The Case Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Grace J. Bromage ‘23

Senior Advisor

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have been featured heavily on the news in the last few years, with both Massachusetts’ Governor Maura Healey and Worcester’s own councilor Thu Nguyen pushing forward legislation to stop CPCs’ spread of misinformation. These motions are not limited to Massachusetts, with California, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Maine taking action against these centers too. On the other side, conservatives have called for expanded legal protections for CPCs. The Fenwick Review too has pushed this message, with calls for President Rougeau to address what they call “rising violence against Christians, churches, and crisis pregnancy centers.” While I cannot speak for Rougeau, there may be a simple reason that he has not addressed political restrictions against CPCs: CPCs do not offer comprehensive healthcare, and instead scare and spread misinformation to vulnerable patients. Their protection comes at the cost of the wellbeing of pregnant women and anyone with a uterus. 

Despite their deceptive names like First Concern Pregnancy Resource Choices, Options for Women, Clearway Clinic, and Your Options Medical, most CPCs do not offer accurate medical services nor do they employ certified healthcare professionals. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, CPCs do not need to follow any legal or credential requirements for healthcare facilities and therefore do not give “comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information.” In a Massachusetts warning against CPCs, the attorney general stated that CPCs do not usually employ licensed medical professionals, leading to them performing illegitimate ultrasounds which contain inaccurate results. That message also stated that CPCs provide erroneous and misleading information about abortions and their medical effects, thus scaring away women from getting the medical attention they may want or need. Due to the fact that they are unlicensed, these centers do not need to recognize HIPAA privacy rules, meaning that they can freely distribute any personal or medical information patients give them.

One does not need to be pro-choice to recognize the importance of limiting the power of CPCs to instead protect legitimate family planning centers which provide a wide range of healthcare services. In 2022, Planned Parenthood provided millions of patients with care. Of the services provided, abortion only totaled 4%, with the amount of cancer screenings (5%) and STI testing and treatment (49%) outnumbering abortion services. CPCs generally do not and cannot provide cancer screenings or STI testing. To truly respect life, we should increase protections on the places that do provide patients with holistic healthcare, like Planned Parenthood, and stop giving millions of dollars in federal funding to CPCs that mask themselves as healthcare clinics. 

It is important to assess the Fenwick Review’s claim about the violence on CPCs. It is true that CPCs, according to the Guardian, have faced cases of arson and vandalism. Although no one was injured in these attacks, extremism is rarely a productive or ethical solution. However, the more than 100 attacks on CPCs and pro-life organizations Fox News cited pales in comparison to the numbers of abortion clinics attacked in recent years. CNN reported that in 2018 there were 1,369 reported violent acts against abortion clinics, a number that included 15 counts of assault and battery, 13 burglaries, 14 counts of stalking, and over a thousand cases of trespassing. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2021, there was a 600% increase in stalking, 163% increase in suspicious packages containing dangerous materials, a 129% increase in invasions, and a 128% increase in assault and battery. The NAF also reported that since 1977, there have been “11 murders, 42 bombings, 196 arsons, 491 assaults, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at patients, providers, and volunteers.” If one demands more spotlights on the violence CPCs face, one should be equitable and spotlight this violence on family planning clinics.  

Similarly, the effects of the implementation of strict abortion laws since the over-ruling of Roe v. Wade– an event that Rougeau did release a statement about– greatly trump the effects of CPCs being shut down due to ethical violations and false advertising. Research data by the University of Colorado found that with the overturn of Roe v. Wade and banning of abortion, the maternal death rate would increase by 24%, with a 39% increase in maternal deaths for Black women. In December 2022, CNN reported that the rate of deaths of any cause in women between the ages of 15-44 in states that restrict abortions is 34% higher than states that do preserve abortion access and that. I could find no similar statistics on the effects of the limitations of CPCs on maternal death rates, unsurprising, given that they do not offer legitimate healthcare services to pregnant people. 

Ultimately, being against CPCs is not anti-Christian nor anti-life. Being against CPCs means recognizing the damage they do to an extremely vulnerable group of people and recognizing that the services they provide are not comprehensive nor real healthcare services. Furthermore, being pro-choice does not mean that you are anti-life; rather, it means you support the lives and autonomy of pregnant people. To truly be people for and with others, we should uphold and protect everyone’s ability to receive quality and compassionate healthcare, and limit the spread of false information and scare tactics that crisis pregnancy centers provide.

Featured image courtesy of Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe Staff Testing and Counseling Sign Outside of a CPC

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