Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Not Safe Alternatives to Planned Parenthood

Six years ago, I sat in a grocery store bathroom watching the double lines appear on a pregnancy test. In a matter of seconds, I went from being a single twenty-five-year-old planning the next grand adventure to a single, pregnant woman.

Ready or not, my next grand adventure was staring right back at me.

I didn’t have a regular doctor, so I looked up my options and called Planned Parenthood and ThriVe St. Louis. ThriVe was the first to call me back to set an appointment. While I had my reservations, at face value, this didn’t look like a fake Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC). In hindsight, my panic outweighed my good judgment.

During my appointment, I received another positive pregnancy test and an ultrasound picture. And this is where ThriVe stopped providing helpful information.

What is a Crisis Pregnancy Center?

Crisis pregnancy centers are non-profit organizations often posing as legitimate reproductive health clinics. They will use deceptive phrasing and clinic names to bring women into their offices, often touting themselves as a safe alternative to abortion clinics. However, CPCs lie about and manipulate information on the range of reproductive options available to women and provide severely limited resources.

Despite their well-rounded services, reproductive health clinics like Planned Parenthood are heavily outnumbered by CPCs. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, just over 600 Planned Parenthood clinics exist in the United States compared to more than 4,000 CPCs in operation. Additionally, at least 12 states provide funding to crisis pregnancy centers, allowing these fake clinics to continue to operate and mislead women.

Some red flags in identifying a crisis pregnancy center from a real reproductive health clinic include:

  • Scare tactics: Billboards or headlines featuring phrases like, “Pregnant and scared? Need help?” or “Considering abortion? Know the facts.”
  • The clinic does not staff professionally trained medical professionals
  • They do not provide birth control, abortions, STD treatment, or legitimate referrals
  • They are often religiously based

My experience with a CPC is one example of how fake health clinics fail their clients in providing quality, unbiased information and resources for prenatal care and beyond.

Abortion is an option, but not really

The ThriVe website mentions abortion under pregnancy options. So, I felt comfortable sharing that my instinct was to have the baby but that I hadn’t completely ruled out abortion. It was still early, and I was still very overwhelmed.

They were quick to use general statements on the misinformation available around abortion. Rather than providing medically factual information to clear up any wild confusion they assumed I had, they focused heavily on the emotional risks that would come with this decision—guilt, shame, regret, depression.

In the end, it was not an option they wished to discuss with helpful information, and referrals were not available.

Referrals aren’t available, except for one

After breezing through the non-option of abortion, I received exquisite detail about adoption. It became apparent this was the only option for which they had a wealth of information to share. I made it clear that adoption was not on the table for me. I was most interested in referrals for prenatal care and to learn more about birth control options for the future.

Unfortunately, they had no referrals for these services. However, they did provide me with ample information and referrals for private Christian adoption agencies—just in case.

Education and services are extremely limited

During our conversation, I began to notice a concerning trend. ThriVe provided limited information and minimal resources.

They offered to test me for STDs after giving me a basic lesson on flashcards that showed the various conditions and their symptoms. But no treatment services were available if a test found something.

I received a pregnancy test and ultrasound. But services and referrals for prenatal care were not available.

When asked about birth control options for the future, they had no referrals to provide.

According to AMA Journal of Ethics, crisis pregnancy centers often do not have medically trained professionals on their staff. Due to the lack of trained medical professionals, they are limited in the amount of information they share and services they can legally provide.

Bias is woven into their actions and programs

Finally, they told me about the classes they offered. The classes focused on various topics related to parenthood, with a religious element built into them. You earned points for attendance to receive free, used pregnancy clothing, baby clothing, and other supplies.

I was startled to see that extra points were rewarded if the baby’s father attended. As a single mom, you could show up to every opportunity to earn points and still fall short because you’re doing this alone.

From beginning our appointment with a prayer, to pushing Christian adoption agencies as the most viable option, to rewarding the traditional couple over the single mom in their point system, their religious bias shined bright.

CPCs are not a safe alternative to Planned Parenthood

CPCs provide a disservice to women during a vulnerable and overwhelming time by putting their personal beliefs above providing appropriate and factual education and resources.

Compared to CPCs, Planned Parenthood’s services provide a professional medical experience. Providing women with factual information to make informed decisions about their reproductive health.

The threat to Planned Parenthood and a women’s right to control her reproductive health is evident now more than ever before in our current state of affairs. To position CPCs as an alternative to Planned Parenthood is extremely dangerous and takes away access to quality and accessible reproductive care for women.

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