As ThinkProgress has reported, so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to help women in need are actually established by anti-abortion activists with the sole objective of shaming women out of having abortions. Despite receiving federal and state funding, they have a history of preying on and misleading pregnant women who are seeking abortions and giving them false medical information to dissuade them from making their own decisions.
After a year-long investigation, a new report to be released today by the pro-choice group NARAL reveals that those problems plague the vast majority of North Carolina’s crisis pregnancy centers. In addition to providing false medical information, many of the centers actively proselytize and tell women of non-Christian faiths to convert or face damnation:
In recent years, NARAL Pro-Choice state chapters have conducted investigations into the pregnancy clinics in New York, California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia, reaching the same general conclusions. Over the past year, the North Carolina office of the organization embarked on an identical investigation, studying the centers’ websites and other material, and sending staff and volunteers posing as pregnant women or couples into the clinics. [...]
NARAL says it found the majority of the centers it investigated in North Carolina had no medical professionals on staff, and only a quarter of them disclosed they were not medical facilities. More than two-thirds provided distorted or false information about abortion risks and consequences.
The report says one Jewish investigator who posed as a pregnant woman was told at five centers she wouldn’t go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity, and that one volunteer challenged her to become a “born-again virgin.”
The number of centers in North Carolina has nearly doubled since 2006, and there are eight times as many of them as there are abortion clinics. Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the group’s investigators found numerous instances where crisis pregnancy centers were misinforming and misleading women. “Staff and volunteers often use propaganda to dissuade women from abortions,” she said.
North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers have flooded these anti-abortion centers with taxpayer money while defunding Planned Parenthood and taking money away from legitimate family planning centers that provide medical services. Two new state laws will drive even more funding and patients their way. Money from sales of the new “Choose Life” license plates will go to the centers, and starting this Wednesday, a state-run website will launch and list the places that provide free ultrasounds.
Yet while receiving this government largesse, crisis pregnancy centers are not subjected to regular inspections like abortion clinics and often avoid any scrutiny of their practices, which openly flout the line between religious advocacy and medical counseling.
In 2006, a congressional investigation found the “vast majority” of federally funded centers provided false or misleading information, often suggesting that there are links between abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.