How to Spot a Fake Clinic
I have a confession. Despite tracking anti-abortion fake clinics and their seedy dealings for more than four years now, I sometimes get tricked by one. They’re just that devious and deceptive that even I can get duped. With that unfortunate fact in mind, we decided it’s time to update our primer materials on fake clinics. You may have read my earlier blog titled, What is a Crisis Pregnancy Center? or checked out our #BadFaithMedicine campaign, but this post aims to provide a check list of what to look for if you’re just not sure that center near you actually provides or refers for abortion.
- One classic feature of anti-abortion fake clinics is their commitment to pretending they’re something they are not: comprehensive healthcare providers. As a result, they often give themselves deceptive names like, “The Women’s Clinic” or “Real Alternatives” or “Options for Women” or even “Choices” – like you’ll see in an example below. These names are often intended to suggest that they are pro-choice and provide abortion or referrals for abortion, and sometimes they’re intended to mirror the name of an actual clinic in the same area. An anti-abortion fake clinic in the Bronx had a huge sign outside reading, “Plan Your Parenthood” … located 341 feet away from a Planned Parenthood center, according to Google Maps.  There’s even been cases of anti-abortion fake clinics receiving anti-abortion protesters and vandalism because their names and promotional materials are so deceptive, even their ‘friends’ are tricked! 
- That’s not to say all anti-abortion fake clinics have names like this, some sound blatantly religious or have names that try to sound medical or bland enough to be innocuous, like Obria Group.
What does this mean for someone looking to spot a fake? Well, it’s tough, because they’re literally choosing names to dupe people. Your best bet is to call and directly ask if they provide abortion, and get a firm answer before moving forward with making an appointment. If you get an answer like, “We can talk more about that during our appointment” or any other evading tactic, you’ve found your fake. For more information on the phenomenon of bizarrely-named fake clinics, check out What’s in a Name? A Lot, If You’re A Fake Clinic Trying to Trick People.
- As mentioned, anti-abortion fake clinics often locate themselves upsetting close to real providers. Sometimes, in the same office building, right next door, or sharing a parking lot. 
- If you know a real clinic exists at an address and another center that seems like a clinic is very close, it’s worth digging deeper to see if it’s a fake.
- It’s unusual for real abortion providers to be located that close together, in part due to the sad fact that they’re being closed at alarming rates by unnecessary and punitive anti-abortion laws. 
- Advertised Offerings:
- Many anti-abortion fake clinics use the service OptionLine – operated by anti-abortion fake clinic networks Heartbeat International and Care Net to connect prospective patients to an anti-abortion fake clinic. Any clinic website that refers you to the OptionLine hotline or chat tool is a fake.
- “Abortion Pill Reversal” – this is an unproven, unethical regimen pushed by anti-abortion physicians based on flawed research and a rabidly anti-woman agenda. Any provider claiming you can ‘reverse’ medication abortion is most certainly an anti-abortion fake clinic. For more information about this Bad Faith Medicine, check out our webinar, Abortion Pill Reversal is Unproven and Unethical.
- Anti-abortion fake clinics will often not list what they offer in order to dodge disclosing that they don’t offer abortion care, but if they do list offerings, they’ll say things like “abortion information” or “options information” which is code for: ‘we will lie to you about abortion and then convince you to carry to term.’ Reality: Abortion is safe.
- There’s certain website hosts and design services that specifically cater to the anti-abortion crowd. If you see a page created by “Extended Web Services,” “Next Level” “Alice Paul Group,” “Heroic Media,” or “Vitae Foundation” – they’re anti-abortion sites, even if they don’t look how you’d expect a ‘pro-life’ page to look. The creator credit is usually at the way bottom of the home page.
- You can be damned sure there is no ‘fetus porn’ (gory images of what is purported to be fetal remains) on websites for real clinics.
- Other images you’re unlikely to find on a real clinic’s website: pictures of people with full-term pregnant bellies, Bible verses, or super corny images with a ‘girl power’ vibe. The latter are one of the many ways anti-abortion fake clinics try to appear relatable and woman-focused to hide their intention of talking you out of the choice you’re making for your own body.
- A real clinic is not going to feed you junk science as facts! Anti-abortion fake clinics often attempt to appear as though they provide abortion by having ‘information’ tabs where you can click through abortion methods – none of which they’ll actually say if they provide – so they can lie to you about them. Reminder: In the real world, not the made-up one, abortion is safe.
- Anti-abortion fake clinic pages often inflate supposed health consequences of different methods of abortion, including wrongfully claiming that abortion can cause breast cancer, mental health issues, drug dependence, and death to the pregnant person. These are all lies.
- Some anti-abortion fake clinic sites also claim hormonal birth control is dangerous and condoms don’t work. You’ll never find a real reproductive health provider spewing that bunk! Rather, all the abortion clinics that I’ve been to have had a bucket of take-what-you-need condoms by the front desk and in most rooms!
- You may be perusing some online reviewing platform searching for options and come across reviews for real abortion providers along with anti-abortion fake clinics: some sites like Yelp have created a separate category to help its users weed out the phonies, but there’s still tricks up the anti-abortion fake clinics’ sleeves: In reviews written on anti-abortion fake clinics’ Facebook, Google, and Yelp review pages plenty of over-the-top glowing reviews with flowery language tend to be written by friends of the fake clinic. You can easily tell by looking at the poster’s past reviews and seeing that they’ve commented on multiple fake clinic pages. This isn’t to say a clinic with good reviews is fake – obviously not. But if you skim the reviews and they’re all shiningly positive but don’t give a sense that the person actually visited the center and had a procedure, that’s your cue to dig deeper.
- One hilarious example of this is a post for “Choices Women’s Resource Center” in Pomona, California. In their Google Reviews, there’s a five-star post from a user who claims they have, “never been to a place like Choices before.” The problem? The user is in fact an anti-abortion fake clinic based in Pittsburgh. Kinda funny to pretend you’ve never been anywhere like it when it’s the same kind of business you’re running! [https://goo.gl/maps/4fRDxSvMoCSixmEW8]
Make no mistake: Anti-abortion fake clinics will keep up their slimy tactics and trickery because they don’t care about pregnant people, nor about the fetuses they claim to adore. They only care about pushing their agenda at all costs. And we’ll keep calling them out for it.