What happens when you visit a fake clinic?
Medical experts share the devastating impact that fake clinics have on vulnerable pregnant people.
A Wanted Pregnancy - Put at Risk by a fake clinic
One of our volunteers, Cheryl, found herself with an unexpected but wanted pregnancy and was referred to a CPC by the Department of Public Health. Cheryl and her partner were under the impression that they were being seen by a real nurse; instead, an unlicensed, untrained volunteer in scrubs spent the visit lecturing them. Instead of providing accurate medical information, Cheryl was given an incorrect due date, which delayed her first prenatal visit with her primary care physician. A legitimate health care provider would have been able to diagnose Cheryl with a medical condition that would have put her on bed rest, but she didn’t find out until too late. Cheryl went into preterm labor and lost her baby.
Georgia has some of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country, with rates that are nearly four times higher for Black women than for white women. Meanwhile, Georgia is investing in CPCs that do nothing to address these disparities, and may actually be directly contributing to them.
- Kwajelyn Jackson from the Feminist Women’s Health Center, a member of the Abortion Care Network
Ignoring Domestic Violence
Crisis Pregnancy Centers are not medical providers. Pregnancy care, like all medical care, must meet a standard that is evidence-based and centered around the client. When a fake clinic gives out false information about pregnancy options and promotes services that they aren’t equipped or qualified to provide, they are harming women’s health and well-being. Their very existence further stigmatizes unintended pregnancies and the women who have them: for many women, an unintended pregnancy is not a “crisis” and can even be an empowering experience that gives her greater confidence in other areas of her life.
But for some women, an unintended pregnancy can put her life and safety in danger. CPCs’ approach to the role of fathers is a threat to women’s safety: pregnant women are at a higher risk of homicide by an intimate partner than other women, yet CPCs pressure women to include men in their decision, even if it’s dangerous for her. Legitimate healthcare providers work hard to support women in coercive or abusive relationships whose partners may be using pregnancy to gain even more control. All women deserve nonjudgmental, compassionate care that empowers them to make the best decision for their health and lives.
- Andrea Irwin, JD Executive Director of the Mabel Wadsworth Center, a member of the Abortion Care Network
Legit Providers Don't Discourage Healthcare
Crisis Pregnancy Centers don't provide health services that women are looking for. Instead, they lie, shame patients, and stigmatize abortion care in an attempt to limit options. By giving patients false information and promising financial support (that doesn’t materialize or isn’t enough), CPCs get women to delay abortion or prenatal care, which creates barriers and increases health risks. CPCs often set up next to abortion clinics and use similar names and signage in order to lure patients through their doors.
We can’t trust CPCs to be honest about what they do, but we can help patients understand the difference between CPCs and legitimate healthcare providers. CPCs advertise their services with phrases like “pregnant, need help?” That’s not an approach healthcare providers would take – we’re up front about what we do and the services we provide. CPCs hide behind misleading advertising instead of being honest about what they do and the services they can (and can’t) provide. Once you walk through the doors of a clinic, look for a statement of privacy practices and health information privacy forms. CPCs discourage people from seeking medical services – both abortion and prenatal care. Legitimate healthcare providers wouldn’t steer patients away from seeking healthcare.
- Jamie Beers, Administrator of the Hartford GYN Center, a member of the Abortion Care Network
Daily Harassment and delayed care
Sammi* was in the clinic with her mother. Her mother was the spokesperson. Sammi was 17, and very pregnant. She was living in Las Vegas with relatives when she found out. She had gone to a “clinic” that said they would help her. That clinic was really a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). Sammi told us how they gave her a free ultrasound, but that it was broadcast all over the clinic on monitors for everyone to see. The woman who was talking to her that day gave her a due date, after Sammi had told them that she wanted to end the pregnancy and that she would fly back to where her mom lives and have the abortion there.
The woman from the CPC began calling her almost daily and telling her aggressively that she would die, or end up in hell, or get very sick, if she were to go through with the abortion. This woman would hide under the guise of “checking up on her.” Finally, Sammi called her mom, who lives in California, and her mom flew her out. Based on the due date given by the CPC, Sammi and her mom thought they had more time to seek the abortion. But when they went to a Planned Parenthood and another ultrasound was performed, they were referred to us, because she was too far along. The CPC had given her a false due date—making it so that she would be “too late” to get her abortion in California when she came back. Luckily, when we got her referral we brought her in that day to do an ultrasound. She was over 23 weeks, but still under the gestational age limit.
Hearing her mother tell the story about how her daughter was harassed and lied to, we could tell that she was angry. Sammi was worried that she would not be able to get an abortion as she had started out trying to do when she was earlier in her pregnancy. Once they knew we would take good care of her, Sammi began to open up. She had plans for after high school. She definitely wanted people to know about this awful experience she had with the CPC, as did her mother. We were able to give Sammi her life back, but think about all of the other women who are lured into these CPCs, told falsehoods and misinformation, and harassed about their decisions, who don’t make it to us or another safe place to have their abortions. There are many more women like Sammi who do not make it in time.
Dr. Jennifer & Dr. Natasha, Physicians for Reproductive Health (*clients names changed to protect privacy)
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fake clinics - Home to Harassment
A crisis pregnancy center opened in 1999 directly next door to what was then Dr. George Tiller’s practice in Wichita, Kansas. Trust Women now operates a clinic there, offering comprehensive reproductive health care. We lean in to abortion care.
Over the years, the CPC next to us has openly welcomed anti-choice groups that harass and intimidate our patients, staff and doctors.
The CPC advertises on its website that it offers ‘factual’ information about fetal development and abortion. As those of us in the reproductive rights movement know, what anti-choice groups — and crisis pregnancy centers — consider truths are alternative facts. CPCs are often staffed by people who are not trained medical professionals, and they do not present women with all of their choices. This does a great disservice to women and their families.
CPCs are known to deliberately mislead women about how far along in pregnancy they are, a blatant attempt to limit their choices. Doing so is morally reprehensible.
Our clinic may be next door to a CPC, but trust me, it is no neighbor of ours.
- Julie A. Burkhart, Founder & CEO of Trust Women, a member of the Abortion Care Network
Agenda First, Patients Last
I am an OB/GYN who provides reproductive health care — including prenatal and abortion care — in Alabama. The majority of my patients have visited a Crisis Pregnancy Center before coming to my office. Patients have been misled to believe that they must go there for proof of pregnancy in order to apply for WIC or Medicaid.
Over time, this CPC has managed to weave its way into our local medical community, though It is not a legitimate medical facility. In exchange for the pregnancy test and unofficial (sometimes inaccurate) ultrasound, patients are given medical misinformation, forced to listen to religious rhetoric and anti-abortion propaganda. A patient even tells me she was asked to "REPENT!" No one should be subjected to CPC’s judgement and harassment, no matter what they decide about their pregnancies.
Another patient had an ultrasound at the CPC. When she told them she planned to see to me for prenatal care, they encouraged her to go to another doctor because I provide abortions. “I know,” she replied. “Dr. Robinson performed my abortion three years ago. That’s why I’m going there.” CPCs don’t understand that abortion, pregnancy, and birth are all normal parts of a woman’s reproductive life, and my patients want a doctor who trusts that they are the experts in their own lives.
- Dr. Yashica Robinson, Alabama Women's Center, a member of the Abortion Care Network
Anti-Choice Laws Make fake clinics the Only Option for Some
Since 2011, access to women’s healthcare in Arizona has become ground zero with the passage of 30 laws regulating or prohibiting reproductive care. Americans United for Life named Arizona its ‘Pro-Life All Star State’ over several recent years for having a super-majority of legislators working closely with in-state and national anti-choice organizations to pass model legislation. This model legislation is then introduced in other states and at the federal level. Legislation like the Wrongful Life/Birth laws that prohibit patients and their families from seeking legal actions against CPCs and medical doctors’ offices or hospitals who withhold medical care from patients whom they believe are ‘abortion-minded’. While Texas has claimed the national spotlight, Arizona had already passed measures forcing closures of abortion care centers all over the state that led to a dangerous shortage of abortion providers. Now, providers are in the centrally located, capitol city of Phoenix, leaving the mostly rural communities without science-based reproductive care. Some women must travel over four hours one-way to get abortion care. These burdens are incredibly difficult - while at the same time state funding and legislative measures have also been passed protecting these so-called pregnancy care centers.
- Gabrielle Goodrick, MD of Camelback Family Planning, a member of the Abortion Care Network
Manipulative Advertising and coercive practices
A big issue that stems from the combination of a lack of medical professionals and an abundance of spiritual (in particular, Christian spirituality) figures is that none of this is listed on the WCN’s main (consumer-aimed) website. If you visit http://www.imissedmyperiod.com(what a URL!) you won’t find any reference to religion, spirituality, or the fact that they DO NOT OFFER ABORTIONS. Even more incredulously, they do not refer women to a clinic where they can actually attain an abortion. This seems kind of crazy. I mean, if you’re calling yourself the Women’s “CHOICE” Network, then you’d think to attract women who are looking for exactly that – a choice of what to do with their pregnancy. However, if the WCN does not offer abortion services, and then refuses to give women information about clinics that do offer abortion services, then how is this offering any woman a choice in her reproductive health rights? Its false advertising, clear and simple. The only choice a woman has with the WCN is that of the religiously geared staff and volunteers.
On top of the fact that the WCN does not offer any abortive services, despite advertising in a way that attracts “abortion vulnerable women”, the WCN actively persuades women against making the choice of abortion. Let’s go back to my visit to the North Oakland office with Amy, who was giving me a tour of their resources. Other than the badly painted facade of “we’re a totally legit medical facility that doesn’t have trained medical staff on hand” – the most shocking part of the tour was the “counseling room.” The room was located in the back of the office, painted a soothing light blue, and filled with comfy chairs and pillows. Amy said that this is where “women are counseled about their pregnancy options.” Considering the WCN does not help with any options other than going through with a pregnancy, I can only believe that this “counseling room” should have more accurately been called the “persuasion room” – aka a place that is made to intimidate women with medical falsehoods and “counseling professionals” into going through with a pregnancy they may have been seeking to end.