For several years, NARAL Pro-Choice affiliates in a number of states have been investigating crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) that purport to offer accurate medical information about pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases but instead often provide myths, half-truths, and even outright lies. At the forefront of the campaign has been NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which has been investigating local CPCs since 2010, accumulating numerous reports of factually inaccurate and medically suspect claims provided by these often religious-based organizations to patients.
The most recent investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, in partnership with NARAL Pro-Choice America culminated in undercover audio recordings from two visits to a local CPC. According to the groups, the audio suggests that CPCs have one agenda: advocating against abortion and birth control, regardless of
a patient’s circumstances.
In the audio, a CPC representative discusses v
arious forms of birth control as if they were illicit drugs. “I had a woman, she’d done all of them. She’d done the pill, she’d done the patch, she’d done the shot,” the representative told the undercover patient, listing a litany of horrible side effects she said people had reported to her, including hair loss and memory loss.
One representative shared
a story about a woman who was so plagued with yeast infections, which she says traveled up the string of her intrauterine device (IUD), that she’s now incapable of conceiving. “The IUD itself didn’t cause it. But because the IUD was there it was able to make its way into the uterus. The infection was what caused her not to be able to sustain a pregnancy. But she wouldn’t have had the infection if she hadn’t had the IUD,” said the CPC worker.
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The CPC representative also suggested that natural family planning is the only safe way to avoid the side effects of contraception. She encouraged the undercover patient to consider using natural family planning as birth control, because “there are only two or three days a month that a woman can get pregnant.” In fact, sperm can live for as many as five days in a vagina, and telling a woman otherwise could leave her susceptible to an unwanted pregnancy.
“That’s why we are here. We are a pregnancy help and information center. If you have questions about pregnancy, if you have questions about birth control, if you can questions about abortion, you come here,” said the CPC representative. “I’m just going to tell you what the truth is.”
Virginia’s health department lists CPCs as an official resource for obtaining free ultrasounds to comply with the state’s forced ultrasound law. However, a recent investigation by the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation found that the centers often do not provide reliable, useable ultrasounds—when they are willing to release the medical records at all. Patients will often still need to go to an abortion provider to get a useable ultrasound prior to an abortion.
“This audio is nothing short of shocking—yet these are the lies and underhanded manipulation that Virginia women are subject to every day within the walls of the Commonwealth’s 58 CPCs,” NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene said in a statement regarding the new investigation. “It is wrong, and it must stop. Women deserve our respect and the truth.”