How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Endanger the Health and Rights of Women of Color

A new report on so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” in the U.S. exposes how these fake clinics not only lure those seeking abortions into their offices to be talked out of terminating their pregnancy, but endanger their health.

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Through federal and state policies, abortion is becoming more and more inaccessible, with the majority of counties in this country not having an abortion provider. As a result, more and more women and pregnant people find it harder and harder to access reproductive health care services.

Too often, those seeking abortion are tricked into going to crisis pregnancy centers—where, instead of access to comprehensive care, including counseling from a trained, medical professional, pregnancy tests, birth control, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and medical referrals, they find staffs with no medical professionals and are subjected to anti-abortion “counseling” grounded in religious beliefs, not medical facts.

Crisis pregnancy centers employ aggressive tactics to force women and pregnant people to carry their pregnancies to term. Although they are not medical facilities, some centers, without any medical personnel, require volunteers and staff to wear lab coats, to give the appearance of being a medical clinic. Fake clinics often deceive women by lying to them about medical facts, such as the likelihood of spontaneous miscarriage or about the stage of their pregnancy. Some delay women by scheduling follow-up appointments for ultrasounds weeks later. All this is done in an attempt to stall women so that it will be harder to access abortion services later in pregnancy.

As the latest report on these fake clinics underscores, these facilities have a disparate impact on women of color, who already face greater barriers to accessing health care—especially reproductive health services. Attacks on public funding for family planning health centers, which disproportionately serve women and families of color, are making it even more difficult to access reproductive health care. When women of color are tricked into delaying abortion, they have even fewer options and less access later in pregnancy than white women, who statistically have more resources.

While state legislatures across the country are constantly passing medically-unnecessary, politically-motivated laws to try to force reproductive health centers to close, crisis pregnancy centers are largely unregulated. It’s time to require fake clinics to abide by real standards and policies that will protect women and pregnant people.

Lawmakers should force “crisis pregnancy centers” to be transparent and to ensure that its patients or clients are aware of all of their medical options. Centers that are unlicensed most assuredly should be required to inform women that there is no medical provider on the premises. Their anti-abortion agenda is not a license to deceive and interfere with the delivery of health care services.

Basic consumer protections against false advertising should apply to crisis pregnancy centers. More so, medical ethics demand that pregnant women and people have access to medically accurate information and transparency when seeking abortion. 

It’s one thing to try to convince a woman to continue a pregnancy. But even opponents of abortion should be outraged by underhanded deceptions and outright lies employed by “crisis pregnancy centers.” Everyone should be outraged by the disparate impact on women of color.

It’s time to stop playing politics with reproductive health and rights.

About

Marcela Howell is the founder and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda and the former senior policy and communications consultant for Communications Consortium Media Center and vice president of policy, communications and marketing at Advocates for Youth. She has a Masters in Literature from Saint Louis University and a JD from Pepperdine School of Law. You can follow Marcela on Twitter at @BlackWomensRJ.