Truth Serum: Maryland Bill Would Expose CPCs

Doreen Filice

If a Maryland bill passes the state legislature, “crisis pregnancy centers” will have to own up to what they are -- non-medical establishments that don't provide factual information.

The Maryland state legislature
is considering a bill to make crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) — anti-choice
organizations disguised as reproductive-health clinics — more transparent.
It would require them to state that they are not medical centers and
are not providing factual medical information. At least two other states,
Texas and West Virginia, are considering similar bills.

Just
last year, the Maryland Catholic Conference was pushing the state’s
governor and legislature to introduce a bill providing almost $1 million
in state and federal funding for CPCs. That prompted NARAL Pro-Choice
Maryland to investigate 11 CPCs, finding that all used misinformation
and emotional manipulation to prevent women from considering abortions.
After the results were published, the Conference quietly stopped lobbying
for the funding.

The
Maryland study squares with a 2006 investigation by Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-Calif.), in which he found that 87 percent of CPCs receiving federal
funding across the country gave false or misleading information about
abortion. Waxman documented that the U.S. government has provided $30
million to CPCs since 2001.

According
to the Maryland data, 54 percent of the CPCs overstated the risks of
abortion, linking it to breast cancer and "post-abortion stress syndrome" — a
conglomeration of depression and anxiety symptoms not recognized by
the American Psychological Association. Pamphlets warning of those risks
were found in 81 percent of the CPCs investigated. None of the centers
provided referrals for birth control; one CPC volunteer said she couldn’t
give a referral because that would be "next to aborting your baby."

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The
Maryland study found that CPCs use various tactics to delay a woman’s
decision about abortion, from encouraging sonograms (but then postponing
appointments for weeks until there’s a fetal heartbeat) to suggesting
that women wait and see if they miscarry naturally. Women were congratulated
on positive pregnancy tests, but berated when they brought up abortion.

The
bill would not, as opponents have argued, force the centers to shut
down. "All we’re asking is that they clarify that they’re not
medical centers," explains Ariana Kelly, executive director of the
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Fund.

If
the bill does reach the floor it has a good chance of passage, since
Maryland has a mostly pro-choice legislature and a pro-choice governor.
"Even if it doesn’t pass, it has drawn attention to what crisis
pregnancy centers are doing," says Kelly. "Women are being taken
advantage of at a very vulnerable period in their lives."

This article was first published by Ms. Magazine.

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