Disinformation at ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’

Disinformation at ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ November 1, 2011

A new investigation of “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) — really just propaganda centers where they try to convince women to surrender their reproductive rights — has found, unsurprisingly, that women are told all kinds of false and obnoxious things should they wander into one.

In 2006, a congressional investigation found the “vast majority” of federally funded centers provided false or misleading information. The investigation identified three main areas of concern: statements that there are links between abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.

In recent years, NARAL Pro-Choice state chapters have conducted investigations into the pregnancy clinics in New York, California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia, reaching the same general conclusions. Over the past year, the North Carolina office of the organization embarked on an identical investigation, studying the centers’ websites and other material, and sending staff and volunteers posing as pregnant women or couples into the clinics.

Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the organization decided to investigate in the state after discovering the number of centers had nearly doubled since 2006, to 122. And, she said, it seemed that abortion opponents were gaining momentum in the state.

Pope said the group’s investigators found numerous instances where crisis pregnancy centers were misinforming and misleading women. “Staff and volunteers often use propaganda to dissuade women from abortions,” she said.

NARAL says it found the majority of the centers it investigated in North Carolina had no medical professionals on staff, and only a quarter of them disclosed they were not medical facilities. More than two-thirds provided distorted or false information about abortion risks and consequences.

The report says one Jewish investigator who posed as a pregnant woman was told at five centers she wouldn’t go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity, and that one volunteer challenged her to become a “born-again virgin.”

The leader of the CPCs in North Carolina says they “can’t guarantee every word that comes out of a volunteer’s mouth will be what we hope.” Maybe if you employed actual medical staff instead of screeching fundamentalists, you’d have a bit more control.


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  • Tualha

    Ooh, I think we’ve found a new profession for Lincy Pandithurai. (Not that I expect her to lose her current one.)

  • Lycanthrope

    The leader of the CPCs in North Carolina says they “can’t guarantee every word that comes out of a volunteer’s mouth will be what we hope.”

    Actually, you CAN. That’s part of your responsibilities as the boss.

  • lofgren

    I understand that they can’t guarantee that their volunteers will always behave appropriately. That’s life, and when it comes to people volunteering to help women make a life changing decision, sometimes you’ll want to prioritize empathy and wisdom over medical knowledge. One would think that a component of empathy and wisdom would be directing their clients to people who do have the medical knowledge when it came to medical questions, but everybody makes mistakes sometimes.

    But when it gets back to you that 66-75% of your hires are routinely giving out false information, whatever you are prioritizing is not wisdom, empathy, or medical knowledge. Gosh, I can’t imagine what anybody would consider a more important skill for a crisis counselor, can you?

  • Love the targeted ad, this time for “adopthelp-dot-org.”

    The leader of the CPCs in North Carolina says they “can’t guarantee every word that comes out of a volunteer’s mouth will be what we hope.”

    I’m quite sure every word that comes out of their volunteers’ mouths is EXACTLY what they hope for. And like the geniuses who ran BP and Enron, they’re now pretending they have no clue what their subordinates are doing, because they know damn well it’s wrong and they don’t have the guts to own up to any of it.

    Yet more proof of how religion gives us strength and moral fibre.

  • MikeMa

    Trickle down stupid from the GOP to the clinics with, ‘Not intended to be a factual statement.’

  • BTW, Ed, your post about Kristol is still on the “Most Active” list, even though the last comment was on 10/28. WTF?!

  • Dennis N

    In 2006, a congressional investigation found the “vast majority” of federally funded centers provided false or misleading information.

    The problem of course is that large chunks of Congress and the American people don’t consider something to be “false or misleading” when it contradicts reality, as long as it aligns with their prejudices and holy books.

  • Randomfactor

    What’s needed is to use the fundies’ legislative strategy against them. Using the same arguments they’ve used to make family-planning clinics adhere to hospital standards, introduce legislation requiring ALL “crisis pregnancy” centers to have trained medical personnel–RN’s at the least–on the premises during all working hours to assure that accurate medical info is available.

  • JustaTech

    How is this even slightly legal? If they were claiming to provide any other kind of “medical” service, they’d be shut down in a heartbeat for practicing medicine without a licence. (Unless they were also claiming to be “alternative”.) How is any of this not blatent false advertising? It is so infuriating, taking advantage of vulnerable people in order to push your morality on them, damn the consequences.

    May their walls be infested with snakes!

  • lofgren

    If they were claiming to provide any other kind of “medical” service, they’d be shut down in a heartbeat for practicing medicine without a licence.

    I don’t think they claim to be a medical service. I believe they claim to be counselors, like those teen hotlines that used to be advertised in the back of comic books that were really trying to catch young people in a moment of extreme vulnerability and manipulate them into Christianity. Ever since conversion by the sword has become less acceptable, this has been a pretty popular trick in Jesus’ arsenal.

    It’s not illegal, so far as I know, to present yourself as an authority as long as you never claim to be an authority in so many words. So you can show up at somebody’s door in a lab coat with a stethoscope and offer free breast exams, and as long as you never actually say that you’re a doctor or promise to detect breast cancer you’re not doing anything that violates the law.

    The lab coat and stethoscope trick is one that is actually employed by these crisis centers. Another is to take a picture of a woman and then leave the room, then return with a random woman’s sonogram and imply that you just did a sonogram and this is that actual baby inside of this actual woman, even if the fetus depicted is months more advanced than the one inside the victim. As long as you never actually say “I am taking a sonogram of your fetus and here is the sonogram of your body right now,” you’re in the clear.

    Further these places will often offer support throughout the pregnancy (both financial and moral, which is a good thing, I guess), and then pressure the woman to give the baby up for adoption. They then sell the baby – er, arrange the adoption – to a nice Christian couple for a sweet profit.

    These people are the vilest of the vile.

  • The Christian Cynic

    I really wish I were surprised. In the past, I held a higher opinion of CPCs, I think mostly because my mother (who really is a fine individual, whatever her faults) volunteered at one for a few years back in the late ’90s; but more experiences with people involved with them (especially a director of a local one) have reinforced what this post and many previous others around the Web have shown to be the case. It really is a shame, since I think some of the services that CPCs provide are useful; recently, my wife helped out my mother with a Parents’ Night Out sort of activity that was put on by a CPC, and that is certainly a nice thing to have available for new and especially single mothers. But it doesn’t justify misinformation, and I really think that CPCs that disseminate false information should be held accountable for it.

  • The Christian Cynic

    lofgren: Do you have any cites for those last two claims (the sonograms and arranging adoptions)? I would definitely be interested in further information on that.

  • May they be haunted by the wailing ghosts of ten thousand women who died in childbirth, and sued by every client they have deceived.

  • lofgren

    lofgren: Do you have any cites for those last two claims (the sonograms and arranging adoptions)? I would definitely be interested in further information on that.

    I’ve been reading about these places for years so I can’t cite a source for the sonogram one. I read that one a lifetime ago. The adoption claim I only encountered fairly recently in The Christian Adoption Racket. Here is an example of the disingenuous white coat.

  • Aliasalpha

    Now now, there ARE links between abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.

    Think about it, if you don’t abort a foetus, it runs a significantly higher risk of developing into an actual person who might one day have breast cancer, infertility and/or mental illness