As someone who has worked in the abortion rights and funding movements for the past six years, there’s a lot that enrages me about the current landscape of abortion access and sexual and reproductive health more generally in the United States—but few things boil my blood so hotly as crisis pregnancy centers.
Crisis pregnancy centers (commonly referred to as CPCs) are manipulative, anti-abortion organizations masquerading as comprehensive reproductive healthcare centers. They’re often religiously affiliated, are sometimes state government-funded, and are not required to have any medical professionals on staff. CPCs often position themselves adjacent to real abortion providers and clinics and are incredibly common in college towns and lower-income neighborhoods.
It’s not just that CPCs outnumber legitimate abortion providers in the United States and are easier to access than real clinics: they also use insidious, deceitful tactics to attract pregnant people and try to shame and intimidate them from accessing abortion care. Many CPCs imitate real clinics by choosing names that sound like abortion clinics. For example, Your Choice Resource Center is a CPC in North Carolina that attempted to move next door to an independent abortion provider, even though the CPC already had a location down the street.
Most CPCs also advertise on billboards, buses, online and sometimes even in college campus health centers with statements like “PREGNANT AND SCARED? CALL US.” or “NEED A FREE ULTRASOUND? WE’RE HERE FOR YOU. WE RESPECT YOUR CHOICE.” Once inside the CPC, though, patients are bombarded with anti-abortion sentiment and lies about the “effects” of abortion—often only after they receive a free ultrasound or take a free pregnancy test and the pregnancy is confirmed. CPCs will sometimes offer free diapers, clothing, and other necessities to low-income pregnant people if they decide not to get an abortion (and then of course throw all care for the family out the window after birth).
The CPC horror stories are unending. In North Carolina, one center offered “points” to pregnant parents who came to weekly classes about so-called conservative values, including a class about the evils of LGBTQ people, that they could then redeem in a “store” for diapers and baby food. Some CPCs also force people to watch medically inaccurate videos and look at traumatizing photos, and others give patients plastic models of what the fetus would look like at each stage of development.
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Preying on low-income communities and then only “giving” them resources after you’ve forced them to sit in on hours of bigoted, extremist “classes”? That’s shameful. (And state-funded! To read more details about crisis pregnancy centers, click here to read NARAL Pro-Choice America’s comprehensive report.)
It’s clear that CPCs are a threat to abortion rights and access and try to stand in the way of a person’s agency and autonomy to make decisions about abortion. And now, the Trump administration is sending pregnant minors in government custody right to crisis pregnancy centers’ doors. In March, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop preventing immigrant teens in government custody from accessing abortion care and instructed government-funded shelters to post a notice informing minors of their right to access abortion.
The administration appealed the order, however, and took it one step further:
And in tandem with the appeal, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency responsible for unaccompanied minors, directed all government-funded shelters and legal services providers to make available what is effectively a counter-notice, instructing pregnant minors to seek counseling from one of three crisis pregnancy centers.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is also requiring shelters to provide a misleading anti-abortion brochure about the (totally false) “effects” of this normal, safe medical procedure to minors.
Let’s be clear here: sending pregnant immigrant minors to crisis pregnancy centers will prevent them from accessing care if they decide they want to have an abortion. Not only does this move directly violate March’s court order, it’s a blatant trampling of the human and constitutional right to access abortion care. CPCs are not a substitute for comprehensive reproductive health care, and they’re certainly not qualified to counsel people about pregnancy options. That’s a job for a real, legitimate medical provider—one that respects teens’ choices and sees immigrant youth as fully autonomous individuals.
Immigrant youth deserve much better than this. Immigrant youth deserve the right to abortion.