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How crisis pregnancy centers are pushing women to have abortions later

Anti-abortion ‘centers’ are designed to spread misinformation and stop women from getting the care they need.

By Lisa Needham - July 22, 2020
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Crisis Pregnancy Center

Crisis pregnancy centers are “clinics” that aren’t medically regulated and actively work to deceive people about abortion. That deception is designed to delay or deny access to abortion, which leads to people getting abortions later in pregnancy or being entirely unable to access the care they need. 

Truth4Greeley, a group that focuses on the dangers of these fake health clinics, found that some clinics perform pregnancy tests but lie to people about how far along they are in their pregnancy. They also tell people to “wait it out” because 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. 

An investigator posing as a pregnant woman was told by a center volunteer that she shouldn’t panic because “[a]bortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy, so you have plenty of time to make a decision,” according to a report from NARAL Pro-Choice America, a group that fights restrictions on abortion.

This is not true. The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks state laws on abortion, says that 43 states prohibit abortions at some point in pregnancy. 

Later abortions are performed by a relatively small amount of providers and aren’t available in all states. In addition, any person who needs an abortion after 20 weeks might need to pay nearly quadruple the cost of one done earlier, and that doesn’t include travel costs or child care if it’s needed. 

Beth Vial, who wrote about her later abortion for Teen Vogue, detailed the numerous lies a crisis pregnancy center told her. There were no nurses on staff at the center. She was sent to a different location to get an ultrasound, she was lied to about how far along she was in her pregnancy, she was told abortions were dangerous, and she was hassled at home by the crisis pregnancy center workers, who she said called her “day and night.” She didn’t learn she was actually 26 weeks pregnant until she went to a nearby hospital. 

With these sorts of lies, the centers help push people into seeking abortion care at a later date. The Later Abortion Initiative, which focuses on the barriers and stigma around later abortions, reported that people who sought abortions at or after 20 weeks found those people were “much more likely to report logistical delays.”

Another study found that one of the logistical barriers reported by people who ultimately ended up needing to travel to have an abortion was that people first went to a crisis pregnancy center, which delayed their abortion care.

Reproaction is another group that has catalogued the lengths to which these anti-abortion health centers go in order to deceive people who are seeking an abortion, birth control, or reliable information about pregnancy. Some of these centers locate themselves close to real reproductive health care clinics and use a similar-sounding name or similar type of signage, hoping to deceive people into entering the wrong location. 

The anti-abortion centers also try to frighten people out of abortions. They tell people that abortion is linked to mental health problems. That’s been debunked for years. Another persistent lie they use is that there is a connection between getting an abortion and later getting breast cancer. Planned Parenthood says such assertions “fly in the face of scientific evidence.” 

The clinics also lie about how dangerous abortions are. The National Abortion Foundation notes that people are also told abortions are “painful, life-threatening procedures.” In reality, abortion is a very safe procedure, and complications are rare. That’s particularly true when abortion is compared to childbirth, which carries a risk of death roughly 11 times higher than that from an abortion. 

Guttmacher also reports that people who end up going to crisis pregnancy centers are disproportionately young, poor, or lacking education. Colorlines, which reports on advancing racial justice, has also noted that the centers target people of color with advertising. 

Notably, the same groups that praise the centers, such as Students for Life, are those that call for bans on abortions later in pregnancy. At a Senate hearing earlier this year, Patrina Mosley of the anti-choice Family Research Council said that later abortions are done because the clinics gain something financially. Jill Stanek, who heads the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said that abortion providers who do late abortions are “deciding the life or the death of the baby.” 

Crisis pregnancy centers distort information with the explicit goal of delaying or denying abortions. When they succeed in creating a delay, people have to seek care elsewhere, but they’ve already lost time in addressing a time-sensitive health concern. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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