Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to, Scare and Shame Women, New Study Confirms

Imagine going to a health clinic and having an ultrasound under the insistence of staff only to be told that your IUD was actually your baby.

That’s just one of the horrifying examples NARAL Pro-Choice California discovered during their year-long undercover investigation of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in the state. The investigators visited more than 25 percent of California’s CPCs conducting 49 in-person visits with undercover women going in for a variety of different reasons. From seeking an abortion to being undecided of how to proceed with an unplanned pregnancy, the advice was always the same: you have to have the baby no matter what.

What’s worse? Factors like being in an abusive relationship or not having the resources to support a family didn’t change the “counseling” women received either. As one of the investigators put it, “It was scary how they all said the same things, it was like it didn’t matter who I was, they only have one script.”

In an effort to pressure women to carrying pregnancies to term, many of the undercover women were straight up lied to by CPC workers. In fact, in 91 percent of the centers visited, investigators were told that having an abortion was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility, miscarriage or “post-abortion depression,” which they said resulted in suicide. In addition to linking abortion to health risks, CPC workers dissuaded women from having the procedure by giving misinformation. For example, they told women thatan abortion is actually unnecessary because the chance of a “spontaneous abortion” or miscarriage is 30-50 percent — another flat out lie and made-up statistic.

Since abstinence is the only method of pregnancy prevention CPCs advocate for, birth control was another area where women received ample misinformation. Of the centers visited, 63 percent gave investigators misinformation about birth control and Plan B, the morning after pill. As one investigator recalls:

They had these booklets where it showed different methods of birth control; IUD, the ring, the depo shot, and all that. So I started reading them, and none of them said what the benefits were – all of them said the risks, the bad side effects, and how all of them cause “medical abortions.”

When another investigator asked how she could prevent unintended pregnancy she was told:

In order to not get pregnant, it would be best to stop whoring around…everybody should just stop using birth control because it’s not healthy for your body; it’s not good for you.

Therein lies another common tactic CPCs use to coerce women into carrying pregnancies to term: shame. Shaming women was a common thread throughout the investigators’ experiences. Almost 70 percent of centers called the fetus a “baby” and told the pregnant woman that she was already a mother regardless of whether she was carrying the pregnancy to term or seeking an abortion. CPC workers would also go to great lengths to use gruesome and graphic language to scare women away from terminating a pregnancy. One woman was told, “they might puncture your uterus and vacuum your fallopian tubes shut” if she had an abortion. Another woman in the investigation recalls:

She told me that for some women, they dilate them too fast and they might become … not infertile, but in later cases … they might miscarry a lot because the cervix might not close up all the way. So I might have a lot of miscarriages if I aborted the baby.

As places that advertise themselves as offering “unbiased options counseling,” it is pretty clear that this is a far cry from the truth. Problem is that CPCs can be very deceiving in presenting themselves as health clinics with trained medical professional when that is not the case at all. Center workers often dress in white coats to pose as physicians and buy or lease space near abortion clinics or other medical facilities to give the impression that they are equipped to offer the same medical service and advice. 

CPCs, however, are not interested in providing women with “unbiased counseling.” Quite the contrary. Their agenda is clear and singular: every woman who walks through those doors must carry their pregnancy to term no matter what. As the study concludes:

While the decision to continue with a pregnancy or seek abortion care is an extremely personal one, CPCs have no respect for the health, well being, and aspirations for the women who find themselves in their so-called “clinics.” Their lies, shaming tactics, and downright lack of knowledge of reproductive health care puts women in danger every day.

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is scary enough. When faced with this situation what women need is safe, medically accurate, and judgement free care from trained professionals who will respect their decision — whatever it may be. What they don’t need is to be lied to, scared off, shamed or told that their IUD is their baby.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Morrow

165 comments

Lisa M
Lisa M1 years ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 years ago

Noted.

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Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jenny B.
Jenny B3 years ago

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Jenny B.
Jenny B3 years ago

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Past Member 3 years ago

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Crystal G.
Crystal G3 years ago

"In order to not get pregnant, it would be best to stop whoring around"

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Crystal G.
Crystal G3 years ago

Wow. They really said that? For being the #1 country. We certainly are living backwards!

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Crystal G.
Crystal G3 years ago

"In order to not get pregnant, it would be best to stop whoring around"

SEND