New Report Reveals Six ‘Sinister’ Tactics of Extremist Anti-Abortion Centers

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Members of feminist group FURIE protest at the Women’s Center, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Chicago, on Nov. 15, 2014. CPCs masquerade as abortion clinics to lure in young, low-income people searching for affordable reproductive healthcare. (Visviva / Wikimedia Commons)

While newspaper and Twitter headlines focus on draconian new abortion restrictions passing in state after state, the anti-abortion movement is diligently working behind the scenes to expand and strengthen its nationwide network of fake abortion clinics designed to deceive and coerce pregnant women away from abortion care. A new report by the research and accountability organization Equity Forward identifies and examines the primary methods anti-abortion centers (AACs) are using to expand their influence in the United States. 

“The anti-abortion center network has developed, deployed and replicated an aggressive scheme of sinister tactics targeting people looking for abortion care and instead drive them to their centers,” said Equity Forward directorMolly Bangs.

AACs—otherwise known as “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) or “pregnancy resource centers”—masquerade as abortion clinics to lure in young, low-income women searching for affordable reproductive healthcare. Currently, more than 2,500 AACs operate nationwide—three times the amount of real abortion clinics. These fake clinics ensnare unsuspecting women, delaying access to needed medical care and endangering their health

“AACs are not benign entities,” said Bangs. “They are the multi-million-dollar propaganda machine of the highly coordinated anti-abortion movement. AACs are intentionally deceitful and provide little in the way of healthcare or material support. Their tactics are designed to stand between people and vital reproductive healthcare—and to make matters worse, they’re often doing so at the taxpayer’s expense.” 

They are the multi-million-dollar propaganda machine of the highly coordinated anti-abortion movement.

Molly Bangs, Equity Forward

The report, “In The Grand Scheme: Six Sinister Tactics Employed by Anti-Abortion Centers,” documents the tactics used to aggressively spread anti-abortion propaganda and interfere with access to reproductive healthcare, including: 

  • Massively proliferating model legislation to increase public funding of AACs; 
  • Investing millions of dollars in online ads targeting people searching for abortion services and making AACs look like legitimate medical providers;
  • Promoting “Choose Life” license plates, now offered in 32 states, to fund and expand AACs; 
  • Bankrolling widespread and unregulated use of ultrasound technology that does not meet state-mandated ultrasound requirements; 
  • Weaponizing mobile ultrasound units to prey on young women near high schools and college campuses; and
  • Targeting pregnant women and their partners with “Earn While You Learn” programs that offer biased counseling in exchange for “free” diapers, baby clothes and for dads, tools and sporting equipment (yes, really).

The research makes clear that anti-abortion center resources are not going to support pregnant people, but instead fund tactics that serve as yet another barrier to access.

Jack Dobkin, Equity Forward

The new report follows Equity Forward’s “Mapping Deception” report, a deep dive into how these centers operate and their widespread misuse of public funding. 

“It’s already hard enough for people to access abortion care; it’s only going to get more difficult as we expect the Supreme Court to allow states to decimate legal abortion for half the country. What the research makes clear is that anti-abortion center resources are not going to support pregnant people, but instead fund tactics that serve as yet another barrier to access,” said Jack Dobkin, Equity Forward research associate.

In response to the growing threat of AACs, activists across the country like ReproAction, Abortion Access Front and SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW are leading campaigns to expose the deceptive, harmful tactics of anti-abortion centers and mobilizing activists to fight them. 

“This report is intended to be a resource to support the work activists have been engaged in for years, raising awareness about these centers so people can avoid these traps and get the care they need,” said Dobkin.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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About

Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is the Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. She is a contributing editor at Ms. magazine. You can contact Dr. Baker at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @CarrieNBaker.