These people who unknowingly visited a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC). Instead of getting proper medical care from medical professionals, they were lied to and pressured into not getting abortions. Here are their stories.
“I was in my mid-20s in the mid-1980s and was pregnant. I sought out a clinic to have a pregnancy test and schedule an abortion. At the clinic I found, Alpha Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, I was seated in a room with a TV and was told I had to watch a short video while my urine was being tested.
I remember that the video was cheesy with cheesy music. It followed five pregnant women through their decisions of whether or not to end their pregnancies. The first four women chose to give birth and either keep the child or give it up for adoption. Lots of smiles and joy. The last woman, of course, was demonized in the video because she chose to have an abortion and regretted her decision.
What a scam. A year or so after I had my abortion, I got a letter from the clinic asking about my situation. Of course I didn’t answer it. I tell my story anonymously, though I believe in abortion on demand.”
— Anonymous, Bellvue, Colorado
“It was Upstate New York in 1982 and I was 21. I saw an ad on the bus about being pregnant and needing help. I had no money and no insurance, so I went there and had a free pregnancy test. While waiting for the results, a woman “counselor” told me how abortion was murder and made women sterile, and she also said that women who had one were often known to hear the babies crying in their heads. I laughed out loud at that one.
The test results came in, and they said I wasn’t pregnant. The next morning I had my first morning sickness. I told my boss, and she took me to Planned Parenthood, where I learned that I was indeed pregnant.
I think the plan was to keep me in denial until I decided to keep the baby or until it was too late to abort. Luckily for me, they weren’t successful at ruining my life.”
—Anonymous, Brooklyn, New York
“When I realized I was pregnant shortly after graduating college, I went looking for clinics to discuss options. I ended up inadvertently going to what I now know is a CPC that was actually directly across the street from a Planned Parenthood in Columbus, Ohio.
I was relieved that there were no protesters outside the clinic and thought they would help me. They did help me verify I was pregnant, but they were completely unreceptive to any discussion about termination. Every time I would steer the conversation towards that, I was instantly flooded with information on adoption. Pamphlets upon pamphlets about adoption and parenting and growth, but nothing about abortion. They gave me numbers to call for resources (none of which included anything related to abortion) and sent me on my way.
When I left, I even questioned if abortion was in fact legal, that it even existed, because they made it sound so outside the realm of possibility. I was overwhelmed with my situation and the lack of help I needed. By the time I decided to just go to Planned Parenthood even if protestors would be there, I was too far along to afford the procedure. Saving money up would have pushed me past when Planned Parenthood performs them.
I love my son dearly, but I am also aware of the circumstances and deception that brought him about. I think it’s disgusting how these places masquerade as help for women who are already struggling and stressed, only to push one narrative and many falsehoods.”
— Anonymous, Columbus, Ohio
“In 2009, I made a documentary about the local “crisis pregnancy center” in the college town of Greencastle, Indiana. The University’s medical center often referred students with pregnancy concerns to this CPC because there were very few options in our town and the nearest Planned Parenthood was over a hundred miles away.
A male student and I interviewed the CPC’s director under the premise of providing students with more information about their options. She refused to be interviewed on camera, but we were able to take pictures and record audio. Unlike other CPC directors, she claimed not only medical expertise but also life experience from having her first child at 17.
She emphasized that the CPC operated on Christian principles, which are to help those who have less resources. Using this Christian perspective, the CPC workers mainly counseled women about why the women didn’t feel prepared for motherhood. The CPC workers often prayed with clients and shared scripture. The director shared that she viewed her work as a way to empower women who are often told they’d be bad mothers and were forced into considering “other options.” She didn’t explicitly state what the other options were, but when she was asked about the CPC’s connection to an adoption agency, she said, “No women would ever consider an adoption once you feel your child growing.”
She did mention that some “alternatives” could lead to breast cancer or infertility. She also stated that they weren’t just here for women in a crisis but to provide a community through parenting groups. She explained the parenting groups taught pregnant people how to raise children with Christian principles, and they often prayed with each other.
As we were leaving, one of the CPC’s “star moms” arrived for her monthly “care package,” which included diapers and formula. The client also asked if she could get the director’s assistance for completing her application for Medicaid and food assistance. The director said in a very rehearsed way, “Of course, we want that baby well cared for.” While abortion was never mentioned by name I did notice a few pamphlets that said things like “the real truth about birth control” and some things that appeared to be scientific articles about the connection between abortion and infertility.
It seems clear to me that they believed in their mission and the facts that they were sharing with their clients. It also seemed that they were taking this information from another source and that they were taught how to then share the information with clients and the media. The emphasis on Christian values and supporting pregnant people becoming “good parents” was clear emotional manipulation.
I also believe that many of the clients that they report were “saved” by their organization were actually poor mothers from the community who needed additional resource support rather than women who earnestly considered an abortion or adoption.”
— Ashley Slupski, Chicago, Illinois
“In 2010, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. This came as a shock: I had been faithfully using both a NuvaRing and condoms, and I had no intention of having another child after suffering a spinal cord injury during my last pregnancy. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I visited my neurosurgeon who warned me in no uncertain terms that another pregnancy was not only ill-advised, but also potentially deadly to both me and my unborn child. Due to my spinal condition, my last child nearly died in utero and was born with tremendous cognitive difficulties. I sat numb for a week trying to wrap my head around this painful prognosis. At a time when others might celebrate and share a new pregnancy with enthusiasm, I was feeling utter fear and concern for my life.
Fortunately, I had a supportive partner who understood my needs, and together we agreed to terminate the pregnancy. But my partner and I didn’t know where to go. And that’s how I ended up in the worst place for women facing this difficult medical decision: a crisis pregnancy center.
My experience with so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” or CPCs, started with a search through phone books and Google. I called what I thought was a legitimate medical clinic that could give me information on all my medical options including abortion. In reality, I was not talking to a medical clinic at all but rather a place determined to convince me that I was safe carrying to term. The goal of the staff was not to answer my questions, but to lure me into their center.
This is part of an organized pattern of deception: CPCs often open up near or next to real women’s health centers in an attempt to confuse patients, and they employ staff who often dress in scrubs to trick women into believing they are real medical professionals. Making matters worse, these sham health centers far outnumber legitimate clinics in the United States, and for the majority of women, fraudulent women’s health clinics are easier to access than genuine ones. In my home state of North Carolina for example, crisis pregnancy centers outnumber comprehensive reproductive health clinics four to one.
Not only did the CPC I was lured into try to delay me from accessing real reproductive health care, the CPC staff also tried to emotionally manipulate me, verbally abuse me, and shame me at a time when I was extremely vulnerable. For two weeks, I received daily calls pressuring me to come into the center and talk and was told by the fake clinic’s staff that I was “failing God.” It took days of these conversations to realize the whole truth of what the CPC actually was, and I realized I had wasted precious time to get real help.
These scam health centers don’t just try to deceive, delay and shame women seeking reproductive services, they also flat out lie. CPCs routinely tell women that having an abortion could make them infertile, cause breast cancer, or even lead to mental illness–claims that major medical organizations, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have repeatedly debunked.
This month, the Supreme Court will weigh in on NIFLA v. Becerra, a case revolving around a 2015 California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers in the state to notify patients whether they actually have a medical license and where they can find comprehensive, affordable reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion. Anti-abortion groups are challenging the law, arguing that it violates their right to free speech. But make no mistake: What CPC lawyers are fighting for has nothing to do with free speech, and intentionally deceiving women when they are seeking medical advice should never be protected by the law.
After my OBGYN confirmed my fears that it was unsafe to carry the pregnancy to term and that if I did it would likely result in my unborn child’s death and put me at risk of permanent paralysis or death, I went back to my neurosurgeon, who then recommended three safe places to end my pregnancy.
This industry of deceit is hurting women. The CPC I interacted with endangered my health and intentionally misled me, trying to trick me into carrying my pregnancy to full term at the risk of both my life and the health of my unborn child. I am sharing my story because no woman should ever be tricked about her health and reproductive choices. That is why the Supreme Court must hear stories like mine and those of the scores of other women who have been misled by CPCs, and that’s why it must declare once and for all that tricking women about their healthcare decisions is never free speech. The lives of women depend on it.”
— Anonymous, Columbus, Ohio