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Crisis Pregnancy Centers Continue To Shame & Mislead Women

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Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
Every year, pro-choice advocacy group NARAL conducts an undercover investigation into California's crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs. These nonprofit, generally Christian centers operate with the goal of dissuading women from having abortions. According to NARAL, CPC workers present themselves as impartial providers of medical information by "wearing white lab coats" and "calling themselves counselors" — and the centers are often deceptively located "in medical buildings or near real abortion clinics," in order to ensnare women who are in need of medical advice. (You know, the kind of advice that comes from a medical professional, not from an evangelist in a costume.) The experiences of NARAL's undercover investigators during their CPC visits were, unsurprisingly, harrowing. As Jezebel reports, during one visit, a CPC worker gave a NARAL investigator an ultrasound, then pointed to the image and identified the woman's "baby." It was her IUD.

This anecdote is just one among many instances of incompetence, ideology, and misinformation imposed on women who find themselves at CPCs. Over the past year, NARAL investigators made 49 visits to 45 CPCs across 19 counties — that's over a quarter of the state's CPCs — and each time presented themselves as being in one of three different circumstances: "undecided about an unintended pregnancy," "seeking an abortion and information about abortion for an unintended pregnancy," or "wanting to keep an unintended pregnancy." 

The advice they were given was the same regardless of variations in the circumstances they described: Do not, under any circumstances, consider an abortion. The investigators were told at 72% of the CPCs that abortion leads to depression; they were also frequently informed that abortions are linked to breast cancer and infertility. (None of these statements are true.) "When our investigator asked how to avoid unintended pregnancies in the future," the NARAL report describes of one visit, "she was told 'in order to not get pregnant, it would be best to stop whoring around.' She was also told that 'everybody should just stop using birth control because it’s not healthy for your body; it’s not good for you.'"

The scarier part: Some 19 of the CPCs investigators visited are licensed as "community" or "free" clinics by the state's Department of Public Health. That anyone is making these claims at all is unacceptable; that care providers are delivering this misinformation to patients as fact is appalling. And, the prevalence of CPCs is not just a California problem. In 2013, The New York Times reported that there were about 2,500 CPCs nationwide, compared to 1,800 abortion providers. What's more, CPCs are often taxpayer-funded. Their continued existence is one more example of religion's sway over women's decision-making power in this country. Pro-life or pro-choice, let's agree that shame and misinformation have no place in health care.
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