What Is a Crisis Pregnancy Center? How Do They Push Alternative Facts?

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

Reproaction has been working with some awesome partner organizations in the past few weeks to #ExposeFakeClinics. But what does that mean? These fake clinics, known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) operate under the guise of providing medical care and social services so they can dissuade women from seeking abortions. Typically preying on low-income and marginalized women, they offer free pregnancy tests and “counseling” to coax women into their centers, and the deception only starts there.

Many women will have been tricked by a CPC before they even enter its doors: some set up shop in close proximity to real clinics, even across the street or next door, often with similar names and signage. Others will have volunteers dress up like clinic escorts and even offer food to patients, in an effort to force them to delay their procedure. In one case, a CPC bought up the medical practice of a retiring abortion provider, set up their hotline under the provider’s phone number as soon as the sale was finalized, and changed the name of the facility to the misleading “Women for Choice.” [1]

CPCs have taken their hunt for clients to the web, as well, with increasing frequency and deviousness: conducting online surveillance on people seeking abortion care and trying to redirect them to CPC ads instead. One marketing company was recently blocked in court from using geo-fencing technology that sent anti-abortion ads to people using their phones inside abortion clinics, after having sold their services to two CPC networks years before. [2,3] Another group uses internet marketing and search optimization to reach people searching for local abortion providers online. [4] Creepy, right?

Once someone’s inside a CPC, they’re presented with a litany of alternative facts about abortion, rife with junk science and purposeful deception. Crisis pregnancy center staff — some having clinical training but many with no medical background — push rumors about increased rates of breast cancer, deadly infections, future infertility, drug abuse, and mental health issues later in life. [5] None of these have any backing in medical research, and most have been disproven over and over by actual doctors. [6,7]

They’ve manufactured a fake illness called “post-abortive syndrome” and advertise counseling for people who have had abortions and regret them. These ads fail to mention the 90% of women who express relief after their abortions, according to a study from 2013, [8] or a series of studies compiled by the American Psychological Association concluding that while emotions surrounding any medical procedure are complicated, this “syndrome” just doesn’t exist. [9] The anti-abortion camp has used this false narrative of regret to promote the “abortion pill reversal” procedure, which is quack medicine and serves to perpetuate the idea that women are fickle, can’t handle pressure, and shouldn’t be trusted with making decisions about their own bodies. [10]

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more posts detailing why and how we’re working to expose CPCs and the harm they cause to women and families. With recent threats to healthcare access and fake news everywhere, it’s absolutely necessary to lift up the truth and reveal the motivations of those who aim to spread alternative facts about necessary health care.


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