Report: Crisis Pregnancy Center Ads Misleading Women

October 15th, 2015

Undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff discussing how the organization benefits financially from the sale of fetal tissue ignited a national debate this summer on funding for the organization and abortion services. On stage, Republican presidential hopefuls challenged each other’s records on defunding Planned Parenthood, while the group itself argued that the videos shot by anti-abortion groups were deceptively edited and failed to accurately depict how it supplies tissue to researchers.

But while this story is far from over — Republicans continue their fight to defund Planned Parenthood, which this week announced that it would cease the rare practice of accepting payment for fetal tissue — another story concerning women’s reproductive rights may actually have greater implications. At issue is how faith-based crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, are misleading women on the limited reproductive health services they provide, according to a national pro-choice organization.

CPCs do not provide or refer clients to abortion services but that has not stopped the centers — which vastly outnumber abortion clinics nationwide — from running ads that indicate that they do both, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. CPCs strategically place ads aimed at pregnant women on billboards, buses, and in search engine results for abortion-related terms, NARAL says. Some of the ads imply that a CPC offers abortion services. CPCs also regularly make mention of the abortion option on their websites:

CPC websites NARAL found to be misleading (1 of 3 in slideshow)

CPC websites NARAL found to be misleading (1 of 3 in slideshow)



 

But it’s a case of wolves in sheep’s clothing, says Stacy Missari, board chairwoman for the NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut Foundation, which is one of more than 10 NARAL state chapters to investigate, among other things, the advertising of CPCs in their state. Missari says it’s deceptive for CPCs to promote supposed abortion services not only because they do not provide or refer for the procedure but because the centers have an agenda against it.

“Most women aren’t aware what CPCs are,” said Missari. “They think they are just like any other health clinic (but) they have a mission to stop abortions.”

Molly Hurtado, the executive director of a CPC featured in the report — ABC Women’s Center in Middletown, Conn., whose website carried the slogan “Thinking about Abortion?” — said the question “identifies with many women.” She said the website has always made clear that the faith-based center does not offer abortion services. And though the ABC stands for A Better Choice, Hurtado added that the center does not try and dissuade women from “the choice they want to make.”

But Missari says more needs to be done to rein in advertising that falsely implies that CPCs provide or refer women to abortion services. She is calling on Connecticut lawmakers to draft a bill similar to one signed into law last week in California that effectively bans CPCs in that state from misleading patients. The NARAL-sponsored California law has already been challenged with lawsuits alleging free speech violations — a legal argument that has blocked similar legislation in several U.S. cities including Baltimore, Austin and New York City — but it marks the first time such a law has been passed at the state level.

“It’s not about shutting them down,” Missari said. “It’s about unmasking an agenda that persuades women against all their options.”

Find more of our coverage on abortion here.

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