Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Deceptive Tactics


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.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • invalid-0

    You hypocrite. I don’t see too many babykilling abortion mills refering for adoption.

  • invalid-0

    I worked for a clinic for many years and we had a long list of adoption agencies with which we worked quite closely. We had a referral list and had representatives from a couple of agencies come to our clinic to do presentations. Not many women who came to our clinic for an abortion decided to follow through with that option because by the time they had come to the clinic their minds were made up after having given the situation a great deal of thought and consideration. However, it’s actually completely wrong that reproductive health clinics do not refer for adoption. Reproductive health clinics that provide abortions give women a full range of options – that’s the point. To ensure that women receive information on a full range of options so that they are not uninformed or pressured.

  • invalid-0

    Anonymous is using one of those easily-verified-to-be-false-talking points about family planning clinics.

    I worked at Planned Parenthood. At the center where I worked there was a card and info for Spence-Chapin adoption agency for if a woman wanted. And the counselors were trained to be non-judgemental in discussing adoption–they were told not to say “give your baby up for adoption” and instead say “make an adoption plan”.

    If a woman wanted to continue a pregnancy, she got an exam to tell her how far along she was, accurate info, a prescription for prenatal vitamins and a referral to a clinic that provided prenatal care. (and info about support services) If a woman wanted to place for adoption, she got accurate info and a referral (and exam and vitamins). If a woman felt her best option was abortion, she got an exam, accurate info and a referral.

    I suspect what the anti-choice conservatives really are upset about is the fact that PP (and other family planning organizations) don’t *coerce* the women into continuing pregnancies and placing for adoption. Instead, we support women in the choices they eel are best for them

  • invalid-0

    I would assume like most things it depends on where you go and who you speak to. While writing a paper for a college course, a friend and I went to the closest planned parenthood center to our town. Posing as a couple, we said that we were pregnant and wanted to know what our options were. The woman that we spoke with never once mentioned adoption, instead continually repeated how difficult it would be to have a child while still in school and that abortion was really the only answer. She told us “You might think you are happy but you really won’t be. It won’t be the life that you wanted.” Our paper then turned into the coercive tactics used by planned parenthood to garner support for abortions. Neither side is entirely free from guilt here.

  • invalid-0

    I suspect your experience was unusual and that there may be rare outliers in which this could occur.

    The difference is that misinformation and coersion are the mainstream of “crisis pregnancy centers” and part of the policy. In contrast, nonjudgemental counseling and accurate information are the mainstream and made into the policy in reproduductive health centers. By accurate information, I mean consistent with the best medical evidence. (BTW–the rules and standards used to determine “best evidence” are the same whether we are talking about cholesterol, heart disease or contraception. Anti-choicers like to pretend you can change the rules depending on the subject and results.)

    An evaluation of the CPCs showed that 87% of the ones investigated had inaccurate and misleading information. That isn’t a rare outlier. When you look at policy in which they say to counsel patients that “abortion increases the risk of breast cancer” and that they will suffer “psychological harm” that is dishonesty written into policy.

    Scientifically, a paper written about one particular experience is very weak. That might be ok for a college course but not be considered “scientific” or “evidence”. You certainly would not be able to draw any meaningful conclusions from that. You should do your homework looking at *credible* information about these clinics.

  • invalid-0

    I meant to sign the “big difference” post as Lcubed.

    Note: If one kind of organization has one out a thousand clinics in which someone could receive inaccurate information and the other organization has 999 out of thousand with inaccurate information, you shouldn’t walk away and say “both sides do it equally” !

    Lcubed

  • invalid-0

    Christine,

    I also expect that if you went to that Planned Parenthood and spoke to or wrote a letter to the medical director saying that you felt you were being talked into having an abortion or didn’t feel you got information about your options –that they would definitely look into it and see if there is a problem with a counselor, etc and try to fix it.

    On the other hand, if you went to a CPC and said that you felt you were talked out of having an abortion, were told that an abortion causes an increase in breast cancer (which is false), and that you were not given info about your option of abortion and contraception—THey might say hallelujah or try to tell you that what they said is true. They most definitely would not look into it or try to fix it!!

  • invalid-0

    In my experience in 2 states, Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics had comprehensive lists of adoption agencies and other resources for women who choose to parent.

    I also find it interesting that the “pro women, pro-reproductive freedom” (my words) posts to this message use words actual, appropriate names and terms such as “Family Planning Clinics” and “Reproductive Health Clinics” vs. the language used by the anti-woman, anti reproductive health post