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The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Over the past two weeks, members of the H*yas for Choice advocacy team called crisis pregnancy centers in our community to ask for resources and information on abortion services. Here, those who made the calls describe their experiences and HFC members debunk the myths.

Northwest Pregnancy Center: Unprotected sex

I called Northwest Pregnancy Center to ask about my options following unprotected sex. After disclosing that I’d had unprotected sex the night before, I was told that urine-based tests are most effective after 7-10 days since conception and encouraged to get tested in “a few days.” When I asked directly about abortion, I was told that they the center will provide “information” and “pamphlets and things like that,” but not referral. She said that, for example, abortions performed “within 6-14 weeks of conception” are done by “the procedure called suction curettage, so that’s the most common form of abortion.”

The truth is, taking a pregnancy test earlier than the recommended wait time increases the risk of missing pregnancy detection and, subsequently, of carrying on an unwanted pregnancy without knowing.

The truth is, the most common form of abortion early in a pregnancy is the medical abortion, which is done by a series of pills rather than by a surgical procedure. Medical abortions can be administered for pregnancies up to nine weeks, at which point health care providers generally will find an aspiration (here referred to as “suction curettage”) abortion more appropriate.

The truth is, crisis pregnancy centers often manipulate clients with falsified, upsetting images of fake abortion procedures in order to scare pregnant people away from the service. Even though our caller expressed having had unprotected sex only the night before, the CPC has an interest in discussing surgical abortion rather than medical abortion (the most appropriate form at this point in the pregnancy), because the fake information the center is likely to provide in the “pamphlets” it mentions is centered around images that misrepresent surgical abortion.

The truth is that resource information provided by a real professional is comprehensive and accurate; if a health care professional cannot offer a service, the provider should be able to tell a client who can. While the representative from Northwest offered “learning” resources, even after our caller asked multiple times about abortion, the representative offered “information” rather than referral. Anti-choice staff members at crisis pregnancy centers are trained not to provide this “information” over the phone, and are purposefully vague in order to encourage in-person counseling. The vagueness in this call is a direct alert to the unprofessional, biased, and intentionally deceptive tactics that the center will employ in order to persuade a potential client.

Northwest Pregnancy Center: Pregnant roommate

I called Northwest Pregnancy Center to ask for advice on how to help a pregnant roommate. The woman who answered the phone first asked if my roommate knew she was definitely pregnant. After I told the phone attendant that she had taken multiple pregnancy tests, she said that at home tests are not always accurate and she would recommend taking a blood test to know for sure. She also mentioned that they offer free urine-based tests at the center.

I then asked about what services are available after we know that my roommate is definitely pregnant. She began to explain that the center offers material assistance to pregnant women as well as new mothers. When I asked about abortion, the woman said that the center does not administer or refer for abortions, but she recommended that my roommate come in to speak with them because she “sounds like she is in a really tough position, right now”.

Finally, I asked about anything else they do at the center and what I should help my roommate do. The phone attendant explained how the center provides pregnancy tests, information about abortions and their side effects, information about other options like adoption, material assistance for mothers. She agreed that my roommate’s next steps should be taking a blood or urine test and then coming in to speak with someone or call in to discuss her options.

The truth is, “At-home tests” and “urine-based tests” are as accurate as the tests you would find in a real doctor’s office. According to CPC training, “while [callers] are on the phone, [the CPC’s] objective is to schedule an appointment”. Tricking callers into thinking they have taken false tests is one of the key ways that CPCs convince callers to come in. Once people come in, the CPCs relay false information and attempt to convince people to not have an abortion.

The truth is that CPC calls are designed to get callers into their centers. Once there, the CPC will likely mislead the care-seeking individual from making informed decisions and may also endanger their lives by “delaying access to legitimate health-care services.”

Northwest Pregnancy Center: Abortion risks

I called Northwest Pregnancy Center to ask whether an abortion was safe for me. I was told that there were “definitely risks that come with it, there are some people who bleed after the pill.” I was also told they provided information about the “different procedures” and the risks they entail. I was asked if I had considered adoption, and told that abortion can lead to reduced fertility. I was told that “emotionally, some people react with guilt and regret.” I was also told that they can provide resources to help people “heal from that.”

The truth is, undergoing a medication abortion does lead to bleeding and cramping. The procedure itself requires two pills. The first is mifepristone, which blocks production of the progesterone a pregnancy requires. It is not common to bleed after taking this pill. The second pill, misoprostol, causes bleeding and cramping in order to empty the uterus. It is normal for the cramping and bleeding to last four to five hours, and for spotting to continue for the next couple weeks. However, taking the pill is incredibly safe. Serious complications are incredibly rare. In fact, according to Planned Parenthood, “pregnancy and childbirth is riskier than most abortions.”

The truth is that unless a complication is left untreated, there is no risk to a person’s health or to future pregnancies. Abortion does not increase an individual’s risk of disease, nor does it cause problems for future pregnancies. Additionally, it is rare for individuals to have serious, long-term emotional problems after an abortion.

The truth is that emotional problems following an abortion often occur in individuals who have to end their pregnancy due to health reasons, individuals who are not supported in their decision to have an abortion, or people who have a history of mental health issues. Almost 90% of people who choose abortion, however, report feeling sure of their decision, and 95% say that they do not regret the choice that they made. If an individual is concerned about the effects of an abortion, their doctor or nurse can provide them with accurate information. An anti-choice fake clinic cannot.

Northwest Pregnancy Center: Pregnancy resources

I called Northwest Pregnancy Center to ask about the services that Northwest offers for women who fear they may be pregnant. I was told that the center offers free pregnancy tests and can provide information about free sonograms in the area. When pressed about options for students who can’t take time off of school, I was informed that Northwest does not refer for abortions. This information was followed by audible whispering between Northwest personnel, laughter, and comments on how it was a “weird call” before the call was abruptly ended. The representative I spoke with mentioned not knowing how to answer my question about what services and resources I can access regarding my pregnancy.

I was not provided any helpful information about resources for pregnant women during this call, and was treated with a dismissive attitude by the staff who were unwilling/unable to elaborate on services.

The truth is, if your resource is not forthcoming with information about their services, chances are it is not a real service provider. If you're receiving comprehensive and objective health care, you have a right to affirming, accurate, and transparent discussions regarding your sexual and reproductive choices.

The truth is that real service providers have a responsibility to do everything in their power to provide compassionate and accurate information about your health care. A professional does not laugh at or whisper about clients in need of services; they do what they can to ensure you have the tools to make decisions about your body.

The truth is that an organization that purports to be a “pregnancy resource” should know how to answer the question, “what services do you have?”

Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center: Pregnant partner

I called Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center to ask about options for my partner, who is pregnant and considering an abortion. I was told that abortion leaves lasting emotional trauma. I was told that a lot of women miscarry during their first pregnancy, so I should let my partner continue with her pregnancy because there was a high chance that she would lose the pregnancy, anyway.

The truth is, no one can tell a pregnant person what option is best for them, including their partner.

The truth is that there is no evidence that abortion will affect future fertility in a woman. The procedure does not affect the ovaries or eggs, and when done by a qualified doctor in a safe environment, abortion will not affect the chances of future pregnancy.

The truth is that women who have had abortions are not shown to have experienced more mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or dissatisfaction with life than women who have not had the procedure.

The truth is that this is tactic used to trick women into continuing further along into her pregnancy to the point that an abortion will become harder to find. About 15 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriages, but of these miscarriages, over 80 percent occur in the first twelve weeks of the pregnancy. The farther along in your pregnancy, after 12 weeks, the chances of a miscarriage is between 3 and 4 percent, and after 20 weeks, the odds are one in 160. The means that the notion that a women should continue along in her pregnancy because she could have a miscarriage is actually the opposite. The farther along in her pregnancy, the less chance there is that a miscarriage will occur.

You can read the full transcripts of all five calls here on the HFC blog. For more information (and the resources used here), you can visit the links below:

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