Are you aware that your taxpayer dollars are funding anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)? When I first found out that North Carolina was funding CPCs rather than having that funding go toward public health clinics, I really couldn’t believe it.
In June, the North Carolina Senate finally approved a long-awaited two-year state budget. Buried within the details is funding for a network of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) run by virulent anti-abortion groups. The Human Coalition, a national organization whose website reads, “The Human Coalition is a champion of life committed to an audacious mission: to transfer our culture of death into a culture of life – to end abortion in America” will receive $1.2 million/year for two years that will go toward expanding the pilot of a continuum of care program to become statewide.
An additional $400K/year for two years will go to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship (a CPC umbrella organization) and $50K/year for two years to Mountain Area Pregnancy Center (MAPS) in Asheville. That is a total of $3.3 million going to support CPCs that have one main purpose, to convince women to carry their baby to term.
Deceptive practices and misinformation
Women who are looking for support when they find out they are pregnant deserve to interact with agencies that do not have their own political or religious agenda at works. Many women who contact CPCs are uninsured and poor. They are looking for a free pregnancy test, and the CPCs leverage their desperation to get them to come to the center. What the women do not know is that the CPC is religiously based and will try to “counsel” the woman into keeping her pregnancy even if it is not what she wants.
Many of the CPCs provide misinformation to patients to try to convince them that abortion is a very dangerous procedure. In fact, legal abortion is safer than continuing a pregnancy and childbirth. Other misinformation provided includes the claim that abortion is linked to breast cancer, abortion can cause infertility or miscarriage later in life, that medication abortions can be reversed, or that abortion causes mental illness. In a landmark study called “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States” commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, each of these claims are refuted by multiple scientific studies.
CPCs fool women into thinking that they are entering an actual medical clinic where their privacy is protected. Because the CPCs are run by religious non-profits, they do not have to follow HIPAA privacy protections. But most women who come to these clinics are so focused on their possible pregnancy and the outcome of their pregnancy test that they are not thinking about who will get the information from their intake forms. Even on the website chats, if you voluntarily give up personal information, they can give it to third parties. Who knows who those third parties are?
Denying actual clinics dollars for ultrasound machines
The tax dollars that go to CPCs take money away from our public health clinics, many of which need their own or additional ultrasound machines. While Dr. Pettigrew’s clinic had to purchase a refurbished ultrasound machine, CPCs were receiving millions of dollars to purchase new ones. CPCs invites women to see their babies in order to add pressure to their decision-making. CPCs provide “limited” ultrasounds to pregnant women, meaning that they tell the location of the embryo/fetus (inside the uterus or ectopic), whether the pregnancy is viable, and the gestational age. A woman who receives an ultrasound at a CPC will need to undergo another ultrasound once she begins seeing an OB/GYN if she continues the pregnancy, so the one the CPC does is really useless except as a tool of coercion.
Lack of oversight
According to the North Carolina budget, the only reporting that these organizations have to complete is “a detailed breakdown of expenditures for the program, the number of individuals served by the program and the types of services provided to each.”
While the Human Coalition claims that their nurses and ultrasound operators are all certified and trained, who is checking on this? Dr. Erica Pettigrew, medical director of the Orange County Health Department, is concerned about the lack of oversight of the clinics that are performing ultrasounds. “Medical clinics are subjected to and have to comply with all kinds of different accreditation and regulatory bodies. It’s just fraudulent. It’s fraudulent to patients.”
What is the alternative?
Before the existence of crisis pregnancy centers, women who thought they were pregnant would go to either their doctor, their public health clinic, Planned Parenthood, or other women’s health clinics to determine whether or not they were pregnant. At those clinics, the staff has no interest in swaying the woman’s decision about what to do about her pregnancy, rather they listen and provide referrals to the appropriate agencies based on what they have heard. The staff there knows that it is not their business what a woman decides to do, they are there to support her.
The fact that North Carolina is one of the few states that has not expanded Medicaid, results in many women who do not have health care coverage. When they’re looking for health care, they are looking for free or low-cost options. The state is funneling our tax dollars into CPCs so that poor women will go there instead of a real medical clinic.
Taxpayer money should go toward enhancing services at our public health centers and/or opening new clinics in rural areas where women are underserved.
If you are concerned about this issue, please contact your house representative (you can look them up here) and let them know that you want them to fight the funding of CPCs.
Note: A longer version of this article was published at https://chaiselounge.substack.com.