Boston, MA

Today, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts released a new report “Just Because You’re Pregnant…” Lies, Half Truths, and Manipulation at Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Massachusetts, documenting the misleading, and often outright incorrect, health information these facilities frequently give to women across the Commonwealth.

The report contains the results of a year-long undercover investigation of the information these so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) give to woman who show up looking for help because they believe they may be pregnant. The study also uncovered the tactics these facilities use that delay women’s access to professional pregnancy care, including pre-natal care, adoption counseling, or abortion.

With counselors at these facilities offering such false advice as “abortion increases your risk of breast cancer by 100%” or “just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you’ll stay pregnant [since the risk of miscarriage is so high]”, the study found that women are being manipulated into delaying accessing medical care and not considering abortion as a legitimate option.

“In Massachusetts, we are proud to lead the country in improving access to health care, yet across the state there are facilities that give inaccurate health information and delay a woman’s access to medical services when she thinks she might be pregnant and time is of the essence, whatever decision she makes,” said Lindsey Tucker, Chair of the Board of Directors of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

The report reveals the tactics CPCs use to undermine a pregnant woman’s decision-making process and delay her access to pregnancy-related care, whether she ultimately chooses parenthood, adoption, or abortion. The findings include:

  • Six in ten CPCs visited provided incorrect or misleading information, as did six in ten of facilities’ websites. The most common medical falsehoods included linking abortion to breast cancer, infertility, or severe emotional or psychological problems, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), despite findings to the contrary by leading medical authorities.

 

  • CPCs outnumber legitimate facilities three to one: There are 30 CPC locations compared with the 9 specialty women’s health providers who publicly advertise that they include abortion care. The disparity only grows larger as you travel outside the Greater Boston area.

 

  • CPCs design their online profiles and web-based advertising to mislead women, including listing themselves falsely under “abortion services” in online searches or stating incorrectly that they provide “abortion referrals.”

 

  • All CPCs refused to give referrals for abortion care even when asked for a resource, and some even failed to discuss options such as adoption or provide connections to pre-natal care.

One surprising and dangerous finding was that many CPCs misstate data about miscarriage and pregnancy complications. Almost a third of the CPCs visited exaggerated the likelihood of miscarriage, some going so far as to say “most” pregnancies are not even viable. This was often linked to an apparent effort to pressure women to get an ultrasound at the CPC or to simply delay the women from making any decision about their pregnancies. Some CPCs went so far as to make the false claim that an ultrasound can predict if a woman will miscarry.

“These anti-choice facilities are found all across the Commonwealth.” Tucker continued, “Their tactics range from neglectful and biased to outright harmful. They advertise themselves as a place women can turn when they are pregnant and need honest, medically accurate counseling and timely access to medical care, but then they delay and discourage women from considering abortion as a safe and appropriate option and fail even to link women with prenatal care or adoption resources.”

For more information and the full reporting findings, please visit www.prochoicemass.org.

Methodology: For the purposes of this research, a facility was deemed to be a CPC if it was a center or clinic which (1) purports to provide education and counseling services and pregnancy-related services such as pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, (2) provides misleading, incomplete, or proven-to-be-false information related to sexuality, abortion, abortion-related risks, and birth control, and (3) will not perform abortions or provide abortion referrals. Online Yellow Pages and Super Pages were surveyed twice — in the summer of 2010 and again in winter of 2010/11 – using six key search terms women seeking pregnancy or family planning options would likely use to find providers. Those terms were: “abortion services,” “abortion clinics,” “abortion providers,” “family planning centers,” “birth control information & services,” and “birth control.” In the summer of 2010, a trained volunteer catalogued and conducted a content analysis of all of the information provided by 27 of the 30 active CPCs in the Commonwealth (13 websites in total); we revisited the sites again in the fall of 2010 and winter of 2010/11. In the spring of 2011, trained volunteers made direct contact with 24 of the 30 active CPCs through 20 in-person visits (typically in pairs) and 15 in-depth phone conversations, cataloguing what they were told, how they were treated, and which resources they were provided.

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