There are more than 160 crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) in California (3,500 nationally) that are all too often mistaken for clinics providing abortion and reproductive rights counseling.
They are actually anti-abortion advocates offering advice to patients who may not know that white lab coats don’t denote a medical establishment and proselytizing is not counseling.
State lawmakers are considering legislation, Assembly Bill 775, which would require the centers, some licensed medical facilities and some not, to be more forthcoming. If they are licensed, they would have to tell patients about the availability of birth control, abortion and prenatal care. If they aren’t licensed, they have to say so and let patients know about the things they don’t offer.
NARAL Pro-Choice America visited 49 of the centers last year, 19 of which were licensed as community or free clinics by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Many of the centers are in the inner-city. The group’s report (pdf) documents marketing efforts “carefully designed to give the impression that the CPC is a health-care clinic that provides comprehensive, medically accurate counseling about all reproductive health-care options.”
NARAL calculated that 69% of CPCs advertise their counseling as unbiased. But about 90% are operated by three anti-choice groups: Care Net, Heartbeat International and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. They are mostly staffed with volunteers.
They are not fair and balanced. In 2005, the Westside Pregnancy Clinic in Santa Monica had a billboard that featured a pregnant woman and her talking belly saying, “Don’t forget about me.” They now advertise “unbiased, confidential and free medical, educational and support services.”
But billboard advertising is slicker these days. They ask questions like “Pregnant and Alone?” but are always vague. Click-advertising on the Internet also is cloaked in deception, so much so that NARAL convinced Google to remove ads for CPCs when it showed 79% falsely indicated they supplied abortion services.
Inside the centers, investigators found 85% of the CPCs misled women to believe that abortion is traumatic and dangerous. Ninety-one percent of the centers said “abortion was linked to breast cancer, infertility, miscarriage or suicide.” Seventy-two percent “claimed abortion was linked to a false ‘post-abortion depression.’ ”
The centers also practice deception by association. NARAL found centers, most of which are unlicensed, purposely locate near licensed clinics.
Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, told the Daily Beast. “We’re not asking them to be pro-choice. We’re asking them to be truthful and transparent.”