The harm that Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or fake clinics that often have religious affiliations, inflict on women who seek their help appears more sinister than ever.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or CPCs, masquerade as legitimate health care centers, luring pregnant women by appearing to be helpful. They actually do just the opposite by peddling lies and misinformation about the supposed physical and psychological impact of abortion. And despite the white lab coats their employees usually wear, they typically have no licensed medical professionals on staff. A paper published in AMA Journal of Ethics explains that while legal, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are highly unethical: “The counseling provided on abortion and contraception by CPCs falls outside accepted medical standards and guidelines for providing evidence-based information and treatment options.”
Alarmingly, Crisis Pregnancy Centers outpace abortion clinics by a national average of three to one. Their funds come from donations and tax dollars. In fact, a study published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that most such centers are affiliated with evangelical Christian networks that undoubtedly provide them monetary support. However, these centers also funnel millions of tax dollars. For example, 27 Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Minnesota receive annual funding of $3.3 million for a five-year period. Anti-abortion legislators in Texas, which holds the strictest anti-abortion law in the country, have allocated more than $100 million for such centers over the next two years. And in the first year of the pandemic, news articles reported that Crisis Pregnancy Centers received upwards of $10 million of forgivable federal loans as part of the government’s paycheck protection program.
Disturbingly, experts now warn that Crisis Pregnancy Centers may also be spying on women and could report them for criminal activity. In fact, abortion advocates claim that “CPCs are poised to be enforcement sites of anti-abortion laws like SB 8 in Texas, in which any public citizen can report an alleged violation of the six-week abortion ban.” Erin Maye Quade, advocacy director at Gender Justice, explained that “because CPCs are a global network … they’re actually poised to become the surveillance mechanism to enforce these unconstitutional laws.” A new study of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in nine states found that these deceitful organizations collect and store “extensive personal client data” to create “digital dossiers” of the people that interact with them. Shockingly, the data collected also includes the “status of potential conversion to evangelical Christianity.” And because these centers are not subject to federal privacy laws, they are positioned to surveil people and provide their data to abortion bounty hunters throughout the country.
As secular activists, we must lend our support to legislators and organizations that stand up for science and women’s rights. The Women’s Health Protection Act is slated to have a Senate vote on Feb. 28. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has long supported this important measure that would codify abortion rights, thus rendering any abortion bounty hunting illegal. We can also donate to organizations like the Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin. This organization was established by FFRF’s principal co-founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. The fund helps an average of 900-1,000 Wisconsin residents obtain affordable abortion care each year. You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
The future of abortion in the United States is seemingly bleak. In just a few short months, the Supreme Court is slated to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade. Should this occur, countless state anti-abortion laws that have been passed will go into effect. Depending on the state in which they reside, women will find it harder than ever to access abortion care. Let’s do all that we can to make abortion care accessible to all — and to counter fake pregnancy clinics.