Beware of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

crisis pregnancy centers
Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Photo © Dawn Stacey

Crisis pregnancy centers (also known as pregnancy resource centers or CPCs) are facilities that try to attract pregnant women who are at risk for abortion. They often advertise and name themselves to give the impression that they are neutral healthcare providers. But the majority of these crisis pregnancy clinics have an anti-abortion philosophy.

Beware of Crisis Pregnancy Centers:

Crisis pregnancy centers may use names like: Crisis Pregnancy Center, Pregnancy Counseling Center, Pregnancy Care Center, Pregnancy Aid, or Pregnancy Resource Center.

Some of these facilities do provide truthful and unbiased support and information to women facing unintended pregnancies. But many of these clinics are coercive and overwhelm women with anti-abortion propaganda.

Know Who to Talk To:

If you find yourself facing an unplanned pregnancy, deciding if you want to continue with the pregnancy, place the baby for adoption, or seek out an abortion is a personal choice -- one that is ultimately up to YOU. But you do not have to make this decision by yourself. You may want to discuss your feelings and situation with somebody who will be supportive and neutral.

Some women find it helpful to talk with a neutral person as support during this confusing time. You can talk to a counselor or health educator at a family planning clinic. These clinics have specially trained staff who can honestly and objectively discuss your options with you.

When Choosing to Seek Support:

If you decide that you want to speak with a counselor about your pregnancy options, be careful when selecting a family planning center.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the clinic you seek support from:

  • Will not pressure you into any decisions.
  • Allows you to decide who can be a part of this decision-making process.
  • Permits you to bring your partner, friend, or family member(s) to sit in with you during your visit.

The clinic should also provide you with accurate, complete, and reliable information about all of your pregnancy options.

What Happens at Crisis Pregnancy Centers:

Women are usually lured into visiting a crisis pregnancy center under the false belief that they will receive truthful and unbiased information -- about pregnancy tests, sonograms, birth control, pregnancy options, and abortion. CPCs try to give the impression that they are a professional medical practice. Staff members may wear white lab coats and/or scrubs to look like real doctors and nurses -- trying to convince you that they are a licensed medical facility. Crisis pregnancy centers will also try to attract women by offering free pregnancy tests, but they use the same home pregnancy tests that you can buy in any drug store. Once you come inside, many crisis pregnancy centers have been caught using scare tactics, emotional manipulation, and intimidation to convince you not to have an abortion. It is also likely that the staff at a crisis pregnancy center:

  • May not provide you with complete information about all of your pregnancy options.
  • May provide misleading (or completely false) information about the emotional and medical effects of abortion and/or contraception.
  • Often have no medical supervision.

The Controversy About Crisis Pregnancy Centers:

Research examining crisis pregnancy clinics in various states has consistently found that crisis pregnancy centers mislead women by intentionally choosing a clinic name that implies that they will be nonjudgmental and offer a wide range of services (including family planning and abortion care). Often times, women go into these clinics without realizing that crisis pregnancy centers have a moral anti-abortion agenda. Women are not prepared for the emotional tricks that many crisis pregnancy centers will often use. These include:

  • Showing scary movies of dismembered fetuses.
  • Giving photos of stillborn babies, but saying that they are aborted fetuses.
  • Providing false information about the effects of abortion.

Some of these clinics have even been found to trick women into remaining pregnant by telling them that they’re not pregnant (even though they are). This way, the crisis pregnancy center can delay your option of an abortion and prevent you from seeking care or advice from legitimate medical doctors.

What You Need to Know About Crisis Pregnancy Centers:

Many crisis pregnancy centers do not even have a license to practice medicine. So even though they may offer free ultrasound sonograms, their staff are not properly trained in using this device -- this means that they are not qualified to provide you with any medical information about your pregnancy. Most of the counselors at CPCs (usually volunteers) do not have the proper education or state-mandated training to be counseling others. They are not legally licensed to provide counseling or intervention, either. Many crisis pregnancy centers do not provide the medical and social services that are recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the National Association of Social Workers for pregnant women. By not offering these important medical services and evaluations, these pregnancy centers could be potentially putting the mother’s (and baby’s) health at risk.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers may also:

  • Have telephone operators who will evade questions about whether they provide abortions.
  • Instruct telephone operators to urge you to make an appointment to speak with a counselor in person (and not give out any information over the phone).
  • Design their facilities to look like actual medical clinics, with waiting rooms and receptionists.
  • Be purposely located near clinics that offer abortions to confuse women over which clinic they are supposed to be going to.
  • Design media campaigns that are targeted towards students, low-income women, English-as-a-second language women, and women of color.
  • Not mention anywhere on their websites that the clinic does not provide or make referrals for abortions or birth control -- while still claiming to provide a "nonjudgmental environment" where "each option" can be explored.

How To Protect Yourself from Ending Up at a Crisis Pregnancy Center:

It is important to beware of crisis pregnancy centers. The first step is simply being informed and aware that these clinics exist. When considering a pregnancy clinic:

  1. Ask Questions: Avoid pregnancy centers that don’t give you clear answers. Call and ask if they refer to abortion clinics and/or discuss contraception. Ask if they are a licensed medical facility.
  2. Free Services: Be wary of any pregnancy clinics that promise free services and support. Many  crisis pregnancy centers have been sued because they use deceptive advertising.
  3. Be Wary of Names: Most crisis pregnancy centers will use neutral names that don't imply a pro-life agenda.
  4. Yellow Pages or Internet Listings: Crisis pregnancy centers try to list themselves in phone books and the internet under: Abortion, Abortion Clinics, Abortion Alternatives, Birth Control or Family Planning Information, or Women's Organizations.
  5. Be Aware: When you go to a pregnancy clinic, ask to see their medical license. If they do not show you one, you should know that your confidentiality may be at risk. Clinics that are not medically-licensed do not have to follow federal medical privacy laws (like HIPAA). Before you fill out any forms, make sure to read the fine print. Forms that you fill out at crisis pregnancy clinic may have a disclosure written in small print that states that your confidential information may be shared without your permission, including giving certain information to parents or guardians of minors.

Finding Professional Pregnancy Counseling Centers:

Crisis pregnancy centers are typically deceptive and try to make you feel fearful and guilty if you are considering having an abortion. They distort medical facts and force their religious beliefs upon unsuspecting women.

Legitimate pregnancy centers will have clearly established reputations. You can ask your doctor or an OB/GYN for a referral. Call a reputable women's health facility, like Planned Parenthood. Credible clinics will provide accurate information in a non-pressured setting. Most clinics that provide abortions also offer free pregnancy tests, state-mandated counseling, and adoption resources.

Sources:

Bryant AG, Narasimhan S, Bryant-Comstock K, Levi EE. "Crisis pregnancy center websites: information, misinformation and disinformation." Contraception. 2014 Dec 31;90(6):601-605. Full article accessed via private subscription.

NARAL:Pro-Choice America. (2007). "The truth about crisis pregnancy centers." Accessed 4/6/16.

National Abortion Federation. (2006). "Crisis pregnancy centers: An affront to choice." Accessed 4/6/16.

Rosen JD. "The public health risks of crisis pregnancy centers." Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2012 Sep 1;44(3):201-205. Full article accessed via private subscription.

United States House of Representatives Committee On Government Reform. (2006). "False and misleading health information provided by federally funded pregnancy resource centers." Accessed 4/6/16.

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