Fess up, faux women's clinics!

A Baltimore measure requires crisis pregnancy centers to cop to their ban on abortion and birth control referrals

Published November 24, 2009 10:25PM (EST)

Under legislation approved Monday night by Baltimore's city council, crisis pregnancy centers that do not offer referrals for abortion or birth control would be required to post signs saying as much. It seems like such a reasonable plea for transparency! After all, these types of centers are infamous for engaging in religiously- and politically-motivated deception of pregnant women -- and yet, if the city's mayor signs the measure, it will be the very first law of its kind in the U.S.

Time and again, we've written about how crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as legitimate healthcare facilities and target young, poor and minority women by offering free pregnancy tests and counseling. In reality, these centers, which are often staffed by unqualified volunteers, provide medical misinformation as a means of coercing women into going through with a pregnancy and, in some cases, to give the baby up for adoption (to a good Christian family, natch). Some clinics have been found to delay pregnancy test results so they can first subject patients to graphic anti-abortion imagery and propaganda.

This measure is bolstered by more than crisis pregnancy centers' well-established reputation nationwide: Last year, the NARAL Pro-Choice Fund sent staff members into 11 Maryland centers in particular to pose as potential patients and reported that "every CPC visited provided misleading or, in some cases completely false, information" about abortion and birth control." For good measure, the clinics also threw in "emotionally manipulative counseling" (for example, one worker told an investigator, "You need to come meet your baby before deciding what to do"). Worse yet, many clinics "purposefully schedule sonogram appointments two-three weeks after the initial appointment to ensure that there will be a heartbeat and that the pregnancy is larger than a grain of rice." (If you're short on outrage today, I highly recommend reading the report in its entirety.)

What makes these centers so pernicious is that they calculatedly project "an aura of medical authority," as the NARAL report puts it, when in reality they are largely "amateur-run." This measure aims to chip away at that facade. Frankly, the legislation could go much farther and actually require them to cop to the totality of their dishonesty -- these clinics should be happy they're getting off so easy.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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