Legal organization warns of crisis centers preying on people seeking abortions
Women’s Pregnancy Options in Albuquerque is listed as a Crisis Pregnancy Center intended to convince women to not get abortions. Three doors down is a Planned Parenthood clinic. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — It’s a nice storefront sandwiched between an insurance office and massage parlor. Two double-sided signs on the sidewalk in front of the building off San Mateo in southeast Albuquerque advertise free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Their website has resources for social services, housing and adoption care.
One thing these places won’t offer: safe and reliable access to abortion care.
That’s actually three doors down at the Planned Parenthood Clinic located on the same street.
This facility, known as a crisis pregnancy center, picked its location for a reason, and such centers are dangerous for anyone trying to access abortion care in New Mexico, according to the Southwest Women’s Law Center.
People in-state and from other areas must be on alert for these organizations that offer misleading medical care, SWLC says, and they can be outright deceptive in their practices — while obtaining personal medical history and information on patients.
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In 2021, SWLC found 31 places that are listed as crisis pregnancy centers in New Mexico. That number has gone down slightly, and now 27 of these centers are operating in the state.
Researchers from the University of Georgia designed a crowdsourced map that shows CPCs across the country. Their map shows a total of 24 centers active in the state, which does not account for the updated numbers kept by SWLC, showing a possible issue of reporting and understanding about how many of these facilities actually exist.
They offer services “that are overstated, deceptive and dangerous,” according to a report the group published, and they relay false and biased medical claims.
On top of that, crisis pregnancy centers are part of organizations that run anti-abortion campaigns across the world and can share information with states that are prosecuting people for accessing abortion.
“Whenever they collect your data, they’re able to share it with states like Texas. And so somebody who inadvertently contacts them, that CPC finds out that you got an abortion then tips off Texas,” said Jessica Serrano, a lawyer with the Southwest Women’s Law Center. “I think we need to do more to warn people.”
That data can include names, birthdays, address, ethnicity and race, marital status, education, income, substance use, medications, medical history, STI history, pregnancy history and ultrasound pictures.
A study published by the U.S. Library of Medicine states “CPC services do not align with national quality family planning recommendations that define a core set of services to prevent missed opportunities for comprehensive prevention and treatment.”That research from 2020 affirms what the SWLC reports. Crisis Pregnancy Centers “frequently provide biased, misleading and inaccurate health information to support their objectives.”
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Serrano’s group put together a list of the crisis pregnancy centers it has identified that operate in New Mexico.
The group worked with an alliance that also covers eight other states — Alaska, California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington — and found out that crisis pregnancy centers outnumber actual abortion care providers in those locations.
The report outlines how these facilities do not provide someone access to an actual abortion provider, and that most will often misrepresent dangers of abortion care.
Nearly 32% of CPCs “claimed abortion increased infertility, pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders, breast cancer, or mental health disorders,” the report states.
Many CPC sites claimed that people who have had abortions, “suffer from ‘post-abortion stress syndrome’ and ‘abortion-as-trauma’ — constructs that have been debunked by medical and mental health professionals.”
Many facilities will even offer free pregnancy or STI testing, counseling services and some form of prenatal care that is contingent on the person agreeing to Bible study sessions, according to the report.
More than one-third of the crisis pregnancy centers were found to offer what they call an, “abortion pill reversal,” that has unknown health effects on a pregnant person or their embryo. According to the study, the clinical test of the pill was halted in 2019 because, “three of the 12 women enrolled in the study had to be transported to the hospital for severe vaginal bleeding.”
And all of this can be intentionally misleading for anyone trying to navigate the restrictive maze that can be abortion care services. Crisis Pregnancy Center websites can often mimic language used by actually abortion providers to portray themselves as having the heft of medical professionals, with people in white coats on their websites alongside the medical procedures they claim to offer.
However, only 16% of the centers have a physician on staff and only one-quarter reported having a registered nurse. More than half do not provide any information about registered or licensed medical professionals.
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So who is handling patient care?
Well, according to the Southwest Women’s Law Center study, these groups are part of the movement to ban abortion across the world, using template online material along with sophisticated targeted advertising techniques so online searches bring people to their facilities.
Google did roll out a policy in 2019 requiring CPCs to publicly display that they do not provide abortion care on their search listing, but the groups have found loopholes.
Most nefariously, the study found that CPCs have created “geofencing.” digital marketing strategies that allow the centers to send ads to people in real abortion care waiting rooms. The ads go to their phones “to try to get them to go to the CPC instead,” according to the Southwest Women’s Law Center.
Awareness about these facilities is paramount as new bans and trigger laws take effect. We’ve the provided the list of Crisis Pregnancy Centers that do not provide abortions and will update it as it grows.
In the meantime the Southwest Women’s Law Center wants the state Legislature to develop rules for crisis pregnancy centers in the state and grant greater protections for abortion facilities.
“Do not contact the people on the CPC list if you are looking for an abortion or for information regarding your health care options,” Serrano said. “Talk to an abortion provider.”
This article was first published by Source New Mexico, part of the States Newsroom network of news bureaus that includes Louisiana Illuminator.
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