Coercing women in "crisis"

The National Abortion Federation releases a report detailing the harmful practices of crisis pregnancy centers.

Published June 16, 2006 7:20PM (EDT)

The National Abortion Federation released an alarming report yesterday on crisis pregnancy centers, which claim to offer women "options counseling." According to the report, these centers exist for one reason only: "To keep women from having abortions." Modeling themselves after centers that offer comprehensive medical services, CPCs routinely provide women with false and misleading information -- often to harmful effect -- and rarely refer women for abortion services or birth control, the report says.

Despite being staffed by volunteers -- not medical professionals -- many of these centers masquerade as a doctor's office. "CPCs often design their facilities to look like actual health care facilities with a waiting room, a partitioned check-in desk, and an ultrasound machine." It should not come as a surprise, then, that their lack of medical personnel does not stop some centers from deceptively advertising an "Ask the Doctor" service.

Among the misinformation spread by some of these clinics is that birth control methods are abortifacients, and that having an abortion is a life-threatening procedure that can lead to breast cancer. Beyond attempts by CPCs to mask their extremist ideology as evenhanded medical counseling, the report claims that these centers have bullied women out of having abortions: "CPCs have been known to extend the waiting period for pregnancy test results to expose women to their anti-choice or religious propaganda. While women wait, CPCs often present them with videos and pictures depicting gruesome and graphic images of bloody and dismembered fetuses that have allegedly been aborted as a scare tactic in their effort to compel women not to have abortions." What's more, shortly after their visit to a CPC, some women have reportedly received unsolicited calls pressuring them against having an abortion.

If you find all of this a bitter pill to swallow, try to stomach this: Many of these centers have managed to receive federal funding. And CPCs outnumber abortion clinics 2-to-1 in the U.S.; there are approximately 4,000 CPCs nationwide and 2,000 abortion clinics. The report suggests writing to your elected representatives and reporting misleading advertising by CPCs. But first, read the report (or at least the Cliffs Notes version).

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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