If you search Google for “abortion” or “am I pregnant?”, the first ads you’re likely to see pop up are for for local “health clinics” promising instant help. These websites will promise to empower pregnant women with all the facts they have the right to know about their options. Sounds like a progressive, perhaps even feminist, organization — right?
In fact, these clinics are mostly run by conservative, anti-abortion religious groups, who use clever language to convince women that their “choice” should not be having an abortion. Commonly called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs), these groups disguise themselves as health centers, despite the fact that many don’t have any medical professionals on staff.
Many women only discover their existence when they’re seeking an abortion, and are understandably swayed to believe that they offer a balanced perspective — whether it’s online, in waiting room pamphlets, or in person. Through guilt-ridden anecdotes, unsettling imagery, and unsupported claims of lifelong risks linked to abortion, these organizations pull out all the stops to try and counter a woman’s right to chose.
As of last month, California became the first state to regulate these centers, requiring each of the state’s 170 CPCs to inform their patients about how they can obtain affordable birth control, abortion, and prenatal care. But lawsuits against the new law are already piling up, claiming it’s a violation of these groups’ First Amendment rights.
Reproductive rights proponents, on the other hand, say that CPCs don’t have the right to present misleading information to patients trying to make a difficult decision about an unintended pregnancy. Here’s a roundup of quotes pulled from CPCs’ websites, mass distributed informative pamphlets for CPCs, and the websites of “post-abortion recovery” organizations across the country:
Implying Women Are Unable To Make Their Own Choices
This appears to be the key angle used by CPCs and pamphlet publishers: If you’re getting an abortion, you must be uneducated. Many websites insist that women often don’t see the “whole picture” in deciding whether or not to get an abortion. Ironically, most of these resources lack any accurate information on the benefits of abortion — and it’s rare for any CPC employees to have any background in medicine. Instead, they use coercive language to come across as the one nonjudgemental space in a pregnant woman’s life, as a “safe haven” — which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Abortion is one of the only irreversible decisions you will ever make.” [source]
“Many women make the decision to have an abortion without ever discussing either the medical procedures or the health considerations with anyone. Perhaps no other procedure is performed with this degree of patient ignorance.” [source]
“Strong ambivalent feelings cloud her ability to think clearly regarding the decision she is about to make. She is pressured to present herself for an abortion during the first three months of the pregnancy and also to safeguard her secret.” [source]
“Often times a girl in a crisis pregnancy feels pressured by her boyfriend or family to abort her baby. This may feel like the easy way out, thinking that no one will have to know, and that you can get on with your life, things can get back to normal. Slow down for a moment and think this choice through very carefully.” [source]
“Our world says, ‘It’s your body — your choice! You have the right to have an abortion.’ The truth is, just because something is legal does not necessarily mean that it’s right.” [source]
Suggesting Abortion Leads To Lifelong Trauma and Guilt
These resources begin unveiling their real position on abortion when it comes to describing a woman’s life after ending a pregnancy . They paint a dreary picture: lifelong regret, depression, promiscuity, isolation, sexual dysfunction, severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — the list is endless. But according to a recent three-year-long poll, 95 percent of women who’ve had an abortion have no regrets about their decision. And despite the CPC scare tactics, women who have had an abortion are no more prone to mental health issues than anyone else.
“Women, and all those involved in the decision to abort, must believe, or try to believe, that there was no human life present in the womb. To admit this is to admit complicity in the killing of an innocent human being.” [source]
“Women who have undergone abortion may be grouped as follows: 1) those who are suffering post-abortion reactions on an acute or chronic basis; and 2) those who have no identifiable problems now but are at risk at a future ‘stress time’.” [source]
“Women who have abortions are more likely to abuse their other children. Children of aborting women have higher rates of behavior problems.” [source]
“Women may become anxious or uncomfortable with sexual activity. Others may become promiscuous.” [source]
“Many mothers who have abortions feel terrible about it for years and years and years.” [source]
“Abortion is so harmful to a woman’s emotional health simply because it is unnatural. A woman knows it is not right to end the life of her child…. She knows it is wrong and the regret will be with her the rest of her life.” [source]
“Her inner life is often plagued by guilt and shame, nightmares of babies being sucked down tubes or dying in horrific accidents or violent crimes.” [source]
Using Unnecessarily Graphic Language
A common feature of nearly every CPC’s website is an in-depth description of each type of abortion procedure — from the mifepristone pill to a late-term abortion. While medically accurate, the descriptions go past the necessary detail with subtly upsetting and gory phrases — calling to mind the recent false and exaggerated description of abortions by presidential candidates and members of Congress. Most of the detail focuses on late-term abortions, which is the rarest of abortion procedures.
“The suction pulls the fetus’ body apart and out of the uterus. The fetus’ skull is crushed to ease removal.” [source]
“A surgeon partially pulls the fetus out of the birth canal feet first, punctures the base of the skull with a scissors or other sharp instrument to insert a catheter into the skull to remove its contents, then collapses the skull so that the head can be delivered without harming the woman’s reproductive organs.” [source]
“From the moment of conception we have a unique life and genetic structure. Just 21 days after conception, a child’s heart is beating and circulating its own blood. Abortion stops that beating heart.” [source]
Dramatizing The Health Risks Of Abortion
Taking a page from pro-choice advocacy language, many CPCs emphasize the women’s health angle in their literature. However, emphasizing how dangerous an abortion procedure can be glosses over the fact that many of these risks are common in any medical procedure, like anesthesia or infections. Studies have shown that legal abortions are “markedly safer than childbirth” and the risk of a mother’s death is approximately 14 times higher during childbirth than an abortion.
Many anti-abortion organizations also lean on outdated studies claiming women who have an abortion are more prone to get breast cancer. However, scientific research has repeatedly debunked any kind relationship between the two.
“Surgical abortion may harm a woman’s reproductive system, damaging her uterus or cervix, leading to future reproductive problems. Chemical abortions are bloody, painful, and dangerous, but the long term effects on the body are unknown.” [source]
“Abortion is not just a simple procedure; it may have many side effects. Abortion has been associated with preterm birth, emotion and psychological impact, and spiritual consequences.” [source]
“Complications from general anesthesia used during abortion may result in convulsions, heart complications and death, in extreme cases.” [source]
“Negative health effects due to prolonged post-abortion syndrome: Trauma because an unborn baby has been destroyed.” [source]
Suggesting That Abortion Ruins Men
As if guilt-tripping the woman isn’t bad enough, a lot of these websites describe the terrible effect their decision had on the men who impregnated them. How having an abortion will not only permanently damage a man for life, but also promptly end a woman’s relationship with him. There’s nothing about how going through an unplanned pregnancy — let alone raising a human being together — will change this relationship.
“Women often think that the father of the baby wants her to have an abortion because he says things like “It’s up to you” “I don’t care” “It’s your choice.” If you want to remain in a relationship with this person, abortion is going to put your relationship at risk.” [source]
“Despite his promises, a woman’s partner often leaves after the abortion.” [source]
“Typically the relationship with the father of the child ends abruptly because he cannot accept her in her distraught state, or because they see themselves as accomplices in bringing about the death of their child.” [source]
“Like women, they too may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress and psychosomatic illnesses. They may turn to alcohol and drugs as self medication for the depression which engulfs them as a result of their despair of ever being the husbands and fathers they had hoped to be. They may also become addicted to work, exercise, or promiscuous sexual activity.” [source]