Pregnant and scared? Beware of misinformation.
Unintended pregnancies happen
It can be scary for anyone who suddenly finds themselves with huge choices to make. Can you be a parent? How does adoption work? What about abortion?
You don’t have to be alone. There are resources out there to help you. But there are also people who will try to take advantage of your fear, and pressure or scare you into not having an abortion. The danger is that these anti-abortion organizations pose as legitimate health centers and there’s no law against their doing so. Because of them, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about abortion: horrifying and deceptive pictures, false information about when a fetus has a heartbeat, and just plain lies about things like abortion causing depression or breast cancer. That’s not true, but these organizations are backed by a lot of money, so their misinformation has a wide reach.
These fake clinics are called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), and they use a variety of tactics to manipulate their clients and potential clients. They often set up their offices near legitimate health centers, use the word “abortion” in their name, or offer free ultrasounds and counseling. They are not subject to trade laws regarding deception, because they provide their services for free, and they don’t have to comply with medical regulations because they don’t actually provide medical services.
You deserve to know about all the options available to you, and you deserve to get accurate information and unbiased support.
How do I know if I’m at a crisis pregnancy center?
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know the difference between a CPC and a legitimate health clinic. Many states’ insurance plans refer people to CPCs as part of state law, or put them on a list of clinics alongside legitimate health centers. Some even fund the centers directly with taxpayer funds. Here’s a helpful map with information about how CPCs are funded and run in each state.
In many states, even legitimate medical centers are required to impose a 24-hour waiting period on abortions, show you an ultrasound, counsel you on adoption, inform you of the risks of abortion, remind you that the “father” is responsible for child support, or even describe the fetus in detail to you. These are all measures meant to deter people from having abortions. Going to a medical center that does these things does not necessarily mean it’s not legitimate.
If you think you might have found a CPC, you can look up the clinic on this map. The map is not comprehensive, but it has a large nationwide list of CPCs. It’s a good place to start.
What are some signs that the clinic you’re looking at could be a CPC?
- CPCs do not usually have medical professionals on staff: If they had licensed medical professionals on staff, those people could lose their licenses for knowingly giving medically inaccurate or dangerous information. So that they don’t have to be subject to medical laws, CPCs almost certainly will not employ any nurses, doctors, ultrasound technicians, obstetricians, or anyone with medical licensure. They’re usually staffed by volunteers. While legitimate clinics may have volunteers manning the phones, or helping bring patients to appointments, when it’s time to see a doctor, you’ll see a licensed professional.
- They won’t say whether they provide abortions: Even if you don’t think you want an abortion, call the clinic beforehand and ask whether they perform them. If their answer isn’t a straightforward “yes,” beware: in their effort to stop abortions from happening, CPCs give intentionally inaccurate ultrasound results, so even if your pregnancy is wanted, they might not tell you if there’s something wrong with the fetus. That is unacceptably dangerous for both you and the fetus.
- They do not offer blood pregnancy testing: Because they aren’t medically licensed, CPCs can’t do blood tests for pregnancy.Home pregnancy tests tend to be very accurate. If you get a positive result and go to a doctor, they will usually do another urine test to confirm, which is identical to the home version of a pregnancy test. However, if that test comes back positive, medical centers may then do a blood test to get more information about your pregnancy and determine if your hormone levels are in a safe and expected range. Ask the center you call if they can order blood tests if medically indicated. Again, if the answer is anything other than “yes,” be suspicious.
- You will not be able to get information about contraception: Even if you’re not planning on having an abortion, and even if you don’t want contraception, you should still be wary of this. CPCs will not discuss any safer sex option with you other than abstinence, and many receive funding from the government because they do abstinence-only sex education.
- You found them through an advertisement with very little information: CPCs spend a lot of money on advertising on public transportation, high schools, and college campuses. That’s because they specifically target young women, low-income women, and women of color. Medical centers will usually put their medical credentials and the services they offer in their advertising, but CPCs are not required by law to disclose what services they do or do not provide. The ads usually say things like “Pregnant and scared? There’s hope.” and have a phone number—and very little other information.
Where should I go instead?
Abortion is still legal in all 50 states, but in many places in the US, it’s difficult to find a clinic that will provide abortion as an option. Wherever you go, make sure that they will talk with you openly and honestly about all of your options, and that they let you lead the discussion. Your doctor might be a good place to start, and Planned Parenthood provides information, resources, and counseling on all the options: abortion, adoption, and parenthood. If you can’t get to a Planned Parenthood, they are are still a great resource, and can direct you to clinics you may be able to access, if you give them a call. You can also check out these resources:
- Help finding a clinic
- Help paying for an abortion
- Talk with people trained to listen and offer support, no matter which options you are considering
You don’t have to go it alone, but be wary of those who will try to influence your decision. What happens to you is up to you, and anyone who is willing to deceive you doesn’t have your interests in mind.