Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are NOT Abortion Clinics: How to Spot One

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs,) which may also go by the name “pregnancy resource center,” “pregnancy care center,” or “pregnancy support center,” are organizations that aim to prevent abortions through adoption and parenting.

These centers use vague language, imagery of fetuses, babies, and pregnant women, and often, funding from state taxpayers, with the goal of convincing abortion-seekers to not go through with the procedure, or obstructing their timeframe to get one.

Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating a person’s federal right to an abortion, an increasing number of states have banned or severely restricted the procedure. Knowing the difference between a CPC and a true abortion clinic could be the difference between getting life-altering care, or being turned away and forced into pregnancy if you miss a state-mandated legal deadline for an abortion, Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer who hosts the podcast Ordinary Equality and has worked on the Equal Rights Amendment, told Insider.

For every abortion clinic in the United States, there are three CPCs, according to a study by The Alliance, a collaborative of state-based law and policy centers focusing on gender equality. A New York Times analysis found more the half of American women of reproductive age live closer to a CPC than an abortion clinic.

According to Kelly, understanding how CPCs operate, and knowing what to ask about when you’re seeking abortion care, can help you spot and avoid them.

CPCs provide ultrasounds, but they don’t provide abortions

By their name, CPCs may sound like they provide medical support for pregnancies, but they don’t.

Robert Pearson, a Christian Carpenter in Hawaii, founded the first CPC in 1967 and created a manual for others to do the same. In the manual, Pearson instructed fellow anti-abortionists to set CPCs up near abortion clinics, use neutral clinic names, and show pregnant people who walk through CPC doors false information about abortion risk, the New York Times reported. CPC employees may also give abstinence-based sex education.

There are no licensed medical doctors or professionals at CPCs, so they can only provide ultrasounds that confirm a pregnancy, free pregnancy tests, testing for sexual transmitted infections, and baby supplies like diapers. They may also direct a pregnant person on how to apply for government assistance.

If someone at a CPC asks for an abortion, or a referral to an abortion clinic, CPC workers won’t help. When an abortion-seekers realizes this, it could be too late in their pregnancy to get a true abortion appointment.

“It’s a small window of time, so you only have to keep them at bay for potentially a couple weeks, and then you’ve succeeded,” Kelly said.

She gave the hypothetical example of a woman who discovers she’s pregnant at 11 weeks. Since it’s too late for her to use the abortion pill to end her pregnancy, she goes to a clinic, not realizing it’s a CPC. By the time she realizes the CPC doesn’t offer the abortion she came for, it will take another six weeks to get the procedure scheduled, since the demand for abortion is rising. Since the woman lives in a state with a 15-week ban on abortion, it’s now too late for her to get one.

CPCs exist in a legal gray area

Since religious organizations can request and receive state funding, taxpayer money often goes towards CPCs.

With their funding and free services, CPCs are exempt from medical-clinic laws and state and federal commercial enterprise regulations, according to the AMA Journal of Ethics. Additionally, CPCs often have religious affiliations, which provide free speech protections, as outlined in the First Amendment.

This makes it difficult for someone to take legal action against a CPC.

To spot a CPC, ask about specific medical procedures and staff credentials

The simplest way to discern a CPC from an abortion clinic is to ask questions about specific medical procedures and staffers’ qualifications, Kelly said.

CPCs advertise in local newspapers, on billboards, and online with phrasing like “Pregnant and don’t want to be?” followed by a number to call. These messages can be misleading to someone who’s never heard of a CPC before, or who doesn’t speak English as their first language, Kelly said.

If you come across one of these ads or websites during your abortion search, Kelly said to see if they list the specific medical procedures they provide, or to call and ask. You should also ask if the provider you’ll be seeing has a medical degree, or if they’re a licensed nurse practitioner.

Last, you could simply say, “I wanted to get clarity about whether this is a place that provides abortions,” Kelly said.

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