Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) recently introduced the "Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services" Act (H.R. 2478) to curb deceptive advertising by Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). Specifically, this legislation authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit CPCs from deceptively advertising in a way that suggests they provide abortion care when they do not provide such care.
Certain CPCs, many of which receive federal funding, use deceptive advertising practices to give the appearance that they are legitimate medical clinics that provide a variety of reproductive health care services, including family planning and abortion care.
In reality, most CPCs do not provide full options counseling and generally will not refer for abortion care or birth control. Their deceptive advertising practices include intentionally placing advertisements under the "abortion services" heading of phone and internet directories, choosing names that are similar to abortion clinics to confuse women about what types of services they provide, and posting misleading advertisements about the types of services and referrals that they provide.
CPCs have a long history of intentionally misleading women to prevent them from accessing abortion care. Through our members and through our hotline, we have heard numerous stories about the deceptive and harmful tactics employed by CPCs in furtherance of their mission to prevent women from having abortions. Many of these women have joined our Patient Partnership and shared their stories with policy makers and the media. These women have reported that their confidentiality has been violated and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health. Yet each year CPCs receive millions of dollars in federal and state aid.
Women who mistakenly visit CPCs describe being harassed, intimidated, and given blatantly false information at their appointments. Representative Henry Waxman released a study last year which found that 87 percent of the federally funded centers surveyed provided false and misleading information about the link between abortion and breast cancer, the effect of abortion on future fertility and the mental health effects of abortion. CPCs have also been known to make misleading statements to women about birth control methods, including claims that emergency contraception is an abortifacient and that condoms are ineffective both at preventing unintended pregnancy and at protecting against HIV.
One of the participants in our Patient Partnership said that the advertisements she received in the mail said things like "medical referrals" and "aid in obtaining community resources." She stated: "none of these were true, and the ad mentions nothing about religion, church, and being anti-contraception and anti-choice." Women feel betrayed when they find out that instead of receiving accurate information or services, they are being pressured with someone else's religious beliefs and agenda.
Women seeking reproductive health care should be able to make informed decisions and access medically accurate information about their options. CPCs should not be permitted to engage in deliberate attempts to divert women away from receiving abortion care by utilizing deceptive tactics. It's reprehensible that tax payer dollars are going to organizations that regularly and deliberately misinform and deceive women. CPCs take money that should go to legitimate, reputable organizations, which provide comprehensive reproductive health care to women.
If you have experience with a deceptive CPC and would like your voice to have an impact on the policy issues affecting abortion care, please visit http://www.prochoice.org/get_involved/tellyourstory.html and share your story.