(As originally appeared on the Huffington Post by Lizz Winstead)
As someone who’s had a firsthand experience engaging with a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), it’s absolutely mind-blowing to me that NPR would run a piece that did not discuss the well documented lies about abortion that unsuspecting pregnant people are told when they enter looking for help. Not once in the piece, “How Crisis Pregnancy Center Clients Rely On Medicaid,” by Sarah McCammon does she mention the deceptive tactics employed by CPCs to stigmatize someone for having sex, or who came to them seeking abortion care. I thought NPR valued balanced journalism, yet this piece either ignored a huge and harmful part of what CPCs do, or didn’t do enough research to look into the unsavory practices they employ.
You see I learned about CPCs, also known as fake clinics, when at 17, pregnant and scared, I saw an ad on a bus and thought this place would help me access the abortion I needed. The ad claimed they offered “choices” and “options,” but what happened to me was terrifying. I was judged for having sex and lied to about how far along I was in my pregnancy while showing me a book of bloody fetuses. At the end, the person, dressed in a lab coat (not a doctor), told me my “choices” were “Mommy or murder.” These were not medical professionals, they were zealots impersonating medical professionals.
At CPCs, women have been told to “stop whoring around” as a means to not get pregnant. In fact, these fake clinics are unregulated by the state, so they are able to tell patients anything to dissuade them from choosing abortion. Patients have reported time and time again that they are told that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, and depression, all disproven by every peer reviewed medical journal. CPCs are NOT health care centers, yet many states divert Medicaid, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and other government funding designed to help low income people into these fake clinics. All of this information is irresponsibly absent from the aforementioned NPR report. And of all the things that were glaringly omitted, there is one that really takes the cake. This piece focused on how so many people who use CPCs rely on Medicaid. And never once does NPR address the fact that Medicaid and other low income program funding is often being cut and then given to CPCs, depleting scarce resources of the very programs that CPCs send these pregnant folks to for assistance! Isn’t it the height of deception to operate a CPC with funds diverted from the very programs you are signing people up for, knowing said programs are struggling for those same resources?! That’s not worth a mention in a piece entitled, “How Crisis Pregnancy Center Clients Rely On Medicaid?”
Now to be fair, not all CPCs take state funding. According to the non-profit IRS filings of “Women’s Choice Network” a CPC chain in Pittsburgh, their mission is to “empower abortion vulnerable” women to choose life. The executive director was quoted as saying, “By not taking state money, it’s four Pittsburgh based facilities can operate as a faith based clinic much more freely.”
Yet if you wanted to find out if they are faith based and will empower abortion vulnerable women to choose life if they walk in and ask for an abortion or abortion referral, you will see that info is buried on their website, and not anywhere in their public ads, or sidewalk signage.
State funding for health centers like Planned Parenthood, independent abortion and reproductive health providers is often diverted to support these fake clinics. That funding not only supports abortion access for low income people, but for their reproductive health care in general.
In the last month Lady Parts Justice League, in partnership with Abortion Access Hackathon along with 40 other reproductive rights organizations and actual medical centers from across the country, engaged in a Week-of Action campaign called #ExposeFakeClinics. Throughout the campaign we heard from a number of abortion providers and read countless horrifying reviews on Google and Yelp written by unsuspecting pregnant people like me who were preyed upon by these religious extremists. Many people across the country have been tricked and victimized by Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Bottom Line: If you are a fake clinic, and do not want to provide all pregnancy options because of your religious stance against abortion, you should not be funded by American taxpayers and you should be upfront about the kind of services you provide so anyone seeking abortion care can have the CHOICE to avoid the shame and stigma that is the foundation of your business.
And lastly, if you are a true Christian, why are you hiding it from your clientele? And worse, denying it when asked about it?
Sounds a little St. Peter to me.
In 2018, CPCs are going to the Supreme Court to argue that they should be able to not give pregnant people basic facts about their situation, because of “free speech.” We think it’s bullshit and we’re ready to fight. If you think so too read up on the case here and then go here to see how you can get involved!