that abortion increases risk of infertility; and 85% advised that abortion causes mental health problems. Many patients are additionally told that abortion is unsafe, when it is actually one of the safest medical procedures, with a lower complication rate than having your wisdom teeth pulled. Despite their stance against abortion, these centers do not provide information about birth control and instead advocate for abstinence. In fact, they often provide false information about the efficacy of birth control methods. Of 15 fake health centers in Minnesota investigated by NARAL, “67% provided misleading information about birth control and 60% provided inaccurate information about emergency contraception.” All of this comes with a clear goal: to scare and shame a woman into not pursuing an abortion. Furthermore, as is often true, low-income women and women of color are even more vulnerable to these tactics—these centers are relentlessly expanding into low-income communities of color and specifically targeting Black and Latinx individuals, rallying against what they call the “murderous effect of abortion in the Black and Latino communities” (New York Times).
Fake women’s health centers are a pervasive medical and emotional danger for pregnant individuals considering their options. They use misleading and shaming tactics to pressure those in vulnerable situations. If someone does not want an abortion, that is their choice. However, that choice should be made in conditions where that person has been offered accurate and comprehensive information.
Bassett, L. (2017, November 13). What Are ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers,’ And Why Does The
Supreme Court Care About Them? HuffPost.
Belluck, P. (2013, January 4). Pregnancy Centers Gain Influence in Anti-Abortion Arena. The
New York Times.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie: The Insidious Threat to Reproductive Freedom. (2015). NARAL
Crisis Pregnancy Centers. (n.d.). NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota.
Dias, E. (2010, August 5). The Abortion Battleground: Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Time.
The Truth about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. (n.d.). NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Unmasking Fake Clinics: The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers in California. (2010).
NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation.