Crisis pregnancy centers are anti-abortion operations masquerading as medical clinics. They promise pregnancy tests, options counseling, and access to medical care. Instead, they try to scare women out of having abortions with misleading science and even threats. A post from a Reddit user seeking legal advice suggests that at some clinics, imprisoning women to stop them from having abortions might now be standard.
Are Anti-Choice Clinics Imprisoning Women?
The post to Reddit’s r/legaladvice forum inquires whether it’s illegal to lock a woman in an exam room. The poster, who says they are a receptionist at a crisis pregnancy center, says the clinic locked a woman in an exam room after the woman said she was going to get an abortion. The woman called the police when the clinic wouldn’t let her out, and the police told the clinic they had illegally imprisoned the woman.
“I want to emphasize that the nurses and I followed company policy to a T through this entire situation. Did we commit a crime, or if a crime was committed, is it the fault of the business?” inquired the poster. So locking a woman in a room wasn’t just an isolated incident. It’s standard practice—so standard, in fact, that the poster adamantly insists it could not have been illegal.
Later, the poster clarifies that the woman would have been allowed to leave if only she had signed a form. She doesn’t say what the form was for, but CPCs have long used threats to try to get women to sign away various rights. A report by the National Abortion Federation found that CPCs may attempt to force women to sign adoption forms.
The post makes clear that CPCs don’t really see their clients as fully human. They don’t have an obligation to respect their basic rights by not imprisoning or traumatizing them. All that matters is stopping them from having an abortion.
How Anti-Choice Clinics Skirt the Law
It’s easy to dismiss this story as the bad behavior as a single clinic, or even as a fake post. Crisis pregnancy centers across the country, however, have a long history of breaking the law. A Rewire investigation uncovered a complex web of intimidation and manipulation used to get women to sign away their rights to abortion. In one case, a clinic even called the police on a teen for seeking an abortion.
CPCs are not covered under HIPAA and other medical privacy laws because they are not technically medical clinics. Yet they present themselves as medical clinics, and some pretend to offer medical services. So women often give them intensely personal information, as well as contact details, information about how they got pregnant, and even contact information for third parties.
CPCs use this information to intimidate, and sometimes even stalk, women. In one case, a clinic continually intimidated a 17-year-old and repeatedly contacted her family. Some clinics sell personal information to third parties, or give it to aggressive anti-choice activists. Anti-choice activists have killed at least 11 people, so revealing personal information to them may endanger a woman’s life.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that crisis pregnancy centers are free to lie about abortion as a matter of free speech.
Government Funding for Religious Fake Clinics
Abortion clinics, which offer real and life-saving medical services, face an increasingly onerous web of government restrictions. The federal government prohibits funding for abortion, and most states have followed suit.
Meanwhile, government money flows freely into crisis pregnancy centers. In Texas, fake clinics outnumber real clinics by 10 to 1, and half of those clinics receive government money. Since 2014, fake clinics have received more than $21 million in government dollars. Much of the money was diverted from service programs designed to help women and children. This is as Texas abortion clinics continually must sue to remain open.
CPCs offer nothing of any discernible value. They don’t offer any services proven to reduce abortion rates. They don’t provide women with medical care, childcare, domestic violence counseling, or any other service that could help them have and keep their babies. Their only goal is to scare women out of having an abortion by any means necessary, and to then send them into the world without any help. Their Republican backers steadfastly support policies that make motherhood more difficult, raising the abortion rate.
Support for CPCs is not about protecting life. It’s about punishing women for having sex—even when doing so means illegally imprisoning them.