Untangling the Anti-Abortion Web of Deception
Understand the coordination and connections.
One reason we’re facing so many dire threats to abortion access at so many levels is the way different organizations have been working together to prop up crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) – fake clinics that try to trick or outright intimidate people into continuing their pregnancies. In fact, there are currently three times as many CPCs in the US as there are abortion clinics.
Equity Forward, which researches attacks on sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice, details six ways anti-abortion organizations collaborate to mislead people looking for trustworthy medical care and lure them into CPCs:
- They use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to game search results on Google so people looking for information about abortion get listings for fake clinics instead. The idea is to lure the pregnant people in by seeming to offer comprehensive pregnancy care, then string them along until it’s too late for them to get an appointment at an actual clinic.
- They create model legislation and pass it around to anti-abortion national, state, and local legislators who copy and paste it to create laws that limit abortion access. Many of these laws steer money to CPCs and force people to go to them for unnecessary ultrasounds and intimidating, untrue “counseling.”
- In states that offer custom license plates to support charity, they petition the state to create “Choose Life” plates and use the resulting funds to support and expand the nationwide network of fake clinics.
- They provide CPC volunteers with the bare minimum of medical training necessary to use ultrasound machines so they look like actual medical clinics and can provide ultrasounds in the belief that it will convince pregnant people not to have an abortion. There is no evidence that seeing an ultrasound changes people’s minds about seeking abortion care, and increasing concern about the potential medical and ethical risks of non-diagnostic ultrasounds. However, making them available gives anti-abortion lawmakers an excuse to require an unnecessary ultrasound before an abortion, especially in areas where a fake clinic is someone’s only option for getting one.
- The organizations that support brick-and-mortar CPCs are increasingly steering funding to groups that retrofit large vans, buses, or RVs as mobile fake clinics that park in places they think they’ll find pregnant people – near high schools, on college campuses, and within sight of actual clinics – and try to lure them in for their “services.”
- CPCs claim they’ll provide parents with support like diapers, baby food, baby clothing, and child care, but they require people to jump through hoops to get that help – usually by making them attend racist, classist “parenting classes” that preach at and shame them. Once someone completes a class, they get “mommy money” that they can only redeem for supplies from the CPC itself. If that’s not bad enough, the CPC often funds those supplies with money from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is actually supposed to give financially strapped families cash that they can decide for themselves how to spend.
If you want to arm yourself with more information about these misleading tactics and how they spread, the full report from Equity Forward is well worth reading. It’s detailed, easy to understand, and even has graphs showing how different organizations overlap and interconnect in a single sinister web of lies and shame.