know about The Biden administration needs to reduce crisis pregnancy centers
men the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, President Biden signed a executive order direct federal agencies to consider ways to protect access to abortion. Three weeks later, in the first date of the new Interagency Working Group on Access to Reproductive Health Care, announced another executive order intended to help patients who travel out of state to obtain abortions. That same week, Kansas deeply defeated an effort to remove abortion protections from her state constitution.
For those who support access to abortion care, these are positive steps. But they ignore an important threat: the thousands of fake abortion clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which are operating across the country. These centers divert, delay and mislead people seeking abortion services, exploiting their personal information while accepting million dollars in public funds.
Although crisis pregnancy centers have been in operation for decadesthey are now a particular threat to the work currently underway to ensure access to abortion after Dobbs.
A comprehensive study by The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, organizations I work with, showed that crisis pregnancy centers are often connected to national or global anti-abortion organizations and many share a playbook: they purport to be a pregnancy clinic. abortion or women’s health clinics, often setting up right next to actual clinics, and frequently using confusing names. But they don’t provide abortion services, or referrals to abortion services, or even accurate information. These fake clinics aim to reach low-income people facing unwanted pregnancies by advertising free services. Targeting is particularly worrying as research shows that people who are denied abortion care, and their families, experience worse health and socioeconomic outcomes than those who access the care they need.
Although crisis pregnancy centers say they provide medical information, they are is not covered by HIPAA privacy and security rules. That’s because, despite what they claim to be, they are not considered health facilities.
In the post-Dobbs era, crisis pregnancy centers, and their websites and hotlines, aim to mislead people trying to find their way to abortion care, particularly those traveling from restrictive states that they can make arrangements online or over the phone. For example, as abortion providers are forced to move to less restrictive states like New Mexico, patients from neighboring states will need to travel there; therefore, the CPCs are rapidly expanding its presence in New Mexico also. Most of these fake abortion clinics collect contact and personal information from every person who calls or visits online or in person, information that can be shared with their anti-abortion parent networks and are used for surveillance, harassment, and prosecution, even in the potential patient’s home state.
Workers at these centers tell people seeking abortions that there is no need to rush or worry because they have plenty of time and I’ll probably miscarry anyway. They can provide false or misleading ultrasound results, peak misinformation about abortion, and provide poor “care”. Personnel without medical training. it can offer drugstore pregnancy tests, non-medical ultrasounds, and a fake and dangerous “cure” for medical abortion. They rarely provide prenatal care or even offer referrals for it, delaying what can be critical care if the pregnancy goes to term. They promise to provide baby supplies, such as diapers and formula, but require customers to attend religious indoctrination videos or classes before receiving even minimal supplies.
And the more states restrict abortion, the more people the CPCs will cheat.
In many states, these fake clinics have received diverted public funds of network security programs that people facing unplanned pregnancies really need. The fake clinics now claim will provide maternal health care and parenting support to more people in the post-Dobbs era. National anti-abortion organizations recently approached 22 governors on increasing state funding for crisis pregnancy centers. Such funding is often through the federal government. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program.
Here is what the Biden-Harris administration should do next to counter the impact of crisis pregnancy centers:
Educate the public. Every federal effort to mitigate the damage caused by the Dobbs decision must explicitly warn people about crisis pregnancy centers. The administration has a powerful tool on the public website reproductiverights.gov. That website must include links to those created privately maps Y databases designed to warn consumers about CPCs in their communities.
state attorneys general in California Y Massachusetts have already issued warnings to consumers about the limited and misleading nature of the services provided by crisis pregnancy centers; the federal government could and should do the same. If the FBI and Department of Justice can warn consumers about covid-19 scamsthey and other agencies can do the same thing with fake health clinics.
Close the loopholes of the CPC. Federal powers must be deployed to prevent crisis pregnancy centers from posing as medical providers, misleading consumers, and using personal information for surveillance, harassment, and prosecution. Fake health clinics should not be able to share or exploit the personal health information of people who contact them. The federal Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rightsthat enforces HIPAA privacy and security provisions, you understand why this is essential, as recently issued orientation for consumers on how to protect health information on a cell phone or tablet.
Federal agencies should explore other possible avenues as part of protecting access to abortion. For example, recently introduced legislation would direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe rules prohibiting misinformation in advertising for abortion services. laws on the books protect the personal information of people who receive benefits through public programs: Those protections could be strengthened to prevent CPCs from abusing taxpayer funds.
Provide the real support that CPCs only claim to provide. It is not enough for policymakers to simply advocate for practical access to abortion. As reproductive justice leaders tell, every human being deserves “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, to have children, not to have children, and to raise the children we do have in safe and sustainable communities.” That human right feels increasingly elusive to many Americans. The Black, Latino, and Indigenous Experience in the US disproportionate damage and death related to pregnancy due to failures of society and the health system. Crisis pregnancy centers add to both systemic failure and damage.
The Biden-Harris administration, through federal agencies and funding mechanisms, must pursue all political avenues to expand access to genuine pregnancy and reproductive care, as well as parenting support and supplies. At the local level, true reproductive health providers, food banks, diaper banks, and other community organizations are genuinely committed to helping people make their own reproductive decisions. Many already work to provide access to free or low-cost baby care and supplies, delivered without restriction or harassment. Addressing the huge gap between need and reality in low-income communities is a long-term effort that must include bold actions at the local, state, and national levels, like this proposal of the Biden-Harris administration to address the current maternal health crisis.
CPCs are a direct threat to efforts to protect access to abortion, improve reproductive and maternal health care, and support underserved communities. The Biden-Harris administration must act to help Americans recognize and avoid bogus abortion clinics, close loopholes that protect them from scrutiny and accountability, and ensure that government funding supports needed services, not deceptive practices.
Susannah Baruch is an attorney and consultant who works with reproductive rights, reproductive health, and reproductive justice organizations, including The Alliance organizations.