The National Network of Abortion Funds is alarmed to see the Georgia House approve up to $2 million dollars of taxpayer money to fund deceptive and dishonest crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Georgia joins at least 12 states that directly fund CPCs, and will surely add to the more than 4,000 CPCs already spanning the United States.
Crisis pregnancy centers frequently spread misinformation to coerce those looking for information and options into carrying a pregnancy to term against their wishes. They are often staffed by unlicensed volunteers posing as medical professionals with a biased anti-abortion agenda. Many of these CPCs are run by anti-abortion extremists and religiously affiliated organizations who lure in those looking for low-cost reproductive health care, including information on abortion.
Oriaku Njoku, co-founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, NNAF member fund serving patients seeking abortions in Georgia, says, “People seeking support in a time of need deserve privacy and dignity. This is what we should be working toward instead of giving incentives to organizations who are using coercive and shaming counseling tactics.”
Deceptive tactics used by CPCs include opening near legitimate clinics, using names that sound like clinics offering all options, and offering services like free ultrasounds. In one scan of 254 CPC websites, many discouraged use of condoms, claiming that they frequently break or are ineffective in preventing infections. These tactics are particularly problematic in states where sex education isn’t regulated, and in states that require those seeking abortions to also pay for ultrasounds and additional visits.
Lawmakers use language like “positive alternative” centers, directly adding to abortion stigma by implying we need better than abortion, that abortion is somehow a sad or shameful choice. NNAF rejects this idea, and knows that we’re able to make the best decisions for ourselves, and that abortion is an important and safe health care procedure.
“If lawmakers are looking for a truly comprehensive model of support for pregnant people that is not abortion specific, Backline’s All Options Pregnancy Resource Center in Bloomington, Indiana is a great example. They provide diaper drives, birth control, and abortion services. More importantly, they are committed to providing all reproductive options without judgement. That is the kind of center states should be spending tax dollars on,” suggests Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Unfortunately, we also know that CPCs are unlikely to spend taxpayer dollars on actual support for people who walk through their doors — support like prenatal care. Instead, one CPC’s tax return from 2013 shows that it spent a total of $353,261 and only four percent, or $14,461, went to “client support.” Quadruple that amount was spent on advertising, and the rest on rent, wages, and administration.
As abortion funds know well, many people who need abortions are already looking for ways to cut costs to afford the procedures they need. Oriaku Njoku describes such situations, “I have had women tell me that they were pressured to carry a pregnancy to full term by someone who is not even a medical professional. I have heard stories of women who thought they were actually at an abortion clinic but ended up essentially being shamed and coerced into carrying their pregnancy to full term because they thought they would go to hell otherwise.“
Another harmful, common tactic is misrepresenting how far along in their pregnancy a patient is. People find themselves up against bans on later abortions, with higher costs associated with a later abortion, and without the care they would choose if they were knowingly carrying to term.
“I have had women tell me that someone at a Pregnancy Support Center lied to them that were not pregnant when they were because they expressed that they wanted to have an abortion,” shares Oriaku Njoku. Not only is this misleading, it’s dangerous; non-licensed staff are more likely to miss severe fetal anomalies or conditions that would require extra care, and cheat pregnant people out of the ability to care for their pregnancies, wanted or not, in a way they would choose with all information present.
Crisis pregnancy centers should not be funded by taxpayer money, and they should be required to have medically accurate, comprehensive conversations about all options. Tax dollars should be focused on improving the quality of our healthcare, allowing us to choose our own options with dignity, and better yet, providing real support so people can access those options regardless of income.
Pregnant people know their lives best and deserve full autonomy to determine their course. When a crisis pregnancy center fabricates information and shames a person into giving birth, they are behaving unethically and immorally. It’s irresponsible and unthinkable that lawmakers would reward crisis pregnancy centers and their dishonesty with taxpayer-funded grants.