As dozens of abortion clinics across Texas have been forced to halt their services in the wake of a stringent new anti-choice law that took effect in November, many women in the state are searching for new options. Some of them will likely wind up in “crisis pregnancy centers” in the hopes that they’ll be able to get medical care there.
But those right-wing organizations are essentially front groups for the anti-choice community. Their employees work to dissuade women from choosing to end a pregnancy, and often spread serious misinformation about birth control, abortion, and sexual health. As Al Jazeera reports, however, many Texas women may not actually realize that these anti-abortion CPCs aren’t viable alternatives to real clinics.
CPCs typically actively mislead patients about the nature of their facilities — they’re practically indistinguishable from other health clinics, and sometimes falsely advertise abortion services that they don’t actually provide. They often set up shop right next to abortion clinics specifically to confuse women. In Texas, CPC employees wear white coats and offer ultrasound procedures, giving the perception of medical professionalism. But the people who work at CPCs are not required to be licensed health workers, and CPCs themselves are not subject to any oversight by the state of Texas. Outside investigations have found that many of them have a long history of safety and ethics violations.
Nonetheless, these anti-choice facilities are an especially attractive option for the low-income women who struggle to afford health services, since CPCs offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasound procedures. When those vulnerable women walk into a CPC, they likely don’t realize that they won’t have the full range of reproductive health services available to them there: birth control, STD tests and treatment, and abortion services aren’t offered. NARAL Pro-Choice America, which has conducted extensive undercover investigations into the anti-abortion tactics used at CPCs, has found some incidences of CPC employees withholding ultrasound results if women indicate that they want to take them to an abortion clinic.
Al Jazeera notes that since there are no regulations governing CPCs, anyone can start operating one — so they’ve particularly flourished in the Lone Star State. In the areas where abortion clinics are being forced to close, CPCs remain open. That’s partly because they’re endorsed by state lawmakers. Texas has spent the past several years gutting funding for Planned Parenthood and cracking down on abortion providers, but the state directly funds crisis pregnancy centers.
Texas is the most recent example of this dynamic, but it’s hardly the only one. Across the country, the number of crisis pregnancy centers far exceeds the number of abortion clinics — there are an estimated 4,000 CPCs nationwide, compared to just over 2,000 abortion clinics. Aside from Texas, 33 other states also funnel money directly to these right-wing groups. Meanwhile, a record number of abortion clinics have closed their doors over the past three years because restrictive anti-choice laws are forcing them out of business. Some states have attempted to enact regulations to prevent crisis pregnancy centers from misleading patients about their services, but the anti-choice community has largely fought off those laws by claiming they violate freedom of speech.