While many anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers claim to provide unbiased information and assistance to pregnant women, their fundamental goals are to dissuade a woman from exploring her full range of options and to do whatever it takes to pressure her to make the choices they want about an unintended pregnancy. Many also have a religious or ideological agenda that opposes using contraception and try to dissuade women from this as well.
To achieve these goals, CPCs often provide women concerned about unintended pregnancy with medically-inaccurate and deceptive information on reproductive health, fetal development, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and abortion procedures, even perpetuating myths that have been debunked by scientific authorities.
CPC Lie #1: "Abortion causes breast cancer."
Here are some common types of misinformation that we have found in examining CPC literature and in our undercover investigations of Virginia CPCs:
Truth: According to the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, and the National Cancer Institute (an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health), well-designed scientific studies have not shown there to be any connection between either induced or spontaneous abortions and increases in a woman's risk of breast cancer.
CPC Lie #2: "You'll probably never be able to have children again if you have an abortion now."
Truth: According to The Mayo Clinic, much evidence states that abortion (both surgical and medical) is safe when it comes to future pregnancies. While abortion, like all medical procedures, carries some risks, the rate of complications from medical or surgical abortions that will affect future fertility is very low. The Guttmacher Institute notes, "The preponderance of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies shows no connection between abortion and future fertility problems. Several reviews of the research conclude that first-trimester abortions pose virtually no long-term fertility risks—not only for premature and low-birth-weight delivery but for infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and birth defects as well."
CPC Lie #3: "Condoms don't work."
Truth: The WHO- World Health Organization disputes this dangerous lie, sharing that intact condoms prevent sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies with an effectiveness rate of 97%. Likewise, the National Institute of Health also touts the effectiveness of condoms. Abstinence is the only 100% way to guarantee that you are preventing unintended pregnancies, but hormonal birth control and other forms of contraception, such as condoms, can protect a woman from getting pregnant more than 99% of the time. A woman should consult with her doctor about the form of contraception that is best for her.
CPC Lie #4: "The abortion pill, RU-486, is dangerous and not medically safe for women."
Truth: According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), medication abortion using Mifeprex (also known as RU-486) is safe if taken with a prescription from and the consultation of a licensed medical provider. Medication abortion is generally only available in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, and serious complications occur in less that 0.5% of cases. As the FDA states, "since the approval of Mifeprex in September 2000, FDA has been informed of six deaths in the United States due to serious infections following medical abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol that FDA has concluded may possibly be related to the use of these drugs. These women died from sepsis (serious infection involving the bloodstream)…We do not know whether using Mifeprex and misoprostol caused these deaths." The FDA does state that only licensed medical providers should prescribe RU-486 because as with any other prescription drug, patients need to be given correct information on how to take the medication and be monitored. A physician can explain the pros and cons and potential complications of different types of abortion procedures (medication vs. a procedure).
CPC Lie #5: "Birth control and the 'morning-after pill' are abortifacients."
Implantation begins five to seven days after the sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later. Emergency contraception pills work differently depending on where you are in your monthly cycle. They may prevent or delay ovulation (release of your egg), affect the movement of egg or sperm (making them less likely to meet), or interfere with the fertilization process.
CPC Lie #6: "Abortion causes women permanent psychological and mental damage, including 'post-abortion syndrome.'"
Truth: Many renowned research authorities have recognized that while women have a variety of emotional responses after having an abortion based on their unique situation, and may experience mood changes linked to fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy, there is no such thing as a "Post-Abortion Syndrome" where psychological problems are caused by having an abortion. The National Abortion Federation, citing the American Psychological Association and other psychological research, shares "that the studies with the most scientifically rigorous research designs consistently found no trace of "post-abortion syndrome." In fact, research has found that "[w]hile some women may experience sensations of regret, sadness or guilt after an abortion, the overwhelming responses are relief and happiness." As the APA stated in a summary of its research on the topic: "The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy." Only you can know what is the right decision about a pregnancy for you emotionally, based on your own beliefs and circumstances. There are resources like the free hotline Backline to help people talk through emotional responses and concerns they are having when considering all their pregnancy options, including parenting, abortion and adoption. It is critical for there to be real support for people experiencing stressful decisions around pregnancy and parenthood. But a crisis pregnancy center volunteer judging you and making debunked claims about "post-abortion syndrome" cannot know better than you what you are feeling.
CPC Lie #7: "Abortions cost much more than carrying your baby to term."
Truth: The Guttmacher Institute reported that in 2001, the average charge for a surgical abortion at 10 weeks' gestation was $468. Since most abortions in the United States are performed at low-cost clinics, women on average paid $372 for the procedure. According to The Kaiser Family Foundation, a 2007 report found that the average cost of medical expenditures associated with carrying an uncomplicated pregnancy to term and a hospital birth averaged about $7,600 in 2004. As the New York Times reported in June 2013, the costs for prenatal and maternity care in the U.S. are among the highest in the world.
CPC Lie #8: "Surgical abortion is very dangerous and can kill you."
Truth: The National Abortion Federation shares that abortion conducted by trained medical professionals is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the U.S. today. While any medical procedure carries risks, in first-trimester abortions (which account for 88% of abortions women have in the U.S.), "97% of women report no complications, 2.5% have minor complications that can be handled at the medical office or abortion facility; and less than 0.5% have more serious complications that require some additional surgical procedure and/or hospitalization. In fact, the complication rate of legal, medically-supervised first-trimester abortion in the United States is significantly lower than the complication rate of carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth, and also lower than many other common outpatient procedures Americans undergo.
Second-trimester or later abortions (procedures performed after 13 weeks of pregnancy) can carry slightly higher complication risks, particularly if general anesthesia is used, but are still very safe. You should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the potential complications of a specific abortion procedure.
CPC Lie #9: "You have plenty of time to make a decision. One-third of all pregnancies end in miscarriages anyway."
Truth: Crisis pregnancy centers often suggest or imply that a woman facing an unintended pregnancy has ample time to make a decision and shouldn't worry because so many pregnancies result in miscarriages. In reality, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that miscarriages occur in 15-20% of all pregnancies, and most occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Some of these miscarriages take place before a woman misses a menstrual period or is even aware that she is pregnant, making the percentage of women who will find out they are pregnant and then miscarry later even lower.
While someone considering abortion should absolutely take time to consider all their options and come to a decision they are comfortable with, counting on miscarrying is not a reliable method for a woman who finds out she is pregnant and knows she does not want to be. This CPC tactic is especially problematic because the expense of an abortion procedure increases -- and the availability of safe, legal providers to provide it decreases -- in later stages of pregnancy, making it all the more difficult for a woman to access abortion if she chooses to.
CPC Lie #10: "Your baby can already smell and hear you," "Your baby already has a heartbeat," or "Your baby can already feel pain."
Truth: The truth to any of these kinds of statement relies entirely upon the stage of embryonic/fetal development, which only a trained and unbiased medical provider can tell you -- certainly not a CPC volunteer guessing based on the date of your last menstrual cycle or inexpertly reading an ultrasound. You can visit the National Institute of Health's website to learn more about stages of development and what occurs during each week of pregnancy. You can also visit Planned Parenthood's website to learn more about what happens to a woman's body throughout pregnancy.
Be armed with the facts! Share this information with your friends to make sure they also won't be deceived by anti-choice misinformation.
Do you have experience with visiting a crisis pregnancy center in Virginia and hearing information like this? Please let us know! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.