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"Crisis Pregnancy Centers"
What is a "Crisis Pregnancy Center"?
Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are limited-service fake 'clinics' run by anti-choice organizations that advertise free services to women facing unintended pregnancies. Many CPCs are run by or affiliated with national networks, such as CareNet, Bethany Christian Services, Birthright, and Heartbeat International. They may call themselves "pregnancy resource centers" or simply "pregnancy centers." The most common services they publicly offer include free pregnancy testing, onsite ultrasound or ultrasound referrals, counseling, and short-term material or healthcare assistance. Some CPCs also operate or work in connection with adoption agencies. The majority of CPCs are volunteer-run, though some have medically-licensed staff onsite, often working as volunteers. Currently, there are over 65 CPCs operating throughout Virginia.
To get women in the door, CPCs are vague or even deceptive in their advertisements about their mission and the services and medical referrals they actually offer. You may have seen their advertisements that say things like "Pregnant? Scared? You have options," or "Need Help? Free Pregnancy Tests!" They're even known to list themselves under "abortion services" in online directories and search results. CPC volunteers are also frequently vague and evasive when answering phone inquiries about the services they provide, preferring women to "just come into the office" and talk in person, rather than discuss anything ahead of time. Some CPCs use misleading names (such as "AAA Women for Choice" in Manassas, VA ) or locate themselves right nearby a comprehensive women's health clinic, in hopes that people will confuse the two and think they are visiting an abortion provider.
While many CPCs claim to provide unbiased information and assistance to pregnant women, their fundamental goals are to dissuade a woman from exploring the full range of reproductive health options and to do whatever it takes to pressure her to make the choice they want. To achieve this goal, CPC volunteers often provide women concerned about unintended pregnancies with medically-inaccurate and intentionally deceptive information on reproductive health, fetal development, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and the risks of abortion. We have found they sometimes even try to dissuade women from using condoms or birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy in the future! Many CPCs also use religious messages and heavy-handed shaming and pressure tactics on unsuspecting women who came in looking for unbiased medical information and resources.
In addition, CPCs often push women to delay their decision-making, resulting in a far more time and resource-constricted decision. In Virginia, for instance, abortions can only be performed in outpatient women's health clinics in the first trimester (second trimester abortions are available only in a hospital). Many CPCs capitalize on this limited time frame by overstating the likelihood of a miscarriage in the first trimester to women considering abortion and telling them they should wait and see. CPCs have also been known to either suggest that a woman is earlier along in pregnancy than she is, making her think she has more time to consider her options, or that gestational development is farther along than it actually is, making women wrongly believe that an abortion at that point is not an accessible option.
And yet with the passage of Virginia's new mandatory ultrasound bill in 2012, the Virginia Department of Health is now directing women who cannot afford the additional expense of a medically-unnecessary ultrasound (or cannot make two trips to her abortion provider on separate days as required by the law) to visit anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers for a "free" ultrasound! Read more about the ultrasound law and its connection to CPCs here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia has been the leader in documenting and exposing the practices of CPCs in Virginia and the detrimental effect they have on public health and women's reproductive freedom, through our undercover investigation of Virginia CPCs and our activism and education efforts. We have particularly focused on engaging college students (a frequent target of CPCs) through our campus programs like the #TruthFail campaign.
Please visit the links below to learn more about these dangerous fake 'clinics,' read about their tactics and misinformation, and see how you can take action on our campaign to ensure they don't receive state funding.