A Referral You Don’t Want

You’re a college freshman, and you
think you might be pregnant. Your campus health center doesn’t handle
pregnancies, so you’re given a list of nearby clinics. You pick one,
thinking that’s where you’ll get a pregnancy test and, if it’s
positive, be counseled about your reproductive healthcare choices.

Instead, at this clinic you go to, you’re
given a lecture on abstaining from sex. You’re also harangued about
the “dangers” of abortion, and you’re handed a plastic model of
a purported 12-week-old fetus, complete with a fact-sheet on “pre-born
babies.” Abortion is obviously not an option here.

That’s because you’ve been referred
to a so-called “pregnancy resource center” or “crisis pregnancy
center” (CPC). There are as many as 4,000 of them in the U.S. (twice
as many as the number of abortion providers), many affiliated with evangelical
Christian ministries and all with a mission to persuade young women
with unplanned pregnancies not to have abortions. But they often mask
this mission with deceptive advertising tactics, such as listing themselves
under “abortion services” in the yellow pages and pretending to
offer women a range of options.

Yet college heath centers routinely refer
young women to these places, which are often purposefully located near
college campuses. A survey conducted this past summer by the Feminist
Majority Foundation (FMF) and reported in the Fall 2008 issue of
magazine (I’m vice president of the FMF and executive
editor of the magazine), found that of 398 campus health centers at
four-year colleges that responded to a questionnaire, 48 percent routinely
refer women who think they might be pregnant to CPCs.

“We want to give students all of the
options,” is the best reason that health center directors could give
FMF researchers for making referrals to CPCs (81 percent of the health
centers also refer students to full-service clinics). But the situation
is troubling for women’s health advocates.

For one thing, students often face delay
tactics at CPCs to discourage them from finding out whether they’re
pregnant, thus increasing the chance that they’ll be too late for
a safe, early-term abortion. CPCs have also been shown to promulgate
false and misleading information-such as telling young women that
abortions increase their risk of breast cancer, increase their risk
of infertility, or cause mental-health trauma. All of these notions
have been widely discredited by health researchers. Most recently, the
American Psychological Association, in a study released this past summer,
confirmed that “there is no credible evidence that a single elective
abortion … in and of itself causes mental health problems.”

If students visit CPCs instead of full-care
clinics, they might also be putting their health in immediate jeopardy.
“Any attempt to delay care and try and scare a woman into keeping
an unwanted pregnancy only serves to put her at higher risk-especially
if she has an ectopic pregnancy,” says Beth Jordan, M.D., a women’s
health specialist and medical director of the FMF.

Is this the sort of care and counseling
parents expect from their childrens’ colleges to provide? No, it’s
time to expect more. Campus health centers should establish policies
to refer students only to comprehensive health clinics, not to ideological
masqueraders. Think about it: Would we want a college to refer students
with illnesses to a so-called clinic that didn’t believe in medicine
and only handed out placebos?

We should also be demanding regulation
of CPCs so that they’re no longer allowed to deceive women about their
mission. Several states are considering bills that would require CPCs
to state that they are not medical centers and do not provide
factual medical information. On the federal level, bills remain stalled
in both the House and Senate that would prevent CPCs from using deceptive
advertising. Write your congresspeople and ask them to take a

Finally, there’s been nearly $14 million
in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage money channeled to CPCs under
the Bush Administration. We must ask the next presidential administration
to halt that runaway gravy train.

Young women’s health is at stake.

For more on crisis pregnancy centers, check out the Fall 2008 print edition of Ms. magazine.

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

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • http://www.condomman.com invalid-0

    When I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. The deception runs rampant at these CPCs, but even more intimidating is being surrounded by an atmosphere of pressure and disapproval. To take people in such a vulnerable state and subject them to such stress for purely ideological and selfish reasons is immoral, no matter how you look at the issue.

  • invalid-0

    You are right on when you talk about crisis pregnancy centers. These centers do a great job of providing women the truth about abortion, what abortion really is. So many women are scared and confused. It is wonderful that these volunteers provide good information and most importantly – love to these women. Of course, when the woman chooses not to kill her unborn baby everyone wins.

  • invalid-0

    Did you not read the article? These centers give out false information and use deceptive advertising and stall tactics to keep women from getting to real medical facilites. That’s a great job of providing truth? These places should be shut down. I agree with the article. You would be in uproar if you found out your child might have cancer and sent them to a place expecting them to get treated only to find out that tests had been delayed, placebos given, and individuals with an agenda were more concerned about furthuring that agenda than the health of your child. Why is it any different for pregnant women?
    Not to mention, as for your comment about everyone winning, exactly who is it that wins again? You’ve got the pregnant woman, who if she became pregnant as a result of rape or date rape (which contrary to extremist belief does happen, and does often go unreported) her chances of committing suicide (and thus killing both herself and the fetus) increase dramatically. Even if she wasn’t a rape victim, there’s still the matter of her education. Pregnant or with a young infant, that idea is pretty much out the window, at least for a few years while she gets back on her feet and works to raise that child that you’ve so thoughtfully forced her to keep. Of course during this time, the baby that you’ve so kindly saved is living in poverty, and considering the downward spiral that poverty and lack of education can cause, is at high risk for abuse and neglect in the home.
    Which leads to another question. What is it with you people that the baby only has rights before it’s born? I don’t see anyone getting all up in arms about saving the children when it comes to unwanted babies left to die in dumpsters, shaken or beaten to death by parents that didn’t want them and weren’t prepared for them, or survive years of torture and abuse at the hands of parents who resent their existance. It really brings up the question. Is it better for the child to die in a procedure performed when it is still a clump of cells with no real nervous system or consciousness, or to suffer years of abuse and neglect? Which is worse, to die in a single act, or over years of neglect and starvation? Seriously people, read the news. Look at all the stories about the children, not fetuses, that are killed every day by their own parents through child abuse, and then tell me abortion is still wrong.

  • invalid-0

    I used to be at Pitt, too. For the longest time, there was an advertisement for a CPC on the side of the bus shelter at 5th and Tennyson. It was clever; they never actually said they were anti-abortion, but the so-called “resources” they advertised were clearly biased toward adoption services.

    Why aren’t the existing laws about truth in advertising applied to these centers?

  • invalid-0

    I had never heard of these types of clinics. I definitely don’t believe in forcing beliefs on another person, especially if their health is at risk or they did not choose to become pregnant. In developing countries this attitude could cause serious repercussions as dangerous and non-consensual pregnancies are more common. However, I think we should place more emphasis on personal responsibility. Women should know at young age the health risks and consequences of their choices. I personally know people who have been emotionally disturbed by their choice to abort. Wouldn’t you rather err on the side of life than death? And to RantingEqualist, what’s wrong with adoption? My cousin and his wife have been married 13 years and would love to keep a child out of poverty. The adoption system today wouldn’t dream of leaving a woman in poverty.

    • invalid-0

      I am familiar with adoption. My first child was put up for adoption, but adoption, like abortion, isn’t an easy choice by any means. And like raising the child, some women don’t have that option. Women from unsupportive families, women and girls in school, where taking time out if they are put on bedrest or after the birth could set their education back dramatically, and women who are already living hand to mouth, and would go from poverty to homelessness and starvation with just an extra few days missed from work, much less the weeks and sometimes months she might have to take from work for the pregnancy and birth.
      As for your cousin and his wife, if they would love to adopt a child from poverty, how many have they taken in so far? How many foster children do they have? Specifically, you said they’d love to, not they have, so I’m assuming none. That leaves the question, what are they waiting for?
      As for your comment about the adoption system today, when was your last interraction with it? The fact is, almost all adoptive families are looking for healthy white newborns. Older than a few weeks? Child might be in the system for years if not until they age out. Skin a little dark? Medical problems? Chances of aging out of the system without being adopted go up astronomically.
      There’s nothing wrong with adoption, I made that choice once myself, but some women just can’t handle that kind of heartbreak. For me, the only way I possibly could was to send my son far away from me to remove the heartbreak of having him close by without him being mine anymore. For some women, the best option for them is to have their child adopted by family, someone close, someone of a particular type of family, someone of a particular religion, or some random person they dont’ want to know anything about. for other women, the choice for them that makes their heart break a little bit less is the choice to have an abortion, and the fact is that’s okay. You do what you have to do to ensure the best outcome for your future and the future of your family. Some women would go crazy with guilt at the thought of having an abortion, but there are women out there who would go crazy with the knowledge that the child they carried and gave birth to calls another woman mommy. I know this for fact. I have gone through an adoption, and my heart couldn’t take another one.

  • http://www.Birth-Control-Comparison.info/ invalid-0

    More about these fake clinics at:

    There is a printable PDF you can share with friends and take to your local campus health center.

  • invalid-0

    This article is typical pro-abortion propaganda. If you want to find out how a crisis pregnancy center typically operates, just go visit one for yourself and meet the people there.

    The author of this piece offers a distorted description of what such centers do. They don’t harangue women — if they did it would work against their goal of protecting the mother and child from abortion by turning off the woman. They do, however, do something that no abortion facility is likely to do, and that is they discuss the destructive effects and risks associated with abortion.

    Can you imagine an abortion clinic, which makes money off of the procedure, telling women that a certain percentage of women will be sterilized by the procedure, or reduce their ability to carry babies to term? That’s a fact. Can you imagine them telling the woman about others who have died or suffered serious injuries at that very clinic? By the way, good evidence exists that the death rate due to abortion is much higher than that which is reported, and that shouldn’t be surprising, since the abortion clinics have every reason to cover up such incidents.

    Notice that that is exactly what Spillar does here too…she refers to the “dangers” of abortion in quotes, as if no such dangers exist. If she’s not going to tell the truth about abortion, who could believe that the abortion clinic would?

    How likely is the clinic to talk about the option to adopt, rather than to kill, one’s unborn baby? Again, the profit motive ensures that that will rarely, if ever happen. Crisis pregnancy centers do just that. In addition, they often offer support to the woman to help her carry her baby to term and to care for it afterwards. I know one crisis pregnancy center staffer who takes such women into her home and cares for them herself.

    Regarding breast cancer and depression links: there are numerous studies showing statistically significant correlations with both, and the rejection of that evidence remains controversial among researchers. Its true that most scientists are liberal and inclined to ignore such research, but the peer-reviewed studies are there and mechanisms do exist. I personally have known several women who suffered terrible psychological torment from their abortions, so I know the link exists — these friends and acquaintances didn’t make it up.

    Even the ultra-liberal APA’s statement quoted in the article is very qualified (“in and of itself”), and their full statement acknowledges that combined with certain factors there is a demonstrable link between abortion and psychological damage to the mother. Their timid statement, however, was denounced by researchers who say that the APA chose to disregard certain studies by focusing their criticism on those studies, while ignoring the flaws in the studies they deemed to be more sound.

    Shouldn’t women know that at least such a controversy exists? Shouldn’t they know what the APA itself admits, which is that some women have in fact been psychologically damaged by abortion? The pro-abortion movement says “no”. They say they are all for “choice”, but when it comes to the negative moral, medical, and psychological aspects of the procedure, they want to cut off access to that information. What kind of “choice” is that?

    I’m sure that some crisis pregnancy centers are badly run. Out of the thousands that exist, it is unlikely that they all operate perfectly, or even share the same philosophy. But the abortion industry’s constant complaint about these clinics tells us that they must be accomplishing something, and it’s affecting the clinics’ bottom line. And the bottom line is: profiting off of the death of an infant.

    The crisis pregnancy center offers something that abortion clinics don’t: love, hope, and affirmation of the intrinsic value of all human life. In other words, the culture of life. The culture of death hates this message, and will do anything to silence it.

  • invalid-0

    dear RantingEqualist.

    I find it deeply tragic and disturbing that you equate an unborn baby in its mothers womb with a destructive cancer, which is what your analogy suggests. Such a mindset is sad. and by the way, what pro life person believes in an unborn baby’s rights “only” before they are born. The rights exist from conception until natural death. It is a travisty that babies are left in dumpsters and suffer abuse. No one in their right mind would condone such behaviour. The fact that a baby grows up in this environment is not their fault. They are innocent victims. Eliminating them before birth is not the solution and is completely unjust and illogical.

    • invalid-0

      I never compared a baby to a cancer. I compared it to what it is. A parasite. A living creature that cannot survive without the body of its host. Just like a parasitic infection, a fetus takes nutrients from the body of the mother which puts a strain on her body. This is all true. Pregnancy puts an enormous strain on a woman’s organs, muscles, and joints. And that’s just pregnancy, not accounting for the trauma that occurs when a woman goes into labor. Pregnancy is destructive to a woman’s body. It’s a fact.
      I never said it’s the fault of the baby. But it’s not the fault of the woman who’s been raped either. Or the teenage girl who gets in over her head. Or the college coed who makes a bad decision one night. Or the established woman who’s birth control fails. Or the married woman who knows she cannot provide for another child in addition to the children she already has. You’re looking at the topic of abortion from a single viewpoint, and forgetting the others affected by the decision to abort or not to abort. In my opinion, most important is the viewpoint of the mother, a woman who may not be prepared to spend the next nine months of her life as a human incubator. A woman who may be just on the edge of her future (especially if she’s in college) and looking at the difference between being able to support herself and a family in a few years, or struggling hand to mouth for decades. Throw in the unwanted child into the mix, and not only does the mother suffer, but the child suffers as well, along with any other children the mother may have in the future. The best possible way to provide the best environment for the children is to make sure that the mother is in a position to be able to support those children. If the options are either give birth now and sacrifice her future as well as the futures of all her children, or go through an abortion now and secure a solid future for herself and the children she will have later in life, isn’t it better to ensure that her future children will prosper rather than forcing yet another family into poverty based on the lack of an education?
      More than all this, you’re not offering any solutions to the problem. You’re simply condemning abortion, but are you in favor of comprehensive sex ed? Teaching young people about birth control and making it freely available for them to use? If sex education is more inclusive, and birth control is more readily available, then isn’t it logical that with more preventative measures in place, there would be less unwanted pregnancies, and as a result, less abortions overall?
      Forcing women to carry and raise children they do not want, and are not prepared for is not the answer. Assisting these women in making responsible decisions about their own bodies, with medically accurate information, and giving them the tools to conrol their reproductive health is a much better answer. And the option of abortion is simply another aspect of that, another needed option.

  • invalid-0

    the same could be said to you matt. it’s clear you have never been to a clinc that offers abortion services. if you had, you might know that since it is a medical procedure they are legally required to discuss the possable outcomes with the patient including infertility and death. you would know that there is no legal way for ANY clinic to “cover up” the cause of death of a patient. and you would know that most offer counciling before and after the procedure with some (i can’t say all since i’m not 100% sure on how wide spread the practice is) clinics having a manditory waiting period between requesting the procedure and having it done.

    and i’m glad you know a couple who would love to adopt a kid, but have you ever looked at how prohibitive the costs and leagl issues are? adoption is an option sure but it’s far from the cake walk many pro-lifers want to make it out to be. and on the off chance that there isn’t a family to take the baby, that child will languish in foster care and be totally messed up with their chances of adoption dramatically droping the older they get.

    as for your friends with emotional scars… how many of them are there because of people like you who tell them they murdered a baby and deamonize them and heap guilt on them? how many of the mental issues women have after the abortion are because of the actual procedure and how much bcause of the stigma people like you have attached to it?

  • invalid-0

    Funny how anti-choicers are silent about a government mandated script detailing all the risks of carrying to term. Why is that…do folks think?

  • invalid-0

    but, i’m not going to waste my time responding to your entire comment. once again, i am confounded by yet another anti-choicer spending time on a reproductive rights website. which brings me to the one thing about your comment i do want to reply to:
    this website is about reproductive rights and everything that goes along with that issue – including health. in your comment you repeat the lies that abortion is linked to depression and increased risk of breast cancer. how dare you?!? and you offend all the more by implying that any evidence they aren’t linked to abortion is due to liberal scientists ignoring research. wrong. wrong. wrong. and just where did you get the idea that most scientists are liberal? link?
    also, knowing several women who “suffered terrible psychological torment” does NOT prove that depression is linked to abortion.
    and one more thing about spreading medical lies regarding abortion: it could be dangerous you….urgh,so hard not to be rude. anyhow, when it comes to increased risk of breast cancer and pregnancy, there is only an increased risk of breast cancer for a short time after a full term pregnancy and birth. so, people like you tell women abortion is linked to increased risk of breast cancer, when it’s actually linked to a full pregnancy/birth. shame of you, SIR, shame on you.

  • invalid-0

    simple. if a woman dies in child birth, or as a result of complications… it was god’s will. but if a woman choss to end her pregnancy then she’s a murderous b***h. personally, i’d be interested to see exact numbers of women who report depression post-partum and women who report depression post-abortion. i have a feeling the numbers would lean heavily to post-partum over post-abortion.

  • invalid-0

    There are always more than view. For a another perspective, I recommend this article:
    Myths and Facts About Pregnancy Resource Centers

  • invalid-0

    Correction: More than one view…

  • invalid-0

    It’s easy to be flippant and hurl sexist insults when it’s not happening to you, eh Firefey?

    *sprays Troll-B-Gone*

  • invalid-0

    To Matthew Hoffman–It is sad that you anti-abortion people distort medical information or even tell outright lies to women. Any time a woman gets pregnant and does not nurse her baby there is going to be a very slight chance of higher risk for breast cancer(something about activating the breasts and not using them)–so why not focus on all the women who keep getting pregnant and having miscarriages or all the women who bottle feed there babies? And likewise there is always a risk for depression whenever there is a change in hormone levels for many women–again that could include women who have miscarriages, any woman who gives birth,any woman who stops breastfeeding, any woman who has to have a hysterctomy. You aren’t advocating that women stop getting pregnant because they MIGHT have depression after the birth!!! I also do not think it helps the cause to deny that women do have depression after abortion as I have heard some pro-choice people say–this fact needs to be balanced with the truth about all hormone based depression. Of course, many women have babies, abortions, miscarriages, etc and don’t have any depression at all.
    I have had 5 pregnancies–3 children, 1 miscarriage and 1 abortion. No depression after any of them–except situational after the 3rd baby was born because my (second ex)husband decided that he did not want to be a father after all(!). And I want to point out that when I was pregnant with my first child I went to an abortion clinic since I was convinced that my husband(first ex) would not be a good father(and I was right), The counseler I saw talked to me about all options available–including assisantace I could get if I wanted to continue the pregnancy. I decided to have the baby after all even knowing I would be a single mom. So I know from personal expereince that abortion clinics are NOT forcing decisions on anyone. A few years later when I started dating again and BC failed I did not want to be a single mom of 2 so had an abortion–agaiin no one tried to influence me in any way at the clinic–they did ask me several times if this was my decision–no one trying to push me into it. I later met husband #2 and had 2 babies with a miscarriage in between. I do not believe that conception means that there is a full human yet–and I don’t believe that happens until there are at least brain waves(so for me I could not have an abortion after the 3rd month, thus I have no reason to feel bad about an abortion. Also my religious beliefs(and last time I checked we still are supposed to have no laws forcing us to adhere to any particular religion!) are that we are human after the soul joins with the body which could happen at any time from conception until birth and only the mother could possibly sense when this happens I have no right nor does any one else to decide medical decisions for anyone else. If you don’t beleive in abortion then do not have one–do not have sex with someone who might have one–and do whatever you can to decrease unwanted pregnancies–such as making sure that bc is easily available to anyone, comprhensive sex education is available at all schools, and all women who want to carry pregnancies can do so with financial and emotional support!!!!

  • invalid-0

    First, I would wholeheartedly agree such centers should be up front and show their colors, if they are not obvious, to people coming in.

    But I agree with Mr. Hoffman (if not all his medical statements) that it is time for the pro-abort side to show a little honesty as well.

    The only source cited here is supposedly a poll in Ms. Magazine commissioned by the author’s own group that a certain number of campuses are reported as responding to. And plus she cites her workmate / friend from the same organization she administrates. That is like trusting Rolling Stone magazine for your political opinions and then using your own paid trial attorney as a convincing character witness.

    There is no hard evidence given for exactly what does or does not happen (or how frequently) at the 4,000 centers lumped together and lambasted with the author’s purely anecdotal information we are to trust on hearsay [as another poster points out]. And both sides can cite their own pet websites and horror stories. Extremes at best display the rule. Abortion counsellors themselves were eventually mandated by laws to be more objective in presenting the options after many an expose’ over the decades showed the sort of micky mouse they and their clinics were up to. And 14 mill is a drop in the bucket compared to what PP has raked in doing abortions over the years. The founder of the modern abortion movement, Bernard Natanson, M.D., came out and admitted much of the orginal data in favor of permitting abortion turned out to be a pack of lies. So this is like the pot calling the proverbial kettle . . .

    And if you read carefully, the author admits between the lines that 48% are referred to cpc’s and 81% to ‘full service’ clinics, i.e., abortion clinics for those eschewing our euphemisms. Moreoever, the unspoken assumption of the article is that such clinics somehow always do their best provide a cold, utterly unbiased look at the options, in which case said mandates would never have been needed, and then please leave your email because I’ve got a nice bridge to sell you off this site. So, if anything, her own flimsy data suggests that it is actually cpc referrals that happen far less frequently than the other kind. And many students who heard of the cpc’s statistically had to have heard of the clinics, far more often than the reverse.

    Also unsaid is that many schools with religious affiliations cannot refer women to abortion clinics, which might well explain the 19% of persons not so referred. But, having taught at colleges all over the U.S. for 20 years, I find the female students by and large _very_ resourceful about getting information on things that directly affect them. The implication of the article that 20 year old educated females cannot spot at 30 feet a zealot on a harrague with a net out is . . um . . paternalistic and just plain most often untrue. Students are by and large far less credulous about what they will believe than our author is about what some of us will believe. (And everyone beyond the first years knows well enough not to cite popular women’s magazines – or one’s own publication to boot – as unbiased sources in their research papers.)

    The APA statement, as others note, that one cannot prove a single elective abortion as sufficent ‘in and of itself’ to automatically cause mental trauma. True, there are few things on earth guaranteed by themselves to be the suffient cause mental trauma in and of itself, maybe short of outright abuse by a parent or wetting your pants during your school play. But to imply that abortion is never a contributing factor in emotional diturbance or that many women don’t deeply and psychologically regret do it is entirely another argument. Not everyone who often drives at 80 miles an hour suffers an accident, but that hardly shows all is just fine with doing it. The psychological argument I see however as somewhat irrevelant to the ethical and justice issues at stake. Plenty of people over the centuries have made unbelievably bad or good decisions without feeling much in the way of conscious psychological consequences. The conscious presence or absence of guilt feelings often proves little. Visit any mental hospital or prison (or corporate office park).

    The author is fond of noting what ‘health researchers’ have and have not discredited. What she does not say is that one can find researchers on _both sides_ of the controversies on the various effects or non-effects of abortions. The evidence is far more abbigious than probably both sides admit. Her own move is like arguing, ‘I’ve found many scientists (for / against) human caused global warming’ , therefore [since any controverting evidence is not mentioned] the side I prefer to believe is the case. The article turns largely on anecdotal opinions that, as one poster notes, conveniently ignore controversies as if ther were none.

    I could go further in pointing out the basic logical, structural errors and half-truths used in her argument . . . I will probably not have convinced anyone and also by now expect to receive the predictable anecdotally driven rants and citing of pseudo-sources in reply . . . But the larger point is that the controversies are far more complicated than both sides often allow. Such self-reaffirming half arguments offerred in a closed circle as the author does will not do anyone much good.

  • invalid-0

    ‘Pro-aborts’? WTF? You know it’s impossible to take you people seriously when you come up with that sort of ridiculousness, yes?

    Oh god, how I love anti-choice jargon.

    ‘Pro-aborts’. I’m sure your concern trolling is very sincere and that you don’t intend to be amusing, but omg.

  • http://www.depression-help-right-now.com invalid-0

    This information’s shocking and I’m appalled to know that reality of CPCs. Thanks for revealing the truth, Katherine!